My first year postpartum was one of the best, but hardest years of my life.
It was a treasured time, adoring my newborn baby, soaking in the beauty of these fleeting, tender moments, loving his newborn smell and his tender skin and his soft hair, enjoying the way he looked up at me in awe, adoring the way his mouth broke into a wide, gaping smile at the sight of his doting mother.
It was a difficult time, lacking adequate sleep from the up-all-nights with the baby, feeling drained from breastfeeding around the clock, feeling isolated from friends, family, and society, believing I was failing my older kids because I couldn’t spend more time with them, living in fear that I might somehow hurt this fragile little baby, wondering wearily if I was equipped to care for four kids at all.
But I was so happy. There was an abundance of blessings. I was smitten with my sweet, snuggly baby with his tiny newborn feet and his tiny newborn hands. I cherished the times I could curl up and breastfeed and just stare at my chubby cherub. I was enamored with his cute little coos and his little baby giggles. I adored watching my older kids cuddle and coddle him, softly singing him lullabies, patiently asking to hold him, sweetly reading books to him.
But I was also so worried.
There was so much underlying apprehension. I fretted that my body wasn’t bouncing back quickly enough. I feared my C-section scar wasn’t healing correctly. I was scared I may never again look or feel like myself. I was nervous that my older kids weren’t getting enough attention or that they felt left out, forgotten, or abandoned.
And I was always afraid something bad was going to happen to my baby, concerned something was wrong with him, terrified he would suddenly stop breathing in the middle of the night, petrified that one of the older kids would run him over or knock him over or put something dangerous in his crib.
I was filled with what-if questions. What if I wasn’t feeding my baby enough? What if he rolled against the side of the bassinet and couldn’t breathe? What if someone tried to hurt my kids, but there were so many of them that I couldn’t protect them all? What if I never felt normal again?
I kept having intrusive thoughts that I would somehow hurt my baby or something terrible would happen to him or to one of my other kids. These thoughts were overpowering, and on little sleep, with hormones raging, it felt like there was little I could do to combat them.
As much as I loved the newborn stage, I was constantly inundated with scary thoughts and fears.
It was starting to steal all the joy out of my motherhood.
My fear grew so much it became completely debilitating. My enjoyment of having incredible kids and a darling newborn baby waned because I was so crippled by anxiety. I suffered from constant panic attacks, including one that left me hospitalized.
This was a wake-up call. I realized how desperate and weak I was on my own. I slowly learned to ask for help. My eyes opened to the community of people God had surrounded me with—family, friends, counselors—who could walk with me and encourage me.
I also started to surrender my fears and worries to God in prayer, and I found He would always meet me and fill me with peace that surpasses all understanding. I started to fill my mind with the truth of Scripture to combat the lies of the enemy that fought hard to steal, kill, and destroy that precious and fleeting first year. I started to worship more, remembering that God is sovereign over all things and found that His presence could fill me with joy, hope, and peace again.
After a year of wrestling with severe postpartum anxiety, I slowly started feeling like myself.
After I stopped breastfeeding, my hormones seemed to level out. The panic attacks ceased completely, and I was able to see that the way I had felt that entire year wasn’t normal.
And now that He is two years old, I can look back and see just how faithful our God is to come alongside a postpartum mom and walk her through struggles that just seem impossible to get through at the time. I can see how Christ sustained me in what became one of the most difficult years of my life, proving He would be with me through any hardship and that I was never really alone. I can see how He strengthened me in that year by teaching me to rely on Him for any obstacle motherhood would throw my way.
The first year postpartum is so beautiful, but so hard. It brings immense joy, but silent struggles. There is so much to worry about, but so much to be grateful for. It brought tears of both happiness and pain. But we have hope and help in Christ and our community, so we can enjoy this short and special time and our adorable new gift from God.