The word "postpartum" is usually associated with the concept of "postpartum depression," but the word "postpartum" itself just means the period after childbirth. Right now, I'm almost six weeks postpartum and while I was lucky enough not to have experienced actual postpartum depression, it has been a mental/physical/emotional roller coaster for sure.
Physiologically, when you're pregnant, your body has super high levels of hormones for both you and baby. After giving birth, there is a so-called "crash" when all of those hormones that were sustaining you for the past nine months are suddenly gone. It's truly a sudden drop and let me tell you, the effects are palpable.
I consider myself a pretty even-keeled person and have a pretty firm grasp over my emotions. Those first two weeks, though... WHEW. It was a side of myself I did not expect to see. To go from feeling your heart be so full of love for this tiny person one second, to hiding out in the bathroom and sobbing into a crumpled wad of toilet paper the next; it got to be pretty overwhelming.
It wasn't the hormones alone that made that time so crazy. It was the hormone crash combined with:
- Overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a human being who is completely dependent on you.
- Breastfeeding is hard and not as "natural" as one might think.
- Physical recovery from childbirth is worse than actual childbirth. And you look and feel gross.
- Sleep deprivation that comes from having to feed something every 1-2 hours around the clock.
- Guilt coming from a disconnect between what you think you should be feeling and what you are actually feeling.
- Helplessness because WTF HAVE I DONE AND WHAT AM I DOING?
So all these factors combined makes for a pretty rough couple of weeks. I literally cried every single day, multiple times a day, for the first two weeks. It wasn't all sad tears, though. Happy tears were sprinkled in here and there too! Here are some things that triggered my crying:
- How much I loved Beet.
- How much I loved Husband.
- Beet is so small and helpless.
- When Beet did her first Cries Of Despair and I didn't know how to fix it.
- Superbowl commercial about the dad and son.
- How much I loved that first week we were home with Beet.
- How much I would miss that first week we were home with Beet.
- The fact that Husband had to go back to work after one week.
- The fact that I would go back to work in two months.
- "Grey's Anatomy" episode about April and Jackson's baby.
- Too many people around.
- Wanting to be alone.
- Any song that had to do with any type of emotion (e.g., Beatles' "Blackbird," Clean Bandit's "Rather Be," Robyn + Royksopp's "Do It Again").
- That I wanted all the grandparents to leave.
- When the grandparents left.
- Huggies commercial about you being your baby's first hug, and the diaper being the second.
- Seeing Husband be a dad.
The list goes on. I think another big reason why the postpartum period is so emotional is that having a newborn affects your confidence. Imagine being at work and being assigned a project that you THOUGHT you had could handle because you had prepared yourself for months, only to find that the project is nothing like you had imagined and you feel like an idiot because your irrational boss keeps yelling at you and demanding one thing, but expects something else. Also, your boss keeps pooping in his diaper and after you change it, he immediately poops again... which wouldn't be such a big deal except that your boss cries every time he poops. THIS WOULD BE A SHOT TO YOUR CONFIDENCE, NO? I wasn't expecting this "baby project" to affect my confidence on a personal level as much as it did. That feeling like you can't do anything right is magnified when the project is NEVER ENDING and 24 HOURS A DAY. Quit the project? NO, YOU CANNOT. HERE ARE MORE PROJECTS.
There's also the feeling of a lack of compensation. They say, "but at the end of the day, you have your baby, and that makes it all worth it." I'm sure that's true, I KNOW that's true -- but at this moment, it doesn't feel true. Not yet, anyway. Because when your baby is a newborn, she doesn't smile at you yet, she doesn't laugh, she doesn't show affection. A newborn is just a lump that NEEDS you and DEMANDS things from you all day, and doesn't really give anything in return. It's a hard relationship to be in.
But here's what gets me through the day. I know it gets better. And it does get better, little by little, day by day. I can see the changes in Beet as each day passes, and she gets a little stronger, a little smarter. As her neck gets stronger, breastfeeding gets easier. As her stomach gets stronger, she cries less often when she has a burp she can't get out. As her eyes get stronger, she recognizes me and Husband and begins to actually look at us, as opposed to simply seeing us. Every day is totally different, which is both exciting and terrifying for me, being someone who thrives on structure. Regarding taking care of a baby, I've heard, "The days are long, but the years are short." I can completely see that being true. But knowing that it will only get better from here really helps you get through each day.