Two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, my water broke. Less than 6 hours later, my breech baby was delivered via c-section and my dream of becoming a mother came true. My heart swelled and I was on cloud 9. From the time we arrived at the hospital, everything felt surreal. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an actor or because of my big imagination, but I kept looking around thinking, “This is so realistic.” As if it weren’t really happening. When my son was removed from my body, and they held him to show me, I had the same thought. I was madly in love and at the same time, it was so hard to believe that he was here!
My husband had a week off from work, and my mom flew in the next day to meet my son and to help out around the house. Despite the warnings, I was recovering very quickly and stopped taking the pain medication on my third day home. Physically, I felt great. Emotionally, I was on a roller coaster. The nurse warned my husband before we left the hospital that I would probably be teary in the coming days. We kind of shook off this warning, which was extremely naive of us. How could I not be affected? My life had just completely changed, and my hormones were going through a total overhaul. It would have been weird if my body and mind didn’t have a huge reaction.
I was surrounded by my favorite people in the world, and I had a beautiful, healthy baby. I had longed for this baby since I was a child myself, and now here he was! What was more, I wasn’t surprised or frustrated or anxious about the things I think typically worry new mothers during the first week home. I have four younger siblings, I’ve been around babies my entire life. I felt very competent and confident about my skills taking care of my son, as far as his basic needs are concerned. What scared me, the thoughts clouding my mind, were how in the world can I protect my child in this crazy world of ours.
***(TRIGGER WARNING: in this next paragraph, I describe my deeply negative and fearful thoughts- if you are sensitive to things of this nature, skip this next paragraph).
For almost a week, my mind went through a cycle as I watched my son sleep. It would start with, “How on earth can I love something this much? How did my heart end up outside my body? How did my son become so perfect?” And tears of joy would come. Next, my thoughts turned to, “Everyone starts out like this, like perfect, innocent babies,” And while that’s a sweet thought, it also kind of freaked me out. If everyone, even people who commit evil and heinous crimes, starts out like this, what happens along the way that changes everything? And then I would think about my son’s future, and wonder if he might be bullied someday, and if he is bullied, would he tell us?
*GUYS* my son was not even a week old, and I’m sitting here staring at his sweet, beautiful face wondering if someone’s going to be mean to him someday. And this was just part of it. I cried because he’s going to grow up so fast (p.s. it’s really not helpful to tell a new mom that her child is going to grow up so fast and to enjoy every minute of it. At least it wasn’t in my case. I was enjoying most minutes, just not the ones where I was stuck in my negative thoughts, leading me to feel guilty about not enjoying every minute of it). My mind went to some dark, scared places and as any overthinker knows, it can be hard to climb out of that rabbit hole. I was crying about six times a day and without my husband and Mom around, I think I would have gone insane. It was so incredibly helpful to have their support and help during that time. I also made a list on my phone of ways to redirect my thoughts. As I had positive redirections, I wrote them down to remind myself when I was alone with my son and didn’t have people around to help.
Now that I’ve given you a list of negative thoughts (sorry for putting negative thoughts in your mind), let me share:
The Positive Thoughts
- As hard as it is, I tried my best to live in the moment. In that moment, was my son in harm’s way? No. He was sleeping like an angel, and all I had do was hold him. It’s way easier said than done, but remember-“worrying causes you to suffer twice.”
- The political and social climates in our country can make anyone feel down, especially when you’ve just brought new life into the world and everyone around you is saying, “who would bring a child into this mess?” I overheard that quite a bit when I was pregnant, and naturally that first week at home brought up those thoughts. Rather than feeding into this, I recalled the lyrics to “Dear Theodosia” from Hamilton, in particular the lines “we’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you.” This really resonates with me, as someone who is optimistic about the good that will come out of this messy time. I think many of the inspiring voices and movements rising up might not have done so if we weren’t faced with this difficult presidency. Change is happening, fighters and revolutionaries are emerging and I think we’re creating a better world for our children.
- I am a very nostalgic person, so I wasn’t surprised when my warped thoughts found their way to my son growing up too fast and time slipping away from us. At one point, I was actually crying thinking about him graduating from high school and moving out of our house. Again, I know I’m crazy sensitive, but it became a huge trigger for me to hear how I need to treasure this precious time because in the blink of an eye, yada yada yada. A few years ago, I realized how easy it is for me to wish for a different time in life instead of enjoying the time I was in. I like to make lists so I began a set of running lists for things to enjoy in different seasons of the year and of life, so that when I thought of something to look forward to, I could easily add it to the list without dwelling on it. Then when that season comes around, I have a list ready of things to appreciate, things I’m excited for with that season. At my old church, the youth ministry had a great tagline: “It’s just a phase, so don’t miss it.” I try to remind myself of this every day.
- One of the biggest fears that crept into my mind, and I think this is probably the most common for new mothers, was how in the world could I raise this child, and show him the correct path, teach him the right things. How can I ensure that he listens to me? Over and over, I thought about my own shortcomings and flaws, and felt like I don’t have what it takes. After a few days, I remembered that we don’t do this alone. No one parents alone, even if it feels like it sometimes. There will always be other influences on your child, and if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by loved ones, you’ve got a built-in village to help raise your child. I will work on having faith in myself, but I certainly have faith in my amazing tribe and that gives me so much hope for my son and the man he will become.
Again, these are just some of things that, combined with basic self-care (sleep, eating, hydration), helped me to climb out of the rabbit hole of my thoughts. This was not a case of postpartum depression, and even as far as the baby blues go, I think it was mild. If you think you might be experiencing PPD or are unsure of your “baby blues”, talk to your doctor. It is their job, and in everyone’s best interest, especially your child’s, for you to be your healthy, best self.