I don’t know why, but I always assumed that postpartum was a distinct amount of time like six to 12 weeks or three months. When I Googled postpartum, Postpartum Depression (PPD) automatically came up. That was it. That wasn’t what I was looking for, so I had to reevaluate my search and instead looked up “postpartum definition”. Turns out that the definition of postpartum is “following childbirth or the birth of young”. Uhhh. Duh. Isn’t that just life now? Isn’t everything postpartum? The fact that Google and Merriam-Webster don’t know what exactly I am trying to find is further proof that postpartum life is kind of an enigma and that no one really talks about it. I personally think that is really annoying because I had no idea what to expect after giving birth. Sometimes my questions are too big for the Google.
Postpartum life brings along more than just physical changes. And as discussed before, those physical changes can elicit an emotional response. (Thanks, hormones!) I’ve been an emotional train wreck. I’ve experienced some “baby blues”. The things I have anxiety about range from reasonable to “I’m afraid my baby is smiling at ghosts” (a legitimate concern this week). During my pregnancy I was absolutely terrified of getting PPD. It actually kept me awake some nights. Not to mention there’s also postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and pretty much any other mental break you can think of, and I was afraid of getting all of them. I’m sure there’s still time.
Now before you think that I’m a hypochondriac, you have to understand that I have dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for the last 15 years, basically since I hit puberty. These were genuine fears, and I discussed these fears with my therapist, midwives, doula, husband, mom, and good friends. I wanted them (and still do want them) to hold me accountable for my actions, whether that is just in life or specific to parenting. I am the queen of keeping it together until I can’t anymore and trying to convince everyone “it’s fine” when really I’m about to lose it. I didn’t want that to happen once the boy got here, so I started building my tribe based on that fear. I hate asking for help, but I was too afraid not to ask for help in this arena. It is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if it’s something that concerns you. Plus, ain’t nobody got time for that shit when they are trying to take care of a teeny tiny.
Along with preparing myself by building a solid support group, I also looked into encapsulating my placenta. I had read that it was supposed to help boost milk supply, help prevent PPD, balance your hormones, and replenish your iron levels among many other benefits. This isn’t an exact science or proven by the FDA (honestly who gives a crap about them), but I figured every other animal on the planet consumes their placenta and they can’t all be wrong. Plus, your body just created an amazing organ that helped to keep your baby alive. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it in the garbage (I’m also kind of an emotional hoarder). Much like all of the different things I was willing to try in order to not tear my nether regions, I was willing to try just about anything I thought might help with PPD. If you are considering having encapsulation done be forewarned: placenta capsule burps taste like you are burping up really beefy dog food. This stupidly surprised me, and I feel like I shouldn’t have been because it makes sense. But I swear they help. I think the body still needs those nutrients, but I’m not a medical professional. Not even close. What do I know?
Freakin’ Cry Baby
I thought it might be fun to make a list about all of the things I have cried or teared up about since the boy has arrived. All of these reasons I feel like are valid in their own way. Here they are:
My nipples hurt, and the boy just gave me a tittie twister.
I haven’t had a hug or touched my husband or any person other than my son in days and I feel lonely.
I haven’t been out of the house in days.
I haven’t showered since God knows when (which is ironic because I would go days and days without showering before the boy arrived and it never bothered me).
I smell weird. Like a new kind of weird. My BO has completely changed. I also can smell a pee diaper from a mile away.
I’m exhausted. I am an 8-10 hour a night kind of girl and mom life has been a rude awakening.
I feel bad for my dogs because their lives have changed, and they never saw it coming.
My husband went back to work.
I suck at this.
I miss my old life.
Sometimes I don’t want to be a mom anymore.
I feel bad because I hate everything.
I love my son too much.
I wish that no one would ever touch me again for as long as I live.
The boy is growing and cannot fit into a newborn onesie.
The boy has gas, and I cannot help him.
The boy is crying for some unknown reason, and I cannot figure it out and I am so tired that I want to die.
The boy nuzzled me.
I love my mom.
I’m starving and haven’t eaten in hours but the boy is asleep on me.
The Subaru commercial with the dog.
The prescription med commercial with the old people and the Annie tune.
Everything is harder.
More “It takes a village” Advice
Because everything is harder than it was before, having a support system has been key for me. Like super key. Like I’m calling or texting someone everyday wondering what the hell I am supposed to be doing. Motherhood has blessed me by deepening my connections with friends, my own mother, and bringing me some great new friends. I don’t think I ever knew how loved my family and I were until the boy arrived. It’s been overwhelming. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to get that feeling, but in part it has been because we have let people in and let them love and take care of us. Have there been moments where I wanted everyone to piss off and go home? Totally. But mostly it has been really nice to see people come together because our little man in is in the world.
Parenthood has also changed my relationship with my husband. To know me is to know that I am weirdly obsessed with the man I married. I basically think he is perfect. Even when he gets on my nerves, I kind of like it because it just proves to me that he is human and not actually perfect but almost perfect. We took a really strange and long winding road to find each other and I think that has only intensified my love for him. I was honestly a little afraid of what parenthood would do to our relationship because it was so dreamy to me. I didn’t want anything to upset our balance. Has it? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Like I mentioned before, I have wept because I felt like I hadn’t hugged him or carried on an actual conversation with him in days. But despite the growing pains, I feel like we truly are a team now. It’s not that I didn’t think we were before, but now it’s more active. Before the boy arrived we leaned on each other a lot in day-to-day life, but the heavy lifting teamwork came out for big life changes and tragedies. This is everyday. And you better believe if he didn’t change diapers in the middle of the night I would like him a lot less.
He can see when I’m getting worn down before I even know it’s happening, and being able to step in for each other has been the key to neither of us going insane. Sometimes this happens gracefully. Other times he intervenes because I’m having a full-blown meltdown, crying in our bed, begging him not to go to work and leave me with the baby because I didn’t sleep any the night before because the boy had gas and made weird jungle noises all night long. That was the case this week, and he called my mom for reinforcement. I was basically pissed about it all day long, but was thankful for the meal, shower, nap, and the comfort of knowing someone I trusted was watching my child. Teamwork is not always pretty.
Also, as a side note, I need someone to explain to me how they ever think having a child is going to save or strengthen a relationship. After experiencing pregnancy and the early stages of child rearing, that is the craziest shit theory I have ever heard. The fact that any broken relationship survives pregnancy alone blows my mind. If the person you have procreated with was a lazy pain in the ass before the baby, guess what? Chances are they are still going to be a lazy pain in the ass when the baby gets here. The difference is that you are going to have a baby to take care of and you will be running on little to no sleep so their behavior will be more glaringly obvious to you. You will not change them and the baby will not change them. Cut them loose now.
All of this (the gushing about my husband and the rant) is to say: find your tribe. Find your support system, whatever that means to you. Parenting isn’t meant to be a solo sport. And mamas, when you are riding the highs and lows of all of those hormones coursing through your body, you will not want to be alone. So call a partner, a friend, a family member, a coworker, a church member–just someone you feel like you can rely on. But you need to feel 100% confident that this person is going to support you and have your back. Ride or die.
This is Your Life Now
Anxiety is a bitch, and babies will make you anxious about the stupidest stuff. At some point you will realize that you’re worrying about something ridiculous and think, “This is my life now.” Babies do that to you. They make you feel stupid. My son was smiling and cooing at God knows what the other day, and I thought to myself, “Oh no, what if he sees ghosts?! What if he’s one of those weird kids you read about on the Internet that talks to ghosts, and I see it on the baby monitor one day??” I would die if that happened. That probably wasn’t what was happening (at least I hope not), but that is the kind of crazy thing you will worry about. If they have gas, you will worry that your breast milk or formula is killing them. You will Google every possible cause of death and discomfort that exists. You will wonder if they have colic despite the fact that they are perfectly normal 90% of the day. Chances are they are crying because they aren’t sure how to live yet, and they probably have a shitty dipe. I always forget about the dipes.
Babies have some kind of death wish. The boy only wants to sleep in the most SIDS-risk positions. He loves to lay on his stomach and side, and the place he sleeps most soundly is in the big bed, after nursing, right against my side. If I rolled over, I would crush him to death. Anytime I put him in the baby wrap so I can go about my day and try to get something accomplished, I will spend too much time making sure he is placed perfectly just for him to wiggle into a position that looks like his head is going to fall off his body. When I try to move him, I get grunted or screamed at. Whatever kid. You do you. He also makes jungle cat noises in his sleep and gasps. All. Night. Long. Let me tell you that gasping is a joy to hear in the middle of the night. To quell our anxieties on the sleep front, my husband purchased us an Owlet system. Be warned, it’s expensive, but to us it was worth it. There are definitely nights I want to throw it out the window. This is usually because I’ve walked too far from the base or the boy wiggled his sock off. We’ve only had one “red alert”, and it was because the boy was trying to suffocate himself in my boob while nursing in the middle of the night. It was terrifying even though I knew he was awake and breathing. My mom gives me flack over some of my gadgetry. I get the, “I don’t know how you survived” speech often, but honestly I don’t know how I survived. I was a preemie. The odds were not in my favor (cue: Destiny’s Child “Survivor”).
It Won’t Last Forever
If you are feeling broken or overwhelmed postpartum, remember that it’s a phase and that it will not last forever. Know that all people do not automatically bond with their baby. Not everyone gets that rush of endorphins. If you are feeling hopeless, talk to your doctor. They will not judge you, and trust me, they will ask you all about how you are feeling at your six week appointment regardless. They will also ask you if your butthole has been leaking, and because you are paranoid, you will have to actually think about it. Be honest.
And all banter aside, know that your postpartum mental health is just as important as your physical health. People die from PPD and that tears me up inside because it’s senseless. Take it seriously and ask for help. It’s so much more common than you realize. I can list at least five people off the top of my head who have struggled with it, and just because it hasn’t been a part of my journey in the first six weeks doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. It means I’m blessed right now and I have to stay proactive.
Know that your baby is going to make you feel stupid. You will do stupid things. “Pregnancy brain” does not go away once baby is earth side. It just turns into a different kind of forgetfulness, and the same people who were shits to you about your forgetfulness during pregnancy will continue to be shits to you about your new forgetfulness. These are people you don’t need in your life. Ignore them. Just because you are forgetful doesn’t mean you still can’t be clever.
There will be days you super suck at being a parent.
For example: I went to my six-week check up this week with my son in a swim diaper because I was washing the rest of his diapers. I didn’t dry them in time so I brought a wet diaper with me and hoped it dried in the car. I left the diaper and diaper bag in the car. I realized it once I got in the office but hoped for the best because I changed him before we left the house. Who had a blowout and no diaper? Thank god the staff loved us enough to find another diaper and change him. Eye rolls at myself for days.
There will be days you hate everything about being a parent. For those days when you just need to cry until you feel sick, this is my secret weapon. Please read that and get it out of your system. There have been days I have just read that post, cried and vowed to just make it to tomorrow. And my kid doesn’t have colic or anything weird going on. I’m lucky and this shit is just hard.
But for all of those days that are awful, there are days when your baby pets your chest while you are feeding them or plays footsie with your arm while they are sleeping. They will belly laugh and coo at you. You get to watch other people love this tiny human you are raising. There are days when the shitty diapers are so shitty that they are comical. They are not going to be this tiny forever. Soak it in as much as you can. The sleeplessness will make that hard. Just remember in the words of Kimmy Schmidt, “I can do anything for 10 seconds.”