Present day. I have few smiling pictures from the early days.
If you have ever suffered from depression, whether it was circumstantial or you have a history of depression, you understand how painfully difficult it is just to get through each day. I heard one person describe depression as “hell on earth.” Others have shared how depression and anxiety can feel like a never-ending cycle; you become anxious about being anxious, and depressed about being depressed. One of the greatest fears is you will forever feel this way. This was my greatest fear.
At my worst, I believed I would never enjoy life again. My new lot in life was to not have a life; I would be a slave. I would never sleep again, I would never go out again, and I would always feel confused, stumbling through my new role as a mother. I terribly missed my old life. I asked a friend of mine when her life began to feel normal again after having her first child. She said five months.
Five months sounded like an eternity when I was living in three-hour cycles. My three-hour world looked something like this:
- Change diaper
- Breastfeed – 45 minutes
- Burp – 5-10 minutes
- Stare at each other (or stare at baby while baby stares at something else) – 30 minutes
- Rock baby to sleep – 20 minutes – 1 hour+
- Watch baby sleep – 45 minutes – 2 hours
- Repeat cycle
None of this felt normal. I wondered how much longer I could survive in my sleep-deprived and depressed state. Previously simple tasks like going out were now an overwhelming ordeal:
Did I pack enough diapers? Do I have enough formula? How many hours will I be out? Will she need one bottle or two? Did I pack her extra outfit? Where’s her pacifier? Do I have enough wipes? Should I feed her now or later? Should I take her out right before or right after her nap?
So I just decided to stay home for about five weeks until I went stir crazy.
Friends and family told me it would take time and practice to learn and adjust to being a mom and caring for a newborn. My tendency to want to do things “right” and learn quickly did not serve me well. I realized how extremely “Type A” I am, which was probably more of a shock to me than to anyone who knows me; all this time I thought I was very self-aware. And my mama friends reminded me they had all been there and this was a new normal. Imagine that.
My therapist said it this way:
“You will be you, but a better version of you.”
I just about fell out of my chair. A better version of me? Postpartum Me seemed to be a much worse version of me – a panicked, hopeless, anxious, incompetent Me – someone whom I no longer recognized. Slowly but surely (and with help), I embraced my new normal and my new identity as a mom. And I am better.
During an interview, Ellen DeGeneres asked singer, Pink, how she has changed as a result of being a mom. She said, “I’m way more fun.”
It’s true. Now you can find me cruising through the aisles at Target talking to my little person or talking to myself. Sometimes we sing our way through the aisles depending on the day. Every morning is a dance party. We laugh about nothing. We take joy in little strolls and holding hands. We make instant friends with strangers. We share inside jokes.
I cannot imagine my life any other way.
It’s better. And I’m better. And you will be too.