Last week I shared about what was at the foundation of the funk I experienced after giving birth to my firstborn. But there were also bricks and steel that built up the walls of the prison I felt trapped in. Some of it was circumstantial—things I couldn’t control and didn’t react well to. Some of it was built with my choices. Let’s be clear though, nobody chooses PPD/A, but our choices can make a difference in the course it runs. If my high value on freedom laid the foundation, the thing nobody told me about babies framed the house.
I think I’m forgetting something…
I spent so much energy and focus preparing for the birth that I think I forgot to prepare for motherhood. I wanted an unmedicated birth, so I dove into books, articles, and documentaries to fortify my resolve against the funny looks and the doubt beaming from medical professionals’ eyes when I would tell them of my plans (except for my doctor who was wonderful all the way through).
Unfortunately, there is nothing that will fully prepare you for motherhood. Sure you can take classes on physically caring for a baby. You can read books on parenting styles and have a refrigerator list of daily activities that make your baby smarter. I was aware of how to meet a baby’s needs and believed I could do that. I thought I was good there.
Nobody told me about the mental space a baby takes up.
I was suddenly able to recall at lightning speeds the last time she pooped, what it looked and smelled like, when she last ate—how long/much and which side, the exact amount of minutes she slept and I slept.
I remember picking her up from daycare when she was still quite new, and instantly detected she had a dirty diaper. Not only did my brain recognize that rather obvious fact, but I knew by the smell of it what the exact color of it would be. Never before in my life did I think I would have a category in my brain that could identify the look of another person’s poop just by the smell of it. I envisioned my brain being a storehouse of interesting facts and deep thoughts. This was neither, yet there it was taking up precious bandwidth in my brain.
That’s all folks!
What used to be white space in my brain that birthed creativity was now holding the schedule of the baby I birthed. What used to be a daily rhythm of receiving the Father’s care for me was now spent worrying if I was adequately caring for my child.
There was nothing left. No time left to reset myself. Andwith a baby who hardly slept, my days never ended. For almost a year, I drownedin anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, sleepdeprivation, anger and resentment.
My body had never been tested like that before.
The limits of my mental capacity had never been tested like that before.
And I felt weak for even struggling.
All aboard the shame train [toot toot]
I know now that those were whispers of shame, but it felt like there was amble evidence to convict me of my inadequacy at the time: good moms can get there babies to sleep at night; good moms have fat babies or supplement with formula; good moms don’t ever resent their motherhood.
The one choice I regret the most was not getting the righthelp. Sure I complained to friends or would occasionally ask someone to dosomething for me, but I didn’t feel I could be truly honest with anyone. Whenpeople would ask how having a baby was going, I would reply with, “It’s fine,really hard, but you know, I guess that’s just motherhood.” NO! That’s not “just motherhood.” For a whitemiddle class gal with a huge support system, motherhood shouldn’t feel like astruggle every single day.
I knew I needed therapy, but I hadn’t completely fallen apart yet so I didn’t go. I tell people all the time to go to therapy before life falls apart and couldn’t do it myself. More shame.
Shame will hold us back from everything in life. It clouds our minds, crushes our hearts, and keeps us disconnected from the people who love us. Mine kept me trapped in this loop: anxiety—>resentment—>shame. Repeat.
When friends say that things are hard, press in, ask questions, encourage her. She might be cuing you to stay at a distance: kindly test that boundary. You may see that it crumbles quite easily and reveals deep hurt.
If you’re wondering if motherhood should be “this hard” then it’s probably time to talk to someone about it. Start with a friend/spouse and just get naked-honest with them. Choose wisely and do it. If it lingers still, find a therapist, call, make an appointment, and show up. You just might find yourself again a lot sooner than you would have otherwise.