Just when you think you’ve got a handle on this new experience called motherhood, it creeps up behind you when you least expect it. The lethargy, the loss of interest in things you normally love doing, the difficulty to smile or to even cuddle with your partner, the intense desire to just sleep and the voices. The voices that try convincing you that somehow you’re failing this supposed “test” of mommyhood, this test that everyone around you seems to be passing, or at least getting a better grade than you.
Your face deep in your pillow, you know that those thoughts are ridiculous – there is no such thing as a test when it comes to parenthood.
“No, but it IS a test! It’s the most important one! It’s not just pass or fail, IT’S THIS LITTLE PERSON’S LIFE!”, your voice reminds you. “You suck and you’re doing it all wrong!”
You know that voice, you know it’s manipulative. It’s comfortable within misery and wants you to stay there.
You hear your baby cry. Your first reaction is dread. Noooo, not yet. I can’t get up. Go back to sleep. Of course, she doesn’t stop, she needs you. You see her smile, and it pulls the real you out for a few beats. You smile back and you pick her up, smoosh your face in her belly and breathe her in. For those few moments, you’re back. You fall into the routine of caring for your little one: feeding, change her diaper, playtime, tummy time, nap time.
In the bathroom, you undress to take a shower and look at your reflection in the mirror. 12 weeks in and you still don’t recognize this body. Your belly is still rippled with the battle marks of having stretched beyond belief to nest your baby for those nine months. Because you breastfeed, your once perky breasts are now a little lower, a little flatter. Your legs are hairy because you never have time to shave them, your hair is growing out all weird and any semblance of style is pretty much gone. You’ve officially lost yourself. And you break down.
Then you have a moment of clarity – this is dangerous. This is not good. Get a hold of yourself. It’s okay to feel like this, it’s normal, but no more. Cut it out. You know this slippery slope, you’ve been down it before in the past, pay attention to the warning signs. Take your shower, shave your legs, place your hair, pluck your eyebrows. Damn it, put makeup on and get dressed. Really dressed, not yoga pants. And smile! Get that dopamine flowing! Get out of the house, go see your friends, go hang out with people. Be you, you’re still here!
And then you realize you’ve managed to run away from postpartum depression this time but it’s still trailing behind you; you just have to stay that one step ahead of it.
With smiles, effort, getting out of the house, and a support system you can do it. And if you can’t, you can always reach out to a professional. You’re not alone.