The moments immediately following birth are some of the most incredible, surreal, astounding, miraculous and emotional moments that you may experience in your lifetime. You brought new life into the world! The life that was inside of you for the better part of a year, is now earth-side. Astounding. That little bundle of amazing life gasps for her first breath of air, and that’s it. You are no longer her sole vessel.
These first couple of days after birth are fairytale-like in nature. You have the incredible support of many people, including close family or friends, nurses, doctors, doulas, and midwives. You can relax for the most part, the siblings are cared for by family, your meals are cooked for you, and someone is checking in on you and baby almost constantly. You may have the incredible support of a lactation consultant who is making sure that your baby is latching and eating. Everything seems easy, beautiful and complete. Your life has never been more meaningful.
Something happens after those first couple of days. You are discharged from the hospital. It’s all you now. As soon as you secure baby into that carseat, and snap that amazing modern device into the backseat, you are embarking upon a journey. A journey that is unlike the journey of trying to conceive, unlike pregnancy, unlike labor, and unlike delivery. These postpartum weeks ahead are astoundingly and terrifyingly different.
Here is my story–I am sure it is similar to someone else’s story out there. This is my truth, the very much raw truth that visited me after both of my daughters were born.
My husband, our new baby girl and I pull into the driveway after being discharged from the hospital. As I saw my toddler sitting on the grass in the front yard with my Mom, I felt so many things. I saw her smiling face. So beautiful. So happy, enjoying the beautifully warm and sunny July day in Michigan. I wanted to leap out of the car and just hold her and kiss those rosy cheeks. I missed her so much after those couple of days at the hospital. So I did that. I ran to her, hugged her, kissed her until she couldn’t take it any longer, and…then the other feelings began. I knew that I would be soon bringing her new sister out of the car, in a matter of seconds actually. My 2 year old, the center of my universe, was no longer the baby. My FIRST BABY; no longer the baby. The baby we tried to have for so long suddenly looked so grown up, and she was only 2 years old. This majorly tugged on my heartstrings. We brought our new baby out of the car and my 2 year old’s face changed. It was a face full of confusion. She saw her sister briefly at the hospital, and that encounter went…not so well. It ended in crying and words such as “let’s just leave her at the hospital” were spoken. As she saw her sister come into her front yard to join her on the blanket, my oldest likely could not understand exactly what was occurring, but whatever it was, she was not a fan. My heart broke, mostly because I had spent so many months talking to her about the baby, involving her as much as possible in the pregnancy, reading her “big sister” books, and all the things they say will make the adjustment easier. What a crock. None of that helped. Her world was turned upside down and she was hurt. Nothing really can prepare someone for their entire life changing; not only changing, but being flipped upside down.
Her world was turned upside down and she was hurt.
Transition. Change. Adjustment. These things all take so much time with a new baby, depending on many factors. For us, it was just plain difficult. For a while. A really long while. Those first 1-2 weeks at home were a disaster. My daughter struggled with breastfeeding. We must have visited the lactation consultant 6 times in the first 2 weeks. Nobody slept but a few winks. Our dogs were depressed and acting out, including peeing all over the place and chewing up every expensive wooden toy that was my toddler’s favorite. That didn’t help matters in the slightest. We had yet another colicky baby who screamed at least 90% of the time and the only answer was to wait it out like last time. We tried the reflux meds, the dairy elimination diet for me, the sound machine, swaddling, shh-ing, and every other method that the parenting books and doctors tell you will work. They don’t work. Not for our babies. In fact, I am positive that all 19 parenting books in our basement will end up in our recycling dumpster as soon as I get the energy to find them all.
We tried the reflux meds, the dairy elimination diet for me, the sound machine, swaddling, shh-ing, and every other method that the parenting books and doctors tell you will work. They don’t work.
Our toddler grew very tired of her screaming sister, and as much as she tried to be patient, she couldn’t be. Not any more. She was done being patient. There were lots of tantrums, and she was not typically a toddler who threw many tantrums. Lots of crying. And by lots of crying, I mean by all the girls in this household, including me. She constantly asked us to put the baby down, to take her back to the hospital, to give her away, and would sob when we couldn’t hold her and her sister at the same time. It was horrible. This was not what you see in the media; the newly bonded sisters, dressed in matching outfits, snuggling and kissing the day away. Does that really happen?!
Postpartum hormones are rough for some of us. Some of what happens in those first weeks is incredible, but honestly, most of it is not. Not for those of us who struggle with some degree of Postpartum Depression (PPD). I was diagnosed with it after my oldest was born. It was there, but it seemed to go away after about a month. This time, I believe it took me longer. Between breastfeeding struggles, the difficult sibling adjustment, sleepless nights with no ability to nap during the day when the baby would finally sleep (our toddler stopped napping entirely at 18 months old, so I was always awake to care for her when her sister slept), no family nearby, and a husband who worked long hours, those early postpartum months were just plain hard. I cried a lot, and there was no holding back. I had a lot of moments with my toddler where I had to explain why Momma was sad. She saw it all. PPD isn’t something you can hide. I was irrational, emotional, dramatic and just really sad. I couldn’t find the positive in anything. I just had a baby! This time period was supposed to be incredible, but it just was not. Not for me. Not with how I felt and how I saw my sweet toddler react to the new addition. It was a long summer, to say the least.
My daughters play together. They laugh together. They smile together.
Transition. Change. Adjustment. Here we are almost 7 months later, and I can honestly say that I have found my groove as a Mom and as a person, and so has my family. My now 3 year old is the best big sister I could have ever imagined. She absolutely adores her baby sister, and is the most helpful, caring, loving and thoughtful big sister. My daughters play together. They laugh together. They smile together. My 3 year old asks where her sister is, if she is away from her for 10 minutes. They are absolutely inseparable. My baby girl is now a champ at nursing. She likes it so much in fact, that she keeps me up all night almost every night doing so. I let her. She is thriving, and growing, 100% because of my milk. We worked hard to establish that breastfeeding relationship, and I am so grateful. It was worth the weeks of heartache and tears. I feel happy again. My emotions are normalizing and I feel more grounded. I honestly cannot recall the last time I have cried. In fact, I believe I spend most of my day laughing and smiling with my girls. I have started praying more, working out when I can, creating more (hence why I began this blog), and giving myself more grace. I cannot conquer every single thing, every day, and be good at it all. It has taken me a long time to realize this concept. My husband is my rock. His constant support, help, love and selflessness keeps this family together. He is the best Daddy and the husband I dreamed about for so many years.
…it is likely more normal to not feel thrilled, but to feel insanely overwhelmed, exhausted and emotional.
So to all the postpartum Moms out there; please know that it is normal to experience a myriad of emotions and feelings during those first days, weeks and months after birth. Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t thrilled by it all. In fact, it is likely more normal to not feel thrilled, but to feel insanely overwhelmed, exhausted and emotional. Your body went through some pretty major things to bring that sweet little bundle of life into the world. Please don’t expect to just jump back into “normal you.” Babies really do change everything, including you, precious postpartum Mom. Give yourself some grace, as you are stuck in postpartum purgatory. You won’t be there forever, and in fact when you aren’t, it really will feel a little more like heaven on earth.