I’m officially eight months postpartum, and boy, can I tell you how I’m feeling mentally compared to the 4th trimester is night and day. As Mental Health Month approaches, I have partnered with Moms Mental Health Initiative to share my postpartum experience. Moms Mental Health Initiative is a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping moms navigate perinatal mood and anxiety disorders by sharing information, connecting them to resources, and providing peer-driven support. They truly are doing amazing work in the community.
I have always struggled with anxiety during my 33 years on this earth, but I felt a cool sense of calm and clarity when pregnant. I honestly did not feel anxious and felt so at ease, like it was meant to be. After trying for almost a year to conceive, I thought I would be a nervous wreck, but I truly loved being pregnant mentally and physically. Mine the whole, can’t bend over or drink wine thing.
Delivering your baby should be one of the most rewarding and happiest times of your life. You grow a human for about ten months and are meant (or told by society) to feel the happiest you’ve ever felt in your life. Unfortunately, that was not the case for my early postpartum journey for some mothers, including myself. Although I know I’m not alone in these feelings, it can feel quite isolating and polarizing with what is put out on social media. It often sets unrealistic expectations of how you should feel as a parent. I’m sharing my story today in hopes that it will help another expecting or new mother navigate these exciting yet unknown times.
After I delivered Magnus, we had to stay at the hospital for a few extra days, and when we finally went home, I felt off. I didn’t feel like my home was my home and my life was my life. Don’t get me wrong, I was so happy to be in the comfort of my home and begin the journey as a family, but I couldn’t pinpoint the nagging feeling inside me. It wasn’t until we were heading home from the hospital that I started to feel really down. I thought maybe it was because we did not have nurses to turn to with questions, a lactation consultant on hand, or a doctor to lean on. But in all realization, my postpartum anxiety and depression had kicked in.
If I’m being honest, I had heard the term ‘postpartum anxiety and depression’ but assumed it didn’t affect many mothers and just hoped I wouldn’t have any symptoms. In my opinion, the only thing you can do to prepare is accept that it could happen to you and that you are not alone. When describing my postpartum depression and anxiety, I think that is the perfect way to describe my overall feelings, simply feeling down. Whether that means I’m feeling down on myself, feeling like a bad mother or wife, it’s hard to merely kick the feeling of just not being enough. And let’s be honest, there is no rule book about what it takes to be a good mother as every baby is different, so how do you kick those feelings? It is hard to come back up when you are down in the throws. It’s important to know that you are doing the best you can for your baby and you genuinely are the best parent you can be by just being you.
One thing I don’t think many people speak about is the mourning of your old life. When you deliver your baby, you truly are a new person, and for me. You’re a mother. You are responsible for that child for the rest of your and their life! You will never truly be the person you used to be. And that doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you love, but you are different, and life isn’t the same. It triggered a lot of unknowns when it came to coping with my new feelings as I didn’t feel like myself. I hadn’t spent time with the new me to know what I was feeling or what I needed.
With all of this happening mentally, I felt so isolated as it felt like little to no one was truly checking on ME. It’s all about the baby. In addition to feeling mentally exhausted, I almost forgot that my body had just gone through a trauma. I just birthed an almost ten-pound human, for goodness sake.
Taking care of yourself physically can really help your mental state. For me, I had NO appetite. I had horrible stomach cramps, and I think it all led back to my anxiety. With the lack of postpartum check-ins, I guess I will never know. My husband did a great job of keeping me fed, quite literally sometimes feeding me, and always made sure I had water. Breastfeeding was very important to me, so I knew I had to stay hydrated and get enough calories to keep my little man happy and fed!
I am so thankful for the community I have with my blog, and I know I am so lucky to have women from all over the country (and world) that I truly don’t know that have been there for me more than they know. I am incredibly thankful to my sister and husband who listen to me cry and say, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong’ countless times. Now, I know not all of us can be lucky to have an audience of thousands of supportive internet friends in their DMS being vulnerable with their feelings and sharing their stories… And that is where Moms Mental Health Initiative comes in. They create a community that is supportive and helpful during the hard times. They can provide direct sources to therapists and medical professionals who are there to help you.
With all of this being said, let’s end this with a bit of positivity. Not all mothers experience this, and I am truly so happy for the mothers who have eased into postpartum. I’m really jealous, ha! As women, we are truly magnificent. We can grow, sustain, and take care of another human being. Read that again; it should feel heavy and important because it truly is. And what we have to remind ourselves is we, as mothers are precisely what our baby needs. They trust us and feel safe with us, and that’s what’s so important. You have to remind yourself that everyone’s journey is different, not one right or wrong.
If you are postpartum and not feeling yourself, you are not alone. Your feelings are valid, and these times will pass. Don’t be afraid to speak to a therapist or consider medication to get through the dark times. I talked to a therapist, and it was so helpful to rephrase and break down the feelings I was experiencing. Doing what is best for you is also what is best for your baby. If you ever want to chat, please reach out to me directly, and I will always be an open book!