I was ready for childbirth, well, as much as you can be. I took classes, read books, and asked veteran moms loads of questions. What I wasn’t ready for was everything that came after leaving the hospital. It was a perfect storm of shifting hormones, starting a demanding new job, recovering from an endurance workout that literally broke me, and being extremely sleep-deprived. New baby bliss, right?
I wouldn’t trade being a mom — or giving birth — for anything. But if I could go back, here’s what I wish I could tell my newly postpartum self.
Dear new mama,
Welcome to survival mode. It’s going to be OK.
The first six-ish weeks of having a newborn might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do — and for reasons that don’t seem that impressive. It’s not a muscle-your-way-through-it kind of hard. It’s an endurance test. Just hang on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you don’t feel like you’ll ever make it through, you will emerge one day. I promise.
Sleep deprivation is REAL.
Sure, everyone expects this. But, why does nobody talk about how it turns you into an entirely different, scary, unrecognizable person? It wasn’t until after my midwife reminded me that sustained sleep deprivation is a form of torture (and prescribed me an antidepressant for postpartum depression) that I gave credit to how much lack of sleep really changes things. And knowing that gave me strength to help deal with it.
Any chance you get, choose sleep.
You’re going to feel more vulnerable than ever.
Throw the idea of “having it all together” out the window. You’ll barely wear makeup. You’ll have greasy, unwashed hair. Your nursing pads will fall out of your shirt randomly. You’ll melt down because you don’t have time or energy to vacuum. Friends and family will see you at your absolute lowest.
It takes courage, but let them. It’s okay.
Ask for help.
Take all the help. Meals. Dishes. Laundry. Holding babe while you shower. Having family stay overnight while your partner is on a business trip. You name it, say yes. Asking for help can be hard. But, you need it to maintain your sanity.
Know there’s no deadline when you have to be “back on your feet.” It might take you a solid two months plus before you’ll have the wherewithal to cook again. At 15 weeks postpartum, you may still be eating a steady diet of frozen meals.
Even if the help is not exactly what you’d cook or how you’d fold the towels, take it and let perfectionism go.
“It takes a village” is a saying for a reason.
The bigger the network, the better: family, neighbors, new mama groups, moms a few steps ahead of you, church communities, parenting resource centers, and counselors (try to find one who specializes in postpartum depression).
Don’t let distance stop you — you’ve got people in your corner who are just a text or call away. You’re not alone. There are also online groups of new moms, like this one, for when you really need to connect with someone at 3am.
Get out of the freaking house.
Yes, loading up the babe and juggling a car seat, diaper bag, and stroller can seem insurmountable. But, it doesn’t take long before the walls of the house feel like they’re caving in. Getting out of the house once a day or so makes a huge difference. There’s just something about Target that makes you feel like a human again.
A few other go-tos: baby-friendly yoga classes, coffee shop drive-throughs, meeting friends on their lunch break, mom playdates, and walking around the mall. You and baby will both appreciate the change of scenery.
Read a book (or do something that fuels you).
Pick up a good book — because you’ll need something that isn’t diapers or nursing or scrolling mindlessly through your Insta feed. It’ll feel good to do something for yourself during those countless times you have a sleeping baby on your chest.
Something this simple can help you go from surviving to thriving.
See something, say something.
There may be a time when you’ll think the newborn stage is just… dark. You might be struggling with postpartum depression, and the sooner you ask for medical help, the better.
Just do it: schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re not sure what you’re feeling is normal. More people go through this than you think.
You don’t have to suffer alone or without help. Wherever you are on your postpartum journey, remember you’re doing an amazing job, though you might not feel that way. You were made for your baby, and your baby for you.
And you are more than enough, just how you are.
How did you or someone you know handle Postpartum depression?