My son was born on January 22, 2018.
I look at him every day and am still amazed that my husband and I created this little miracle. On the surface, I should be happy. I should be enjoying every second of motherhood.
I knew postpartum would be difficult, but I did not know I would cry all the time and feel so overwhelmed.
I felt so guilty because I couldn’t produce enough milk for him, and ultimately my doctor advised me to stop for health reasons. Mom guilt is so strong and it took weeks for me to feel okay with using formula. Our pediatrician assured me Ryan was healthy and thriving, which helped me feel much better.
Month two was better, and I am proud to say it is because I have a great support system that encouraged me to seek help. After treatment with my OB/GYN and counselor, I managed to start feeling a little more like my old self again. Although still very much sleep deprived, my husband and I got better at communicating and finding ways to reconnect. We try to have a date night every two weeks, or at least once per month. We didn’t realize how much we needed it until we started having date nights in month two. It helped bring back some sanity.
Month three brought on a new fear – the end of maternity leave. I cried daily when I looked at my son. How could I go back to work and leave my baby?! I didn’t see how it was possible. The first week of daycare felt like someone ripped out my heart. I cried every morning. Ryan adjusted very well, and seemed to enjoy his time with the daycare workers and the other babies. Still, I fought the guilty feeling that I was a bad mother for leaving him there all day. Other mothers seemed to really have their act together…..why couldn’t I do the same? Then, it dawned on me that they were putting on a brave face, just like me. Women don’t often talk about these difficult early motherhood decisions and emotions – and I came to the conclusion that it is a cultural flaw.
Women are supposed to be happy during this time, overjoyed by the birth of their baby and growing family. The truth is there are dark days of hormonal and sleep deprived tears, many of which no one knows about because it is a societal expectation to be happy and go back to work after 3 months (or in some cases 6-8 weeks) as if everything is back to normal and this little human sleeps through the night, allowing you to be at your best during the work day.
Although this transition has been difficult, it taught me a lot about what it means to be forgiving of myself and allow for the imperfection and obstacles that come with motherhood. Things don’t always go as planned, and I won’t always get everything done. It’s okay. I am fortunate to work in a very supportive environment and the daycare we chose for Ryan has been wonderful. While these lessons have helped, I still struggled.
My self identity became fuzzy after the birth of my son. Overnight, I went from full time career woman to 24/7 mom. Maternity leave gave me a taste of what it is like to be a stay at home mom. It is truly the hardest job. Ever. There are no breaks, you get lunch if you are lucky, and coffee is usually consumed cold. Days ran together and I felt as if my best efforts were not enough.
I found myself looking in the mirror and feeling unsure about my ability to handle my many roles – mother, wife, full time career woman……..I felt guilty just thinking about leaving my son to go to work. I still do. One thing that is s-l-o-w-l-y helping is getting back into a solid routine.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do feel I am doing the best I can for my son. He’s thriving and that makes me feel as though I must be doing something right. In my opinion, that is an important step toward knowing who you are and how that connects to your role as a mother.
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