Jon and I were kind of the last of our friends (in several circles) to venture into parenthood and I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I mean, I asked a ton of questions and held lots of babies... even changed several diapers and got peed on a few times. I was ready... right? Wrong. Now all of a sudden I was holding this tiny little human in my arms, a little bundle that was the perfect combination of Jon and I. She was here and I quickly realized that everything I thought I knew about babies was now jumbled in my head. Jon and I are now solely responsible for this little girl... this isn't like babysitting a baby for a few hours and returning them back to their parents. We were it, the end of the line.
This was Mía at 4 hours old.
You are not alone when you spend all day trying to hold back tears and hope that the next person doesn't ask you "How are you doing" because those four little words will undoubtedly unlock the flood of tears that have been welling up for days. I knew postpartum baby blues was a thing, and can be a common thing at that, but not one person ever told me exactly what that looked like. I always assumed that it was just a feeling of being unmotivated, lethargic, slightly depressed mood, or something relatively mild. I had no idea that the crazy hormonal fluctuations and the sleep deprivation would turn me into a complete emotional mess that cried at least once a day for no particular reason. So this got me worried, was I having postpartum depression? Is that what it felt like? This hyperemotional phase lasted about two and a half weeks and then started to taper off. When I started speaking to friends and telling them what I was going through, they all shared that they had experienced something similar and it was normal. Well, why didn't you say so?
In retrospect, it made sense that I felt like such an emotional wreck. I had to remind myself that I spent 24 hours in labour with 2 epidurals, then ended up having a c-section and deal with the recovery, I didn't have more than 4 hours of sleep prior to all of this happening, breast engorgement (horrible by the way) and Mía cluster feeding every 1-2 hours for days on end... I was a zombie. I was so exhausted that I had to rely on an app (Baby Tracker) on my phone to track what time she fed and on what side, to how many pees and poops she had in a given day. I honestly didn't know a person could go that many days without a proper shower, breathing fresh air, or feeling the warmth of the sun on their skin.
So much happens to us moms physically, mentally, and emotionally throughout the whole process of creating this tiny human. Our bodies get pushed and stretched (with tiger stripes to prove it) to unbelievable limits and our hormones are on a crazy roller coaster ride that doesn't seem to end. So remember that you are not alone in this, although not every "new mom" experience is the same, we are all on the same journey. Baby blues may be common and last a few weeks for most women, but if several months go by and you still don't feel like yourself then you should speak to your doctor. Remember that you need to be healthy and happy to best care for your little one.
I am no means an expert on the postpartum baby blues or anything, but I these are some of the strategies that I found really helpful for coping with mommy-hood stress.
- Communicate honestly with your partner on how you are feeling. This one was tough for me at first because a part of me didn't want to show any weakness or admit that I couldn't handle everything. Once I did open up and was honest with how I was feeling, we came up with ideas to alleviate stress for me which did wonders for my mood.
- Ask for help. I'm not sure where I got the idea that I had to be the perfect mom and wife right out of the gate, but that was the bar I had set for myself. That didn't last long! I quickly realized that to stay sane I had to be able to ask for help from my family and friends. Just to have someone hold Mía for 15 minutes while I had a proper shower (before supper) or sitting down to eat a meal was a luxury.
- Get outside. I took for granted the routine of leaving the house to go to work everyday before I was on maternity leave. Getting outside and having to be somewhere to be at a certain time a few times a week is key. You have to make that commitment to yourself and at the beginning it will be hard learning how to long it takes you to pack the diaper bag, dress baby, and dress yourself. However, you have to do it to know and the routine gets faster and easier with each trip out with baby. Try signing up for a parent and baby fitness class or bring the babe to a baby and tot group for some stories and songs. If you are in the Halifax/ Dartmouth area check out my "Days with Baby" page for some ideas on activities you can do with your little one.
- Make some "me time". At first the idea of leaving baby can be daunting and cause some anxiety at the beginning when they are so young. Start out simple with just making sure babe is fed and changed and happy then step out for a walk on your own or go to a close by coffee shop with a friend. Having a little time to reboot can do wonders for your energy level to tend to the baby.
- Take a nap. Everyone says to sleep when baby is sleeping but that can be harder than it sounds. In the first few weeks I remember being too nervous to sleep when Mía was sleeping because I was so tired that I was afraid I wouldn't wake up when she needed me or something would happen to her. Crazy, I know, but it was my reality. Jon was really good at reminding me to just go into the bedroom and nap while he was with Mía and I felt so refreshed when I came out.
I hope some of you will find these strategies helpful too. Remember that you can always contact me if you have any questions or comments.