I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after I had my first baby. I go into that experience here.
But there was something else I wasn't prepared for: the small parts of motherhood that were unexpectedly devastating, that no one warned me about. Here are five postpartum struggles and grief I'd like to share in the hopes that if you feel or have felt similarly, you're not alone!
- Grieving my relationship with my firstborn. “Dear O: I cried again after your bath time today. There are these two songs that are played on your toy that really get to me and I’m not sure why. Your baby brother is nine days old, and I love him with everything but things are different now and I am grieving my relationship with you because you were my only before.“
I didn't realize how depressed I was going to be when I had my second. Although I was overjoyed with my new little one, I felt an unexpected agony for my firstborn. Leading up to our delivery, I was fixated on making sure our Baby O was taken care of, didn't feel neglected, got all the snuggles and kisses I could give him, and didn't spend one night apart from us. Everyone – my sister, the midwives, hubby – told me to focus on my impending delivery and that Baby O was going to be ok. But I couldn't get him out of my mind. We were blessed because I delivered Baby I in the morning, and was able to return to Baby O that afternoon. But it still broke my heart. Because despite everything I did to ensure nothing changed, everything changed, and Baby O could feel it.
The first few days in my postpartum haze, just looking at Baby O would make me cry. Other devastating moments included having to close the bedroom door on him so I could feed the baby without distractions. It was all too much for me. I think there was something else too: I was the same age that Baby O was when my younger sister was born. I recall my mother telling me how sad I was when she brought my little sister home. Looking at my Baby O, I felt as if I was myself, mourning that feeling of abandonment all over again. It felt so real and raw and painful.
How I Got through it
It's apparently a very normal and natural feeling many mothers go through after having their second! Thankfully, I processed those feelings by 1) crying a lot 2) writing letters to my Baby O (short excerpt of one above) 3) having one-on-one time with Baby O (I immediately resumed his bath time ritual for connection and comfort) and 4) talking to mom friends and my midwife who let me know that my feelings were very common. Eventually my postpartum hormones and grief settled down, and I love both my little guys to bits!
It's Just Clothes, He said
2. Putting away newborn clothes. Why oh why was I squeezing our baby into clothes that no longer fit him, hubby would implore. I didn't really have an answer. It made no logical sense. And yet…it felt painful and arduous to size up and admit that my little baby was growing to the point where he was no longer as little as he had once been. I felt this grief with both of my babies. The process of going through their clothes, putting away their little onesies and socks and PJ's…ugh. Today we actually put away our 9-month-old's bassinet and I definitely threw it some sad looks before closing the attic door.
One way to manage this postpartum grief is to gift those clothes and items immediately to a baby who needs them. I often find that taking the focus off of myself and my sadness enables me to realize that in the whole scheme of things, it's a blessing to be sizing up. And not seeing those itty bitty clothes enables me to move past the sadness even quicker.
3. Losing the pregnant belly. I loved feeling my babies kick inside of me, knowing they were safe and tucked away, always with me. Just me and them. And both times, that empty belly was gutting. Without thinking I would touch my postpartum belly and then remember, oh yes, they are not in there and look over at my baby in someone else's arms – it was hard to take.
PSST…it's pretty normal!
Apparently, this is also a very common thing! In fact, one of my cousins called me to share with me all of her boohooing feelings regarding her no-baby-belly without me even having to tell her I was feeling the same! I eventually got over it, but I definitely did continue to wear my maternity clothes well into postpartum life.
4. Supplementing with formula. Oh, this one is still tough for me. Our little guy is 9 months old and he's got a ferocious appetite. He was guzzling about 40 ounces a day when he was 4 months old! We only supplemented in the beginning while my milk was coming in (hubby did all of the night feedings during the first two weeks of newborn madness) but it's still hard. You read so much about all of the health benefits of breastfeeding and there really is something so amazing about seeing your babies put on fat and get chubby all on account of your milk. And to top that off there are not very good baby formulas in the U.S!
still a struggle
I still struggle with this, not going to lie. And I've come to accept the fact that I will always have “feelings” around this, and that as long as I realize it's more important that the baby be fed, it's okay to feel sad about it! Also, I've found that European baby formula is much better in quality and nutrition, so I've paid the extra cash for peace of mind.
5. All the other little babies out there. This is another hard one that I've heard many new moms struggle through. Thinking about all of the little babies and children out there who are abused and neglected. It is quite a terrifying and daunting thing to be all alone with your little one and realize you could do whatever you wanted to this creature. That this little being is dependent on you for love and everything else. I really try not to read all the stories about babies being shaken to death, toddlers being abused to death, and the general systematic neglect of children. But these stories and realities are out there, and it's just a horrible thing. Sigh…I don't have a way around this. I wish I did. I wish it didn't hurt as much as it does because it is agonizing. So the only solace I have for you, is that I get it. I feel it too…
Comment below if you have any other challenges you'd like to share regarding postpartum and baby life. These are just some of the struggles I managed while navigating #momlife.