What does it feel like right after having a baby? We wanted to get a glimpse of postpartum life, so we connected with five women who recently had babies. Here's what they had to say.
Q: What surprised you the most about how you felt after having a baby?
A: "The biggest surprise was how intense all my feelings became! Totally tired, totally in love, totally worried about my daughter's well being, totally amazed at her perfection. I don't think I've ever felt this strongly about anything before in my life and that means a lot as I consider myself a passionate person!!"
"The most surprising thing was feeling defeated. Day after day I felt like a failure. All my life I have been strong willed and confident. Bringing the babes home, I lost that feeling. They would constantly cry and I would constantly go into panic mode because I couldn't instantly fix it. I hated that feeling. I knew before they were born that I would feel unconditional love for them, and that was absolutely true. But I didn't know I would be so overwhelmed. I thought the "baby blues" didn't exist. Boy was I wrong. I felt like my world had been turned upside down (in a good way), but I felt like I had also lost all control. Seven months down the road, I don't feel defeated anymore, I've learned to accept that I can't make everything perfect at all times. Now, I am surprised by how much I have calmed down. I used to be wound pretty tight, now I let loose and breathe. I know that I was gifted these boys for a reason, and I take time each day to reflect on how much we have all changed since their birth. (Thanks for asking this question, by the way, I love to think about how lucky I am :)) "
"I was so exhausted after delivery. Even though I was overjoyed, it took awhile to get into a flow and really enjoy my time with my baby. I was fortunate in that I didn't experience baby blues, but I wasn't on cloud-nine the entire time either. It's a physically and emotionally exhausting and amazing process. I tried to enjoy it as much as possible and take it one moment at a time."
"I was absolutely most surprised by the emotional challenge of having a newborn. I mean everything is more challenging than you expect (labor, delivery, physical recovery, etc.). But I was completely unprepared for just how severely damaged my emotional health became. Of course it's all compounded by sleep deprivation and physiological changes, but whatever the factors, every pregnant woman and mom should know that this is something they will likely face, at least to some degree. The intense loss of self, the feeling of suddenly being trapped, and everything in life feeling like it weighs a thousand pounds are realities kept silent by women because they are difficult to explain if you haven't been through it in this particular way. I have had depression before, but these negative postpartum feelings are much harder felt because you are also responsible for another life-and not only does it feel wrong to feel depressed when you have a new life to celebrate, it feels impossible to forgive yourself for not being enough for this little person because, well, you're not. I know you can never fully prepare for the challenges of having a newborn, but I wish moms would talk about it more to moms-to-be. Maybe baby showers should be times when veteran mothers share a few personal stories of the realities of how difficult it can be and how important it is to ask for help and not isolate yourself."
"That I wasn't 100% full of joy... obviously I was happy much of the time, but there were also feelings of terror (how in the world am I going to keep this tiny human alive??), and soreness from a physical standpoint as well (which was expected but much different than imagined)."
Q: What resources were most helpful during your first few months postpartum?
A: "I'm still right in it, and everyday life with my baby sometimes brings me to the point of desperation. The biggest resources are other mothers and their understanding and their experiences. I now wish, I were closer to the women of my family-as raising a child-and especially caring for a newborn takes the proverbial whole village! We live in different cities and countries, so it is hard to get real help. Of course, luckily, there are other women who help me, friends...., but I think the view of different generations would be helpful, too. What I also want to mention, is the awareness, that children are totally tuned into who you are...be ready to be confronted with your biggest issues! They just mirror you!!!"
"We accepted help from grandparents a lot. My mom was super helpful. She would cook, clean, do laundry, babysit, and even take the monitor at night on occasion. I also found pediatrician visits super helpful even though there were a lot of them (bilirubin checks, weight checks, well child checks, and visits for medical issues). I would always go in with a list of questions. I could have found answers on my own, but it was just easier to ask a trusted expert."
"I started out using internet blogs and baby apps for references when they were born. My boys were big time spitter uppers, so I was constantly online seeing if they were "normal". I found that blogs and baby apps would only add to my anxiety. They always told me something was wrong. I turned to my sister, my mom, and friends who had kids because it brought me more comfort. The internet can't hug you and tell you "it's just a phase, it will pass and everything will be fine". I found that people closer to me were more honest and more willing to offer up suggestions and help. Don't get me wrong, I'm still constantly Googling developmental milestones, and different stages, but I rely more heavily on real people and real experiences! I do like the baby blogs where people post questions and the community posts all of their answers publicly. I spend a decent amount of time seeing how other people handle different situations."
"The best resources for me have been other new moms. Sometimes older moms are a little out of touch with how difficult it is, and they can make things worse! Also, the midwifes at my birth center were incredible at helping me cope with postpartum depression and listening to me. Go to mom groups! Just make yourself do it! This is my favorite part of my week now."
"The help in the form of my mother: one day I was so tired and stressed that when I saw my mess of a house, I had a mini-breakdown, so she came over and assumed the role of both maid and nanny so I could take a nap in my clean room."