I cried at the hospital and at home. I cried at the obstetrician's office and in the parking lot. I cried in the car and at work. I cried quietly into my pillow at night, so no one heard. I cried on the cold bathroom floor and let the shower cover my sobs or the sound of the washing machine drown my whimpers. I cried because my daughter wouldn't sleep, wouldn't eat, and wouldn't stop crying. I cried because I was afraid I'd never love her. I cried and then I learned things every mom should know to survive the baby blues. I cried and then I learned that I wasn't losing my mind, but was actually experiencing something entirely normal and common.
The baby blues can manifest into various emotions, such as sadness, irritability, and anxiety, that many new moms feel immediately postpartum. While having a baby is supposed to be the most joyous and incredible experience, the baby blues swoop in and throw a wrench into that supposed bliss. While they're common (and not to be confused with postpartum depression), until very recently no one really talked about them. As a result, this very real thing that happens to so many new moms has turned into a taboo, unspoken experience, leaving new moms to feel alone and terrified.
It's difficult not to automatically feel as though there's something wrong with you when those postpartum feelings hit you, especially if you have never experienced the baby blues before (or are unfamiliar with the concept entirely). You may start to believe you weren't cut out to be a mother and that you've made a grave mistake. You may feel lost. You may regret it all. I know because I've been there. I had no idea the feelings I was experiencing were entirely normal. If I had known the following, maybe my postpartum experience would have been easier on my heart and soul. Maybe.
It's Totally Normal
According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70 to 80 percent of all new mothers experience the baby blues. That's a significant majority of new moms. The new baby comes with all sorts of emotions and many of them are not so positive. The problem with our society is that many new mothers feel guilty over their perfectly normal emotions, so the baby blues are swept under the rug and mothers are forced to suffer alone and in silence.
It Will Go Away
Baby blues usually last about two weeks postpartum, maybe a little longer. So, there is an end to the unfamiliar and frightening darkness new moms may feel.
However, if symptoms persist longer than a couple of weeks, the new mother may be suffering from a more serious condition, like postpartum depression. New moms should be encouraged to speak to their obstetricians and to voice their concerns. There is no need to be ashamed or embarrassed, as these feelings are completely normal and can be managed with some support.
Your Baby Will Stop Crying
Soon. Very soon your baby will stop crying. I know it seems like the tears and screaming may never end, and I know it feels like this is your whole life right now, but trust me, it will subside. Your baby will stop crying and you will feel more than what you are feeling right now.
Motherhood Does Get Easier
The first few months of motherhood are tough. There is no denying it and there is no sugarcoating it. It's freaking tough. Dealing with a brand new baby and sudden new feelings and emotions is overwhelming and stifling. However, many of those initial challenges dissipate and your life as a mother does get easier. Eventually the baby stops crying, eventually breastfeeding (if that is what you are choosing to do) gets easier (or you switch to formula, which is also OK), and eventually your body heals. Eventually, it all falls into place.
You Need To Ask For Help
There's no need to be a superhero. Remember, you've already performed a miracle and carried and birthed a human being. Now it's time to take care of yourself, too. Ask for help and accept it when it's offered. There is no grand prize, and no sense of pride for wearing yourself down by doing everything on your own.
Alone Time Is Important
It's OK if you want to lock yourself in the bathroom and take an extra long shower or a bath. It's OK if you want to leave your house, get in your car, and drive aimlessly for hours. It's OK if you want a few hours to go to the mall by yourself, or go see a movie alone. In fact, those things aren't just OK, they are necessary for your mental health. So, go get a massage, or a haircut, or lock yourself in your bedroom and binge on reruns of whatever show makes you laugh. Do it.
Friend Time Is Important
Other moms can be your anchor. Find a group of moms who will support and encourage you and stick with them. Go out for a cup of coffee or go out to dinner together. Find some time to spend with your girlfriends and enjoy the hell out of it.
You Will Heal & So Will Your Body
I know everything seems drab and everything hurts and you still have to parent, even though your body feels entirely broken. I know you may look in the mirror and not recognize yourself, and see some rundown version of what you once were. I know you may be shocked at the appearance of your body. I know it's especially hard to accept your postpartum body when our society celebrates moms jumping right back into their pre-pregnancy clothes.
However, just know it doesn't matter right now. Your body will look what it looks like no matter how you feel about it, so try focusing on something else. And remember, it will heal and you will feel like yourself soon enough.
You Need To Talk About Your Feelings
Talk to anyone who'll listen. Get it out. Talk to your partner, your parents, your friends, your neighbor, other moms, your obstetrician, your kid's pediatrician, or call a hotline and talk to a stranger. Not only will talking help and make you feel less vulnerable and less out of control, but it may also help someone else who has no idea that baby blues even exist.
It's OK To Not Feel A Connection To Your Baby Right Away
The lack of instant connection to my firstborn was probably the most frightening and devastating feeling during the first month postpartum. I was shocked. How could I not be instantly in love with this human I just created? I was so scared, because I did not realize this feeling of detachment was temporary. Instead, I thought I am the worst parent in the world. What if I never love my child?
Luckily, that feeling usually goes away within a few weeks and then you love your baby with the type of love you never realized existed.
Choose Sleep Over Everything
Trust me on this: sleep. Seriously. Sleep is so important. Your laundry, your dishes, your everything will still be there when you wake up. Sleep will save you, your sanity, and your relationships, so sleep whenever you can. Have your partner take over at night, if possible. Remember: a well-rested mom is a good mom.
The baby blues may feel devastating, I will admit. Hell, they sure felt that way to me, and I felt unworthy of parenthood as a result. I held my baby and cried because I just didn't feel anything but exhaustion and anger and pain. But it all goes away and, once it does, your world becomes so much more wonderful than it once was.