Writer and mother extraordinaire, Lynn Shattuck, recently wrote a great piece for her blog reflecting on her postpartum experience. It was hugely popular because it hit home for many women. It brought back some memories for me, too.
It took me a few weeks to regroup emotionally from having a baby in the middle of a dark, cold winter. In the thick of it, I was more exhausted, anxious, and vulnerable than I had ever been. In my worst moments, I worried about everything from dropping the baby, to falling down the stairs, to forgetting her altogether. Who had entrusted the care of this helpless creature to me anyway? Didn’t they know that I occasionally tripped and misplaced things?!
I was worn down like all new moms. In the hardest hours, sparks of worries kept me tired and wired in an uncomfortable mix of anxious fatigue. It was hard to get rebalanced at first. I remember my husband saying a couple weeks after our daughter was born, “We have got to get to the point where a shower is no longer the highlight of your day.”
This is what normal-difficult postpartum can look like. Thanks to my profession, I had a lot of awareness of that. Even though it was hard sometimes, I knew how to get support and how to respond to my own emotions. I verbalized my irrational thinking- What if I go somewhere and accidentally leave her at home?! I asked for help so I could rest. I asked for validation that what I was experiencing was normal. I tried to think about how I had to be at least average in terms of my ability to take care of a baby. This all helped substantially.
It’s normal to need help and support in the postpartum period whether or not you experience the baby blues, the baby worries, or a deeper and more serious postpartum depression. I don’t believe that mothers and families should get to the point of suffering before they reach out for help. Asking for help needs to be the norm during this time. It’s a period of struggle as much as a joy (but probably more struggle!).
Having a new baby (or babies, in some cases) is really a big change. Like all change, it has the power to shape us in positive ways, too. These moments of profound transition bring struggle and growth. They give us an opportunity to have a new experience of ourselves. It can develop into self-confidence.
A friend recently had a baby and she remarked, “I didn’t realize that I could function on so little sleep. It’s kind of incredible.” I totally relate to this observation. The thing about being a mom is that you can do more than you ever thought possible.
I learned that I can work and take care of a child, but it’s not always going to be graceful. I learned that I can actually work out in the evening if that’s the time available and I want it bad enough. I learned to use my time wisely and get my priorities straight. I can’t do it all, but I can do a lot if I’m intentional (and don’t sit down until I’m ready to not get back up again!).
Out of the exhaustion, anxiety and vulnerability, I emerged stronger, clearer, and more productive. I care even more about my work and about my family. I teeter on a narrow ledge of balance that I fully accept and never get just right.
What do you think: Did you emerge from a normal-difficult or a difficult-difficult postpartum stronger than before?