Directly after you give birth, there are so many people around that you can't enjoy a moment of peace, quiet, sleep, or even some damn privacy. After I left the hospital, however, I found myself spending quite a bit of time alone with my babies. There are many postpartum emotions you'll experience alone, positive, negative, and everything in between.
In those private moments, while everyone else is at school or work or asleep, I find myself lost in a sea of emotions, ranging from overwhelming joy and satisfaction to profound sadness and anxiety. Will I be this happy forever? Look at this human I grew in my body. He's so amazing. I'm amazing, too. What if I am not a good mom? What if the baby gets hurt? Is he breathing? Why can't I feel happy? I'm such a screw up. I didn't get anything done today. I need help.
The good news is that all of these emotions are perfectly normal. You did just grow a human in your body and are experiencing tremendous physical and hormonal changes. We live in a time when there are a wide variety of options available to treat postpartum depression and anxiety, and once I got some help and was able to get past some of the worries, fears, and regrets, I found that early motherhood can be pretty magical and passes way too quickly.
The bad news is that sometimes it's hard to know when to ask for help or how to get some, no matter how terrible you feel. Sadly, there's still a lot of shame around admitting that everything about parenthood is not perfect. Remember that no matter how bad you feel right now, you aren't alone. You are a great mom, you badass human being you. Repeat that mantra in those quiet postpartum moments. You can do this.
Being a parent is scary. Being a parent to a tiny, helpless newborn is terrifying. The hormonal changes after childbirth can literally make you feel like your worst fears are coming true, too. Why is she crying? Is he eating enough? What if they get hurt or sick? What's the worst possible thing imaginable? And in quiet moments, those fleeting thoughts can become overwhelming.
Fear can quickly become anxiety. The kind of anxiety that causes you to obsessively count diapers, examine diaper contents, listen for swallows, track ounces of formula, and stare at your baby all night long while your partner snores happily beside you.
It may seem silly to regret how things went down during pregnancy, childbirth, and the early days of parenthood, but it's also entirely normal. I spent many moments lost in thought, examining my choices and blaming myself for the things that didn't go as planned, especially breastfeeding. Later, I learned that life doesn't often go as planned. It's not worth it for me to over-analyze the past, when I have a beautiful, snuggle-filled present and future to focus on instead.
It sometimes feels like modern parenthood is full of shame. Shame about choices for pain management during labor to how you feed your baby. When you are alone, it's easy to feel shame, because you lack objectivity. I gain solace in the fact that no one can tell which of my kids was the result of an induction or which got more breast milk. In few years, I won't even be able to remember how bad this felt.
Most new moms feel the baby blues after delivery. For some, including me, this sadness becomes all-encompassing and overwhelming, especially when you are alone. I am so grateful that my friends and health care providers let me know I wasn't really alone and that they were there to help.
My body hurt. It hurt to use the bathroom, it hurt to walk, my back and breasts hurt from breastfeeding, and my head hurt from not drinking enough water or getting enough sleep. It's so hard to explain how foreign my body felt, so I mostly kept it to myself.
Being alone is, well, lonely. I found myself talking to myself, my babies, and the cats. I couldn't just wake up my partner, because I felt lonely. Could I? Well, maybe just this once.
I found myself doubting my abilities. Am I a good mother? Am I doing the right things? Again, totally normal, and the answer is yes.
Sleep deprivation does weird things to the human brain. Sleep deprivation plus postpartum hormones can cause you to question your sanity. Please let me put you down, dear child. Pretty please.
There were times when I felt completely badass, too, You just grew a human in your body. How amazing is that?
My favorite postpartum moments happen at four in the morning. Seriously. Quiet moments of pure joy, when it's easy to imagine that this tiny, perfect baby is part of me, and I am part of them, as they snuggle against my chest or sleep silently in the bassinet next to me. Those are the moments where I first felt like somebody's mother.