Baby blues. I heard the term multiple times while pregnant. I won’t struggle with that, I arrogantly thought. That just isn’t my personality.
Then I had a baby after 33 hours of labor. And that baby was rushed back to the hospital following a choking spell. Emotions? What do you think?
There are endless variations as to how women react and behave following the birth of a child. I know that postpartum depression is real and something that needs to be recognized and treated quickly. Let me begin by acknowledging that I don’t think I struggled with postpartum depression. My experience involved what is commonly referred to as the baby blues. This stage lasted for about two to three weeks following B’s birth. I simply write this post to share some things that helped me during that time.
Have a daily cry in the shower. This wonderful advice came from my doula, Becky. Part of her services involved visiting me about a week after we returned home from the hospital. As we sat on the couch together, she held B and I tearfully told her how, other than challenges with breastfeeding, things seemed great! B proved to be a content, easy child and Nick unsurprisingly supported and assisted me in every way possible. And yet I found myself weeping unexpectedly and for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Becky smiled kindly and knowingly during my lamentations and suggested several things. This was one of the most helpful ones. Every day, I needed to be able to take a long, hot shower and allow all my emotions to come out by having a good cry. It proved very cathartic and I recommend it if you find yourself struggling with the baby blues. I always felt better afterwards.
Rest. Everyone says it, and there’s a reason for it: in those early days, sleep when your baby sleeps. The time we failed most at this was in the hospital the few days following B’s birth. Everyone came to see us during those first few days. We were excited to share B’s story with friends and family, while passing around our baby boy. The problem? He slept all day long while being passed around, and we stayed awake chatting. At night, when everyone left, B came alive and we stared through exhausted eyes. Although we haven’t nailed down any definite plans, we’ll probably handle hospital visits a little differently in the future. I think it would be helpful either to have certain visiting hours set aside each day, or simply to ask friends to wait until you’re home to visit.
It’s okay to get out of the house. I know how terrifying this can be. I remember how I didn’t want anyone to touch or even breathe within a five mile radius of my child. Public places suddenly become your enemy and you fear that the air alone will cause your baby to catch some perilous disease. Driving in the car frightened me since his car seat was the place B choked when he was three days old. Trust me, my natural tendency was to do anything but get out of the house. But I thank God for my husband, who shepherded me so well in this area. He took B and me for daily walks around our neighborhood. We met some friends and their seven month old at the park for a walk one day. The men pushed the strollers while my mother and I walked with my friend and I shared with her the struggles I felt since giving birth. Nick also made us eat out at a restaurant following B’s first pediatrician visit. I held my breath and stared at B the entire time, but I recognize now how good it was that we were getting out some. Before B turned two weeks old we attended a wedding rehearsal and dinner with some friends. That was my first occasion to breastfeed away from home (and instead in the backseat of our truck). B cried and I cried but we both survived and, like most things, the second time was easier. And the third, and the fourth. Another time, Nick, B and me traversed to Target in order to satisfy a mid-afternoon caffeine craving at the adjoining Starbucks. I’m grateful my husband got B and me out of the house during those first few weeks.
Talk to other mothers/friends. This is crucial. Maybe because of all the weeping I found myself doing, I simultaneously felt the tendency to avoid others. I didn’t want people to see me being so emotional. I warned both Becky and another dear friend before they each came over that I quite possibly would cry the entire time. Of course, neither of them cared, and I always felt better after seeing friends. One time a friend, herself close to 9 months pregnant, came over and listened to me cry a little before holding two-week-old B for two hours while I slept on the couch. Another time, a different friend stopped by to simply share funny stories with me from her life. The therapeutic laughter proved to be the perfect medicine. During those early 45 minute nursing sessions, I found myself texting other nursing mothers for sympathy and understanding. It was so nice to know that I wasn’t alone in what I was experiencing.
We were created to need, desire and thrive in community with others. Recognize that and don’t be ashamed of anything you’re experiencing. It’s probably safe to assume that another young, first-time mother has experienced similar thoughts and feelings. Talk to others and hear their stories. It will help encourage you and give you moments of laughter, understanding, and reminders of truth when you need it most.
So give me a call after you have that baby (or babies!). I’d love to come hold him or her and listen to how you feel like you’re living from one coffee cup to the next, how you worry that you can’t get your baby to sleep, and then you worry that it isn’t breathing after it does fall asleep. Tell me about how you’re still recording every diaper change and feeding and obsessing over everyone in your home using hand sanitizer 47 times a day. I’d love to cry with you and laugh with you and remind you of how it’s all worth it, this whole parenthood thing. Because it is. Completely and totally worth it.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3