So, you just had a baby. One of the biggest things in your life has happened and everything in your world is completely different. After one day in the hospital, they let you leave with full confidence in your ability to keep this teeny tiny human alive. If you were anything like me, you kept checking behind you to see if they were really going to let you leave leave the hospital with this newborn. But alas, here you are at home with your new baby. You’re tired, scared, unsure, full of raging hormones, and trying to heal.
It’s a lot, lets all just agree on that. No matter how your baby enters the world of how many babies you’ve brought into the world, it’s fair to say you are overwhelmed.
For me, the first few weeks were the hardest. Trying to “get to know” a newborn is messy and, at most times, frustrating. Adjusting to a newborn and a 13 month old was way more difficult than I had anticipated. I was working SO hard to breastfeed, keep my house clean, and my toddler fed. I had stitches, a pooch, and struggled to recognize myself in the mirror. I was juggling doctors appointments and playdates while trying to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time. IT. WAS. A. LOT. The days were definitely filled with sweetness, but they were also full of some very dark moments.
A moment comes to mind that might put this into perspective; I was one week postpartum and struggling. It was 11:00 am and I was trying nurse Daphne because we had a 12:00 doctors appointment. Of course, she is not latching and thrashing around. I had just put Winifred down for a nap and she was in her room screaming her head off like I’ve never heard before. I covered myself back up and gave thrashing Daphne to my mom and went (shirtless) to try and settle Winifred. I rocked her for 20 minutes and set her back in her crib, only to hear her wail again as soon as I closed her door. I decided to let her settle herself because Daphne still needed to eat and we were running out of time. I sat down, put the nipple shield on, and tried to get Daphne to latch. She latched for 5 seconds and knocked the shield off, sending milk all over she and I. At this point, Winifred is still screaming bloody murder, Daphne is crying, I’m covered in milk, and it’s 11:30. To add to the crazy, I realized that the base for Daphne’s carseat is not in my car. My dad, bless his extremely helpful soul, rushes out to attempt to put it in. He comes back and explains how he used the seatbelt to attach it. Confused and teary, I say “what??”, knowing that’s not the way we attach the seats. I tried, and failed, to explain how to use the anchor straps and the anchors in the seat. Out of hormone induced frustration, I burst into tears. Y’all this was a dark place. Both kids screaming, engorged breasts, milk everywhere, and it’s 11:45. Through the tears I ask my mom to take Daphne while I put the base in the car. With milk all over me and mascara running down my face I load up a screaming Daphne and head to the hospital; leaving my dad with shrieking Winifred in her crib.
On the way to the hospital, Daphne is still screaming. I’m sobbing and whispering to my mom “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” Resigning to the fact that, for the time being, one of us is going to be crying at all times. She pats me on the should and gives me an empathetic glance, “Yes, you can.” she said, “It’s not forever. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.” I knew she was right, but I had just entered the tunnel….the light was a tiny speck and very far away. We were at the very beginning of this very long journey.
The “baby blues” hit me hard in those two weeks. One moment, I was completely overwhelmed and crying. The next, I was elated and crying. Always crying. I felt like I had to do it all on my own because one day I would have to. I had my mom here, but I was hesitant to use her out of fear. I didn’t want to become too reliant on her and then fall to pieces when she left! Both Will and my’s mom did this on their own without help from their parents, was I a lesser parent because I was leaning on my mom? It sure did feel like it.
The nighttime was the most difficult time to get through. Daphne Grace was becoming nocturnal and was quite fussy. My dad always says, “The world is never darker than from 2-5am”, and he is so right. Will and I took shifts holding her in the rocking chair that sat in the corner of our room. One night, I sat there doing anything I could to just get her to settle down, and my mind went to the dark place. “This won’t end”, I remember thinking. “I won’t ever sleep again. I can’t do this, if I don’t get sleep. Why won’t she just shut up? What kind of mother can’t soothe her baby?? How can I already be failing so miserably at this??” The thoughts and feelings got darker and darker as the hours passed. Guilt crept in when I realized the awful things I was thinking. Tears rolled down my face and silent sobs escaped me as desperation set in. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be feeling this way about my baby or myself, and I surely didn’t want to be thinking such dark things at this time of night. I sat there starring at my husband and his useless nipples as I stayed awake nursing Daphne. I began to beg Jesus to let my baby fall asleep. Please.
I’d prayed for babies my whole life and there was a time when I didn’t think I’d even get one. Now I had two. I should be on my knees with gratitude, but I wasn’t.
This was the baby blues; the least severe form of Postpartum Depression. My hormones were all over the place and I was struggling to cope with my new normal. I knew I had to do something to pull myself out of this funk. I had to get my ish together or these babies were going to eat me alive.
The first thing I did was accept help. I started to let my mom help me with the kids and the household duties. She would hold Daphne while I put Winifred down, or make me lunch while I nursed. I relied on Will a lot more when he came home and would wake him up more to get the baby at night. The weight got lighter. Day by day, I had my mom help a little less and I began to do more on my own; taking 2 under 2 in small bites. My confidence was boosted, knowing I had her in the wing if I needed. I slowly began to see that I could absolutely do this. Will is also a champion dad. He would come home from work, just as exhausted as I was, and jump right into the thick of it with me. We were surviving, definitely not thriving.
Next, I had to ask for what I needed. I couldn’t expect to do everything on my own, but I also couldn’t expect everyone to read my mind and give me what I needed. I had to be vocal with my needs and my feelings. If I needed 10 minutes to walk outside and take a breath, I need to ask someone to take the girls. It was important for me to recognize my own needs and advocate for my mental health. It definitely made it easier on everyone around me, so they wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around my hormonal self.
I had to catch myself in the middle of the darkness. I needed to figure out how to pull myself out or let someone know what I needed. I had to realize that these were just feelings, and feelings aren’t truth. Just because I felt like a bad mom doesn’t mean I was one. Just because I felt like I couldn’t handle 2 under 2 doesn’t mean that was true. My feelings were valid and justified, but they were not the end all be all of my value as a mom. The little things I started to do mattered, good or bad. How I treated myself had a huge affect on my emotions. I figured I should make a list of the small things I could do to battle those moments when the “baby blues” got ahold of me. Here’s what I came up with:
- Wash your face
- Change your clothes
- Take a shower/bath
- Go for a walk
- Sit in the sun
- Take 5 minutes to go in a room and breathe
- Dance to a ridiculous song
- Snuggle your baby
- Drive around alone for 10 minutes
- Get a sonic/starbucks drink
- Clean something
- Do a facemask
- Do some yoga/light stretching
- Read your bible
**These are just things I’ve found that help me feel better. If you feel like the “baby blues” are getting worse or lasting longer than a few weeks, PLEASE reach out to your OB for help.**
I love my babies. I love my life. I love being a stay at home mom. But I’m not a superhero and I do not have my life together all the time. Quite frankly, its a mess 99% of the time and thats ok. I have a lot of feelings and I feel them. I have highs and lows everyday and I ride the waves. I express my needs to those around me and do my best to keep myself if check.
Mamas, we can’t be afraid to let people know what we need. It’s not a crime to need a break or to ask for help. We weren’t meant to do this on our own. We need support and people to talk to when we feel that darkness creeping in. It’s not something to hide or cover with shame. Some days are absolute s**t shows, other days are filled with incredible memories. We just gotta take them as they come and show them who’s boss.
You got this; We got this.