Many people experience a range of emotions when they have a child that takes them by surprise. After trying to conceive for a long time, sometimes experiencing painful losses along the way, your emotions can justifiably be all over the map. You might feel like you’ve lost yourself in the process of trying to expand your family. Or maybe you’re finding it hard to separate your identity from that of your newborn now that they’re here. Some people miss the independent, carefree life they had before and feel like it’s gone forever. I’ve experienced all of these things, friend.
No one expects you to be a perfectly poised, expert version of yourself now that you’re a mom or a dad. You’ll grow into your new role, we all do. Be honest with yourself in the process and invite others along the journey with you. Isolation can lead to some pretty dark places. Don’t go through all of this on your own.
Here are just a few things you might experience after your child is born. What you’re thinking or feeling can change within the blink of an eye sometimes. The postpartum period is a LOT. It’s really easy to get too much into your own mind and begin to spiral out of control. Read through this list and take some comfort in the fact that if it was “only” you who experienced these things, professionals like me wouldn’t have anything to write about.
Some might describe it as depression, some might say it feels more like a gray cloud blocking out any happy rays of the sun. Whatever word you choose, experiencing unhappiness after your child arrives is okay, especially within the first two weeks after birth. If your unhappiness becomes overwhelming or scary to you, please seek professional help. There are many options available to help you feel some joy and more like yourself again.
Pregnancy, labor, delivery, and/or postpartum isn’t how you thought it would be? There are things you wish people would’ve been more transparent about ahead of time? Disappointed in the temperament of your child, your postpartum body, the disconnect between you and your partner, the isolation you feel from the outside world? All valid, all so common, and all are okay. Really.
You heard people say that once you become a parent you truly learn what love is. Why didn’t those same people also tell you that such deep love can also cause deep anxiety? Are they breathing? Did they get enough to eat? Is the temperature in here okay? Can they sense my stress? I’m not doing this right. Why aren’t I doing this right? The list goes on and on. So much of the strain that I see in brand new parents is rooted in anxiety. You have to try and let that stuff go. And what you can’t let go of, let someone help you carry. It really does take a village to raise a child. Let people help!
Does it feel like all of your friends are living their best lives while you’re covered in spit-up? You have bags under your eyes and can’t remember what day it is, but your neighbor seemed so put together after their baby was born? Are you easily distracted by those on social media that make it look like postpartum is all cupcakes and rainbows? Your partner leaves the house each day, interacts with adult coworkers, wears nice clothes, and leaves you home with a baby you don’t understand, a body you don’t recognize, and a house that looks like Buy Buy Baby set up shop in it? YEP. Try not to sit in this space for too long. Instead, voice your frustrations with those around you, ask for help, and take time out for yourself. Sometimes stepping away from your new reality can be the reset you need to see your situation with fresh eyes.
It’s easy to go down the list of shoulds. You should be thankful, you should not complain, you should clean up more, you should make more of an effort with your appearance, you should work on tummy time with your baby. Don’t do that. It’s never a good idea to should yourself. Confused about why you’re feeling guilty? I’ve been there, too. It’s exhausting, infuriating, and at times, so isolating. I hear you, new parent. I hear you. You’re figuring out this parenting thing just like the rest of us. Show yourself some grace. You will mess up a lot along the way. Join the club!
Alright. Now pause and take a couple of long, deep breaths with me. Inhale slowly through your nose, breathe out slowly through your mouth. And repeat.
You’re not alone.
You aren’t a bad person.
Allow yourself the time and space to feel the fluctuation of emotions of all that you’ve been through trying to bring this baby into the world.
Recognize the sacrifices you’ve made, the expectations that are far from anything you ever had in mind, the dreams that shattered time and again.
Now acknowledge all that has changed as a result of the existence of your new baby.
Take a few more deep, slow breaths.
You’ve got this.
Make this your mantra, new parent: It really is okay to not be okay.
If you’re struggling and need support, contact you primary care provider or The National Alliance on Mental IllnessNAMI websiteor call their helpline at 1-800-950-6264. If you’re in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741-741.
Mae is here to support you every step of the way. If you’re looking for complete pregnancy digital health or a doula,create a profileand let us be your on your partner in this pregnancy journey.