Today’s post is the second installment in my new series Letters to Myself.
Last week’s letter was to myself as a young military spouse, and this week’s letter is to myself as a brand new mother.
I started this series, as I was inspired to go back and reflect on various areas of my life and give myself the personalized advice that I wished I had received, but in reality is only often found through the clarifying structures of experience and hindsight.
Today’s letter is very personal for me.
It is an area of my life that is still very new and very real. I usually try to write more from a reflective standpoint, in that I am usually pretty wary of oversharing present struggles or issues I am currently working through. This is especially the case, if my issues or struggles involve someone else. However, because so far this experience is largely my own, and because I think it is easy for brand new mothers and parents to feel completely alone, I want to share now while I am still in the midst of it all.
Today's letter is a glimpse into the daily chaos of newborn motherhood. Click To Tweet
This experience for me has been beyond anything I ever expected—on all ends of the spectrum from joyful to painful, from exhilarating to exhausting, from beautiful to brutal.
The postpartum recovery experience itself for mothers is such a highly personalized, and often never talked about experience.
Mine was nothing like I expected it to be.
I have experienced terrifying nightmares, abnormal levels of panic and anxiety, and obsessive irrational thoughts and fears that completely overwhelmed my normal skillsets for managing personal anxiety and fear. Couple this with sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, and insomnia from the nightmares and racing thoughts only further compounded the issues.
At first I thought it was just a matter of surviving, getting through the first few months, and slowly but surely getting better sleep as my son learned to sleep longer stretches. However, even as my son slept longer, I did not–so at about 11 weeks postpartum my husband and I decided it was time for me to seek some professional help.
I decided to go the route of a therapist, rather than first looking into what medications were available. I have now been in the care of a therapist for almost six weeks and find myself doing measurably better. At this point, I have not needed the help of medication, but I completely understand that as a valuable and needed tool for many other mamas out there.
The most valuable lesson I have learned through this experience is that speaking up, being honest about my experience, and asking for help when I needed it are exactly what have helped me get better. Only when I felt like I had to hide it, or stuffed it down deep inside, or cowered away from it feeling like I was helpless and crazy for experiencing any of it in the first place–was when I kept spiraling down worse and worse.
Mamas should not feel like they have to hide away during this time and cope with everything on their own, or feel ashamed or broken. Parents should not feel like they can never ask for help.
Maybe if instead we shared our stories and reached out to each other, we could all realize we are not alone at all.
Today’s letter speaks to me, just a matter of weeks ago, in that place of feeling crazy, alone, and completely invisible.
Dear Newborn Mama,
Today I want to say I see you.
I see how you give of yourself every day till you feel invisible. I see you disappearing under the mountain of laundry and household chores that never end. I see you looking at those chores left undone yet another day and finding everything within you screaming that this is somehow your worst effort–that merely surviving each day in a barely kept state and a barely kept house are proof that you are already not good enough at this whole mom thing.
I see you greeting your beautiful child every morning, singing and talking like it is their best day to be alive. I see you do this, even though you felt like your body was dragged from sleep at the sound of the baby stirring.
I see how you pass the mirror and try not to wince or suck things in that you never felt you had to before. I know you feel somewhat proud of your body in how it bears witness to the toll creating a life took on you, but also scared of how it has changed.
I see you trying to learn the hard work of motherhood, while still trying to be you. Click To Tweet
I see you think of family, your spouse, your friends, your interests, your career, and I see you realize everything has changed. I see you already feeling the tension all mothers feel, as your roles and needs war for your attention and the precious gift of your time—a commodity you feel now only exists in spare left overs.
I see you watch your spouse hold your sweet, precious child and I see your heart swell.
This first baby has made your house into a home, your spouse and you into a family, your daily grind into a precious life. I see you shudder as you contemplate merely the thought of losing any of it.
I see you revel in the beauty and the depth of love in your life that before you had only dreamed of one day having. Then I see you choke as you realize that one day is here and I know that it scares the shit out of you.
I see how that vulnerability sits deep inside you.
In your sleep, it haunts you with nightmares, bringing to life your greatest fears in bizarre and shattered forms.
During the day, I see it taunt you, as you feel anger and rage unlike anything you’ve felt before.
I see you wrestle with that anger, when it’s incited by the seemingly innocent mailman who has the nerve to ring the doorbell, only to set off the dog and wake your sleeping baby. I see you feel swallowed by it, as you want to lash out at anyone within reach, (yes even sometimes that beautiful baby) because the sounds become too loud, your hair was pulled one too many times, the cries became indistinguishable, the baby just won’t go to sleep, the lights became too bright, the day too long, and the night so short that exhaustion feels like its taking every last bit of your sanity.
I see you feeling angry, but I also see you hold it in check, again and again, reminding yourself to count and breathe.
I see you struggling to truly rest, as sleep threatens to take you too far away and you fear you will miss too much. Miss a moment. Miss the baby’s cries for one second too long. I see you fear sleep and long for it all in the same breath.
I see you trying so hard to be and feel normal again.
Yes, I see this even when it comes to having sex again.
What once used to be a fun and intimate experience has now turned into a raw, and often interrupted juggling act. Instead of it being just you and your spouse, whom you’ve known in this way so many times before, I see how lost you feel and I see you fighting to stay present. I see you struggling to focus, when your mind is so easily distracted by any noise in the monitor, any movement from the pets, and of course the never ceasing commentary of your inner critic comparing you to your old, comfortable, sexy self. I see you wincing, as you feel the scars childbirth left. I see you trying to hide those feelings and your squirrel-like concentration, wanting so badly to just shut your mind off for one damn second. I see you get frustrated as nothing works quite the same and now it is simply easier to just focus on giving your love than receiving it.
I see you as you brace your hand on the wall of the shower and sink yet again to the bathroom floor, letting the water pour over you, masking your tears and sobs.
I see you feel ashamed for feeling this way and this much, in the first place.
You feel out of control and so the shower floor is for whenever you feel like your body or your mothering or your time management or your patience or your worries lead to what feels like failure yet again.
The days and weeks and months are running together in such a whirlwind that the sheer thought of doing this crazy ride, day after day after day feels like a load of bricks just sitting on your chest.
I see you pause, as you wipe your face and tears when you hear the sound of your baby’s cry and I see you slowly stand, ready to face it all again. Feelings be damned.
I’m here to tell you, this is not failure.
Every day, every moment of you choosing to show up again and again, even with all of your crazy feelings—as Liz Gilbert and Glennon Melton would say, that is you taking the daily invitation to take up your own space in life and saying,
OK let’s dance.
And that bathroom floor? It is a mother’s holy ground. Click To Tweet
Remember how you and others used to describe someone fierce or badass or crazy strong as a mother ******? Today I want to give that phrase a whole new meaning for you.
You are doing life like a mother.
From Me, A Few Weeks Down the Road.
Join me next week for the next Letter to Myself: Dear Teenage Girl