It is difficult to put into words who we turn into during those early months after not only our first baby, but also our second, third, and fourth.
I want to connect with those of you who have not felt connected before. I want you to know that even though everyone knows about postpartum depression, not everyone knows about what it’s like to be in the pit of it. To feel so out of control and regretful of the amazing baby you created that you are scared to reach out to anyone for fear that this amazing baby will be taken away from you. Taken away from you because you know you don’t deserve this little boy or girl who was supposed to light up your life, but has instead darkened it in a way you never thought possible.
You find yourself thinking, What is wrong with me? I should be handling motherhood better than this, like my mom did, like my friends do, and like everyone other than me does.
Yes, it’s a ridiculous way to think, but there is absolutely no logic when we’re postpartum, and our hormones are going haywire, and our emotions are all over the place. I swear the next person who said, “It will be OK,” or “Just relax. It gets better,” was in danger of getting boob-punched. To me, there was no way this was going to get better. There was no “snapping out of it.” How could I? My babies weren’t going anywhere, I wasn’t going anywhere (even though I sometimes thought about it), and I couldn’t afford to hire a nanny—so this was it. I felt like this is what life had come to.
It wasn’t because I had no help. I had an amazing partner who was admittedly, at times, a better parent than I was.
It was because I felt like I couldn’t handle something that I was supposedly made for. It was because apparently I was not cut out to do this if I couldn’t do it perfectly. It was because there were times when my new baby was crying, and my toddler was saying, “Watch this Mommy!” for the millionth time, and I just wanted to be anywhere but there, and I was ashamed. And shame can knock you down. It can make you feel like not only less of a mother, but also less of a person. To the moms on social media who act like they have it all together, take an acting class because you aren’t fooling us. Stop judging and admit that you have been there. You have been ashamed of your parenting, and of yourself, before.
Just like us, you were terrified someone would knock on the door and see the spaghetti sauce encrusted on the counter (because spaghetti was the closest thing to a home-cooked meal you could manage.)
Just like us, you were ashamed that you questioned yourself: Why did I have a second baby? It’s harder than having the first.
You have been ashamed in those ridiculously difficult moments when you were in the store with a crying baby and a toddler who chose that exact moment to throw a tantrum, and everyone was staring at you, and all you could think was, I wish I could close my eyes and fast-forward until they are 10 years old and a lot less whiney, a lot easier.
You have been ashamed by how lonely you feel even when you are surrounded by your awesome kids, husband, and family.
You had so many ideas and thoughts about how you would handle parenting, about being a good mom—the kind of mom others would look up to. You expected to experience lots of emotions, but you are ashamed to say isolation wasn’t one of them. Anger wasn’t one of them. Loneliness wasn’t one of them. The hope for more purpose and meaning than getting your baby to latch on perfectly is always lurking somewhere in your mind, but you are ashamed to talk about it. This should be enough for you.
We all have had those mommy-breakdown, lock-yourself-in-the-bathroom-and-cry moments that we are ashamed of. But we are still here. We actually did get better. We didn’t snap right out of it, but as time went on and we got better at this mommy thing, we came to be more at peace with it. And when we are more peaceful, we are better parents. When our hormones calmed down, and our lives started to regain some sense of order, we were able to see clearly what we had in our precious babies and truly feel lucky. We were able to embrace the hard part of parenting and come to the realization just how worth it motherhood really is.
I hope anyone who has ever felt any of these things knows that they aren’t the only one, and that we should all be proud of each other, because parenting is not all sunny skies like we imagined it to be. It is a beautiful storm of emotions, complete with a flood of tears in the hard times and a rainbow of pure joy when things are good.