You've just had a baby. You're overwhelmed, you're still physically recovering, and your body is pumping you full of hormones to the point your brain, heart, and soul are screaming it's just too much. It can be difficult to explain how you're thinking and feeling to those around you, because not only do you not always know how you're feeling, but when you do you know it's not always rational. So you'll often just brush it off by saying, "I'm just hormonal." But let's talk about things a postpartum woman really means when she says she's hormonal, because it can be used to explain everything from the deeply important to the completely absurd. Trust me, I know.
Under normal circumstances I am a sensitive, emotional person. Not to the point where it's inhibiting my quality of life or anything, but I feel big. I'll cry at the drop of the hat, frustrate easily, and am effusive in my affections towards, well, everyone I feel affection for. No joke, my 3-year-old daughter has had to tell me to, "Calm down with the hugs." So imagine me, this ball of emotional energy, with a surge of postpartum hormones. I was like a figure out of Greek mythology.
Postpartum hormones can make you think weird things, react strangely to normal things, and react really weirdly to weird things. It's much easier to tell someone "I'm just hormonal right now" than to explain something, like "My baby just kind of reminded me of the baby in Ghostbusters II and now I'm a little nervous that a haunted painting is going to possess him because I don't even believe in that sort of thing and it's upsetting that I'm even thinking this and also I feel bad that I thought my baby just looked sort of creepy."
And so, to give you some insight on the hormonal, postpartum mamas in your life (and reassurance, if you're hormonal and postpartum right now, that it's not just you) here are just some of the things that could really be going on when a woman says "I'm hormonal."
"The Baby Looked At Me Funny And I Think It's Because They Hate Me"
"We were making eye contact during a feeding and it was so wonderful and then they just, well, turned away. And I know, I know that it was probably nothing... but what if it was pointed? They can pick up on emotions, you know. OMG. Or what if they weren't picking up on my emotions because they aren't as strong as they're supposed to be because I'm a bad mom. No wonder they hate me!
I mean, this is ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous... but still..."
"I'm So Ugly"
"Just look at me. I've got bags under my eyes and I'm puffy and flabby and I haven't showered and just such a mess and I'm going to be a mess forever and I just want to wear cute shoes and get my hair done and I just don't see how that's ever going to happen again now! I'm a hideous beast! I should go live in a castle full of magic talking teapots."
"But The Cat!"
"I haven't paid any attention to the cat, you guys. Granted, the cat literally never pays any attention to me... unless I'm reading and they want to put their butthole in my face. But what if the cat thinks they're being replaced? What if the cat thinks I stopped loving it. The cat was my first baby! I love the cat! Where is it? Sitting on the window sill? Come here cat! Let me aggressively love you and sob. Why are you walking away? OMG now the cat hates me too! It's so sad and it's masking its sorrow as anger! I'm so sorry I did this to you, kitty!"
"I'm So Beautiful"
"How could I ever think I'm ugly? This body birthed a baby! It carried life and now it's sustaining it. I'm a goddess! I'm like the real life Te Fiti! These stretch marks are like medals of honor! This C-section scar tells a story! I am so glorious I could cry just looking at myself, and I will, all day!"
"My Partner Bought Me Cookie Dough Ice Cream"
"Honestly, though, it was mostly vanilla and, like, WTF was the point even, ya know? There wasn't nearly enough cookie dough in it, and I can't help but wonder: didn't you check in the store? Obviously I'm not saying you should have opened the container, because that wouldn't be sanitary. But maybe, like, feel the weight of each pint in your hands before choosing and compare. I'm just saying I feel like this was simultaneously careless and personal and you should have known."
"I've Got Something Coming Out Of Everywhere Right Now"
"I'm crying, I'm bleeding, I'm lactating, I've got a runny nose, and I just peed a little. This is way too much body fluid for one person to handle at one time, let alone someone in my emotional state."
"I Could Make A Wig Out Of All The Hair I've Lost"
"It's everywhere. Strands and strands and strands covering the floor, the couch, the bed, the rug, and don't even get me started on the shower drain. Am I going to go bald? Should I be saving everything I'm shedding so that I can wear it later as a hairpiece. I'm worse than the damn cat. Oh God, now I'm thinking about the poor neglected cat again."
"This Puppy Video Is So Cute"
"Dogs are so good! They represent the very best in us. Surely they are more human than we are. We should all be more like dogs. Dogs don't judge. They only love! I hope my baby grows up to be like a dog! I want him to be a good boy! Such a good boy! Who's a good boy? I hope he is!"
"Everyone Needs To Leave Me Alone Immediately"
"I am literally never alone. I have had this baby attached to me for weeks now after living inside of me for months and now all of you well-meaning people who want to 'help' just need to just let me be. I want to be able to sit and think my weird, hormonal thoughts, and cry alone for a little while without getting embarrassed about the fact that I'm crying about the fact that I want my baby to be like a dog."
"I Think The Baby Is Cold"
"I think... I mean... maybe? Oh jeez, I've failed them! They can't understand why they had to leave the warmth of the uterus and now they're bitter and jaded at the tender age of three weeks and I am terrible!"
"My Favorite Mug Is In The Dishwasher"
"Yeah, I have other mugs, but it's not my favorite mug, and right now I'm having a very hard time and I really need to have a soothing cup of tea out of my favorite mug.
Life is so, so hard. There is only darkness and ashes."
"The Idea Of Going Back To Work Is Devastating"
"I know I have a few weeks left but it is going to fly by and even though motherhood is so hard I cannot bear the thought of being away from my sweet baby for a full work day. What if they forget all about me? What if they're sad and no one else can comfort them and they cry all day and it causes permanent developmental and emotional damage? How on Earth am I ever going to do my job when I'm going to be working about this the whole time I'm there? Why can't I just be independently wealthy so that I never have to work ever again?"
"I Want To Go Back To Work And That Makes Me Feel Guilty"
"Actually I'm really excited to get back into that project that will be gearing up once maternity leave is over. But OMG I feel so guilty that I want to do something other than stare into my baby's eyes. What is wrong with me? Don't mothers just want to stare into their baby's eyes all day? But, I mean, it's so boring. Ahhh! Did I just think that?! What kind of a monster thinks staring at a baby is boring?! I'm human garbage! Human garbage who is actually looking forward to being in an office. I'm the worst. I must tell no one or Child Protective Services will declare me an unfit mother and take my baby away."
"The Baby Hates Tummy Time"
"They are literally never going to lift up their head on their own and it's going to be all my fault because I didn't do the right baby exercises with them. Everyone will see my baby walking around, holding their own head in their hands because they never developed the right neck muscles and they're going to know we only did two minutes of tummy time twice a day instead of the recommended five minutes three times a day. I shall be shunned. I shall wear a scarlet letter upon my breast: B, for Bad Mother."
"Sorry, I Was Just Thinking About Ned Stark"
"It's still just so hard, you guys. He didn't deserve that. He was so noble. F*cking Joffrey!"
"I Haven't Slept In A Week"
(I can't even joke about this you guys: nothing about it is funny and it's even worse when you're hormonal.)
"What If My Baby Never Gets Hair?"
"They're pretty bald, people. I'll love them no matter what but it's sort of weird that they have no hair, right? Shouldn't they have some? What if the other kids make fun of them? What if they call them Charlie Brown? Kids can be so mean to anyone who's just a little different. Oh my poor, perpetually bald child! We have to fight against these cruel schoolyard taunts!"
"I Still Hurt"
(Postpartum pain — seriously, my vag felt like it had been run over by a truck — is bad enough. Throw hormones on top of that and you spiral into a pit of despair where you're convinced you're never going to feel normal ever, ever again.)
"Everything About You Is Terrible"
"Just look at your face. Did it always look like that? What about your face right now makes me want to scream and karate chop something right now? Is that... is that chewing sound coming from you? How are you making a chewing sound with your mouth closed? I don't understand. Why are you breathing so loud. What did you just say? 'This take out is good'? What is that supposed to mean? Are you being sarcastic? Is this your subtle way of criticizing me for not cooking dinner for you? Do you know how hard it is to take care of your child all day? Do you know how easy you have it going to work?"
"OMG! You're Not Terrible! I'm Sorry! I Love You So Much!"
"WTF was I thinking?! Of course you don't mean that. You've been so good. You're such a good parent. I am so happy our child has you in their life. You're wonderful and I couldn't do this with anyone else. Actually, you're so amazing it's making me a little bit horny right now. I can't wait until my midwife gives me the green light to have sex with you at my six-week appointment."
"The World Is A F*cking Mess"
"How can I raise my baby in a world like this?"
(I'm sad to report that hormones don't make this question go away, especially nowadays, it seems. Hormones can, however, make you ask yourself this question for silly reasons, like when you buy Starburst and there was only one yellow in the whole pack, or when people try to tell you that's OK because pink is the best Starburst flavor anyway. Because who are those people and what happened in their lives to make them come to that conclusion and come at me, yellow haters! This is my hill to die on! I will make this world better for my children!)
"Have You Ever Looked At A Flower?"
"Like really looked at a flower? They're just so beautiful, you guys."
"This Goddamn Pump"
"Why is it so loud? And, I'm sorry, is it me or is it saying 'milk me!' over and over again. And why did I only pump one ounce?! I've been hooked up to this terrible machine for 20 minutes? What am I doing wrong? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with the pump? What is wrong with the world that we can't make better pumps than this noisy, bulky, uncomfortable, and terrible contraption? Get in the car: we're driving to the ocean so I can drop this thing off a cliff and into the roiling waves below where it shall never be seen again."
Now you may be asking yourself, "What about moms who don't pump? They wouldn't think this!" and to that I say, on a hard enough day, even a mom who doesn't pump can have this thought because the postpartum period can get really real and does not make any logical sense.
"I Don't Know What I'm Doing"
"I am a fraud and a sham and I never should have been trusted with a baby. How could anyone have ever handed over something so precious. I am so scared I'm going to screw this up."
"I Just Love My Baby So Much"
Again, get used to this one, friends, because it never really stops being consuming and overwhelming in the best possible way.