Disclaimer: This is not an article about postpartum depression. I cannot speak to that experience, and offer you support and encouragement in finding the help and love you need to get you through. This is an article about fighting off a milder and more common form of postpartum emotions, baby blues.
As I was rocking my 6-day-old son in his nursery, him screaming and me crying, I remember thinking back to how ignorant I had been in believing that the first few days home with a newborn would be ideal. It was one of those watershed moments in motherhood. I was sitting in the dark thinking, “I am not going to make it out of this alive. What was I thinking?! I can’t do this. I am so not cut out for this!” No one talks about this kind of tough stuff after delivery. We just talk about the cute clothes, and baby showers, and names. I was left to rock a very unhappy baby, with no clue as to what I was doing, and with very little help.
I had my babies in the dead of winter in Michigan. That can be a really lonely time. The roads are horrible, and it is so cold your face hurts when you go outside. And the sun–as a general rule–may not show up for days at a time. I would be waiting at the door for my husband to come home every day. Yet when he was there I was snapping at him or crying. I felt out of control and it made me feel super anxious. The night would come and I could feel the anxiety creeping in. It literally felt like I was choking on it.
I decided I could not live like this for the rest of my life or I was going to be a miserable wife and mom.
It was a few days after my delivery that I realized why the night time got so incredibly hard for me. I would spike a fever every evening and I noticed my milk was coming in. Once I realized it was baby blues, my body and hormones trying to get back to normal, I felt a lot better knowing that I actually wasn’t going to cry every evening for the rest of my life. It gave me the freedom to just cry it out for a few minutes rather than try to fight it. I would also sometimes go walk around a store for an hour or so while my husband kept the baby at home. Being in a brightly lit store with lots of other people made me feel better.
Being cooped up in the house and having my husband or Facebook as my only source of social interaction was not going to help my baby blues. But luckily at the same time, our church started a mom’s group. It was a lifesaver! Free child care and snacks every other week, and I began to live for those meetings and the freedom I felt getting out of the house for an hour and a half. I would recommend a mom’s group to any mom. Find a group that meets at a library or community center, and try to get out and interact face to face with other moms. I also read a lot and began journaling.
I would write down what I was grateful for that day. Even though it may have been a truly awful day, I could still look at that day and find something to be grateful for.
I thought I was super selfless before having my son and I found out really fast how untrue that actually was. I was no longer able to eat or use the bathroom when I wanted to. Showering, sleeping, or starting dinner was never easy anymore. When we would attempt a fun outing the three of us could do, it never failed–we would leave that event with two of us crying and my husband looking defeated.
Looking back now those times hold such a special place in my heart now. I wish I could go back and just give my past self a hug. I would tell myself that the baby blues will pass quickly and to enjoy the newness of being a mom. I’d tell her that those chores and outings can wait. This new baby is what is important right now and sometimes that means missing out on events or a perfectly clean house, but that ultimately, you’re not missing out.
You are just beginning this incredible new journey.
It is overwhelming, it is hard, and it is exhausting. But it is rewarding and worth it. Slow down, learn as you go, and remember this is YOUR journey with YOUR kids. You are not supposed to be “that kids” mom, you are your kid’s mom, and that is entirely on purpose. Give yourself some grace, and for goodness sake, take care of you. You are the only mom they have and they need you to be the best version you can be. So, go on a date, take a bath, or light a candle you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be extravagant things to make a difference. Use little moments every day to do something for you, and it will help those baby blues go away until they are just a distant memory of a very tiring life you once knew.