Life With A Newborn Might Not Be All Sunshine and Daisies
This post is going to be very different from my regular posts. For a start, it’s going to be shorter. For another, it’s not really going to be about a podcast.
Many of you know that I am now in the process of certifying as a Postpartum Doula. It’s got me thinking about the postpartum period, the fourth trimester as it’s sometimes called, and about my own experience of that time.
Recently, there was a post in a group I belong to from someone open enough to admit that she was feeling overwhelmed by postpartum life. A baby, older children, a husband, housework, guests…. It was too much to handle everything and so she reached out.
I love that she did that.
You know what I love even more?
All the amazing, non-judgemental support she got from the other group members.
When we are waiting for our babies to arrive, especially if it’s our first baby, it’s very easy to think that, apart from a bit less sleep, our lives will be much the same, just, you know, with a baby along for the ride.
That’s what I thought anyway.
What I did not see coming was how overwhelming I would find the responsibility of, well, everything!
Many of my friends already had children and as I’d always been fascinated by pregnancy, birth and the postpartum, I’d asked a lot of questions, been super observant. I was going to be this super relaxed, easy going mum.
Except I wasn’t.
I felt trapped by the fact that I had to be constantly available to breastfeed. I found breastfeeding itself stressful because, even though it worked well, I had no idea how much milk my baby was getting. I loved my baby so much but I couldn’t enjoy him because I was worried so much of the time.
My husband, who wasn’t responsible for keeping our baby alive with his milk, had fun with our son. He loved holding him and watching him and I wished I could too but I was overwhelmed with the responsibility I held for this tiny new life.
And then, of course, I felt guilty that I wasn’t enjoying my time with this baby that I’d been waiting to meet.
I talked to my husband, we had a look at the symptoms of postpartum depression and I had many of them. We reached out to our family practice doctor and she came and talked to us.
After a week or so, when my son had gained back his lost weight and then some, I felt like a totally different person. I still worried but I realised that, for me, a huge part of it had been feeling this pressure to make sure he gained weight and having to trust that your body is making enough milk and that your baby is taking enough in was so incredibly hard.
I don’t think I truly started to relax and enjoy my little boy until he was a couple of months old. I remember getting him ready for bed, trying to keep things calm and quiet then looking down at him and receiving the biggest, cheekiest grin ever.
I think that’s when I fell in love with him.
Is it just me?
So, as it turned out, I did not have a postpartum mood disorder. So, why then, did I feel that way?
It wasn’t until I started to talk to people about just how overwhelming I had found things that I discovered that the vast majority of the women I spoke to had felt that way too.
But nobody talks about it.
We are starting to be more and more aware of risk factors for, and signs of, postpartum mood disorders but we don’t talk so much about the ‘average’ postpartum experience which also comes with a lot of emotions, ups and downs and really huge changes for both you and your life.
I hesitated to write this post because I didn’t want to bring grey clouds to what can be such a joyful time and of course there are many, many moments of wonder, love and joy getting to know your new baby.
But, I think it’s important, really important, for mums-to-be to know that feeling overwhelmed is absolutely ok.
It’s ok to not enjoy every moment. It doesn’t mean you are failing at motherhood. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. And, it won’t last forever.
To wrap up
I suppose I just wanted to say that, whatever you are feeling once your baby arrives is ok and that talking about it will not only help you but will open up the conversation so that others will also feel able to reach out and get the support that they need.
A few resources
Postpartum mood disorders
This post explores the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders and, if you think you might be experiencing one, please reach out sooner rather than later. Postpartum.net and Postpartum.org are great resources.
For some ideas on how you can prepare both practically and emotionally for your postpartum time you could explore one or more of the below posts –
Bed sharing with your baby
I am currently reading a wonderful book about this. It gives very clear advice on how to ensure you do this safely, goes into detail about why this can be so beneficial for the whole family and underlines that bed sharing is actually how we are designed to do things.
Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family is written in a very clear, non-judgemental, down to earth way and, even though my little ones are no longer babies, I’m really enjoying reading it.
Finally, this video on various breastfeeding positions is not only really useful and informative but beautiful too.
How did you experience your fourth trimester? What advice would you give yourself now, looking back?
I’d love to hear from you!
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.