I’ve had a lot of postpartum thoughts on my mind lately, but I’ve been hesitant to share them. I don’t want to come across as complaining, because in fact I am grateful for my family, my work situation and my life in general.
I was hesitant to share this motherhood post because so many moms are shamed when they speak about how they feel or what struggles they are having. You can have prayed for a baby for years and still have challenges to overcome, and the following are mine. I don’t really know where to start, so I’ll break this postpartum thoughts post into categories:
I was blessed with plenty of sleep from the time A was 2 months until almost exactly 4 months. At that point she started waking up several times each night. Some nights it would be every hour; some nights it would just be once or twice. On some occasions she would go right back to sleep, and other nights she would be awake for hours. Everyone told me when she was born that I would eventually get more sleep, so I naively expected that would have happened by now. The fact that the sleep situation has gotten worse has been a shock to the system. I work as an editor, so I need to be mentally prepared for each workday. I also work from home while caring for my baby and sometimes also my 4-year-old if she isn’t in school. On mornings when I have had a rough night I am totally useless. I don’t follow my own advice to get ready for the day or even eat a good breakfast. I have to do a minimum of 10 things for my girls before I can even grab myself a drink of water or put on my clothes for the day. This kind of living takes its toll on my mental health. I begin to think that I am failing as a mother because I have not properly “sleep trained” my baby. These mornings put me behind on my blog work, my full-time job and my daily housework. I said when she was born that I would not sleep train until she was 6 months old and that time has come. I am not looking forward to it but after being reassured by our pediatrician I now feel hope that the sleep situation will improve soon. The bright spot to the many sleepless nights is that she looks so darn cute when she is falling asleep/fighting sleep and I look at her and think how I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect addition to our family. (She just needs to learn how to sleep!) This is all just temporary and I will miss these days when they pass. I already do miss the newborn stage, actually. I loved holding and cuddling her as much as I wanted.
I have fallen into the comparison trap on many occasions. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but feel like a bad mom when others post about their babies who are such good sleepers and perfectly nap trained. I often ask myself what I am doing wrong to keep my baby from getting the sleep she needs. I feel to blame for creating habits like nursing to sleep when everyone tells me it’s a no-no. You also don’t notice how often people post about sleep until you aren’t getting enough of it. When someone complains about an unexpected nap ruining their whole day I have to admit I feel envious. I would love a nap! I am trying to pull back on my time on social media, though it’s a challenge because I want to connect with others and promote my blog work. I am aiming to find a balance, or at least remind myself that others’ sleep patterns have nothing to do with me.
I feel a thousand times better emotionally and more like myself than in months. But I struggled for at least three months with the blues. I don’t call it postpartum depression because I was not officially diagnosed or treated, but I felt sadness and anxiety on many days. It had nothing to do with my baby. In fact, every time I held her I felt so blessed to have her with us. She is truly the greatest gift, along with V. I was anxious because I felt unsure of what I was doing and I was alone a lot. I don’t have many friends or family members in Chicago, so I had little help. Graham worked a ton — sometimes 15 hour days and always on weekends. I had no breaks, not even five minutes to myself. This also took a toll on me as an introvert. I started to feel resentment, but it was no one’s fault. It was the hormones along with the drastic change of going from one adopted child to having two kids. To this day I cry when I hear the theme song from the TV show “Spirit”, which is a cartoon for kids, because it reminds me of being so depressed while letting V watch the show to distract her from seeing me shed tears. She is incredibly perceptive, though, and she knew I was having a tough time. She’s the sweetest child who would say, “It’s OK, Mommy.” It would turn into a vicious cycle because I would then feel guilty about having these feelings and letting them be known, especially to my oldest child. She deserves the best and I wasn’t always at my best.
Another contributor to how I felt was my initial struggles with breastfeeding. It’s gotten so much better, thankfully. I am proud to have surpassed my goal of breastfeeding for six months and now I plan to keep going. It’s a special time with A that I will forever cherish. I am grateful for the help I received from my lactation consultant to be able to do it. I have to be honest and say I have thought about weaning when I realized the habit I had created by nursing to sleep. I don’t really want to stop breastfeeding, but sometimes I have felt like life would be easier if I didn’t. When this happens I remember why I wanted to try in the first place and all the challenges I have overcome. A fun new development is that she tries to pull my glasses off while nursing. Ha!
As hard as it can be to balance everything, I am truly grateful to be able to work from home. I wanted to work remotely for years before it happened and that was partly because I knew I would want to be home with my children. Going back to work was tough after 12 weeks of (unpaid) maternity leave, even if I didn’t actually have to leave the house. I can only imagine how difficult it could be for many moms who work out of the house. I felt like there was no way I would get everything done, but guess what? We have all survived after three months back at work. I have made my editing deadlines, even if it meant logging back on after bedtime or on weekends. As parents we have to make difficult sacrifices for our kiddos, but whether you are with them all day or not, the kids will be all right; they are resilient and so are we. This is what I keep reminding myself on days I don’t have it together. (I will share a separate post on how I get my work done while caring for my girls, if anyone is interested.)
I think what finally helped me feel better was asking for help and telling people how I feel when they asked. I am someone who tries to do everything but it’s just not possible. Shortly after giving birth, my good friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in months called to ask how I was. I immediately started crying. (Thanks, hormones!) I was so touched that someone took the time to check on me and that she cared. That’s a wonderful way to offer support to someone in your life; just ask how they are and listen. I also had some family members who visited to help and that was amazing.
Somehow I missed the memo that I would lose a bunch of my hair starting around two or three months postpartum. I can definitely tell a difference in my hair line, but I have received reassurance from many people that my hair will go back to being healthy and full. As far as weight goes, I lost the 25 pounds I gained by six weeks postpartum, which was a huge surprise. My body will be forever changed though. If you look at my stomach you will see wrinkly skin and stretch marks that I’m pretty sure are here to stay. I have accepted this and think of it as a small price to pay for my huge gift. I won’t be wearing many two-piece bathing suits soon, though. Good thing it’s almost winter! (But if you have any tips on minimizing the marks, help a girl out.) I used to track my meals before and during pregnancy, mostly to make sure I was eating balanced meals, but that has gone out the window. My goal is to be back on track with eating well and working out by the time she turns 1. This is just a temporary period of my life being off track, and that’s OK. We need to give ourselves a break during times of transition.
For a fitness update, read my post on how and why I ran a half-marathon without training.
Overall postpartum thoughts
Motherhood times two has been wonderful and I love spending time as a family of four. Has it been easy? Heck no! But it’s definitely been worth it and I’m grateful for both experiences of becoming of mom: adoption and pregnancy.
My point with this post is to show other moms that they are not alone, and the best thing to do is express your emotions in a healthy way instead of holding them inside. I want to be real vs. complain, and my aim has always been to be helpful in some way.
Have you experienced any of these feelings postpartum?
Note: If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, please talk to a health professional. Many health facilities offer postpartum support groups, and you can/should also share your feelings with friends and family.