Preparing for Baby
Being a mom is, hands down, the most important job I have ever done. This is also the job I question myself on the most and was hired at when I was very under-qualified.
Let’s start with a true story. I had lived the majority of my life excited to have a family. I also have lived a majority of my life with a fire inside of me to follow my own path, dream big, and do what I want; not what society believes my age can accomplish. (Which has gotten me in trouble many times, as you can imagine. )
I was 24 when I first became pregnant. My husband and I planned to get pregnant (we actually did fertility treatments with our first), but still were in utter shock and scared out of our minds when we found out we were actually having a baby.
We did all the things we were supposed to do; I took prenatal vitamins, ate (mostly) healthy, exercised, went to Lamaze class, watched video after video of how to nurse, and had our bags packed weeks before our due date.
I remember feeling so ready when it was time for our daughter to be born. Actually, I was MORE than ready. I couldn’t wait to be less uncomfortable while sleeping and to “have my body back.” I was truly ready.
The reality of it all
Once our daughter was born, I quickly realized I had no idea how to be a mom. Okay, I knew the basics of how to change a diaper, when the baby cries you tend to her, babies need a lot of love and attention, and so on. But what I didn’t know was how little confidence I had in myself and my mothering skills. I had no idea what to do with myself, our time together, or our little girl. I didn’t know what to do in our relationship; what is a marriage supposed to look like after a baby? What am I supposed to do with the baby in-between feeds? Do I read to her? Is it okay for her to sit in the little bouncy thing while I listen to music and do the dishes? Is it normal to want to sleep all day?
Things are changing
I remember one evening, I was rocking our daughter in the middle of the night. This wasn’t a precious “middle of the night” rocking. This was a “been up too many times to count, angry I wasn’t able to sleep, wanted to throw a pillow at my sleeping husband, would give my left big toe to have some quiet and comfort in my warm bed” kind of rocking. At that moment, I questioned everything. I remember having thoughts like,
“What did we get ourselves into?”
“Are we really prepared to do this for the next 18 years of our life?”
“How did someone think it was okay to hand us a baby?”
“I want to give up.”
What is wrong with me?
Thinking back to Lamaze class, I remembered when the nurse talked about hormones after delivery and that it was normal to feel emotional after the baby is born because our hormones are getting back to normal. In other words, the “baby blues” are common. I can still hear her saying, “If you start having bad thoughts you might have postpartum depression.” This moment came back to me as I sat in the rocking chair that night.
Are these thought those “bad thoughts?”
After that night, things went downhill. Anger crept in. I was looking for any opportunity to pretend for a moment I wasn’t a mom. I was longing for a Target trip alone and dreaming of being able to lay in my comfy bed all day long in silence. I wanted to hide these feelings from the world. Presenting my best self was so important to me, so I did my best to look happy and show the opposite of depression.
I did my best to hide the truth.
If anyone found out how I was really feeling, would they label me as a bad mom? Deem me unfit to care for my child? I felt scared my husband would question who he married, and felt terrible that my daughter was stuck with an imperfect mom. I was questioning my core self and everything I stood for.
I knew something wasn’t right.
1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads struggle with Postpartum Depression, according to the Postpartum Support International. According to the National Institute of Health, “After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.”
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression, from the National Institute of Health are:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Frequent crying or an increase in crying
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
Mamas, if you relate to several of these symptoms or to my story, please know there are so many resources out there right now. Here is a list of resources that may be helpful:
- Talk to your primary care provider, OB, or Midwife. They will routinely ask you questions at your check-ups related to postpartum depression.
- There are several mental health therapists in the area that specialize in postpartum depression and Postpartum Support International includes a directory of PSI-trained providers.
- Talk with other mamas. There is nothing better than being able to talk with another mama about the struggles of having children and the emotions that go along with it. Find real, raw and vulnerable moms who are willing to talk real, not just pretty talk.
- Find an online or in-person support group. Moms Supporting Moms is a local support group (check their Facebook page for updates on when they will resume in-person meetings), and there are new mom groups at Sanford and Essentia that meet regularly as well.
- These online-based services can help.
- Postpartum Support International has a text-line 503-894-9453 or a phone line 1-800-944-4773. They also host a weekly online support group, a weekly phone Chat with an Expert every Wednesday, and a private PSI Facebook group.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
If you are in crisis and in need of speaking to someone on a free and confidential line, you can utilize this one. Many people believe you must be having suicidal thoughts to use this line and that is not true.
- LifeLine Chat: This is essentially an online chat between you and a trained professional where you can receive emotional support. This is free and confidential.
- Lifeline Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
This is a hotline where you can speak with someone for free over the phone for emotional support.
- Please dial 911 or go to your local emergency room if you are having suicidal thoughts or urges to harm yourself.
You are not alone, and with help you will be well!