I’ve never done well with big changes. It makes me very anxious and I’m never comfortable with how long it takes me to get used to things. This change, though it was the biggest of my life, I was ready and excited for. I was 9 months pregnant with our beautiful baby girl, she was due any day and all I wanted was to nest. It was deep in my bones, that feeling of wanting to have everything perfect for when we brought her home. Thanks to my hormones, I even remember crying when I saw that the window shade was crooked (it’s funny now, but at the time, it really felt like something to cry over). But I couldn’t nest. We were due to move to a different state in two weeks, so instead of placing everything perfectly on shelves and in drawers, I was pulling them out and placing them in boxes. So I did what I could with what I didn’t have to pack yet. I can’t even say the number of times I pulled all of her clothes out just to re-fold them and put them right back; wanting desperately just to feel like I was organizing something.
A week and a half before her due date, she came. The fact that she didn’t have a nursery didn’t matter anymore, because she was here with us, and my God, she was perfect.
But I couldn’t stop crying. Partially because I just couldn’t believe she was here and she was ours and I finally got to be a Mommy.
The other part, because I was so tired; because nursing hurt such an insane amount more than I expected; because of 9 months worth of built up hormones taking a big ol’ drop all at once; because there was so much more change about to happen that scared me; and sometimes because of reasons I didn’t even know, tears were just constantly there.
Porter was born on June 22nd. On July 4th, we were due to move to a different state, 2.5 hours away from our families, at a time where all I wanted was to be 2 minutes away from my Mom. My husband was about to start his brand new dream job as a high school Athletic Trainer; a job that would have him away from home usually for about 12 hours at a time. The dynamic of our marriage, our overall relationship, now had a new person in the mix. Our entire lives were changing.
And I was petrified.
But we did it. We packed up everything; our cat, all of our belongings, our brand new baby. Anxiety and postpartum depression didn’t ask, but they came, too.
And we moved. With more help from my parents than we ever could’ve asked for, so many tears on my part, so many hugs, so many “am I going to be a good Mom?” questions, in desperate need of some magical words to ease the heaviness on my heart that for whatever reason, I couldn’t push aside.
Then everything that I was petrified of, happened. My parents left to go home, my husband left for work, and there I was in an empty new apartment, a place I’d never lived, 25 boxes full of our belongings, our 2 week old baby, and motherhood an exciting but terrifying mystery. It was so much, so fast that I was still sore from giving birth, my eyes still bloodshot from pushing. I’ve never had a history of depression, so I only merely skimmed over anything related to postpartum depression when I was reading everything before I had our daughter. Stupidly assuming that I was invincible to it, until it hit its worst several weeks later.
Porter was asleep in her car-seat, one of the only places she would sleep in her first few weeks of life, sitting right outside of our closet so that I could see her while I unpacked my clothes and hung them in their new places. Nothing happened to spark it, nothing at all, I just sat down in the floor and started hysterically crying, to the point where I could hardly catch my breath. A panic attack. My heart hurt so much that it felt as if someone close to me had just died. It was like heavy grief, but from what? I hadn’t lost anyone; in fact, just the opposite. I had just given life to someone. It felt so unfair that I wanted to be the happiest I’d ever been over that, but the darkness wasn’t going away, and I didn’t know what to do.
It was grief from all of the change, from the loss of my old life that I was used to. As my body went through grief from the change of hormones, the change of an old dynamic, the change of our life as an entirety, giving me a sadness so intense that I didn’t even know I could feel, I realized what it was; postpartum depression.
So I told someone. I told two someones. My husband and my Mom. They both listened to everything I had to say, they offered their shoulder, they wiped my tears. My Mom even drove 2.5 hours more than once just to give me a hug and let me cry. And then finally, after reaching out constantly when I felt down, consistently taking my prenatal vitamins (which also helped with my milk production), and drinking red raspberry tea (which helps level out hormones), after about 2 months, it started to slowly subside.
It. Got. Better.
It always drove me crazy throughout the first year when people would ask how we were sleeping, we’d say not at all, and they’d follow it with, “You will one day, it gets better.” Well, sure. We knew that. But how do I get through the NOW part?
And that’s so important; not discrediting the NOW that you feel before the “one day” when it gets better. So here’s what I so desperately want to tell anyone who has gone through, is going through, or may go through this:
Say how you’re feeling out loud even if you don’t understand why it is that you feel that way. Find someone you trust with your feelings and talk it out, a lot. Cry when you need to, and if that’s every 5 minutes, allow yourself to do that. You’re letting it out little by little. Don’t ignore or discredit how you’re feeling, and most importantly, do not think that how you feel makes you a bad Mom. Not even for a second. You’re allowed to be overwhelmed with the biggest change that life has given you, even when that’s a beautiful change. But don’t add guilt to something that is already out of your control.
I feared deeply that admitting to be anything other than happy as a new Mom, made me a bad one. That’s false. How I see it now is: I overcame my first big challenge as a Mom. And that was to figure out how to be there for someone, completely, 100% of the time, when I couldn’t even be there for myself. How to pick up my life and deal with the grief of change by combating it with things I hardly felt in me anymore. But I did it.
I’m so pissed at postpartum depression for inviting itself into people’s lives without asking. For robbing them of feeling anything but happiness in the happiest thing that’s ever happened to them. It’s unfair, it’s so damn unfair, but it’s not forever. It’s hard to talk about, impossible to explain because you don’t understand it yourself, and truly it’s frustrating and exhausting being sad for no reason at all.
Due to supportive people in my life, and pushing past the untrue thoughts of it all not being okay to say out loud, it got better. Not only better, it got amazing. This Motherhood thing is always a mystery, but it gets more and more fun every day. My daughter is 16 months old now. She hugs and kisses and says, “I love you,” and she is so incredibly caring and smart for such a little girl that it blows my mind every day. My relationship with my husband is stronger now than it’s ever been; it turns out that taking care of that new little person in the mix would be our new favorite thing to do together. We love where we live, and although I’m sure there will be big changes in our future together, the change that felt like unbearable grief when it was new, turned into the best thing we ever decided to do for our family.
But that’s the beauty, I’ve found, about the grief of change. Neither the grief nor the change last forever. Eventually, the things that hurt may even become the very things that heal you, they just need the time and the faith to be able to bloom.