Postpartum: My New Normal - Navigating through Seasons of Life
By Jennifer Guillot
When we finally found out that we were expecting, I was over the moon, and thought that the hard part was over! I read the standard pregnancy books, downloaded a few phone apps to guide me through each week of pregnancy, and took a couple of baby care classes offered by my hospital. I thought that I had “checked off the boxes” of everything that I needed to know to prepare for the baby.
I ended up going into labor two weeks early. My water broke during my Saturday morning bowl of cereal and I thought “This is it, finally!”
My labor was long, grueling, and due to an infection I contracted, I ended up needing an emergency c-section. I only saw my son for about 5 minutes before he was whisked off to the NICU. While he spent the next week in NICU everything was a blur. I was in pain. Breastfeeding was impossible. I was exhausted, and was a constant ball of tears.
When we finally got to bring our son home, we were so excited and couldn’t wait for the endless snuggles and pure happiness that we were certain would be in our future. But, his first night at home, he barely slept a wink, and neither did we.
The next few weeks months were a constant cycle of crying, feeding, changing diapers, trying to lay him down, and then starting the whole thing over again. I was exhausted and that’s when some dark feelings started to creep in… Did we make the right decision to have a baby? Were we really ready?
I was ashamed because we had tried so hard for this baby and now I was struggling to feel happy. I missed my old life. I missed being in control of my life. I felt so lost. It was like I woke up to this brand new life that I didn’t recognize or like.
I attempted to brush it off thinking it was just the hormones and I would feel better in a few weeks time. I didn’t. On the outside I smiled, took beautiful pictures of the baby, gushed about him. I loved my son so much, but on the inside, I was struggling to feel content with this new life. I also severely underestimated the toll sleep deprivation would take on me.
Now that I’m 2 ½ years out from having our son, and having had our daughter just 7 months ago, it’s clear that I suffered from some postpartum depression and anxiety. But more than that, I also felt wholly under-prepared for what my postpartum life would look and feel like. No one talked about how hard it is; emotionally and physically. I was not prepared to lose my identity. Becoming a mom was such a total and complete life change, that I really struggled with how to cope with that change. For 31 years I had woken up in the morning, and only ever had to worry about myself. Now I found that I had to constantly worry about someone else that always needed me.
I wish I could say that I figured out how to feel better and how I got rid of those feelings. The truth is that they never totally go away. Giving myself time and grace is what has allowed me to feel a bit more like myself again and to be content with the person that I am today. I had to learn how to prioritize my needs.
As moms, we are all going through a season of sacrifice. You sacrifice your body, your time, your sleep, your emotional well-being for someone else. It’s not easy and it’s not always enjoyable and rewarding. But that’s what’s so great about seasons, they eventually change. Life won’t always be so hectic, so chaotic, so sleep deprived. And your babies won’t always be so little. Enjoy the moments that you can, but it’s okay if you don’t enjoy every minute of it. Your life will probably never look like it did “pre-mom” but it will still be wonderful, fulfilling, and full of adventure.