I have sat down to write this post several times.
And each time, for some reason, I never follow through.
I do struggle with what happened when Presley was born, and how I felt after- and there are many people out there that won’t understand that. I did end up with a beautiful, healthy baby. So, that in itself, should eliminate any negative feelings, right? It’s one of the most insensitive and judgmental comments that I hear far too often… I don’t owe anyone an explanation of my feelings. They are my feelings. And if you think I am not insanely grateful every single day that my baby is here and she is ok- you must not know me. There were multiple times in pregnancy and labor that the thought crept in my mind that our baby might not make it. I bargained and pleaded with God many times. Please, please let our baby be OK. I am immensely thankful that she is here- but I am allowed to have feelings, too.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I recently had a few articles written about me.
I google myself and am in awe with how many articles there are… I did end up on a personal journey of struggle (and also acceptance) after I gave birth. It is certainly something I did not expect. I had such a beautiful pregnancy- for the most part. I loved being pregnant. I had such a connection with Presley. My husband and I grew incredibly close. Don’t get me wrong, pregnancy certainly had its low points. However, overall, it was such an amazing time in my life.
Women tend to be pretty vocal about the pains of pregnancy- the food cravings, the pain, the waddling, the heartburn, the swollen feet, the morning sickness. However, after the baby is born, it’s almost as if we aren’t allowed to talk about it. We have to pretend that we have everything together. Again, I think that it’s because we don’t want to portray any slight perceptions of ingratitude for our babies. I never realized how much judgement is out there aimed at moms until I became one.
Oh, you have stretch marks and you don’t like them? There is a woman out there that would love to have stretch marks but is infertile- so don’t complain.
You’re literally weak from exhaustion because you haven’t slept since your baby was born? This woman has been trying to get pregnant for years and would love to switch places with you- so don’t complain.
Let me be clear- I do have all the sympathy in the world for those who struggle with infertility. We went through a few concerning medical events, and came to the conclusion that “when the right time comes” I would most likely have a hard time getting pregnant. In fact, I was planning and researching the right doctor to discuss and do further testing in the weeks right before I found out I was already pregnant! Life is funny, isn’t it?
What I am trying to say, is that it’s not up to you to decide how someone should feel. It isn’t your place to judge someone for what they struggle with. If you are a new mom and you’re having a hard time- you are ALLOWED to feel. You can have a beautiful baby and still have bad days. You are allowed to have an opinion of your labor. It is OK to talk about your postpartum depression. This world needs support and love instead of judgement and criticism.
I was so mentally conflicted after I had my daughter. I was filled with the most genuine, selfless love that I didn’t even know existed. It is the highest, happiest, most pure feeling that exists. And then, out of no where, I am thrown waves of sadness. And also, more surprisingly, a grip of anxiety. I am someone who has never had true anxiety attacks until after I gave birth. I didn’t want to leave the house at all. I was afraid of driving. I didn’t even want to answer my phone. I would burst into tears in public, not knowing why. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. My thoughts raced constantly. I can’t justify or explain or tell you why I felt this way. I didn’t understand it myself. I had anticipated a period of baby blues. But, after a couple of months had passed, I knew that I needed help. My baby deserved the best mom in the world- I wanted to be that mom.
I needed to put my oxygen mask on.
It’s always been such a fascinating idea to me. I’ve been taught to help others. You sacrifice for the ones you love. You put other people before yourself.
So, the first time I took a flight, and heard the instructions of what to do in an emergency, I was taken aback.
“…Place the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping others who need assistance.”
When I made the appointment with my doctor to discuss what I was going through, I was terrified. I ended up canceling the initial appointment. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be grateful for what I had. I thought, if I tried hard enough, I could just overcome this. But then, I got worse. The more I obsessed about being OK, the deeper I fell into my symptoms.
To most people this may be a surprise. It is certainly not something I advertised. Again, there is a lot of judgement here. I loved my baby, I truly, madly, insanely did. I didn’t understand my depression. So, I knew it would be nearly impossible to find true support and understanding around me. I eventually opened up to someone very close to me. She told me she went through a very similar experience- even down to the feelings of failure in regards to a C-Section. She told me that she now realizes she struggled immensely with PPD. She confided that the first year after her baby’s birth, she doesn’t really remember. She wasn’t really “there”. She told me, “I wish that I would have gotten help.” That day, I rescheduled with my doctor.
Mommas, you need to put your oxygen mask on first. It is so hard to fully accept this concept considering it is in our nature to do the opposite. During pregnancy, you literally sacrifice your body and mind for someone else. Your needs and wants completely 360. Your baby gets fed and cleaned and loved- and you’re sitting there with an empty stomach, in the same clothes as yesterday, with layers of dry shampoo on your scalp. How often is this the case? It’s what we do. But, there is balance. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children.
It’s ok to ask for help.
Whether its your doctor or your family or your friends or your significant other. I don’t know why we feel that we have to do it all, but that’s how I felt; initially. I know so many moms who know that something is not right with their mentality. But, they are too afraid to talk about it. Did you know that:
- In pregnancy, reproductive hormone levels in a woman’s body are 20-30 times greater than normal. At delivery, hormone levels drop abruptly, along with changes in amino acids, neurotransmitters, and thyroid hormones.
- The sudden drop in estrogen, progesterone, endorphins, and other hormones may trigger depression the same way moodiness may be triggered by premenstrual changes in these hormones.
- Thyroid levels may also drop sharply after birth. A new mother may develop a thyroid deficiency that can produce symptoms that mimic depression.
I am not saying that medication is the ideal answer for everyone. Yes, it did work for me. Yes, I took many measures and alternative methods first to avoid it. Yes, it changed my life and I am so glad that I did seek treatment. Yes, it took time for it to work; and yes I had to adjust my medication to find the right dose. It is a work in progress. And yes, my doctor and my plan includes eventually not being on them.
How else can we put our oxygen masks on?
- Try to shower & dress everyday. It might sound silly to those who don’t understand. But, new moms know how much this can lift your spirits.
- Give yourself permission to do less. Your house does not need to be spotless. Sometimes, the dishes can wait. Allow others to help you with housework. I had many people offer to help us in the beginning, and I turned them down because “I felt bad”. Don’t feel bad. Take help when it is offered to you.
- Join a mother’s group or postpartum group. but be careful! There are good and bad ones out there. Find the one that works for you- that offers support instead of criticism.
- Get out of the house. This one was hard for me, for some reason I had a lot of anxiety leaving the house. But everytime I forced myself to, I did feel better and glad that I got out.
- EAT. One of the best things I did for myself is meal prep. When the baby is sleeping or you have help with watching your baby- see if you can make your meals in advance. It is a life saver. I used to seriously not eat or eat very poorly in the beginning. Changing how I ate greatly increased how I felt.
- Be gentle to yourself. Becoming a mother is a life-altering event. It takes time to understand it and adjust to it. You’re doing a great job.
- Little things. It’s amazing how the little things can affect you. It sounds so dumb, but when I painted my nails, it made me happy. Taking a walk. Go to the gym. Handing the baby to my husband and proclaiming, “I am taking a bath.” Going on a date with my husband. It took a while to accept that I am allowed “me time”. I used to think that being away from my baby for even a small amount of time made me “a bad mom”. If she was out of my sight, I felt insanely upset and distraught. I learned, that allowing myself a “break” didn’t make me a bad mom. It made me a better mom. I was more refreshed and happy. I have noticed that when I am happy, Presley knows it. She builds off of it. Momma, you are allowed to be happy.
One thought on “Put your oxygen mask on first, momma.”
Thank you so much for your honesty. I am struggling myself and I appreciate someone who can tell their story of struggle and accomplishments.