When I was young, my parents did not speak openly very often about the birds and the bees, and some of my ideas of what life would be like came from movies. My young vision of love and nature was definitely influenced by The Blue Lagoon. I watched this at a rather impressionable age while babysitting because my parents did not have cable. (My parents did not have cable because they worried I would watch movies like The Blue Lagoon.)
I remember when Brooke Shields’ impeccably clean little cherub boy was born, and how he instinctively and sweetly latched on to his mother’s breast and started nursing. No lactation specialists required, no latching issues, no cracked and bleeding nipples, no lack of milk production, no weighing of babies, and no books on what to expect.
Just nature. Beautiful, instinctive nature.
I have learned a few things from movies through the years, some accurate, some not so accurate.
Real-life is pretty messy, complicated, and emotional. Many things I thought would come naturally felt anything but natural. We have so much information at our fingertips, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the pressure of being a new mother and doing everything right according to current thought. And of course, enjoying every magical moment. It can be tempting to feel like something is wrong with us when we aren’t feeling the magic.
So many strange thoughts entered my mind when my girls were babies - worries and ideas that felt uncharacteristic to me. What if someone tries to steal my baby out of the stroller? What if I accidentally drop the baby off this balcony as I am walking by? What if I picked the wrong name… does this baby even look like a “Hannah”? Why do I hate absolutely everyone in this household who is sleeping in oblivion as I tend to this crying baby? Why am I sweating so much? How am I supposed to get these shoes on my baby’s fat feet? Why is my mother-in-law holding the baby like that? Should babies even wear shoes? Why am I crying? Why did I think I could do this? Will I ever enjoy life again?
I remember receiving a call from a nurse a couple of days after taking my first baby home. I was lying back on the couch answering her questions about how everything was going. My ankles were still huge, my breasts so full and uncomfortable, my baby would only sleep if she was touching me, and I felt like the very definition of a hot mess.
Her questions turned to mental health, and before I knew it, hot tears were dripping off my face. (Is everything hot when you have a baby?). She assured me that what I was feeling was normal, and it was as if her line of questioning gave me permission to feel the sadness I was holding in, and it felt very relieving to let those tears fall.
While there are factors that increase risks for postpartum depression (PPD) for certain women, nobody is entirely immune. You might have your first new baby, or you might be an experienced mother. You might have money in the bank or struggle with finances. PPD can affect women of any education level, cultural or professional background. You might live in a house with completely supportive family and friends, and depression might not make any sense to your otherwise logical and rational mind.
You just created a brand-new human being, and that is pretty amazing. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, resentful, anxious, or just plain sad, you are normal and entitled to those feelings.
You are also entitled to take good care of yourself. Postpartum self-care is an important part of being a good mom and you will be able to give much more to your family as you meet your own needs. You can’t give what you don’t have.
It wasn’t until I had children that I really came to appreciate the amazing women in my life and understand what a great support woman can be for each other. Join mom groups, meet up with your friends for lunch or an evening after work, start your morning with a chat on the phone, gather with those that will help you feel supported and loved. Now is not the time to be stoic.
Take friends and family up on their offers for meals, or giving you an hour here or there. Your baby will be fine. Once when I took a friend up on such an offer and left my baby for a couple of hours, as I walked out the door my friend called out, “don’t come back until you miss her.” That was exactly what I needed.
Create time for yourself. You will probably have to be deliberate about planning this time, it won’t fall in your lap. Don’t feel guilty asking your partner to support you in carving out time for self-care, and spend it doing whatever makes you happy.
Treat your healing body to healthy foods and get some exercise when you can. Even getting out for short walks with the stroller can make a very big difference in how you feel.
Give yourself a break, motherhood is not about perfection. You may not always have time to do things the way you would like, you may not even find the time to shower today. But Lume’s got you covered there.
If you think you might be suffering from depression, please see a doctor. There is no shame in this. You are not alone. You are loved and you matter, and you deserve to feel joy.For more detailed information about postpartum depression, follow this link for Mayo Clinic.