When Becoming A Mother Isn’t What You Expected
expectations are odd. the word ‘expectation‘ is defined as a strong belief in something going a certain way or someone doing a specific thing. i had many expectations when it came to becoming a mother.
i expected the sleepless nights (though honestly, those take much more of a toll than one is prepared for). i expected breastfeeding to have its challenges (and in reality, it was much more than a ‘challenge.’). i expected my heart to immediately burst with love and affection for my new baby the moment she emerged into this world. i expected for this volcanic eruption of euphoric love to completely outweigh the exhaustion, the frustration and the tears (it didn’t).
in the days and weeks after the birth of my daughter, i did not expect to cry more than i laughed.
i did not expect postpartum depression.
i planned so carefully for my natural birth. we did the classes, we met the midwives, i had my birth affirmations plastered everywhere. i set my expectations for childbirth and motherhood early. while i do believe there is power in setting intentions, i now know how important it is to leave room for how the real story plays out.
this isn’t easy for me to share. i typically like to write and share things here that have already been heavily processed and ‘attended to’ – but this – i am in it now.
my reason to share even though i feel embarrassed (yes, i already know i’m not “supposed” to be embarrassed but that feeling is still there for me) is because it needs to be talked about more. if one other woman reads this and thinks ‘i feel less alone’ then that is reason enough.
most new parents can agree that those first few weeks are hard, even miserable. your life changes abruptly in an instant and there is not time to catch up. you are on. it’s go-time.
the changing and flooding hormones are fierce. my husband left for a keynote a week after our daughter was born (he had agreed to it way before i was even pregnant). he would be gone one night. my reaction to him leaving was as if someone told me he was being kidnapped and all of his limbs were being torn off. i was truly beside myself. i did expect pregnancy hormones leaving my body to be intense, but never that intense.
i actually didn’t expect the bursting and oozing love for my daughter right away (thanks to honest friends sharing how this bond wasn’t immediate for them). i did, however, expect it within the first few weeks. i think our very rough road attempting to nurse played into this heavily. that’s another post for another time but every time i nursed her (mind you – that’s 10-12 times per day), we each left the session beyond frustrated and sobbing. every. time.
i expected to gaze into her eyes and know on this new level that she was a part of me. i didn’t. i carried that tiny human in my own body for 9 long months and yet, it seemed like neither of us cared. both my mom and a friend sent me this blog post about the terrible thoughts new moms sometimes have and it made me feel less alone and crazy. i reread it three times in a row and sobbed harder each time.
it was finally around week 5 when i knew i was no longer experiencing the expected ‘baby blues’ but something more intense. i remember thrusting my daughter into my husband’s arms after a particularly horrible nursing session, darting out of the apartment and into my car where i completely broke down. i remember thinking to myself, “if this is motherhood, it’s shit. this is not what i signed up for. those woman who say being a mom is the best thing ever are obviously lying or high because this is not fun.”
then i drove to target, bought a $3 chevron pumpkin and felt 1% better.
after i walked back in the apartment, i told my husband that i thought i had postpartum depression and then, you guessed it, cried some more. he held me and told me he needed me to call the birth center in the next 15 minutes and ask them for resources. i did.
i talked to one of the midwives who was genuinely compassionate and told me i did exactly the right thing. she set me up an appointment the next day.
as i sat in the waiting room, i looked around at the other women there. one was pregnant and two were cooing at their fresh babies. i sat by myself, my own baby at home with her dad and feeling only sadness that i didn’t feel connected to her in the way i expected and wanted.
i met with truly the perfect midwife there. as she asked me what i was feeling, my cries overtook my whole body and she wrapped her arms around me (midwives are the best). she shared her own struggles with postpartum depression and assured me it does indeed get better. she also applauded me for reaching out, which i needed to hear. after diagnosing me with postpartum depression, she gave me resources and also a prescription for anti-depressants/anti-anxiety.
i was hesitant to take them at first since i worked so hard to get off of them a few years ago. then i said to myself, “pregnancy and childbirth have tangled up your hormones and there is a chemical imbalance happening now. take them. your husband and your daughter need you to be you again. YOU need to be you again.” so i did and i am.
i also feel the need to share that i thankfully never felt like harming her or myself but those can be feelings associated with postpartum depression. if you are feeling that, please seek help immediately. i sort of just felt like i was babysitting a random kid that got dropped off and i was not getting paid nearly enough. oh and a babysitter that cried 23 hours a day.
i can honestly say i feel a ton better than i did in mid-october so i know i am on the right path. i finally felt the heart-burst feeling towards our sweet daughter around week 7. it was during our trip to austin.
it’s still hard and i still don’t feel completely back to the mental state i want to be in but it does keep getting better.
so other moms or even non-moms struggling with mental health issues, reach out. as annoying as it can sometimes be to hear “it will get better. it will get easier.” it really does. it may not happen overnight and it may present itself in unexpected ways, but it will get better.
while my first few months of motherhood are nothing like i expected, i am forever grateful for the village of people around me, continuing to love me in my darkest, vulnerable moments.
all of that being said, i can genuinely say i feel grateful to be atlas’ mom.