After a long, unmedicated, 29 hour labor, I waddled through my front door and went straight into my new baby’s nursery. I sat down on the cream glider next to his crib, and my mother-in-law sat with me as I held his tiny body, curled up against my chest, as I rocked. I was exhausted, sore, and in shock. Having a new baby didn’t feel like how I thought it would. I thought it would feel like a relief. I thought it would feel perfect. I thought it would feel…pleasant. Instead, I felt strange…almost like I had just been shoved into a world that only resembled what I was used to, but didn’t know anything about.
Those early postpartum days were full of that same, mildly frustrating feeling; was I doing something wrong because I wasn’t exploding with joy? After all, my friends with babies had posted nothing but smiles and hearts with adorable, squishy pictures of their babies. I tossed in bed, unable to get comfortable from my third degree tear. I cried as I struggled to nurse a severely lip-tied baby. It was January. We had one car. My husband worked two jobs. I felt alone, and wary of this huge responsibility I had, grunting and cluster feeding and waking up every two hours (if I was lucky). Was I the only one who felt completely inadequate for this?
I would get out my sketch book and stare at the page without any desire to even make a mark. And after months of struggling as a new mom, I remember looking at my husband and telling him that I didn’t even know who I was any more. It was a struggle for me to function beyond breastfeeding and working. Even in my marriage, I had nothing I could contribute. I wasn’t fun anymore. I wasn’t creative, or exuberant, or growing. I was struggling with postpartum depression.
Looking back, I see how obvious it was the postpartum depression had “got” me. Yet, when I was in that fog, it all felt real; I can honestly tell you that I had lost my identity, because I had lost passion for my life.
Finding that passion has not been easy for me. If you’re a mom who’s struggled with postpartum mood disorders, you understand how crippling it can be to rise above the suffering, let alone find balance between self-care and curating a passionate life. Some days, the best I could do was simply exist. On other days, I felt I couldn’t even do that. But today I am writing this. And the only reason I am writing this blog post is because I suffered greatly and I found a way out. I want to tell you that you can, too.
Reach out. My absolute favorite life coach is Tony Robbins. I listened to a podcast and nothing stuck out to me more than this: “When in doubt, NOW.” Depression and anxiety are the most skilled liars and manipulators. Every time you sit with your pain and tell yourself, “I’ll be better tomorrow probably,” you hurt yourself. Even though it sucks, pick up the phone. Text your best mom friend. Call your doctor and make an appointment. In hindsight, I suffered the most when I wanted to call someone to come hold my baby but I felt weak so I refused to reach out. It is not weak to need a break. It is not weak to talk to your doctor about treatment options for postpartum mood disorders. It is not weak to tell your friend you need to have coffee with them, because you just need the company and nothing else. Maybe somebody would love to come hold your baby while you take a shower or get out of the house. Maybe your friend needs company just as much as you do. Maybe your doctor can help you identify what you’re struggling with, which makes it that much easier to climb out of the darkness.
Recognize what you can and cannot do as a mother who battles postpartum mood disorders. Even if you don’t struggle with postpartum mood disorders, motherhood seems to be like riding a bicycle that has at least one flat tire at all times. No mother, no baby, no life is perfect. Perfection isn’t even a thing, so instead of comparing your life to someone’s Instagram feed, honor your strength. Did you feed your baby today? Go you. Did you drink water today? Heck yeah, girl. Did you clean your kitchen? You rock! Did you sit on the couch and hold your baby most of the day? Treasure those moments. Every day is different, and depending on where you are at in your healing journey, your best right now may be different than your best in a few months. Trust your journey. Ditch the shame about not having it all right now.
Be a little selfish. Every single day, moms give pieces of themselves away. We do it every morning when we put our kids first before we even eat breakfast ourselves. We do it at the store, when we go to buy ourselves a new shirt and leave with nothing but a basket full of BPA free sippy cups, the softest swaddle blankets, and fancy lotions and soaps for our babies’ skin. We do it everywhere we go, because anywhere our kids go they come first. And if you’re battling with postpartum mood disorders, it’s so easy to get lost in the endless demands of motherhood. And if you’re married? You may feel like you’re drowning, trying to balance it all. You can’t fill refill others with an empty jug. If you don’t give back to yourself and replenish your spirit, giving everything you have day after day will turn into resentment, guilt, and exhaustion. Please take a bath. Get yourself one of those decadent, fizzy bath bombs. Go outside and sit in a hammock. Flip through your favorite magazine (mine is Food and Wine). Make a cocktail–or a mocktail–and listen to music that speaks to your soul. Rub your feet with some peppermint lotion. Enjoy a fresh baked piece of pie from the local bakery. Get yourself that coffee drink, and sip it outside as you listen to the hum of the Ozarks. Your kids will be okay without you for a few minutes. I promise.
Before I was a mom, I forgot the joy of simply watching a cloud sail across the sky. Postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD have been huge struggles for me, but I have survived them and can feel the awe of every day magic with my children now because of it. This darkness is not forever. Don’t give up on yourself. Reach out, honor your limits, and claim time to relax and shower yourself with love. You deserve it. You give so much. You are such a good mother.
If you are struggling with postpartum mood disorders, know that you are not alone. 1 in 4 women struggle with postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. If you’re wondering if you’re struggling against postpartum mood disorders, read the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. I encourage all women who feel they are struggling with this to make an appointment with their trusted doctor. Not every woman needs medication to heal from postpartum mood disorders.