It was almost 5 years ago that I found out I was pregnant. I was ecstatic to say the least. Me and my husband struggled with infertility for over 5 years and had been told that we wouldn’t be able to have kids naturally. So this was big news for us and I was over the moon! I knew I was having a little girl before I even had an ultrasound. My pregnancy was a good experience, I never had any morning sickness and aside from the extreme exhaustion I felt pretty good.
As the months grew closer to my due date I began experiencing insomnia which is rather common in late pregnancy. I had no problem initially falling asleep but once I woke up I could not go back to sleep. And if you’ve ever been pregnant you know that waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom dozens of times is just part of the process. I was getting about 3 hours of sleep a night in my 8th and 9th month of pregnancy and I had a lot of anxiety so that made it even worse.
The day finally came when I had my baby girl and I had always envisioned it as this moment of sweet bliss, like what they show on TV when the mom looks perfectly polished and she takes her baby in her arms and gazes lovingly into its eyes while it stares back. Not what happened. As soon as my baby came out and I looked down at her in the doctors arms I literally said “what the f*ck?!!” because I was in complete shock about how a live baby just emerged from my body. I didn’t expect it to be that way like I said but it was. The nurses handed me my baby and all I could think about was how exhausted I was and how I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t know what to do or think about this new person that I was now fully responsible for, I was ready for someone to take her so I could rest. She was so beautiful, healthy, and perfect in every way so why was I feeling like that? I didn’t understand it.
People had been telling me how once I had a baby and looked at it I would feel this overwhelming love and immediate bond. That I would truly know what love was once I saw my baby. But that wasn’t the case and I was like did I miss something? Why didn’t I have those magical blissful feelings? Was it me? Was I a horrible mother already? Should I feel guilty for saying that? When I had told people I was pregnant all I heard was how great it was going to be and how fun it was. I wish someone, just one person would have sat me down and shot me straight, the good and the bad because I was totally unprepared for the reality of motherhood.
We spent the next couple nights in the hospital and I would push the nurses call button and ask them to take my screaming baby to the nursery so that I could sleep, it was the first time in months that I slept for a straight 4 hours. Then they would wheel her in, wake me up and tell me it was time to feed her. As soon as I was done I would push the button again, asking them to take her so I could get just a little more sleep. Thank god for that button.
It was time to go home and as the nurses were coming in and out giving us discharge instructions and car seat inspections and final vital checks I was thinking how in the hell are we going to take care of this baby without that nurses call button??!! They were just sending us on our merry way with a brand new little person like bon voyage bitches! No instruction manual, no call button, no words of wisdom or parting advice for us first time parents.
We got home and I was in a daze. I didn’t know what I was doing. It seemed like every time I turned around I had to feed her, change her, or put her to sleep, she was so demanding. Every two to three hours she was screaming so I would place her against my breasts and sit in pain while she fed (whoever said breastfeeding is natural and shouldn’t hurt is lying, my experience with breastfeeding for the next 3 months was one of the most challenging hardest things I had ever done in my life but that’s a whole other story!).
A couple of days later was her first doctors appointment. Oh my goddess. I had to transport this new baby in a vehicle all by myself to a doctors appointment….how in the hell do people do this I thought? What do I do? Do I take a diaper bag? Do I feed her now or later or when I’m there? What if I need to change her diaper? I was completely oblivious and I had no help. I was running off one hour of sleep. I managed to make it to the doctor’s office in one piece but when I tried to get her infant car seat unattached from the base it would not budge. I sat in the back of the truck for 20 minutes desperately trying to unlock the base. I even asked strangers who pulled up to help but they didn’t know how to do it either. I was now late for the appointment even though I was there in the parking lot. I was crying, frustrated, hopeless and exhausted. I called my husband who was at school telling him I couldn’t do it and I was crying frantically as he tried to calm me down. I ended up taking the entire car seat out with base attached and all. I lugged it into the doctor’s office drying off my tears as I checked in at the front desk. If I had a clear mind I would have just done the logical thing and taken the baby out of the car seat, but in that moment that was not even an option that crossed my mind. To me that baby was glued in to the seat, I had seen other parents carrying these car seats in so that’s what I had to do. It was moments like these that made up those first few months. There was a simple solution, I just was not in the right state of mind to know any better though.
I remember a couple of times driving when she was screaming, because that’s what she did in the car… literally the entire time…that if I just veered off a little to the right I would just dive right off into the embankment and never have to hear the crying anymore and I could sleep. Thankfully that was just a passing thought and I never actually did it.
My anxiety was at an all time high. Did I mention that the day my daughter was born was the first day of wrestling season and my husband happened to be the head wrestling coach so needless to say he was pretty much out of the picture the first few months. I had no one around to help me or guide me through this transition to motherhood, I had never felt so alone. The days would go by and I was only sleeping about 1-2 hours a night for those first few months. I would stay awake wondering if she was still breathing so I’d get up and check on her. I would lay there for hours while she slept silently, unable to ever fall asleep.
My emotions were off the charts. I was, however, starting to experience that loving bond with my daughter and I started feeling full of love and I cherished her. But then I would find myself crying. Crying because I don’t know why. I was tired? I was exhausted? I was worried? I was alone? I was scared? I was unsure? My boobs hurt? I was happy? I was ecstatic? I was blessed? Who knows. I just would go from being perfectly fine one moment to freaking out and wondering if this what my life was going to be like from now on.
I relate the entire first 3 months after birth to this cartoon of a dog sitting at a table drinking a cup of coffee looking very relaxed and there’s a blazing inferno of fire surrounding him and the caption reads “This is fine”…that was exactly how I felt. Tying to keep it all together on the outside but all around me was this uncontrollable fire ready to envelop me and burn me down. Everyday I kept telling myself “the days are long but the years are short” and “this too shall pass” because I realized that I was in a dark place and I needed some daily affirmations to get me through.
I felt like I was losing my sense of self. I was having to dedicate every second of my life to someone else and this was hard for me to overcome. I had always been so independent and never relied on anyone for anything and it was very difficult for me to ask for help. I had never struggled with depression so I had nothing to compare it to, for all I knew it was due to being a first time mom. I would wake up and say “today is going to be a beautiful day” and I would feel energized to do something or go somewhere and then as I was trying to get dressed my baby would be freaking out uncontrollably crying and I would just cry and say what’s the point, my life is over, I’m never going to be able to get dressed. Everything took so much more time to accomplish. Getting dressed used to take 20 minutes, now it was taking 2 hours because I’d have to stop and take care of a baby.
If you know me then you know I’m a hippie at heart and I have a holistic approach when it comes to my health. I had decided during my pregnancy that I wanted to have my placenta encapsulated because the benefits were that it decreased postpartum levels, it helped balance hormones, it increased oxytocin (the feel good hormone), helped restore iron levels, and could help with milk production as well. So everyday I would take my pills and I would feel a spike of happiness, even though it was short-lived it helped tremendously. I couldn’t imagine if I hadn’t had the placenta pills to help me through that time. When my husband would come home he would ask if I had taken my “happy pills” because it seemed to be the only thing to lift me out of my emotional craziness and he knew it would help.
I had read a lot about postpartum depression but everything I read didn’t seem to apply in my situation. I don’t know if I was just trying to justify why not but I remember thinking no, I don’t have those symptoms, I don’t have postpartum, I just have a difficult baby. I didn’t have those feelings of wanting to hurt my baby or abandon her. I wanted to take care of her, I wanted to comfort her. I wanted to be around her all the time. So I dismissed any notion of having postpartum because the stories I was reading were ones of mothers having thoughts of harming their child and not loving them, but that wasn’t how I felt, I loved her so much but I was just filled with so much sadness at the same time. I chalked it up to just being a tired new mom.
Having no experience with babies it was not quite like how I imagined. Where was the laughter and joy and fun?? My daughter was extremely high maintenance, she would have to be held for hours on end while dancing her to music. My back and arms were struggling to stay attached to my body, they hurt so bad every day from the amount of time I had to hold her otherwise she would scream bloody murder. She cried and screamed for hours completely breaking me down to ashes. I cringed and cried in pain every time she breastfed but I was determined to see it through, I refused to give up.
I had taken 3 months off from work and I dreaded going back, the sleepless nights were somewhat manageable when I could stay home but I was not ready to go back to working full-time with the emotional or physical state I was in but I didn’t have a choice, it was time to get back to work. It’s sad that America, the most powerful developed country in the world, does not offer better benefits for maternity/paternity leave. I truly believe that parents should be given one year paid time off to raise their children.
Once I got into a routine with working and taking care of her things started settling down some and life was becoming more manageable. It was hard no doubt, but as time passed my emotions balanced out and I was getting in a better state of mind. As she got older she became less demanding. Breastfeeding took about 3 months for us to get under control and after that it was smooth sailing. She began smiling and cooing and my life started to get back to a state of normalcy. I began embracing motherhood and all that it entailed. I was getting my full-time happy back.
Life went on for the next few years and I have to say motherhood has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever experienced. Having my daughter has been the biggest blessing in my life and I’m so grateful for having her. Even though it was tough in the beginning and still has challenges along the way I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Fast forward almost three years later and I got pregnant again. This time we would be having a little boy. I was again over the moon for another little miracle baby, he couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. This time my pregnancy was a little more taxing on my body but I made it almost full term without any complications.
The day he arrived was a completely different experience from the first, the moment I had him I wanted nothing more than to hold him and kiss him and I felt an overwhelming rush of love throughout my body. It was immediate. I loved him so much. In the hospital I never once called the nurses to take him, in fact when they came in and had to take him to the nursery for any reason my heart was sad because I didn’t want him out of my sight.
I was excited to come home instead of fearful and anxious. Obviously having gone through parenthood once I was way more prepared for what to expect so that also played a big part. We settled in with big sister and it was so incredible to watch her with him. She was in love too and my heart was overflowing. I felt so much more at ease and comfortable the second time around. I was happy and in a good emotional state. Even through all the sleepless nights I was so happy to wake up and see his little face while I rocked him back to sleep. I felt like I was able to really enjoy and embrace it all the second time around. I didn’t have any emotional breakdowns, I wasn’t crying in my cup of tea everyday, and I wasn’t dreading the next time I’d have to breastfeed him. I felt confident and ready to take on anything!
Since I had him in the summer my husband was off so he was home to help which made a huge difference as well. My sons temperament was also so much calmer than my daughters and even though he cried (as all babies do) it wasn’t nearly as frantic or blood curling as my daughters had been. I was coping marvelously compared to the first time. I thought to myself wow, this is how I imagined motherhood to be. Why hadn’t my first one been like this? It was then that I realized that I did in fact suffer from postpartum depression with my daughter. The experience couldn’t have been more different. Now that I had something to compare it to it made me realize that I wasn’t crazy, but that I had had a serious case of the baby blues. Looking back and knowing what I know now I can definitely see how postpartum depression affected me.
I’ve heard many moms say that boys are easier than girls and this has definitely been the case for me. I can honestly say that I am loving soaking up every moment of this newborn experience this time around.
Postpartum can hit mothers in many ways, some may have few symptoms and some may have extreme symptoms, everybody’s experience with it can be vastly different. It affects about 1 in 8 women. I never thought I would have had postpartum depression because I considered myself to be so in control of my emotions and a happy person. But it can happen to any woman, no matter how happy of a person she is. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression seek help, talk to someone. I wish I had recognized what it was when I was going through it so that maybe my experience would have been better and more manageable but hey I’m thankful we survived those first few months!
My first postpartum experience was one of the most difficult and challenging times of my life, followed by my second experience now which has honestly been one of the best times of my life, so much easier and pleasurable. My daughter is now about to turn 4 years old and my son is 5 months old, I couldn’t feel more blessed having them in my life and for everything they’ve already taught me. Nothing can prepare you for the life changing experience of having a child but knowing that it’s not always the way it “should be” or the way “you thought it would be” is totally okay.