*This post was originally posted on my old blog here in 2013.
Motherhood. It’s hard. The idea of being the perfect mother is just that: an idea. Not a reality. But that’s okay. Too often we run around like chickens with our heads cut off while trying to give the impression that we actually have all of our ducks in a row.
When my husband and I started trying for a baby, I was pregnant within six weeks. They say you should wait until 8-10 weeks to tell people, but I called the day I found out. I was ecstatic. A week later I started bleeding. After seeing the doctor and staying in bed a few days, it was confirmed I had miscarried. For the first time, fear crept in.
Fortunately, we were blessed with another pregnancy 6 weeks after that. Throughout my entire pregnancy was a constant nagging fear that something would happen to my baby. I worked until the end of the school year and sat with my feet elevated during the hottest summer North Texas had ever seen. Two weeks before I had my baby, my mother-in-law died from brain cancer. She had been battling it for a year and a half and her time had come. I began having nightmares about her death and would wake up crying in the middle of the night.
I wish I had been told about baby blues before I had my son. I think I may have handled my depression better being told in advance that I wasn’t crazy. They say pretty much every woman experiences “baby blues” after having a baby. It’s normal to have it for about 2-3 weeks. Postpartum depression is a more intense depression that lasts longer.. Mine was more than baby blues, but whether it was postpartum depression or post-traumatic stress, I don’t know.
People would come over to give us food and I’d excuse myself. Everyday for two weeks I cried hysterically for hours. I couldn’t stop. I had a constant fear my baby was going to die and it would be all my fault for not doing the right thing. It was paralyzing to the point that I didn’t want to take care of him even though I did anyway. I felt trapped in my new life with my mom halfway across the country and my mother-in-law not being able to come over and help.
So what did I do? I asked for help. I didn’t get better until a friend suggested I talk to my doctor. I got on a prescription which helped and started asking other moms about their experiences. To my surprise, several women I talked to experienced the same emotions I had and if they didn’t get help, they were depressed for over a year. It took me about two months to feel like I wasn’t swimming with my head just above the water, but once I started feeling better, it was like I was a brand new person. It felt great to be able to look in the mirror and say, “Ok, I’ve got this.”
MY ADVICE FOR NEW MAMAS
1. Take Baby Steps
When you’re overwhelmed in the moment, take baby steps. Don’t worry about the next 18 years, your next baby, or even the dreaded “middle of the night feeding”. Take each step one at a time. Ask yourself: All I have to do now is ___________. (feed her or get her to stop crying or give her a bath) Can I do that ONE thing right now? Focus on the task at hand, not at all the things you have to do in the next 24 hours.
2. Put Away the Parenting Books
The more stressed I got, the more I thought I needed to read up on how to do things right. The more I read, the worse of a mother I felt. You’re doing great. Don’t worry about schedules and waketime. You’re in survival mode. Is your baby breathing? Are they eating? You’ve got this.
3. Get Out of the House
Most libraries have free weekly programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. During the summer, take advantage of morning movie deals for kids. Join a women’s Bible study at church. Meet other moms in play date groups on meetup.com. Run errands when your baby’s little–take advantage of this time in their lives when they sleep through everything during the day. Many moms are terrified of taking their little ones out too soon. Your baby sleeps most of his first month anyway and getting out was the best thing I did for myself to get worry off my mind.
4. Take “Me” Breaks
It’s hard to think clearly when you’ve had no sleep and you don’t have time to shower. Trade off one night a week with your spouse to clear your head. My husband would take the baby one night a week and tell me to go out. I often left not knowing where I was going and ended up reading at a bookstore for an hour or two. When I came home, I was excited to see my family and didn’t mind changing another diaper. Make sure to plan time for your husband to recharge. Saturday mornings, a weeknight evening–whenever–just give each other a chance to breathe. Just make sure you actually get OUT of the house for your break time–it’s not relaxing being in the tub hearing your baby crying in the room next door.
5. Find a Babysitter
Even if you only go out for coffee, go on a date with your husband. Find out how work is going, what new movies are out, who is making news in Hollywood–anything! Don’t forget to plan your next date night while you’re out.
When we couldn’t find a sitter, we swapped babysitting with friends and asked for references at church. We also have had great success using Care.com.
And finally, remember that this stage of your life won’t last forever. It’s just one stage of your life, and yes it’s a hard one, but you can get through it. Sometimes it’s overwhelming when a baby won’t eat or he projectile vomits for the 3rd time today. But savor the moments where he’s holding his head up on the blanket or he coos at you or he sucks his thumb while you’re rocking him. Take encouragement mamas, you’ve got this!￼
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