The Things I Wish They Would Have Told Me
When I became a mom, I had everything prepared. The nursery, the little soft cottony footy jammies, the bottles (all sterilized) lined up neatly in the cupboard, and even the state-of-the-art white noise machines and baby wipe warmers were carefully placed in her all-things-pink clad room. I loved the idea of becoming a mom. I yearned for the day I would hold her in my arms, or take her on daily walks (since I assumed I’d be on “vacation” postpartum). It was all going to be perfect.
Except it wasn’t.
My birth story was uncomplicated, just as planned! I thought although my body was aching, I was sure I was out of the woods. We decided to discharge ourselves and baby girl after just one day in the hospital, thinking it would be best to recover at home. After arriving at close to midnight back to our apartment, I ambitiously sent my husband to go to sleep, thinking “How hard could it be?” Even though I was exhausted, I was still coming off of the adrenaline rush of being someone’s mama, and thought it was only appropriate that I spend our first night at home with the baby.
I carefully unclothed her and changed her into new, clean pajamas, fed her and then….at the LEAST opportune moment, I needed to pee. Just as that awareness came over me, the baby started shrieking and crying (Looking back, it probably wasn’t even that loud because my husband slept through basically the whole thing). But to me, the crying was piercing. It sounded like a thousand nails on a chalkboard, quite the opposite of what I envisioned a new baby would sound like, and much louder than anything I heard at the hospital. I did the most logical thing I could have thought of at the time, and took her along with me to the bathroom.
And that’s when it all came crumbling down–I suddenly realized that the pain of being 24 hours postpartum, coupled with the tylenol wearing off, and the boobs growing to melon-sized were no longer things I could ignore. I could barely sit and had to fight through the pain while carefully handling my tiny little potato (lol). I started crying. A lot. The tears came rushing down my face, landing like little polka dots on my daughter’s onesie. It was ugly Kim K face type crying. It was “What-the-fuck-is-happening-this-wasn’t-part-of-the-plan” crying. It was something nobody told me about, and still, women seldom talk about.
Once the tears stopped drowning my vision, I looked down at her little face, half-hoping she would suddenly utter “Don’t worry mom, it’s going to be okay” as her first words. To my horror, I saw her upper lip was turning blue. I bolted up and simultaneously pulling my pants up ran into my bedroom, screaming for my husband to get up. I was sure that I messed everything up. I was sure something awful was happening, and I was desperate for him to triage the situation. His eyes shot open and he quickly looked over at the baby. He gently lifted her and that’s when I heard the words I was silently praying for: “She’s fine.”
Later on, I would find out that it’s actually perfectly natural, and that babies sometimes get a tinge of blue around their “venous plexus.” This is when their lips, or area around the mouth, turns blue because of that area becoming engorged with blood during feeding. The relief I felt was truly indescribable.
The next day, from lack of sleep, and body aches like I’ve never felt before, I broke down. This would be the start of many, many, many such breakdowns. I would cry in front of family, I would cry in quiet, I would cry in my car, I would cry in the shower. I now realize, I was grieving the loss of who I thought I should have been as a mom.
For the next 3 months, things got easier and harder at the same time. I was finally in the groove of things and then…I got pregnant again. I was somehow hopeful this time, naively thinking my experience (and knowing my limits) would surely make the shift from 1 baby to 2 so much easier.
*Spoiler alert* It did not.
I spent the better part of my first year (or even longer) as a mom of two cringing every time I would hear them cry. I blamed myself for every obstacle I was faced with. I would lose myself in lingering thoughts of how my kids deserved a better mom. I pictured a stepford-wife-type robot replacing me and no one noticing. The thoughts became dark, and so did my feelings about being a mom. I second-guessed every decision I had to make; from the type of food they ate, to the clothes they wore, to the sleep training method we chose, to the way I would rigidly instruct them to feel their feelings in the middle of a hair-raising tantrum. I felt like a failure. I felt like I surely was never going to survive this, and I felt horrible about feeling horrible.
I finally woke up one morning and decided I was sick-and-tired of feeling sick-and-tired. I knew I had to muster up the courage to take my own advice and feel my own feelings. Autopilot was no longer an option and I knew I only had one choice, and that was to find myself again.
I went back to therapy myself (yes…therapists go to therapy too!) and started working through all of my feelings and thoughts. I took the time to connect with myself, and in doing so, I recognized I was there all along. I gave myself permission to f*ck up sometimes, and I took every chance I could get to connect with my kids rather than micromanage them. I found diving into the work that was so familiar to me in my career allowed me to be more present and self-aware. I stopped thinking I had to deserve to be happy, and accepted that I am the only person who can dictate that. I fell in love with being their mom.
There’s no cookie-cutter prescription for being happier. But there are many steps that are necessary to take in order to become that badass self you so desperately want to be. Having been through it myself, I know the feeling. I know what it’s like to feel like your world falling apart, and it truly sucks. But I also know what it takes to finally come out on the other side and feel whole again. I hope you know it’s possible. I hope you know that you have the will and there IS a way to feel better. I hope you know one day the clouds will feel like they parted and you will overcome that bully in your brain.
I hope, together, we can help you find yourself again.