When your postpartum reality isn't sunshine and rainbows
Photo via L. Bishop Photography
Full transparency: I've tried to write this post for a week now. I still don't feel like I've truly laid out my feelings on this subject, but I'm going to try, because honestly, I'm tired of seeing this post sitting in my queue.
I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but I was a pretty pleasant pregnant woman. My husband and former students would agree. One of my former students even said she knew I was having a boy because I "didn't have that attitude that girls give you." (True story.) Honestly, I was shocked I didn't have any crazy hormonal outbursts (Minus when I was 28 weeks pregnant and cried because I didn't want to move to a new house. Spoiler alert: we did move.) because I am a pretty sensitive and emotional person, so I fully anticipated that I would be an emotional basket case during those blissful nine (but really 10) months.
Don't worry, though; the basket case has happened, and it happened in full force.
Our son Case has been the most beautiful blessing I could have ever dreamed of. He has brought a joy to my life that I never knew existed. I always knew I wanted to have kids, but that desire does not even begin to match the love I feel just by staring at a photo of him, let alone when I'm rocking him to sleep.
That doesn't mean my postpartum journey has been sunshine and rainbows, though.
You may have heard of something called postpartum depression, and I want to preface this blog post with this: I did not suffer from postpartum depression, and if you're reading this and did, I hope you're getting or did get the help you need.
My doctor warned me of a less intense version of postpartum depression: baby blues. She said I may feel despondent and detached, and if I did, it was completely normal, but I should monitor those emotions to ensure they didn't get out of control and cause me to want nothing to do with my baby. I remember thinking there was no way I could possibly harbor those feelings toward my sweet newborn baby or my incredibly helpful husband. No. Way.
It didn't happen at first. However, as the minutes turned to hours, hours to days, days to weeks (you get the picture...), I started to notice a change in my attitude, not toward Case, but toward everrrrrythingggg else. My temper was short. My patience was paper thin. My outlook on everything centered on hopelessness. And I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why.
And then I decided maybe I'm just dealing with a delayed bout of baby blues.
I think back on my snaps at my husband, my increasingly negative thought processes (which is SO not my style), and my uncertainty when it comes to how I'm doing as a new mom, and I cannot believe these emotions and actions came from me. But that's just it - pregnancy and motherhood are both such new and foreign experiences, albeit amazing, and not only does your body physically change, but your state of mind is altered, as well.
YET, no one talks about it.
There is a stigma associated with baby blues and postpartum depression. Modern moms face a new form of scrutiny - online scrutiny - and we almost feel like we have to "perform" for others, when what we are truly supposed to do is provide for our babies. We take on this burden ourselves, but the desire to be seen as a "good mom" (who measures that, anyway?) has to stem from somewhere, and just like pregnancy and motherhood, it's different for everyone.
I'm not a martyr. I've never claimed to be a martyr. But, I am a mama, and I'm doing the best I can. I will continue to provide for, love, and nurture my sweet, sweet son. We're all trying to do the best we can, and all I need is one little smile or the mutter of "Mama" from Case's lips (yes, he can say "Mama"!) to reaffirm everything I know to be true: I am doing a good job.