Postpartum Life (from Hell)
As I mentioned in an earlier section of my birth story, the first three months with Scarlett were straight out of a horror film.
I wondered at times if she was finally on the verge of channeling Regan from The Exorcist – head spinning around, pea soup spitting from her mouth and all. She wasn’t just sick or tired…she was a whole different level of rage most of the time! While other friends who had babies around the same time as I did gushed on social media about how perfect their lives were with their new addition, how their babies never cried, how they had so much help from their family…I was bawling right alongside my inconsolable, hungry, sleepy, grumpy, angry baby. I was alone with just my husband (when he was off work). We both were shell-shocked.
I recognize now that I put unrealistic expectations on both myself and my baby from the start.
Postpartum depression stole my joy and left me with memories that are, at best, foggy.
The sadness and doubt and terror and unworthiness all are still vivid, though. If I’m honest, I’m still recovering. I tell people that I have PTSD from that time, and I’m only slightly joking about it!
I didn’t have a dedicated local support system. (Our family lives between two and eleven hours away.) I did have friends from church who all had jobs and families to take care of themselves, but I’m not great at receiving, or asking for, help. And as luck would have it, my two best friends in the area moved out-of-state the week before and two weeks after Scarlett was born. So…it really was just us.
Scarlett was still so unhappy after we got home.
So were we. She never slept, and neither did we. I’m sure it was partly because she was just so hungry. I wasn’t producing enough milk. What very little I was producing made her violently ill, despite changing my diet numerous times (and praying for my milk to finally “arrive” in abundance). The formula supplement made her sick, too. All of this coincided with her being a high-needs (read: extremely aware and hypersensitive to all stimulation) baby. It created the perfect storm of unhappiness. I kept feeling like a failure. Try as I did, my milk just wasn’t coming in. I kept trembling to the point of teeth chattering any time I needed to attempt feeding her. And she kept screaming. I kept getting more depressed. I was too nervous and ashamed to reach out for help.
So many women had so many strong opinions in favor of breastfeeding that admitting I was considering formula feeding felt like I was failing my baby as well as them, myself, and all of womankind.
Ha! By four weeks old, though, we’d had enough. I’d switched her to a sensitive formula, and she started feeling better. Insanely better. She became a happier baby. We all started smiling. But my guilt at not breastfeeding settled into my bones. It was something I mourned for at least eight months, honestly. I still get a little sad when I see my breast pump, now stored away neatly in the closet, even now that she’s fully weaned…
Her sleep was a big part of it – boy, was it challenging at first.
Once the fog lifted, and we worked on her sleep patterns, I began being capable again. Work still added to my stress because I’d started back just two weeks after my baby’s birth since I worked from home anyway. Finally, I made another tough but relieving decision in August: to quit my day job in favor of just staying home with my little.
The dream of this blog came into formation a few months later.
My goal with my story is to make this life transition and all the hiccups it can bring easier for other new moms. Or, at the very least, to give all moms an empowering, accepting environment in which to connect online, during both good and bad times.
As you’ve read from my story, stepping into motherhood isn’t always as natural, graceful, or easy as we often hear. It’s also harder than what we’ve been warned.
It’s messy. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying.
It’s life-altering – in some ways good, but in other ways…it’s really just hard.
It’s also beautiful, though.
Once the fog clears, and your child is finally gaining weight, finally sleeping, and actually seeming to enjoy existing, it’s just…beautiful.
Southern Momdays is here to help you on that journey to beautiful and beyond, where every day is a Momday.
Here’s to you, Momma!
Thanks for reading.
Go back to My Birth Story with Scarlett for more.