This time last year I was anxiously trying to make sure everything was ready for my son -while at the same time ignoring the Braxton Hicks, growing bump, and never-ending bathroom trips.
Seriously ignoring that he was coming.
If you watch The Office you’ll remember when Pam was going into labor and started freaking out in the break room. Yeah. That was 100% me. My nurse told me to go check into the hospital and what did I do? Told everyone that I was supposed to go to the hospital to be induced then I went to work.
For over two hours.
Here’s a collection of my “new mom knowledge” that wasn’t always easy to learn or accept:
1) A birth plan is great! In theory.
Thankfully, I didn’t spend too much time with one. I decided to pick two non-negotiables and stick to them. I figured what I didn’t want would be an easier sell to nursing staff than what I did want. First, I didn’t want pain medication. Second, I didn’t want anyone posting about my son’s birth until I was given a chance to see him and recover if a C-Section was necessary. Did either happen? Nope. I had to be given pain medicine before an eventual epidural was needed for what was anticipated to be an emergency c-section. And pictures of my son were posted between the OR from said surgery and the recovery room.
I was confused when I kept hearing my phone going off once I was moved to my postpartum room and, honestly, assumed it was a work thing. It was awhile longer before I saw my phone. I ended up having large clots after surgery and felt miserable. I mean, who wouldn’t, you know? Thanks to COVID, it was just my husband and me.
When I finally got my phone I realized had several dozen Facebook notifications. I panicked, because while I was trying to ignore labor the day before I had scheduled posts for work and thought I did something wrong. I clicked on the most recent notification and realized I was tagged in a post about my son. Livid is an understatement. My husband excused himself from the room and my nurse, Tara, became my best friend in that moment. She was so understanding, listened to me, and would come in to check on me through that first night.
Looking back, I did have a reason to be mad. I told my husband no pictures to anyone until I was recovered, at least in a postpartum room. I told everyone no posting until everyone in the immediate family knew. Working in media, marketing, and public relations so much of my life has felt like a giant interview. I’ve felt as if I have to monitor myself to ensure the brand reputation and integrity of myself and my employer. My husband and I kept our engagement intimate and shared when we felt ready too, we had a small wedding, and I wanted this to be the same. As much as I had the right to be mad I learned to just appropriately distance myself. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries, not responding when no immediate need is shown, and saying no. Saying “no” and distancing has been one of the hardest things for me, especially when I want to please everyone. But, it had been the most relieving thing. The stress and anxiety I feel from saying no is much less than if I would’ve gone to the event, made the dessert, or done whatever it was.
2) Saying “No” isn’t always rude. Sometimes it’s a form of Self-Care
Trying to make sure everyone else is happy and settled is a great quality to have, but not when it interferes with your own happiness. I am notorious for running myself ragged for others, ignoring myself, and only stopping when I got sick. Being able to say no when someone wanted me to participate in something, go to an event, or assist in general is still one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with. Once I realized I can’t make everyone happy all the time and that there would more than likely always be someone upset with me and my decisions I began embracing it.
3) Postpartum Depression isn’t a reason to be embarrassed
After my son was born I spent a week in the hospital. For a few days, I couldn’t have Wesley without my husband or a nurse there because I was still numb from the surgery and couldn’t walk. It was hard to have people telling me I was now responsible for another human then tell me that I couldn’t be alone with them. I finally came home and immediately hurt myself getting on my bed because I had forgotten how high my bed was. I sobbed from the pain and sobbed from the pain crying caused. My husband went off to get some things we needed, like the pain medicine we had forgotten to pick up.
That first night home we had to leave to my in-law’s house because our AC was out. Then there was another week, not home while that was repaired. Everything from that point just seemed like a downward spiral. I didn’t want to ask for help, when people were over to help I was angry that I couldn’t sleep, comments about how my son was wiggly and difficult to hold were taken personally and I was angered, I wasn’t sleeping, and I wasn’t eating unless someone was watching me eat. I thought the way I was feeling was normal and I kept telling myself to get over it. Once we were home and I didn’t start feeling better I knew something was wrong. My lactation consultant finally convinced me to speak to someone and I was able to get a diagnosis and treatment plan that worked for Wesley and I.
Shortly after I sought out help I was speaking with a family member and they mentioned how their daughter had the same issues after she had her baby. When I began asking if she was on medication and if she was speaking with someone locally I was cut off by another family member who stated they told her to tell her doctors she didn’t need medication. As someone who was telling herself these things, I could only imagine how I would’ve felt if someone I was confiding in was telling me the same things. There was a never-ending feeling of loneliness and longing to be better that was intertwined with needing to take care of my baby but at the same time not wanting to exist.
Get help. It’s the one thing I now tell anyone when they start talking about their feelings of drowning or even just barely starting to lose their grip. Change is hard and you don’t need to make it harder by beating yourself up.
4) Just Go With It
There have been several moments of mom-shaming, forgotten items, and accidentally showing up in a dirty shirt (for both my son and I). Stopping and getting upset did nothing but make me more stressed, tired, and make me later to things. One of my favorite drag queens has a mantra that I kept falling back on, “Water off a duck’s back”. If being reminded to just let things roll off and not bother you isn’t the best advice I have no clue what is.
Trying to feel like myself, manage my diabetes, keep a tiny human alive, deal with a broken AC, and everything else that goes on in life learning to let go of the little things has been life and sanity-saving.
A lot of the time anniversaries, birthdays, and other monumental life events are often a time of reflection. This is no different. All of the “one year ago”s leading up to Wesley’s birthday constantly made me stop and realize how bad things were, but how good they are now. I had to go to doctor appointments alone through the good and bad news, but mine and my husband’s families have been able to see Wesley hit milestones in person. Birthday Zooms turned into Birthday Dinners. Canceling and getting trips refunded is coordinating brunches, arrival times, and all the fun things. Being pregnant is hard especially when you have previous issues that cause you to be distant. Being a first-time mom, who doesn’t like to ask for help, is hard. Having a teething baby is hard. But, what’s harder is having to do all of that alone. I am thankful for the stresses COVID put me through because I appreciate the little convinces now so much more. (Honestly after having to labor in a mask I’m basically a superhero.)
We’ve learned a lot. I messed up a lot more. But, we are all here and we don’t have to keep our closest friends and family away anymore.