Ask any new mother how she's handling life with a newborn, and she'll likely admit to being sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, a little out of it. But many new Moms, although not always likely to admit it, often feel depressed, out-of-control, and guilty that they're not more in love with their brand-new bundle of joy. For many, it's postpartum depression. For others though, it's a little more low-grade, more post-baby blues than full-blown depression. You worry that life is always going to be this exhausting and confusing, and wonder if maybe you weren't cut out to be a mother.
That was me about four months ago, and I'm confessing to it now because once I talked about it more, I realized that I wasn't alone in my feelings. Now, I love everything about being a Mommy, and I couldn't be more in love with my beautiful, happy, healthy baby boys. But back then, a part of me wondered, "Oh no, what have I done?"
For years I'd wanted a baby, so when I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was completely off-my-rocker with excitement. I definitely knew that my life was going to change considerably, but I knew it would be worth every sleep-deprived, baby-on-boob second. For the first month that we were home, I was totally tired, but I was really happy. I felt grateful that I wasn't hit with the postpartum depression that so many mothers -- especially Moms of twins -- experience.
A few weeks in though, my husband went back to work, we no longer had the night help, and my in-laws went home. And that's when things got really hard. Life with one newborn is rough enough, but juggling two was definitely overwhelming. More than that though, I felt sad. Just really sad. I wasn't sleeping much, which obviously didn't help, but I felt really out-of-whack, off-balance. The babies were changing speeds and shifting schedule every day, it seemed like. I kept wondering when it was going to get easier, if it was even going to get easier, and felt sad for my poor babies that they were cursed with a Mommy who couldn't handle it. I also wondered when I'd ever get to see a movie again or go out to dinner with my husband. Would the day ever come when we could just snuggle on the couch and watch TV? Would we ever get to have a night away, just the two of us?
On some level, I knew that this wasn't chemical or hormonal, so it wasn't really PPD. But, that only made me feel worse. I had no excuse for how I was feeling. What right did I have to be depressed? After everything I went through to finally be a Mom, what kind of person gets sad and overwhelmed about it? And I was blessed, totally blessed, with healthy babies too. How dare I? Really, how dare I?
When I was pregnant, a couple of friends had warned me that while I may not get PPD, it was common to feel bummed out in those first few months. Call me crazy, but at the time, I didn't believe them. I loved every second of being pregnant, and was sure I'd love every second of the newborn stage as well. Of course, when I was right in the thick of my blues, those were the friends I called to help me through. And they all said the same thing, "It will get better. You are not a bad Mother. What you're feeling is normal."
Even then, I wasn't sure. I'd look at my babies who I saw come out of my body, who I was feeding with my milk, and think, "Are you really mine? When is your Mommy coming to get you?" It was that disconnected feeling that scared me the most. Why didn't I feel more of a maternal bond? Yes, I loved them, I did, but I didn't feel like I "knew them," if that makes sense. And every time it felt like we were finally getting into a groove, they'd flip the script on me and then everything would feel unpredictable and out-of-whack again. Shouldn't I know my babies better? Shouldn't I have better instincts? Why am I not getting this?
Somewhere around 3 or 4 months, things most definitely did start to get easier. Not only were they sleeping better and eating better and giving us baby smiles and laughs, but I was getting better at this Mommy thing and trusting my maternal instincts even more. Like everyone said, it did get better, the sad feelings did pass, and I did fall in love with my boys. When I was suffering through my post-baby blues, I couldn't seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and wondered if I'd ever snap out of it. But I did, and can now, honestly say, I've never been happier.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because many women go through the same kinds of things in the first few months with a newborn, to varying degrees. I'm confessing to my own feelings because I think it's important for women to be honest about their experiences, and not to feel ashamed of them. Being a Mommy is the most important job in the word, and as a result, it's the toughest job there is. Sometimes, you feel like you can't handle it, sometimes you even wish you could just run away. But 99.9% of us don't run away, we don't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves and beating ourselves up. No, we get up 6 times a night to feed our little newborns, we check the monitor every hour or lean over the crib to make sure our tiny baby is breathing, we panic when we feel their forehead, slightly too warm, against our chest.
Just because you feel like a terrible Mommy, doesn't mean you are one. As hard and tiring and emotional as new Mommyhood is, we take care of our babies and we love our babies and trust that it will get easier. Many of us suffer in silence, and don't want to admit that Motherhood isn't all that we thought it would be. I'm lucky that I had people who could be honest with me, and confess to just how hard it actually is. I warn my pregnant friends too, so if they do feel sad or overwhelmed, they know that they have someone who's been there, who will understand. For those of you who didn't go through anything like this, you're lucky, so please don't judge. For those who went through or are now going through the emotional roller coaster of new Motherhood, I'm glad I can tell you that you're not alone. And if it ever feels like too much to handle, don't ever, ever, ever be ashamed to seek professional help.
Did you experience post-baby blues?
Image via Yogendra174/Flickr