They tell you that having a baby is the most magical time in your life. Words like, ‘unconditional love,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘pure bliss,’ are thrown around to describe that moment you become a mother, and it’s true you do feel all these amazing feelings. An exuberant joy descends upon you and transcends you into the most euphoric state, beginning the moment that baby is placed in your arms, and from that moment, you shall never feel sadness again.
Excuse me while I chuckle.
What they don’t tell you, is that meshed with those euphoric moments, there are also moments of sadness, frustration, loneliness, confusion, guilt, and so much more. I wish I would have known. Instead, I was thrown into the lion’s den of motherhood without a manual and no idea that ‘happily ever after’ isn’t always so clear. ‘What Now?’ was a common feeling. Two kids later, here is what I know. Classes on how to change diapers should also include discussions on what baby blues are and when postpartum becomes a reality, a topic that is often never spoken about or dismissed as “just hormonal.” Baby blues are real. Postpartum depression is real. Postpartum anxiety is real and it can happen to anyone. Here’s what I also know. You're not alone and I want to share my story with you.
"Baby blues are extremely common," Dr. Saima Aftab, Medical Director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, says. "Baby blues can occur in up to 85 percent of women within the first days after giving birth, with a peak incidence on the fifth day."
Looking back now, it’s understandable how that happen. No matter how excited and happy you are about having a baby, it is one of the biggest - if not THE biggest - life changing event in a woman’s life. You are bringing a child into this world; a child that you now have to take care of, nurture, love, protect, and worry about for the rest of your life. It is no longer just about you. You are now a constant living and breathing roller coaster of emotions and your heart will live outside of your body forever and ever.
The moment that Maya was placed in my arms for the first time, I cried. I was overwhelmed with so much love and emotion and I wanted to hold her and never let go. This is what unconditional love is, I thought. It still is one of my favorite memories of her birth, and while I knew that taking care of a new baby was going to have its challenges, I thought that I would feel that happy each and every day of motherhood. A few days after arriving back home, I started to feel….different. I was recovering physically and yes, I was adjusting to this new life. It had only been a couple of days, but there was something off about me and I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. I was inexplicably sad. All I wanted to do was cry. I didn’t want Coco to leave my side because I was afraid of being alone. I felt so overwhelmed and confused.
Some of the "what ifs" that went through my head were: “What if I’m not a good mom? What if something happens to her? What if I hurt her? What if this is what it’s going to feel like forever?” I also thought “I’m never going to feel like myself again. I’m never going to be like those happy moms. I’m responsible for this little person.”
It was a hamster wheel of these reoccurring thoughts.
I was very thankful that Coco, my husband, was on paternity leave for two weeks because he was with me during this whole ordeal and extremely supportive even though I knew he was also feeling helpless and wanted to help me but couldn’t. I never felt so alone and so isolated. He would push me to go for walks and go to our corner diner for breakfast and I remember walking with him, all teary, watching other moms pushing their strollers, laughing, talking, and I just kept thinking to myself, “Am I ever going to be that happy?” “Am I going to be this miserable?” What was going on with me? I just had a baby, it’s supposed to be the happiest time of my life and here I was struggling, anxious, and I had no idea why. It didn’t seem like any other mom was going through this or had gone through this, so there was obviously something wrong with me.
I didn’t want to see friends or family. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to be indoors with Coco and Maya. One afternoon, Coco had to go get his computer fixed and I balled at the fact that I was going to be left alone with the baby. I was terrified. I was scared to be alone with her, thinking that I would do something to hurt her. Because when you have baby blues, there are irrational thoughts that you are almost horrified of thinking like harming your baby, giving away your baby, etc. Obviously, I knew I wouldn’t do any of this, but when you are going through those blues and those thoughts pop up inside your head, you’re vulnerable and scared.
According to Dr. Aftab, common symptoms of baby blues include mood swings, irritability, tearfulness, fatigue, and confusion. Some family and friends didn’t understand what I was going through and that was hard. I had heard from the pediatrician and the OBGyn that these feelings were normal and would go away, but it felt like hollow promises.
I was desperate to feel better and every morning I would wake up and check in with myself and think “Are they gone? Am I feeling normal?” And I would cry when I didn’t. I started reaching out to other mom friends, even some work colleagues that were moms and straight up asked them if they had ever experienced what I had, and when they shared their stories, my healing began. I couldn't believe how many other women I knew had suffered from baby blues, and some had even suffered postpartum depression. I was in disbelief, but for the first time in those two weeks, I felt hopeful. That support from other moms was what I needed to get myself out of this hole, to see the light at the end of that dark tunnel. I wasn’t alone. I felt relief. They shared their stories of crying in the shower, not wanting to hold their baby or wanting to hold their baby too much, of feeling sad or confused or always mad. Baby blues put such a black cloud over you that it makes you feel worthless and like you don’t deserve to be a mother.
After two weeks, I started to come around. I was feeling more and more like myself, I was more confident, stronger, and resilient. Those feelings of sadness, confusion, guilt, negative thoughts began to subside and I was ready to enjoy my new role as ‘Mom’ without those pestering baby blues. I started sharing my story on the blog, with other moms, and when anyone I knew was pregnant or had just had a baby, I would automatically reach out and offer them my full support if they ever experienced any of those baby blue symptoms. I wanted to know that I was here, that I had gone through it, and that even though it didn’t seem so at that very moment, they were not alone and they would come out of this on the other side.
There are so many things I learned the first time around that I felt better equipped when Rocco was born. Not every mother experiences baby blues, but those that do, have a higher chance of it happening again in other pregnancies. Here’s what I did differently. I asked for help, especially with two kids. I set aside time for myself, more than ever because I knew I would need time to recharge and refuel, and most importantly, I was kind to myself. We often forget to do that and it goes a long way. As Dr. Aftab states, “Don’t be a martyr. Self-compassion and self-care go a long way and know you are an awesome mama!”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing the blues, ask for help. Recognize the symptoms. Remember, if symptoms persist for two weeks or more and you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, get immediate help. You will get through this.
Some photos of my journey
Holding Maya for the first time.
You can’t tell from the smile on my face, but I was deep into my blues. It was Coco's birthday and I didn’t go celebrate. His mom stayed with me to keep me company because I didn’t want to be alone and had been crying all day.
Settling into motherhood.
Enjoying my baby girl.
That’s the face of a tired mom, a mom who also got home from the hospital and the first thing I did was go to the room, throw myself on the bed, and cried. I wiped the tears, took a deep breath and went back to mom mode.
This face let’s him get away with just about anything. Going through baby blues with Maya, helped me better navigate those periods of sadness, confusion, and guilt With a better understanding when Rocco was born.
I wouldn’t change my experience for anything in this world and I’m thankful each and everyday for these faces and the support I received during those tough times with the baby blues.