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Is this how it’s supposed to feel? Postpartum

Is this how it’s supposed to feel?

What it’s like when postpartum depression rears its ugly head.

I remember when I was pregnant I would imagine holding my baby and how it would be. The happiness, the calm, the contentment that seemed to radiate from new moms—I knew that was going to be me soon.

It made me eager for my pregnancy to  pass by, and I never truly worried about my transition into motherhood. I was ready. I wanted a child, and I was so excited. I nodded my head as other moms gave me advice, all the while thinking how unnecessary it was because I was so confident in myself.

I had stayed up through the night with friends and sick loved ones before, so I wasn’t worried about caring for a newborn in the wee hours. I loved to serve and help others, and wasn’t that what motherhood is all about? I would do great.

I wished and counted away the days of my pregnancy. It went by so slowly yet so quickly all at the same time. Then, in the early morning hours on a Sunday in October, she came—7 pounds, 3 ounces, straight from heaven. Just like that I became a mother, a mother to my little E.

Missed connection
I had spent nine months pregnant, confident and ready. Then, in what seemed like an instant, she was there in my arms, just as I’d always imagined. That’s when I realized it: I was not ready. I knew nothing.

As the weeks passed, I thought that would change, but it didn’t. I was so on edge, so confused. I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. Why does anyone have babies? This is so hard. This isn’t what I thought it would be like. I don’t think I can do this.

I remember one late night I was holding E, looking at her and thinking how perfect her tiny features were but not feeling connected to her. I didn’t feel like she was mine, and that scared me. I felt love, but I also felt distant—distant from her, distant from myself.

I thought about how the only experiences I was told about while I was pregnant were the ones where the moment the baby was laid on a mother’s chest, she was overcome with a love she had never felt before. A love that was so powerful and so deep. So that night I Googled “feeling connected to your baby.” I read every article I could find and every story that was posted.

One article brought me peace as it described how for some mothers there is an instant overwhelming love, but for others that love grows each day, just like any other relationship. That made so much sense to me, and that is how I started to view it. Each day was another day to get to know E, to connect to her, to love her.

Through the fog
Growing up I had always been independent. I loved alone time and in a lot of ways thrived off of it. After E came into the world, though, I found anxiety creeping in, and being alone—even for short amounts of time—made me feel so isolated and sad.

One day when I was at my parents’ house, my mom offered to watch E, so I could take a nap. I went into the room and lay down, but within five minutes I asked both my sister and my mom to be in the room with me. I couldn’t handle being alone. They both came and just sat there, giving me the comfort I needed.

I also struggled every time my husband left the house. I would have irrational anxious thoughts: He is leaving—what if he doesn’t come back? What if I have to raise my baby alone? What if this is too much for him?  When he would come back, I wanted to cling to him. I needed him on a level I’ve never needed someone before. It was a desperate, anxious and fearful need.

The first three months of E’s life were the hardest. There was a fog, confusion and a fear that I just couldn’t shake during that time. Those feelings brought other ones as well … feelings of guilt, not feeling good enough, feeling like I was different from other moms, feeling like I was less of a mom.

I saw other new moms with their babies looking so happy, and I wondered why that wasn’t me. Why don’t I feel like that? What is wrong with me? Where is the overwhelming love? Where is the newborn bliss? I didn’t want to feel the way I felt. My expectations of life as a new mother were different from the reality of being one.

Slowly, though, over the next three months, the fog started to lift. My anxiety calmed, and I started to feel connected to myself again. I felt a sense of hope that I would adjust to this new life. That love and connection I was searching for with my little girl started to come as well. Each day it grew stronger and deeper.

I knew that after having a baby my emotions would be chaotic for a little while. What I didn’t realize was that feeling the way I did for months on end was not normal. I didn’t want to express how I was really feeling at the time because I didn’t want anyone to think of me as a bad mother— so I pretended. I pretended I was fine, that things were blissful and that I was having the time of my life. I didn’t realize that I was in the middle of a storm until it had cleared.

Looking back, moving forward
It seems the emotions we bury deep down, hidden from the world, are the ones we need to free the most. The more truthful we are about our feelings, the less we will feel trapped by them. As we express those feelings, we will be able to heal faster and move forward. I wish I had allowed myself to do that.

I have learned that even as we face challenges and the heartache of the unexpected, we can find light, and we can feel hope. In our hardest moments, we can take courage in the thought that when we look back at them, we will see how they shaped us into who we are as mothers.

As I reflect on my early memories of motherhood, I see that time through two different lenses. When I look at it through the first lens, I see the anxiety, the feelings of isolation and sadness—the fog. Yet when I look at it through the other, I see beauty. I see the birth of not only a beautiful little girl, but I see the birth of a new me—with greater understanding, a capacity to feel deeper and a heart that loves in abundance.

Sometimes I wish I could just see the beauty and erase the painful emotions I experienced, but because of the painful parts, I can now say with all of my heart that motherhood is the greatest blessing I have ever been given.

When I look at my little girl, I marvel that she is mine because I feel it so deeply. Not only have I adjusted to my life as a mother, but I also feel my life has never been better, held more meaning or experienced more love. And I realize it’s here: Here is my overwhelming love. Here is my bliss. It came just like everyone said it would, it just took a little longer. But maybe, just maybe, that makes it that much more special.

Editor’s note: Postpartum depression does not usually go away on its own. If you are experiencing related symptoms, contact your care provider for treatment.

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