I'll get right to the point but before I do, I want you to know that you are not alone. In spite of what everyone would have told you about motherhood being the greatest experience, you maybe feeling the exact opposite right now. The first few days and weeks after delivery will leave you exhausted and the mixed emotions may certainly be confusing (both for you and the people around you). You might be trying to put up a brave front while you fall apart behind closed doors, crying inconsolably, wondering if things will ever be the same again. I see you brave mom, because just like you I've walked that path of confusion and darkness.
I had my share of postpartum depression (PPD), some symptoms of the baby blues perhaps. The sad truth about PPD is that it remains largely undetected because support and awareness is extremely low. Although it's a fact that every new mom experiences the initial 'blues', many feel that PPD is an extreme condition that new moms experience. Quite honestly, I still cannot differentiate between the two because whatever I was experiencing made me feel hopeless when I should have been enjoying the moments I had so patiently waited for. I remember being tired, unable to understand why my son did not like to sleep and sitting on the sofa, at 1 a.m. hoping to talk to someone who would tell me "It's going to be fine!". But now, I see my mistake. How could anyone tell me that everything was going to be fine when I wasn't ready to talk? If I spoke to another mom, wouldn't she not judge me? Wouldn't that be a sign of weakness? So you see, the biggest challenge is not giving in to the pressure to be perfect but talking to someone who's probably been in a similar situation. Here's where problem no. 2 arises: most people feign ignorance about PPD and live in absolute denial of its existence. Family, doctors, close friends, other mom's like us, refuse to believe that someone can have such a rush of emotions after the beautiful experience of childbirth. So that's why we choose not to talk, for fear of being judged and that my dear mom is the root of the problem. Your feelings and emotions build up over a period of time and this can eventually lead to arguments, more unhappiness, and unwanted stress. Those are enough to cause depression.
I wish someone had told me about how to deal with my feelings, postpartum but no one does and no one ever asks if you are struggling with those 'mixed emotions'. If there's something I want to tell you, it's this:
Do not be afraid of people (or other mom's) judging you for the choices you make or the path you choose to raise your child. We learn from mistakes and it's perfectly fine not to be in control of the situation at all times. Holding things together just because you want people to think you're a perfect mom and wife is not a requirement to measure and assess your role as a mother.
Do not compare yourself to other moms. Mom 'A' next door had a baby a week after you and she looks radiant Perhaps she sleeps every time her baby does and hence looks fresh. Mom 'B' gets to relax because she has several family members to help. Maybe she's a working mom so she takes all the help she can get. Mom 'C' can handle all three children (including her baby) and she has time to do everything. It must have taken her a great deal of learning and flexibility to perfect her management skills. It's easy to fall in to the trap of comparison and that can leave you depressed. I want you to know that perfect parenting does not exist. Every mother goes through some emotional roller coaster that eventually teaches her to become a better mom.
You will be flooded with advice and suggestions from other moms. People will tell you to keep yourself occupied but you will barely be able to get through those busy first few weeks. It's nice to make a list of things you like doing but focus instead on something that will help to instantly defuse the depression. Every mom has an enduring trait so try to find yours and use it to get through the tough days. You maybe extremely patient, outgoing, optimistic. That will be your tool to fight the challenges and sadness you might face. Walk away for a few moments if you are still unable to control your feelings, take deep breaths and say to yourself ' I am going to start over' and when you're ready, go back and start over, just like you promised yourself.
Do not deprive yourself of small pleasures like taking a walk alone, eating a good meal with a friend, or heading to any place you find peaceful while someone cares for your baby. We all know that motherhood is the epitome of selflessness but that does not mean you give up everything just because someone defined motherhood as the perfect sacrifice you make in life. You become a better mom by taking care of yourself first.
Do not assume that all men embrace fatherhood the same way. A few men do not immediately become doting fathers. Mine had a fear about holding our son and it annoyed me until I gave him a chance to get over that fear. Some are content to have us handle everything pertaining to the baby while some get so caught up in work that it makes you wonder if they really care or not. I do not have a perfect answer to this but I can only assume that they have similar fears and insecurities that take a while to disappear. Teach them and ask them for help because that's the only way to calm their fears and banish their insecurities. It definitely takes two to parent but it also takes time to hone those skills as a couple.
The darker side of PPD may provoke thoughts you might never have imagined a new mother can have. There are many groups, medical professionals and resources that you can turn to for help. This can be banished so do not lose hope and give in to these harmful thoughts that will sometimes cloud your mind but seek help immediately. Life will eventually go on, people will forget and no one will ever know how you braved the monsters to embrace motherhood or the love you have for your child. You are needed more than ever, you are loved more than you feel and this journey will eventually make you realise one day that the battle was definitely worth fighting for.
With love from a mom who refused to give up.