THE POSTPARTUM STORY PROJECT
I work with women everyday. Women of all ages, relationship statuses and number of children. Every woman (and I do mean every woman) I meet just wants validation. They want to know they are not alone.
In this blog post, I am going to show you that you, as mothers, are not alone. All moms experience rough days, good days and days in between.
I, myself, have experienced my fair share of rough days as a mother. My transition to motherhood wasn’t what I expected. As a family we’ve had to overcome some struggles. Mainly communication, asking for what we both needed and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
I am passionate about maternal mental health, across the ages, not just in the newborn phase. These stories are meant to “normalize” the struggles of motherhood without taking away the validity of the struggle. My other hope is to inspire those who are struggling to seek professional support, either individual or in group form (you are not alone in that either, lots of women are seeking support outside their group of friends, and family members).
What does maternal mental health mean to you?
Understanding, accepting, and working through the crazy storm of thoughts and emotions, and coming out the other side in peace - with myself, my new role, and my new identity.
Taking care of the mental and emotional aspects of new mothers. We are swept up in the physical.
Taking care of my mental health so I can be the best mom I can be.
Feeling whole. Being able to feel the normal anxiety, fear, anger, stress, joy, excitement, gratitude and all the other emotions that come with motherhood without one emotion overpowering everything else.
Accepting that you're not always strong. Understanding how to build yourself back up when you fall down. Asking for help when you need it.
What mothers experience after having a baby. For some it may be anxiety and/or depression, baby blues, feelings of overwhelming emotions of the good, bad and the ugly. Some mothers don't experience any negative feelings after having a baby and have no struggles. Some mothers experience some form of negative feelings with some struggle. Some mothers experience the worst form of negative feelings they have ever felt, and have extreme struggle. No matter the degree of experience, maternal mental health seems to have a stigma attached to it where no one wants to admit to anything negative they are experiencing. Mothers need to not be judged and to feel safe and able to discuss how they are feeling. If it was more common to speak up and more mothers were open about their experiences it would help new mothers speak out and not have to suffer alone in silence.
Share your experience with a helping professional and how it impacted yourself as a mother.
Seeing a therapist helped me trust my intuition and work on my boundaries. Becoming a mother forced me to face some patterns in my life that were unhealthy, and I worked through them to create a better experience for my child.
I attended Kayla’s Mommy Healing Group and become empowered as a mother. Of course I “knew” I was a mother and this was my new role and a new, important, piece of my life and identity. I can’t put it into words exactly, but it just “clicked” and I felt more assured in my decisions, trusting myself and my intuition, and “owning” my role as G’s mother. Others can have feedback, insights, criticisms, but I am his mother, period.
After about 6 months of struggling with PPD, I finally went to a counsellor. I found it SO HELPFUL. Once I added into my life the strategies she suggested and found I was still struggling on a daily basis, I knew I needed more help. I went to my family DR and was prescribed medication. It took about 4 weeks but slowly I started to feel so much better. It felt amazing to be able to cope with my life again and not feel like I needed to cry all the time. Shortly after that was the birth of my second baby and I was able to mamage motherhood SO MUCH better. I actually really enjoyed it. Also, the medication helped bring me to a place where I could embrace being a wife again and it really helped me get back to a point of being in love with my husband. I don’t know what could have happened if I hadn’t got help when I did.
I've seen counsellors prior to becoming a mother and it had always helped with whatever issues I was facing but I felt like I needed someone new for what I was experiencing. As a mother I had gone to 1 counseling session in the beginning and I never looked back at her. I didn't find she was helpful and I didn't want to try to find someone else to go to, so I didn't go to anyone. Then I came across Kayla's Facebook and Instagram page, she was like a godsent to mothers, first time or another addition. Nothing like her exists, no one else has the same approach or the same idea of dealing with parenting role as a mother (at least not that I know of). I wish I had found her sooner and went to her in the beginning after my daughter was born. She is amazing. She is genuine. She is caring. She rocks. She makes a really good cup of coffee. The different ways she offers information in a session and her approach is so different and has been in ways I have never imagined or known to deal with thoughts and aspects of life. Her office is so cozy and inviting; and like a mini Michaels store for all your crafting needs! I owe a lot to her in my road to bettering myself as a person and mother; so do yourself a favor and don't walk but run to make an appointment with her!!
What was your first thought after becoming a mother?
“Oh my god.”
“Holy shit. I can’t take care of a human I don’t even know!”
First thought in the hospital: “Oh my gosh, this is so amazing, what a sweet angel, I can't believe what we created” and I felt like we were on cloud 9.
First thought at home: “What have we done?! I want our old life back!!”
Being responsible for another person is so terrifying and anxiety went through the roof, sleepless nights with a colic baby---and “People go on to have more then one?!”
Fear. My first child’s birth was traumatic. The labour and delivery did not go as planned. I felt guilt for not asking for intervention earlier and was scared my son didn’t survive the delivery. The room felt full of fear. It felt like no one would answer me when I asked why he wasn’t crying and why he was taken away immediately after birth. I couldn’t see the interventions they were doing on him. Then he started to cry and I felt better - but still not connected. It took us months to begin to bond.
Now what!? I carried, fairly easily, this baby in my belly for 9ish months and life didn't change too much. But now! Now she was here and all of a sudden I felt helpless and hopeless and life was changing so fast that I couldn't keep up. This feeling especially set in once we got home and my husband went out to get groceries. It was just me and my daughter and an intense feeling of responsibility came crashing down.
It was a mix. On one hand I had this calm, inner peace feeling and internal dialogue of “yes, this is right” as though I was just waiting to have a child to take on this natural, inherent role. On the other hand, I was fearful, intimidated and terrified of what to do - for my child, and for me, with the accompanying inner dialogue of “oh sh*t”.
Tell a story of struggle you've had as a mother.
Trusting myself. Trusting the process. There are times I struggle with how I’m going to meet all of the demands and accomplish all of the tasks I’m committed to. How am I going to continue my career, grad school, my business, my marriage, myself, all while also focusing on this little one and making sure he’s getting the right foods, in the right order, hitting milestones, being happy, etc etc. Just thinking of this, my heart races, and I question how I’ll make it through. I don’t want to just keep my head above water, I want us all to live our best, happiest lives. And I struggle with how I’m going to be able to do it. So, in those moments, I remind myself to trust myself and trust the process. This does mean trusting myself to do what I need to do for me - groups, self-care, etc. Also, I am fully recognizing I have only one child, and he’s 6 months old. I expect to have this struggle when the next one comes along as well.
Facing the Google monster. I was constantly checking to see what mothers I'd never met (and would never meet!) were doing. And then I'd feel like such a failure because my baby wasn't doing what the perfect internet babies were doing. I'd always be wondering and worrying about what I was doing that was so wrong!
Lack of sleep, lack of freedom. I wasn’t prepared for the attachment to be so strong.
Having my two babies only 18 months apart, made the first year of my second’s life super challenging. It probably didn’t help that I was also running a business from home. I was exhausted and everything was hard. So fucking hard. I am lucky and grateful to have an amazing support system and I don’t know what I would have done without them all.
My son had a traumatic birth. I don’t think my husband and I realized how difficult nursing would be before we had a baby. For the first month I struggled. My husband had other commitments he had to fulfill and I felt abandoned by him.
I have had many struggles, but I would say a main struggle would have been the lack of support I had in the beginning as a first time mother. Pure exhaustion had set in having a baby with colic, and I felt so alone where no one was reaching out to help me and I would have to constantly ask people to come over so I could have a break, take a nap or have a shower. I felt guilty having to ask someone as I didn't want to burden anyone knowing others are busy in their own lives, so I felt it was just easier to not ask and do it all myself. We didn't have family around to help. My mother didn't come around like I thought she would, that was a very hard pill to swallow, when I felt I needed her most and she knew I struggled, the offer to come help was never there. I hated hearing others complain about their own mothers or mother in laws for being "too involved" when they had no idea what it was like to not have that kind of support.
Tell a story of an empowering experience you've had as a mother.
Having my child tell me how much she loves me, and seeing how loving and kind and smart she is, makes me feel like I’ve done everything right with her. And that empowers me.
After the first few months my husband and I started working together as a team. I still wasn’t myself. But now 2 years and 2 kids later we have a good routine as a team going. We both get to do things away from our kids and together as a family.
Honestly, deciding not to care about what others thought about how we/I parent. She ours, not the world's. We are making what we believe to be the best choices for her. If a choice doesn't suit someone else's thought on how 'it should be' - too bad!
Letting go of everyone else's judgment was so freeing!
This was early, sometime within the first two months of our journey as parents. We were out a function with family and family friends. I had to set some boundaries, and knew people would be upset with me. It was one of those “oh this is it, this is real life parenting” moments, combined with “I’m his mom, what I say goes”. I still know it upset some people, but so be it. I told my husband about it, and that he may get some feedback about the situation. I was expecting him to be upset with me too. However, he turned to me and said “you’re his mom, you set his boundaries, and thank you for explaining why you were doing what you were doing. So even if they didn’t agree or like it, they knew why”.
I hate to admit this but I acted like a toddler myself, throwing tantrums. I would get upset and annoyed at the smallest things for no reason. I would snap mean words to my husband or the dog. I would scream into a pillow. I would kick or throw soft plush dog toys across the room when no one was home and when I thought my daughter wasn't watching. I’d clench my fists and break down crying, slam doors and cupboards. One day I saw my daughter throwing the dog toys and having a tantrum, screaming or clenching her little fists. “Oh My God,” she was acting like me. I should know better, I needed to do better. When I thought she wasn't looking all those times, she was. She was just over a year old. I finally admitted to myself that I cannot do this alone; I had to ask for help from others. I cannot do it all and I needed and deserved to have a break; more self care, more date nights, even though it's so hard to make time for yourself or you and your partner-you have to!! Also going to see Kayla; and admitting that I needed something else to stop feeling like I was about to go into a tail spin. For myself, medication is also what I needed. It was scary never having been on any medication before; never having felt anxiety or depression. I didn't want to be a failure, I’m not. It’s the opposite.
There is no shame in asking for help.
The hardest day you've ever had as a mother.
I was sick, we all got no sleep but I had to get up early with the baby, who was at a very needy stage. Partner slept in. We were fighting. A lot of resentment.
Day 10 of my first baby’s life. She was up all night, I was sore and exhausted. I needed to attend an event that day and showed up a straight-up hot mess. We have photos from that day and I look back at them and think “wtf was I thinking?” It was awful. I cried a lot that night and felt like a failure. It’s crazy what no sleep will do to you.
The whole first 4 months of motherhood is a complete blur. I don’t remember much of it. My son was collicky, I would rock him to sleep for every nap and we would cry together. I would spend days rocking him and watching tv without leaving the house.
Admiting that me breastfeeding wasn't enough for our daughter. I felt like such a failure. I knew in my heart that 'fed is best' but that didn't take the feeling of failure away.
You know, I’m not even sure. It’s more like the “hardest moments”. For me, these are the nights that my husband is gone and I’ve been at home by myself with our little one and have to do the full evening and nights alone too. It’s exhausting. It’s tiring to be the only one to give snuggles all day and all night. It never fails, these are the nights that G fights sleep and is discontent for a few hours. It’s in these moments I need to remind myself that the hours may feel like forever, but they’re truly just a few hours and I can put aside anything else I wanted to do, or thought I “needed” to do, and just be, just do what my little one needs.
Many months actually of my daughter's first year were the hardest days I've ever had as a mother, they really felt like the hardest days of my adult life! I felt alone, isolated, unsure how to take care of a baby (not having been around babies and being a first time mother) I didn't feel like it came naturally to me which in turn made my new position even harder to manage. I cried daily, I mourned for my old carefree life, doing what I wanted when I wanted, I missed the relationship my husband and I had, and I felt like a prisoner in my own home not comfortable to go out and be in the public with my daughter, and she hated her car seat so any time we drove anywhere left her screaming and me in tears pulling over to the side of the road. I felt overwhelmed with the lack of sleep which I knew was going to be reality having a newborn, but until I was living it, I really had no idea. I now know why they use no sleep as a form of torture!
The best/happiest day you've had as a mother.
Ah, the smile that was a smile for me for real! Not just gas!
Too many to count! Every day is a mixed bag of a lot of happiness and a little frustration.
It’s more about the moments, not a day in particular. I cannot put into words how truly wonderful it is to wake up to my son beside me, talking and smiling, and grabbing my face to give me a slobbery “good morning” kiss.
Most of them are good at this point. It’s SO great seeing my babies talk and play and laugh. There is nothing more heart-warming than your little one learning to talk and saying “love you mom” or your 3-year-old randomly running up to hug you saying “I just love you so much, mom.” It’s moments like those I know I’m doing something right.
My favourite days as a mother are now that my kids are a bit older. My husband and I are working together and my kids are starting to show each other love. It’s a kind of love that feels so special, like something I’ve never felt before.
Firstly experiencing pregnancy was amazing, I loved it.
Secondly, I also enjoyed experiencing labor and delivery, it was so surreal and amazing what the body is capable of.
Thirdly, seeing my daughter for the first time, finally meeting that little person who was a part of me for the 9 month journey.
There are a bunch of days rolled into one that I can't pick just one happy day, while I have had many dark days (definitely more dark days in the beginning than happy). I definitely did and have started to experience happy days. But I can't pick just one....it was the days of watching my daughter learn to roll over; crawl; stand up; pull herself up on furniture; pushing herself up to walk for the first time; seeing how proud of herself she was during all of all these milestones. Hearing her say her first words, or mommy and daddy, being so observant and learning from the environment she is in. Knowing that my husband and I had a part to play in helping her meet those milestones cheering her on and helping her along the way. Realizing that while things may have been hard and trying for so many days, when the fog lifted, I could remember more of those happy days. So, now instead of crying every day, it's replaced with smiles.
How does being a mother look different than you expected?
It's so much more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be! I never thought that the tiniest things could make me so proud!
I honestly had no idea what to expect. I think it might be easier than I thought, though I’ll never get accustomed to the exhaustion.
It’s so much harder and far more isolating than I expected.
I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to ask for help and how disconnected I would be from myself. Only now, two years later am I realizing I was suffering from PPD. I made it through because my supports recognized this and got me out of the house, made me meals and rocked my crying baby to sleep. I probably would have healed quicker if I had recognized that there was a problem and asked for help earlier.
I didn’t really have any expectations. All I knew was that it was going to be hard, be great, and be nothing I had ever experienced. For me, I think that was a saving grace - to not have much for expectations going into it.
None of my friends who were already mothers EVER talked about the bad that they experienced in the beginning, let alone the ugly. So, I felt like it had to just be me who felt this way, which made me feel a tremendous amount of guilt and regret. I was so unprepared for what was to come as soon as my daughter entered the world, life as I knew it had changed dramatically. I guess I didn't think much of what it would actually be like to PARENT, to be the sole provider for a little helpless baby 24/7, to have so many emotions on a roller coaster. I had always thought I was such a patient, friendly, kind person. Then I became a mother. Most days I didn't even know who I was and that terrified me. I wished for my old life back. I regretted the decision to have a baby. Then I felt guilty for even thinking that. I didn't want to tell anyone, after all no one told me their experiences. I felt ungrateful and didn't know how to explain how I felt to others without sounding like the most horrible person. I felt like I turned into Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the way I would snap and yell for no reason, I stomped around like Godzilla, I didn't want to be around my baby. I didn't want to hurt myself or my baby, I just wanted to run away and never come back. I didn't feel a lot of support from my husband, he was in the same position as me mourning our old life and wondered what we had just done. Then I resented him while he slept and I got up to our daughter several times a night to be alone for diaper changes or feeding, tears rolling down my face as a breastfed, just hoping for the next day to come so at least it would be daylight and I wouldn't feel like I was in such darkness.
Encouraging words for other expectant mothers.
“You’ve got this momma”. Seriously though, you do! Even if you feel 100% on top of things, find a group. Obviously, I’m partial to Kayla’s because that’s the one I went to and it was so pivotal for me. I have friends and family that have children that are supportive. But to find a group of women who that’s the one thing that brought you together, there’s something special about that. Also, get outside. Fresh air does amazing things for your mood.
This is way harder than you can ever imagine. But it's so, so, so worth it!
It’s worth all of the discomfort, and the good really does outshine the challenges. You will always be your baby’s favourite.
Things just keep getting better. Some days are hard, others are amazing. The amazing days (and hard) keep coming and getting even better.
You’ve got this. Take it day-by-day and moment-by-moment. You’ll get through it all. Women are the strongest creatures on the planet and motherhood makes them next-level tough. Get the help you need when you need it and believe people WANT to help when they say “what do you need?” YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THIS ALONE.
Reach out to supports in the community. You don't have to be open and honest with everyone but you NEED to be open and honest with at least 1 person, a SAFE person for you to talk to and to vent to, someone who will not judge and who will understand what you are going through.
Looking back, maybe none of my friends talked about their early days in motherhood, after all how was I truly supposed to understand what they were going through as I was not a mother at that time myself? Now I get it! Now I feel like I am in some elite group motherhood because I am finding more and more women who have experiences just like me, some not as bad, some the same, or some worse. NOW my friends talk about it, how much they hated certain aspects in the beginning, wished for the way their life used to be, hated their husbands, etc etc...but I surely didn't hear any of that beforehand.
You don't need to suffer alone. Reach out to other mom's, get out with a friend, get out and do something just for YOU, let people help you if they offer, I hate this saying and it's so ridiculous because it's not always practical and you feel that you are surrounded in a messy chaos like a tornado just went through your house, but nap when the baby naps, or at least just chill on the couch and rest...the laundry and dishes will still be there. And remember-this too shall pass...nothing stays the same forever. Seasons change. And let me tell you the days are long but the years are short.
Don't be so hard on yourself, we are all doing the best we can and there is no manual or training, there is a reason people say it's the hardest job in the world!
It doesn’t have to be this hard…
If you or someone you know isn't enjoying motherhood or someone who is struggling with this new phase of life, please reach out for support so you/they can cope with mothering while leading grounded, empowered, and joyful lives. Connect with me.