Motherhood—for me it has been a constant balancing act. Balancing between the most overwhelming love I have ever felt and feeling like I’ll never get a minute alone again. A balance between figuring out why your baby is crying and how to make him giggle again. A balance between loving my body for giving life to another human and trying to accept how my body has changed. A balance between wanting to return to my day job to feel like “an adult” again and counting down the minutes until I leave my job to get home to that sweet baby. A balance between wanting to have a home cooked meal but also wanting to spend every waking minute playing with your baby (hint: babywearing is a solution to this quandry). But finding that perfect balance, where one side is not tipping over is much harder than it seems.
Before Motherhood: I GOT This!
31 weeks pregnant at my shower, calm & composed
Before becoming a Mother, I thought I had it all figured out. I felt “born to do this”, coupled with years as a nanny/babysitter, child development classes, and my genuine affection for children, I was confident in my ability to be a mother. “You are so calm” was the feedback I got throughout my pregnancy, even my doctor noticed. I absorbed as much reading material about babies and parenting as I could and I joined Mommy facebook groups. I was as prepared as I thought I could be. Yet, doubt has a way of creeping into the mind of a new mother. And no one could have prepared me for those first few months, where suddenly a tiny human was completely dependent on me for everything and my life no longer felt my own. Couple that with some sleep deprivation and wacky hormones, and I found myself to be suffering from postpartum anxiety.
1 week into postpartum life
After Motherhood: Why is this so difficult?
Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the United States, even more so than depression. It is something millions of people struggle with, but we rarely hear about it in relation to new Moms. Since 18% of the population struggles with it, it should be no surprise that anxiety issues runs high with new Mothers. We often assume that starting motherhood is beautiful and rewarding, right from the start. You have a brand new baby, what is there to be anxious about? Short Answer: EVERYTHING. My own anxiety was like a roller coaster those first few weeks and continued to be a roller coaster for the next 6 months. My relationship suffered, my self-esteem suffered, the cleanliness of my house suffered, and I didn’t cooked for what seemed like ages. Even when my baby slept, I couldn’t calm my mind enough to sleep. I remember counting the days of having a newborn as if I were stranded on a desert island and just trying to survive. Another day passed by, how many more until I am rescued and get to sleep in my bed again?? And the overwhelming fear that I will never be rescued. The guilt I felt about this period of my life was more overwhelming than anything I’ve encountered. I struggled, but eventually, I found a way to thrive.
A few snapshots from our early days:
For me it was the ability to physically get out of my house and do things. Even if it was just to stroll the aisles of Target, go to a playgroup, or a walk in the park. I started attending a local Stroller Strides class by Fit4Mom, a genius organization that allows Moms to workout with their kids safely in tow. I began to cook again here and there. I found my own therapist. I spent time with friends. And most importantly, I found I could enjoy spending time with my baby without feeling overwhelming guilty and anxious. I put more effort into my relationship with my husband. I returned to work. And finally I stopped counting the days.
“You’ll discover there’s no right way to parent, there’s only your way.”
Most importantly, I realized, I actually did know how to meet my baby’s needs. Now, eight months later, I have found some kind of balance, although at times I briefly lose my balance, but I always get it back. Most importantly, I’ve realized I never completely fall down. I am a good Mother and I am enough for my baby. I am enough.