No one really knows what goes on behind the scenes after birth, when mom struggles to breastfeed, when mom has to be accompanied by nurses to the bathroom just so she could pee or shower, or when mom goes home to be alone.
No one ever told me what would happen after I gave birth to the complete stranger that was my baby. Many of my friends who aren’t mothers yet have asked, what in the world is it like to have a newborn? How does it feel like?
Admittedly, my story is different from others. I’ve heard of moms experiencing depression during pregnancy or only experiencing it after having their fourth child! I had post partum depression during the first month after childbirth. If there’s one thing I wish someone had told me before I gave birth, it would be about the reality of post partum depression and how common it is among new mothers. New moms who are reading this, my message is that you’re not alone.
Here is my story.
At the Safe Haven
I lay on the bed in the birthing room. I was no longer pregnant. I felt like I had been completely deflated. I thought, “It’s just me and my body, all to myself again.”
Baby and I were then wheeled out of the birthing room to go to a regular room. Each nurse, patient or passersby beamed in delight to see the newborn baby. In my melancholy, I felt I was invisible that I was merely the passageway for this baby to be in this world.
In the regular room, I was being coached to breastfeed. I thought, “Wait a minute, my body is back to being just mine again, why should I be breastfeeding? I mean, she just came out of me right so she should have had enough food to eat in there to at least give me like a day to rest. Gosh am I tired.” I really was no longer pregnant but my body, this body, was not all for myself… Ever… Again.
The hospital room was my safe haven. My family and friends visited me and congratulated me. My husband took care of her so that I could sleep. Nurses and doctors checked up on me and baby regularly. I didn’t have to worry about anything but myself because these professionals had my small family covered.
I counted the hours to the day we went home.
Home was a war zone. I had my firearms ready: my breastfeeding capacity, my arms to hold my baby and a great will to make her sleep. It felt like a war against my baby but really it was a war against myself.
There was that breaking point that I’ll never forget. It was the day I couldn’t go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom three times and I just couldn’t go. You know what I mean. Why? I was in pain because of the stitches. I was afraid of walking and sitting. For some reason, my body was telling me, no. That one natural thing that every human could do was something I couldn’t do on my own. How could that happen?
Then, all of my enemies showed up with their deadly arsenal. My enemies were my emotions. Emotions who seemed determined to make me fail.
Overwhelm: My baby, she’s a stranger. Who is she? I don’t know anything about her. I don’t feel bonded with her. She’s just using me… I just can’t do this, I’m never going to be able to do this. I can’t handle this. I can’t even go to the bathroom, how could I possibly take care of this little person.
Guilt: I shouldn’t be handling this new motherhood like this. I’m better than this. My baby doesn’t deserve this version of me. She deserves someone who is whole and not broken and can take care of her the right way.
Loneliness and Sadness: No one understands me. No one could possibly understand what I’m going through. I am just so sad… no one can know how deep this sadness is. It’s creeping at every part of my soul. I can’t stop crying. All I can do now is cry maybe it’s the only way for me to feel better. But it’s not helping. I can’t even explain it. I have no words… I don’t even know if I should be crying about it.
Resentment… towards my husband, my baby, my friends. These thoughts, these feelings, they’re out of control!
Fear and Confusion: Why is this happening to me? When will this end? Will it ever end? Is this my new reality? Will I never go back to being the old me? Is the old me lost forever?
Numb: I don’t feel anything anymore and I can’t think of anything anymore. I can’t even make a decision. Everything is a fog.
Milennial Mommy Woes
For around two weeks (although it seemed longer than that), I took the bullets brought by changes I could not understand.
It didn’t help that I come from this millennial generation with all the awful qualities of being entitled, recognition hungry, and subscribed to the ideals of social media.
As a new mom, I thought I could figure everything out or feel better because I was smart enough to use technology to be more informed and aware of what to do. I knew I wanted to be recognized for doing a good job and I believe I was looking for the affirmation from my baby which was ridiculous, of course. I wanted to look and feel flawless as a new mom just like all the post pregnant bodies of international and local celebrities.
The reality is that no study, article or inspirational video online can ever prepare a mother for the immense responsibility or rescue her from the feelings of lostness and confusion.
How about survival?
This is what I wish mothers had told me before I had given birth. This is what I wish they had been honest about.
Why didn’t I ever think that post partum depression could happen to me? For one, I was too concerned with being pregnant and the experience of giving birth. Honestly, how my life would shift and transform completely because of tiny human being never crossed my mind. I simply and proudly thought that I’d just have it in me to be a mother. I didn’t think there would be such an internal battle. I never thought it would break me. However, my “breaking” turned out to be essential in forming the kind of mother I am and want to be because I now look back at that month with serenity and a will to be stronger in the upcoming challenges I have yet to face.
The most important realization I gained from my experience was accepting that a baby comes with no manual.
That a baby is a person I should never “get used to” or “perfect” because she will continue to change until we’re both old and gray.
I’ll only have these small pockets of time to savor everything about her, and might as well live them in the best way they can. Because there is no way social media will ever completely capture her immense and blossoming beauty. There is no way social media will tell me what I need to hear, see, and know as a new mom. That security, that peace…comes with time, experience, and personal growth.
And I guess that’s the one thing I want to be able to tell new moms too.
Originally Written for Mom Center Philippines