It was 4am.
On my dining table in front of me were a breast pump, a bowl of ice cream and a six-year-old’s scattered toys that were staring me down. “Why didn’t you put us up?” asked the messy-haired doll. “I’m fattening, you know,” said the high-calorie dessert. “You need to pump more,” insisted the pump. I was looking at these inanimate objects and matter-of-factly telling my surroundings I would NOT be a victim of the dreaded postpartum depression. No-sir-ree. But I felt hints of all the symptoms poking at me with mockery. I was already at war with myself at eleven days postpartum.
My newest daughter was born this past October, just before Halloween— a time of ghosts, goblins and all things spooky— when scary things are all the rage.
I was here for it. I played it up with my newborn, dressing her as a baby mouse to go hand-in-hand with her big sister’s Cinderella costume.
However, deep down inside me was a monster lurking— the one that I was actually scared of— postpartum depression.
As much as I could sense it around the corner, I had refused to let myself get depressed.
I always know when depression is near and trying to find sneaky ways to capture me. I have trained myself to know the signs, so I can try to shoo it off or control it.
One of my red flags is that certain things start to repeatedly bother me (like clutter everywhere in the house, for example— the very thing that was haunting my mind on this particular morning), and my fear of it not changing or getting worse usually premeditates the arrival of the monster before it even gets here.
Another present sign was that I had started to get emotional about every little thing. It could have been that I was sleep deprived, but when you know it’s a little different, you just know. The most insignificant things such as my “messy bun” looking too messy would trigger me into having flashbacks to another time when I was depressed and wouldn’t wash my hair for days.
Here I was, eleven days after I’d had my baby, and I was fearful of the lurking monster. I was trying to control it… because postpartum depression means sinking down into depression while holding onto every bit of sanity you have left in order to care for this new, tiny blessing you’ve just welcomed into the world.
On that particular morning around 4am, I took a look at my situation— pumping breastmilk, indulging in a quick sugary snack (due to not having a chance to eat dinner) and looking at the mess around me, only to be disappointed in myself for not cleaning it up.
It finally hit me— I wasn’t in the honeymoon phase anymore.
Life was more than getting googly eyes over tiny pink outfits or little newborn noises. I was running out of pain medication and losing more sleep, but no matter what, I had to brave through the pain and exhaustion for my new baby.
Sitting at the dinner table at dinner time with my family wasn’t promised anymore. I would no longer be able to sleep in on Saturday mornings, or get enough sleep, ever, for that matter. There would be no more dedicating an entire day to cleaning the house… at least for awhile.
The time had flown so quickly.
There were a few things I had learned while getting through postpartum depression.
I say “getting through” because there was no way around it.
I had finally accepted the fact that it was here, and I had to learn how to manage it until further notice.
Heck, I still go through bits of depression here and there, and I’m almost three months postpartum… but I’ve accepted it, and I’ve learned how to keep it on a tight leash.
It’s merely part of motherhood.
Here’s what I learned…
You are the only You.
Not a single individual on this entire planet could compare their self to you, nor you could to them.
Sure, we may envy another mom who may seem like they have it all together, but your journey is unique. Your strength may be another mama’s struggle, and vice versa. That is exactly how we all are connected— we can lift each other up through commonalities and unique experiences.
You are not alone in this, but please, do not compare yourself to other mamas. We’re all in this together!
It’s okay to go completely, entirely against your original plan.
I had planned on perfection.
I had planned on being all “dolled up” in the hospital, matching outfits with my baby, wearing makeup and all that jazz… but the only style I chose in reality was comfort, and the only things I wore on my face were happy tears.
I had planned on fully decorating the nursery before my baby was born, completed with an array of tropical plants and every shade in a girly, “boujee” rainforest color pallet… but in reality, half of the floor was taken up by baby shower gifts, and not a single thing was hung on the wall until she was almost a month old.
I had planned on having a fool-proof routine mastered by the first week… but in reality, it’s been almost three months, and I’m still trying to figure out what works best for us.
I had planned on perfection, but my postpartum journey has been perfectly imperfect. I would not have changed a thing about my reality.
Recognize each thought and give it a name.
You will feel overwhelmed with emotions.
My heart grew twice in size as soon as my second child was born— I didn’t know I was capable of loving so strongly.
Then, I went from the “honeymoon” phase to curiosity of what the next few days would bring… then exhaustion, anxiety, anger and… depression.
The reason I was able to pinpoint each of those emotions is because I recognized them as they came along.
Once you have your baby, a whirlwind of emotions will be inevitable. Throughout each day, recognize which emotion you feel, name it, accept it, and either work through it or embrace it.
It’s all part of your journey.
Even if you feel like no one will care, you need to talk— wether it be to the world or to one person.
When I felt the signs of depression trying to reach for me, I wasn’t going to chance trying to deal with it myself this time. I put my feelings out there on social media, and I was taken aback by the amount of love and support I received from strangers as well as friends and family.
It meant the world to me, and I still look back and embrace their meaningful words to this day.
Document every little thing.
The good. The bad. The pretty. The ugly.
Trust me when I say this— you’ll want to look back and remember everything.
Not only the picture-perfect insta-worthy moments, but you’ll want to reminisce on every moment that has provided a stepping stone on your journey.
I smile when I remember seeing my daughter smile for the first time (I melted into a ball of gush), but I also laugh at how I forgot where she was one time. When I heard her crying, I had looked in two or three places before remembering she was in her own room.
I sigh when I remember the two weeks that I slept on the living room couch, with my baby in her bassinet right next to me (I couldn’t quite hop onto my own bed yet, not being able to do much with my stitches from my c-section). It was a bittersweet little phase— just me, her and the quiet room around us.
Sleepless nights and repetitive feedings and diaper changes can make your time with your new baby seem like a blur.
Naturally, we want to highlight the sweetest moments by jotting them down in our notes or posting photos online.
I did, of course, but I made note of the hard times, as well… the moments that really had me questioning what I was doing wrong.
It’s the toughest times that build our strong foundation of motherhood.
Your to-do list will always be there, but your baby won’t be this small again.
Many people speak of this, but it’s the truth.
One minute, I was in the operating room, welcoming my newest baby girl in the world. Now, a quick three months later, I’m awaiting her first laugh ever so anxiously.
What about the things I crossed off (or didn’t didn’t even touch) on my to-do list?
They’re somewhere around here.
There will always be a list of things that aren’t done… but my baby keeps growing.
During my first few weeks postpartum, I would sometimes catch myself prioritizing a chore over baby cuddles. I would be trying to speed up the feeding process in order to get to the dishes more quickly.
What am I doing? I’d ask myself. The dishes will still be there when I’m done feeding my sweet baby.
As I mentioned before, I still struggle with some depression, but I’ve learned to deal with it.
The most important thing I learned after having my baby girl is to step back and look at the big picture.
Motherhood is a blessing— and my journey is unique.