Surviving Every Stage of Postpartum
I’m in that sweet spot where my babies sleep through the night and don’t have accidents, but I still have family and friends who are having these precious babies that I can snuggle and shop for and then give back. It is magical, but it has me thinking back to my own postpartum experiences.
Because every stage of raising up children has its magic and pain, and every moment is postpartum from here on out.
I had struggled with depression for a long time before my first pregnancy. Medication really worked for me, so going into having babies I knew that there was a possibility that I would struggle during and after. I honestly had no idea what I was in store for. I feel like there wasn’t a terrible stigma associated with Postpartum Depression when I was expecting, and I even had friends who had gone through it who were supportive and gave advice while I was pregnant.
I didn’t view it as shameful, and I had so much compassion for women who suffered in that way. But then I held my first baby that first night, and I was filled with so much sadness. Indescribable, irrational bottomless pit kind of sorrow. She was healthy and beautiful, and I loved her instantly. And yet...and yet I thought maybe I was broken, and I shouldn’t have done this thing of bringing another life into this world. I was supposed to be happy and proud and I just wasn’t. I cried all the time...more than the baby. I did feel shame.
Postpartum Depression far surpassed the Baby Blues for me, and my struggle with breastfeeding only compounded things. It was like a Dementor had camped out over our house. Life just seemed bleak, and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. I didn’t have an appetite, so not even chocolate could remedy the situation.
Long story short, I got back on my medication and back into counseling, and I started to emerge from the darkness. So much so that I decided it would be a great idea to repeat the process.
I thought I would be totally prepared having learned and survived the first time, but my second pregnancy was even tougher physically and mentally. I had a 2 ½-year-old who I just barely had potty trained, and this time I was having a boy. I had no idea what to do with one of those. I was terrified. And just like last time, he arrived, and I adored him. But woven through that profound love was so much sadness. How was there ever going to be enough of me to go around? Worry overwhelmed me. Worry for my first baby that she would be confused or sad or jealous and worry about this new baby who had a mama who knew nothing about boys. I could not even control my emotions. The harder I tried to calm down and stop the tears the faster they came. Every time someone even looked my way in sympathy, I fell apart. My OB avoided my room like the Plague because honestly, my weepiness was off-putting. It was a helpless feeling because I thought I could do it this time, and I couldn’t.
Again it took time and medicine and talking things out and grace. So much grace. Constant reminders that I would...we would survive this. That God was still good even when I couldn’t feel it or see it. That it was okay that I was sad if I kept fighting for the gratitude I knew would come. That I didn’t have to compare myself to my mom friends who could do all of this with an unforced smile and no tears but the happy ones. That I could look forward to these babies talking and walking and understanding my jokes without taking away from the present. That what my body had done was a miracle, and miracles sometimes take a toll.
The reminder that every age postpartum has beauty and pain. Because now I two different kids with two different temperaments, and even though I love the funny things they say and the wondrous way I can re-experience moments through their eyes, they can also be sassy and frustrating and exhausting. Fewer naps. A lot more activities. And the fighting. Oy vey.
And now I look forward to those fun teen years. When I say fun, I am not being facetious. I really sincerely anticipate the days ahead with them. Having intelligent conversations and going to movies I actually want to see and watching all the amazing potential bud and blossom right before my eyes. There will be pain to navigate there too, I know, and I know from past experience that the knowing doesn’t make it easier. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Bullies and failure. Mistakes and missteps for them and for me.
Remembering that the same hands of grace that held me early in this postpartum journey are still holding me now and will continue to when the acne and mood swings and driver’s permits start. That time and talking and medicine are still the best medicine for me, and that is okay.
That it might be beauty and ashes. Snuggles and sleepless nights. Wonder and tantrums. Body odor and genuine friendship. So take heart in whatever stage you are in. Hold onto what is good. Remember that what is not so great won’t last, and there will always be stuff you miss when it’s over. Because “This too shall pass” cuts both ways.
Keep loving your babies however old they are. Keep fighting for gratitude. Keep giving grace to other mamas and your babies and yourself. Put your oxygen mask on first-- however that looks for you (i.e. exercise, creating, bubble baths, drinks with friends, sitting in the dark alone, crying in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, etc.). Stay present because you’ll miss all the good if your sole focus is rushing through the bad. Every day will have both.