When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was so prepared for childbirth and labor. I read so many books and was having a home birth, so I really felt like I was setting myself up for a successful birth….and I was!
Honestly, my births were all wonderful and for a first birth, I did have an amazing experience with my oldest. It was empowering, I felt strong, I didn’t tear, I had a relatively short labor compared to many stories I’d heard – 10 hours, and didn’t have any complications. My baby was beautiful and I felt so accomplished.
And then…my baby was here. And I loved it at first. But I quickly became overwhelmed. My parents were visiting and I felt like I needed to cater to others and wanted things to stay how I liked them and have some control over my life and situation. I didn’t feel good (obviously…I mean I Just gave birth…), I was tired…and then suddenly I hated it.
Her cries made me wanna cry…all the time, I felt powerless and and like a failure, most of the time. I wanted visitors, but I didn’t want to host them. I wanted well wishers and their input, but only if it was what I wanted to believe, not if their ideas felt contradictory to my own, although I had never really thought about what I DID believe in or want. All the advice, how to nurse, how to put my baby to sleep, where to put her to sleep, pacifier or not.
OMG, the pacifier situation… In my head, I DID NOT WANT TO USE ONE. I knew that I personally had used one until I was 4 years old and that mortified me (my 21 year old self was embarrassed about that) and I didn’t want my kids to get that dependent – on ANYTHING.
Below are two photo snapped around this time, when my oldest was born, over 10 years ago, and the exact moment when I was feeling super confused, dejected and pissed.
But, my parents brought a pack of pacifiers with them when they visited, so I could use it and it made me so mad!! I was adamant about my feelings, and then when they were confused, because it seemed irrational, I felt so unheard and unvalidated, and lots of self doubt and frustrated. WHY?? I didn’t want it! But I was so tired and overwhelmed by all the ideas, what I read in the baby books and how to schedule my baby, and I could barely articulate any of that. I am sad for my old self to think of how anxious and uptight I was. Now I look back and I remember the physical feeling of disappointment in not feeling understood and the extreme sense of not knowing what the F*CK I was doing or even what I wanted to do.
SO much of our preparation pre-baby has to do with our birth and very little with our postpartum selves. With what we may want to do as new parents, how to work on ourselves to move into parenting with more acceptance and less judgement.
When I look back, I feel so bad for that previous me that was so confused and unable to let go or let others help me. I always wanted help and advice, but then when I got it, I was angry at the person for giving it to me and didn’t want to listen to them.
I’d like to think so much has changed. I’m so much more in tune with myself, but also aware that others are actually trying to be helpful, as opposed to assuming they’re out to ruin my plans and squash my inner voice. I work on understanding what that voice is telling me and listening to my body’s cues. I try to have less judgement when it comes to other people’s advice, choices, tone of voice, and personal views. I can have my own and they can have there’s and we can still coexist in harmony.
Plus, as a first time mom, I believe these feelings are pretty normal. Hormones, sleep deprivation, a huge transition, family visiting, feeling a sense of grief to your old self and a sense of overwhelm about who you are as a parent now… oh, and also a newborn to take care of!!! So many questions and so little space, mentally and emotionally to process them.
I think one of the ways we can help minimize the struggles with our postpartum experience is through creating an actual plan for ourselves postpartum. Many women now create a Birth Plan, which is great! But once the birth is over, then what?! Creating a Postpartum Plan for post-delivery can be an essential step in making sure we have a healthy recovery process. I am actually in the middle of creating a Postpartum Plan to provide my clients with and to share as a download because I think it’s crucial in aiding your Fourth Trimester healing and recovery.
We need support, listening ears, someone to do our dishes and clean up the house so we don’t have to even see it, and so we can focus on becoming whoever we are going to be as parents, while also discovering who our baby is and how to take care of them. And all the other distractions and responsibilities can many times be handed off to someone else during this crucial time in our motherhood journey.