Before I was a mom, I thought I knew it all. Why didn’t anyone warn me?
I spent hours pouring over blog posts about labor, packing my hospital bag, tirelessly organizing all of the frilly dresses you never end up putting your newborn in, and researching the cutest headband and swaddle duo for my daughter’s newborn photos. I spent all my time and energy preparing our home and my body for the big day. It never occurred to me that it was my mindset that would suffer the most through this new transition into motherhood. As an aunt and a private nanny, I really thought that this leap into motherhood was going to be a piece of cake. I mean, I’m already with babies all day long; how different can it really be? Why didn’t anyone warn me?
I know this sounds naive, but honestly mental health was never something I thought about. Maybe it’s generational and the fact that we know so much more today about mental health than we did fifteen years ago. Maybe it’s that I was fortunate enough to never have suffered from anything other than mild anxiety the night before a big test or a speech I had to give. The baby blues and postpartum mood disorder was not something that was even on my radar. I started experiencing feelings of baby blues when my husband went back to work after two short weeks. I was having a heck of a time figuring out breastfeeding, my body felt foreign, I was incredibly sleep deprived, and my hormones were absolutely haywire. I was so afraid that I would make a mistake, I did not feel worthy of this awesome responsibility of being Hazel’s mother. As I grew more confident in my mothering ability over the next few weeks. I settled into what I thought was normal mom behavior. I thought it was normal to be concerned 24/7. Everyone tells you to “follow your instincts”, and mine were telling me to check on her ten to fifteen times a night and take her temperature five or more times. That’s normal, right? Why didn’t anyone warn me?
I clearly remember the moment I realized that this was not how every new mom feels. I was telling my mom how tired I was, which was surprising to her because Hazel was a great sleeper right away. I told her how I spent hours at night staring at her in the bassinet, checking her breathing, and compulsively Googling EVERYTHING. I expected her to give me some standard mother-to-daughter advice about how your life changes when you become a parent and that’s perfectly normal. Instead, I was met with concern. She said, “I think you’re experiencing some postpartum anxiety,” and I burst in tears. Maybe it’s because I secretly knew that all along, or maybe it’s because for the first time since giving birth I realized that this didn’t have to be the new normal and that I didn’t have to go on living in this constant state of worry and paralyzingly anxiety. I would, indeed, relax again someday.
Why didn’t anyone warn me that this could happen? Well, perhaps I’m equally as guilty of keeping this dirty little secret of motherhood hidden. I felt major shame and confusion centered around my anxiety. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was less of a mother because I was so irrationally worried all the time. I didn’t want the stigma that comes along with it or for anyone to think I was a danger. I truly couldn’t understand what was wrong with me and for the first time, I didn’t recognize myself. Perhaps we don’t want to scare each other. We hope that others won’t have to experience this struggle like we did.
I will warn you.
With over 80% of mothers experiencing baby blues in the weeks postpartum, its likely you will encounter a varying degree of a postpartum mood disorder at some point.
Know this, mama – You are not alone.
You are an amazing mother and the moment you start talking, it starts getting better.
Stay strong, mamas.