Blessings: knowing that we are not alone and we are not crazy
In my journey of trying to understand the new me, the postpartum me, I’ve discovered Dr. Ashurina Ream, AKA Psyched Mommy. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced training in perinatal mental health. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly helpful are her Instagram posts and online course called Keeping Mommy in Mind. Btw, this is not a sponsored post. I have no stake in Dr. Ream’s practice. I don’t even know her. But I do know that she has been a lifeline for me during this time. I think what has been most helpful is that all of the emotions and thoughts that I’ve been grappling with, Dr. Ream addresses head-on in her social media and in her online course. It was this ah-ha moment for me to know that my feelings aren’t unique, every mother goes through this, and we need to give ourselves some grace as we transition into motherhood… because the transition doesn’t just happen overnight as soon as we give birth to our baby.
As part of the online course, we learn that transitioning into parenthood can bring up feelings of loss, grief and mourning… losing the predictability of our pre-baby lives. Dr. Ream encouraged everyone to write a letter to their grief and share what elements we feel we’ve lost and what emotions that brings up. So in an effort to remain transparent about my life and my journey in being a mother, here is my letter to my grief.
For the longest time I wanted to be a mother. I had a vision and an expectation of what that would like, mostly based on how I perceived my own mother’s experience with me and my sister. But now I’m here – almost 6 months postpartum. I love my little boy so much. I didn’t know how much I could truly love him until he was here. And it feels like that love is growing bigger and stronger every passing day. However, I didn’t recognize that there would be a transition into motherhood or that I would be a different person on the other side.
I no longer feel in control of my life. It’s scary for me because I’ve always been cool, calm and collected, able to manage multiple stressors in my life at any given time. Now I don’t know if I will sleep at night. I don’t know if Aayden will be in a good mood. I don’t know how I will respond to noises, lights and too much activity all at once – sometimes I’m ok with it and other times I have panic attacks. It’s just plain scary to me to be out of control. But I’m trying to learn to let go.
I don’t have a village. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. Our village is nearly non-existent because of the pandemic. While the transition into motherhood is not at fault here, this is a huge area of disappointment and grief for me. The pandemic started soon after I found out I was pregnant so I couldn’t share my pregnancy with others like I had hoped and expected. No one rubbed my belly. We didn’t have a baby shower. I feel like we missed out on a lot. Now that Aayden is here, we’re not able to share him with our family and friends. We don’t have support because we can’t welcome just anyone into our home and lives for fear of spreading COVID. My stepmom has been hugely supportive and helps us out during the week. However, we don’t see anyone else. It’s disappointing and depressing. It doesn’t seem fair that the happiest time in our lives can’t be shared with our closest friends and family.
I can no longer be spontaneous. In part this is because of having a baby, but also I think a large part of that is because of the global pandemic that is ongoing. I can’t just pop in and see some friends. I can’t physically depend on friends and family helping out because of taking extra precautions around COVID. I don’t have friends dropping by to check on me or the baby. I can’t run to the store when needed. I can’t even pee or eat when I need to. More importantly, my husband and I aren’t able to become intimate when the feeling arises. This makes me sad and stressed out.
Things have changed with my partner. At the best of times, we had to use caution when talking about “big” or “heavy” topics. I pride myself on being an open book and readily sharing my feelings. However, now that I’m postpartum so many topics are a trigger for me and cause me to react unlike myself. I’m quick to anger. My husband is constantly on edge and stays far away from serious topics because he doesn’t like to talk about feelings. Even more so now, he’s unsure of how I will react. I don’t feel a connection with my husband anymore. It feels like we are co-parenting and co-existing but not in a partnership anymore. As a result, I feel like I don’t have the emotional support that I need and crave.
I feel like I was robbed of my birth experience. Admittedly I was scared of the pain and of the birth process. But I also was anticipating it. Even wanted it. I wanted to have a vaginal birth. I wanted that experience. But in the end, I had to have an emergency c-section. While it was the right thing for both me and Aayden, I’m grieving the loss of not having the experience that I expected and wanted. I’m disappointed. But I’m also scared. What if I become pregnant again? Can I even hope for and try to have a vaginal birth? Do I have to have another c-section? I hate that the idea that a future pregnancy scares me, but it does.
I lost confidence in my body – but not in the traditional sense of “oh my body doesn’t look the same.” I lost confidence in my body’s ability to support a healthy pregnancy and childbirth, which seems silly because I had a relatively healthy pregnancy and childbirth (in the end). I’m afraid my body will fail me even worse in the future. Like I’ve damaged any healthy parts of me by going through this first pregnancy. And I really want more children. My father likened my pregnancy and childbirth to a war: you won the war (e.g. I have my baby) but there were casualties along the way (e.g. my ongoing physical, emotional and mental issues postpartum).
I didn’t know that I would be feeling all of these things once I had my baby. I didn’t know that my hormones would be all over the place. People acknowledge pregnancy hormones and emotions, but I never heard anyone talk about postpartum or the changes to expect at that time. So I’m grieving and now I’m mourning.
I’m hoping that things get better. I’m hoping that as I educate myself, I can recognize what’s happening and be more even-tempered in my emotions. I am hoping that I can process this grief and mourn appropriately and then move on. However, this is a journey, and I can only take one step at a time.