Finding Your Way Through Postpartum
Becoming a mother has not been an easy road for me. It has been filled with heartache and despair, but also hope and miracles. There’s so much I could touch on with infertility and miscarriages, but it’s what came after that was one of the hardest things I walked through—the postpartum.
It was in the days leading up to delivering my second baby, I knew things were...different. Definitely not the same as my first. I honestly haven’t ever openly talked about this until right now. Let me do a little comparison for you. With my first baby, it was pure excitement. I wanted her to hurry up and come I wanted so desperately to hold that little baby and never let her go. But in the days that led up to having my second, I was terrified. I had no idea what having a second baby would be like and how it would affect my daughter and the relationship we had. I had no idea if I could love this baby the same as I did my daughter. I’m sure so many others had or are having these same feelings going into having their second. But for me, it wasn’t just fear, there was something else there, more like a reluctance to the idea. I remember when he was born, and they laid him on my chest, I didn’t feel an instant bond. Not like I did with my daughter. I wanted to, but I just didn’t. It wasn’t until we got home that things really started to collapse for me.
I specifically remember making a post on Instagram, talking about how everyone was adjusting so well and it was a beautiful thing to watch. I said something to the effect that I was still a little behind adjusting to our new norm but I was hopeful to get there soon. You know, got to stay positive for the ‘gram. I still think about that post, and how it was only after being home for a few days and I was already recognizing that something was off, without coming out and admitting it. Gosh looking back, I wish I would have known that it was more than baby blues. \
My husband is a college baseball coach, so it was only 2 weeks after my son was born that he was on the road traveling for the season. He was gone for 3-4 days a week and the days he was in town were long workdays because of practice. We live across the country from my family, and all of my friends have little ones of their own. As generous as they all are, no one could step in and help in the way I truly needed. I began to become so overwhelmed by my own expectations and hormones that slowly things began to unravel for me. I started having a hard time coping with the day to day activities that come with having a newborn and a toddler. I’d get frustrated with my 3-year-old singing songs on the potty, instead of going in doing her business and getting out. Or the fact that she needed me at the same time my newborn did. Or when she would do anything remotely loud that could wake the baby. Or how she would take longer to put on her shoes because she was trying to do it herself and all I wanted to do was get out the door without it taking an hour. Pretty much any little thing that she did, that I didn’t like, I would get annoyed with her. My frustration with these little, insignificant moments became more. It became true anger and rage. I could feel it, like a boiling teapot seconds from whistling, it would come within seconds and before I knew it, I would be unleashing every bit of it on my children in the form of yelling. This is so hard for me to talk about because these are awful moments forever imprinted on my brain. Like the look on my daughter’s face—frozen with fear— and how I made my 3-month-old son cry because of the way I yelled. Their mommy, who had never spoken like this before, was becoming a monster who resented their very being. Who was I? I didn’t even know. I’d come back moments after, cuddle my son close, apologize, and ask my daughter to forgive me. And because children are seriously a direct image of God’s love, she did. She would smile, tell me she loved me and forgave me, even though I knew deep down I didn’t deserve it. So many times I would cry myself to sleep, thinking of her face and how harsh I was. Thinking of how my anger made my baby cry. Thinking of how I was destroying our relationship.
I lived in denial for so long. It was hormones, they would level out. I’d be okay. We’d be okay. I wasn’t ever sad or depressed, I never had thoughts of harming myself or my children, so it’s not like I had PPD… right? What could talking to my doctor possibly do for me? I didn’t want to admit to others what truly went on behind closed doors; the way I talked to my children. There were times I would mention an incident and how “frustrating” it could be, totally grasping at straws, hoping someone would divulge their deep, dark secret of feeling that same rage so I wouldn’t feel so bad about my own.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was this vicious cycle of anger and rage towards my children then guilt and anger towards myself for how I acted which would put me on edge and come back out as anger and rage. It was a destructive tornado, spiraling out of control. My husband sat me down and asked if I was happy because from his perspective I wasn’t myself and hadn’t been happy in a very long time. It was so hard to come to terms with, but after talking we agreed that I needed to talk to my doctor.
Bringing it up felt awkward, but I had this amazing sense of relief when she validated every single thing I had been feeling and let me know that I wasn’t alone. That postpartum depression isn’t the only thing you can experience after having a baby. She told me about postpartum anxiety and postpartum rage. Both of which I actually had. The anxiety was triggered when expectations weren’t met, or I was overwhelmed, and it would come out in rage. We discussed how hard it is to experience any negative postpartum feelings especially after facing infertility because we feel so much guilt for not feeling pure gratitude and happiness for these babies that we hoped and prayed for. We also talked about my plan of action for how to move forward and get better. I walked out of her office that day, feeling a sense of hope that I hadn’t since having my son.
Things didn’t turn around immediately. It took time, lots of it. But I can honestly say I don’t know if I would be on the other side of this if I hadn’t been willing to sit and have the hard conversations. So if you are walking through any type of postpartum for lack of a better word, crud, even if you can’t place your finger on what it is, you just know something is off, here’s the advice I have for you:
- Talk to someone you trust. Be upfront with what is going on and don’t be afraid to say the words “ I think I need some help.” I wish I would have said these words sooner instead of letting my pride stop me. There is nothing wrong with needing someone’s help.
- Be your own advocate. Only you know what is truly going on. Don’t expect others to grasp exactly what you’re feeling if you sugar coat it.
- Accept help. When your friend offers to watch your child, take it. When your neighbor offers to bring you dinner, take it. When they ask you if you need help out to your car after getting groceries, take it. Don’t be superwoman, having babies, keeping them alive and your sanity together is enough of a superpower. There’s no need for you to do it all.
- Lower your expectations. Your house will be messy—that’s okay! You don’t need to be able to get yourself and your children ready in record time to get out the door. Heck, you don’t need to leave the house if you don’t have to! You also don’t need to cook a 3-course meal for dinner. Cereal for dinner is completely acceptable and your children will love it.
- Find a little part of every day to spend on yourself. I know, I know. In the early days, that’s laughable. But seriously, make this a priority and DO IT! Ask a friend to sit on the couch and hold your baby while you shower or go for a quick walk around the block. Give your toddler a tablet or put on a show when your baby goes down for a nap and go sit in your room to get some quiet moments. Anything to help clear your head. I promise this one helps so much!
- Laugh! Find something each day to laugh at. Whether you listen to a comedian on YouTube or you just sit and laugh about all the crazy that’s going on. Laughter can be some of the most amazing medicine.
- Most of all give yourself grace. This is a season and even though the days seem long and the nights, sometimes even longer, you will get past it. You will be okay. Your children will be okay. And you are doing a fantastic job!