Friends of ours just had a new baby which got my husband and I talking... we were discussing those first few months home with a newborn. It is crazy how everyone has such different experiences yet such similar at the same time! For some it is a pretty smooth transition, for most it is a little crazy and hectic, but for me it was debilitating and scary. I thought I would write a little bit about my experience that first month home as a new mom. I feel a little safer talking about it now that I am a good two years out!
First of all,I feel like I need to be sensitive and say that I am so very grateful to be able to even be writing about my experience...like I have mentioned a million times, I was never sure I would be able to have children on my own and I know there are so many people out there that don't get to have this experience. I am forever grateful that it did happen to me, so I would never want to be insensitive. Also, this is MY experience...I am writing about it because it may help another new mom feel like what she is going thru isn't that weird or lonely.
So let's get to this...
I would say that I tried as hard as possible to prepare myself for what those first few months would look like. I read so many blogs and books on new mommy-hood and felt like I had all of the necessary gear and I was ready.
And then we had the baby...and then my hormones smacked me, and everyone else that came near me, straight in the face. Like a total bitch slap...like almost comical until... it wasn't.
That first night home with Ellie was one that I will never forget. That feeling of complete helplessness and disappointment in not knowing what to do...of feeling like you were prepared and then realizing you really never had a clue. My milk did not come in that first night and I had no idea...so Ellie spent the entire first night at her new home crying and crying and crying....and I spent that entire first night trying desperately to nurse her and to stay calm because I remembered reading that your emotions and stress can play a huge part on your milk supply, and then crying from exhaustion and failure of not being able to provide for this tiny little human I was now responsible for. And my husband, God bless him, spent that entire first night trying to stay calm and level headed for all of us and softly reminding me that we could supplement with a bottle...that it doesn't mean we are failures...that at some point we all needed at least some sleep, even if it was only going to be 30 minutes. Thank God I finally gave up and listened to my super smart husband and as soon as we gave Ellie that flipping bottle she was out like a light. Joe and I looked at each other in total relief and total exhaustion and sort of laughed...like, all it took was some stupid food!
And so the journey of parenthood began.
I would love to tell you that I cherished every minute of that first month, but that would be a total lie. I loved that we had a healthy baby, I loved that my husband was the best support system and daddy EVER...I know I was supposed to feel lucky and happy and blissful, but really I was just terrified and exhausted and totally overwhelmed. I didn't really know this at the time but I had a huge case of the baby blues mixed with some major undiagnosed anxiety and it was paralyzing me.
Those first few weeks I could actually feel when an "episode" would slowly start to creep inside me. It was like a pillow was slowly being put over my face and I knew what was happening but I could do nothing to stop it. It was like I was falling into some black hole and there was nothing to grab a hold of to stop me from falling. It was a feeling of total despair, unlike any feeling I had ever experienced before. Luckily I never had any feelings of wanting to hurt my baby...it was actually quite the opposite. I wanted to do everything I could for her but felt like there was no way I could ever begin to do anything for her. I would just sit there crying and saying over and over again, "she is so little". I knew none of it made logical sense...I knew there was no real reason to be crying, but I physically could not stop. My poor, sweet husband tried so hard to remain patient and do whatever he could to help take some of the burden off of me.
The moments when I wasn't crying or when my anxiety wasn't swallowing me whole I was terrified of that feeling I would get just before an "episode"...I was just waiting for that feeling to slowly creep its way into my veins...I was living moment to moment so scared of everything that I wasn't enjoying being a mommy. Nursing was also a huge point of stress and anxiety for me,but that story is an entire other post!
I look back on that time now and it makes me so sad. I wasn't able to fully enjoy those moments of having a newborn...I wasn't able to embrace every small moment and cherish it. With my husbands gentle persuasion, I eventually went to my doctor and explained all of this to her and she quickly put me on anti-anxiety medication. I also sought help from my trusty therapist that I had been seeing for several years. The combination of those things helped me to slowly climb out of that dark hole and those "episodes" started to become less and less. I slowly started to enjoy being a mommy, thank God, and began to find my footing again. I think because of this I am now much more aware of enjoying every single detail of Ellie...I embrace motherhood with such a passion because I want to feel all of that good stuff, I want to remember every single thing. I don't ever want those terrible emotions to come creeping back in and deprive me of being the best mama I know I can be.
Knowing how I felt, I cannot even imagine going thru full post partum depression...I cannot imagine what that must feel like and how debilitating it must feel. I pray for every single new mama and hope they will get the help they need if anything like what happened to me or any form of that should start to creep its evil fingers into their lives. It also has made me very sensitive to mental illness in general...all aspects of this are scary and debilitating and I would never wish any of it on my worst enemy!!!
I don't write about my experience because I want to scare new moms...so if you are reading this and pregnant please know that most new mama's don't feel like this, but I also want you to know that if you do end up feeling like this, or some version of this, it will be okay. I want you to know you aren't alone or weird or weak. There is help available and it is perfectly okay to go get it.
Wow...long post, but I hope my experience helps other new or soon to be new mama's out there.
You will get thru it and you will most likely end up with a sassy little toddler whom you enjoy beyond anything you ever thought possible and whom also tests every ounce of patience you have in your body!