Motherhood stretches you in ways you cannot imagine. I don’t just mean in the physical sense, that’s obvious. But in every way possible emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And sometimes, when stretched too thin, you crack. The amount of love your heart grows to know and the joy this new chapter brings cannot prepare you for this unexpected moment. It doesn’t happen to all mothers, but some of them. Myself included.
I wasn’t going to speak openly about this. I have actually sat on these thoughts for quite awhile. During this sensitive time of COVID-19 where emotions are running high and everyone can use a little more joy, I had concluded that this personal narrative seemed too heavy to share. But I knew that sharing my story would inspire, connect and bring comfort to new mothers who are feeling isolated in their role as caretaker and may feel the weight on their shoulders even more so with the enforced social isolation taking place throughout our communities.
Vulnerability has never been something I shy away from. I shared my experience as my mother’s caretaker during her cancer battle and ultimate passing quite openly via my social platforms and found it incredibly cathartic. Depression and grief after loss is expected and accepted. But what about these same feelings after an incredibly joyous moment like birth? If it doesn’t make sense to you, how can it make sense to others? The birth of my daughter has been the most incredible moment and experience of my life. I love that little girl beyond words. But I do not say this lightly, it has been hard. So hard.
I have struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. From what I initially thought was just the balancing out of hormones and sleep deprivation was really so much more. What did this look like for me? The examples below merely skim the surface.
- The fears of my baby becoming a victim of SIDS, which kept me up all hours of the night watching her in the bassinet.
- Having anxiety that the car seat buckle was too tight where she couldn’t breathe, which led to many times not leaving the house.
- The feeling of intense isolation despite some family and friends living nearby.
- Unwarranted anger and resentment towards my husband that led to a lot of strain on our marriage.
- The physical pain I experienced when my baby wouldn’t stop crying and feeling like a failure when I couldn’t console her.
- Not being able to breastfeed effectively because of my severe carpal tunnel that I developed during pregnancy, and again, feeling like a failure.
- The strong desire to call my own mother and the overwhelming sadness realizing I couldn’t.
Every mother’s story is different. And if you have experienced postpartum depression and/or anxiety (PPD and PPA for short), you know it is a constant battle within yourself of wanting to feel what they say you SHOULD be feeling and judging yourself harshly, so harshly, when you can’t. You can see the joys and experience the happiness, but it is so quickly fleeting. I saw this shift in myself and knew I needed to make a change. It took me cracking open this vault of guilt and telling my husband just how unhappy I was in order for me to move forward. I met with my obstetrician and found a medication that has helped immensely. Before quarantine, I had started going to the gym with childcare, and those two hours of being out of the house, knowing my daughter is in good hands allowed me to take care of myself, mentally and physically. And lastly, time. Time has really helped. It is true when they say that it does get easier. And I am okay with saying that the newborn stage just was not my favorite. Does that make me love my daughter any less? No. Does that make me a bad mom? Hell no. This is normal. And although I do think PPD is talked about pretty openly today, I think the problem lies within…you never think it will happen to you. So when it does, despite the articles and personal stories that have been so widely shared, in a way, you keep it at arms length. In my case, I rejected the thought that I was in fact experiencing it too.
I now have a 5 month old little girl, and it is still an uphill journey. Some days I feel like the best mom out there and others I end the day feeling defeated. I know every mother has these feelings, and now that I have the tools in my arsenal to cope with these moments, these feelings don’t feel all consuming. I will admit, the social isolation that we are all experiencing has definitely taken its toll where leaving the house is not advisable and a risk to you and your family. My heart goes out to the brand new mothers out there (and those seasoned moms too who may be dealing with this as well) where isolation has become our sad reality and support is not as available. My biggest hope is that my words bring just that… HOPE… for brighter days ahead, more room in our hearts to give ourselves grace, a stronger, positive mentality and feelings of comfort and connection.
In summary, I thought sharing the highlights of motherhood would make me feel better. But that’s not the case, because that’s not the truth. And this platform is built on truth. When I think of others, including my daughter years from now reading this, I don’t want to be seen as fearless or perfect. I want her and you to know that motherhood, hell, life in general, is hard and scary and uncertain. But I did it. I am slaying the dragons. I stretched till I cracked. I filled in those gaps and those lines are a part of my story.
Photography by Gina of GE Creative