When talking about motherhood, there’s so much to cover and so many things I want to share.
It is honestly hard to narrow my focus and decide where to start. Soooo, we’re just going to start at the beginning!
If you are familiar with my story, you know how my transition into motherhood was anything but smooth.
But before we jump into the details of my motherhood journey, I want to address there are so many different protocols, so many ideas and opinions about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood in general.
Please hear me when I say I fully acknowledge there are multiple approaches and perspectives to the things I’m going to share.
Birth is so dynamic, it’s nearly impossible to discuss without leaving something out, or seeming like I’m coming from a perspective that’s not taking alllllll things into consideration.
Believe me when I say I understand there are so many factors and scenarios that play out.
Life Doesn’t Go Like We Think It Will
Motherhood and parenting rarely go how we envision it would.
I don’t think anyone listening to this would say pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and motherhood went, or is going, exactly as you expected or wanted it to. There are so many variables, outside factors, and things out of our control.
I mean, obviously, that’s life. But somehow we think if we prepare and plan enough, things will just go our way.
And that’s not always how it works out.
Your Dream Birth Plan
It all starts with a birth plan… Well for some people.
If you’re anything like me, you believed because you studied, researched, and crafted a perfectly thought out birth plan, labor and delivery would go… Well, according to plan.
I wish that’s how things worked, but if your story is anything like mine, birth didn’t go anything like the plan….
Not the first, second or third time!
In the future I’ll share a summary of each of my girls’ birth stories, which will be a lot of fun!
We’re sold on this idea you’ll go into labor naturally, have the option for an epidural if you choose, labor for while, push for a bit, and out comes baby.
Perfectly placed on mama’s chest where she’ll have skin to skin, the cord won’t be cut until it’s done pulsing, and baby will latch and nurse… All will be right with the world.
Okay, just describing this picture perfect scenario makes me want to laugh.. But at one time it would’ve made me want to cry! I’ll explain.
If you have already given birth, it may or may not have looked like what you dreamed of.
Maybe you didn’t go into labor on your own like you expected.
Maybe you didn’t have time for an epidural like you expected (or got one even though you didn’t plan to).
Maybe you labored for days instead of hours.
Maybe you pushed for hours instead of minutes.
Maybe you didn’t even make it to the hospital, or ended up there even though you didn’t plan to.
My Birth Plan Didn’t Go How I Thought It Would
I don’t want to specifically mention anything that could be triggering. However, when my first birth ended up being delivered via emergency c-section, I can say that’s not what I planned.
She wasn’t placed directly on my chest. I didn’t get the skin to skin I had personally planned for. Instead, she was wheeled away.
I did get to see her briefly and my husband held her down next to my face so I could see her, but that was about it.
And that’s traumatic.
To have just given birth and be separated from my newborn was traumatic for me.
I know this can look different in many ways, so if you experienced this in any way, just know while I may not understand your exact situation, I do know what this feeling of separation is like.
Even though I was thankful my baby girl was healthy and here, it was not an ideal situation.
Recovering from a c-section after laboring (and I’m sure without laboring as well) is, um, hellish.
I’m sorry but I don’t know how else to describe it.
And while we’re here, can I just say we need to stop telling new moms “Well at least…fill in the blank”
“Well you should be thankful that …”
That’s not helpful.
It’s not helpful to a woman who is recovering and is so fragile. I hated when people said things like this to me, because then I felt guilt and shame on top of everything else.
For me, it wasn’t necessarily a disappointment my first birth didn’t go as I’d expected it to, it was more of a feeling of failure.
Like my body couldn’t do something it was made to do.
And this came after struggling to get pregnant with her. (I’ll do a separate episode and blog on our journey to getting pregnant.)
This feeling of my body “failing” me was something I was familiar with.
The Unexpected Postpartum Journey
From there, things spiraled out of control during postpartum.
They truly did.
I had always dealt with anxiety and had experienced a few panic attacks, but after coming home in the weeks and months that followed, the anxiety heightened and I began having panic attacks regularly.
Again, not the glowing, smiling, sunshine and rainbow entrance into motherhood. More like a bumpy airplane, coming to a screeching halt on the runway… Seriously.
I found myself sleeping, a LOT.
But it was more than just sleep deprivation (although this was a struggle as well.)
I was actually attempting to cope and when I slept I didn’t have to acknowledge my reality. Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.
I was at one of the lowest points of my life.
Even though I had the full support of my husband and close friends and family, I still felt completely alone. Like no one knew what I was going through.
I felt like nobody got it. Nobody else was dealing with this in motherhood. Nobody was seeing the sleepless nights, the frustrations with breastfeeding, the baby who would scream and scream and scream and scream.
But the reality is there are mamas all over the world, up doing the same things I was doing night after night, and day after day. They were struggling just like I was.
I just didn’t know it.
If you’re a mom, chances are you get what I’m saying. You know the feeling of loneliness, whether it’s at 3 am or the middle of the day.
We often feel invisible, like we’re doing this thing alone. But the secret is, we’re not.
You’re Not Alone as a Mother
Every mom on the planet knows how hard being a mama is.
We all get it. I was just shocked no one was talking about it.
I saw other moms showered, dressed, put together, with babies (yes multiples) in tow, and I would stare at them and think, “how in the world do you make this look so effortless?”
“Why have I never heard you talk about how hard this is?
My life has been uprooted, swirled around in a tornado and spit back out into hundreds of pieces, and I’m not quite sure how to balance all of it.
And your clothes look clean, they match, and you have your hair and makeup done.
I mean, now I get it. You learn, you adapt. You do what you have to do, and you get better at it.
Now, I do things all the time with three kids I would have never done the first time around when I only had one. It’s comical sometimes. But you figure it out and you just do it.
Reality Looked Different Than I Thought it Would
However, in the beginning, I was having a really hard time figuring out who I was now that I had a baby.
Her every need consumed all of my waking hours. I know, I don’t have to explain this to you, you get it.
But I felt so lost, almost as if I didn’t exist.
My only purpose was to keep her alive, healthy, and safe. I only existed to meet her every need (quite literally when she was nursing).
I don’t know why I had this picture in my mind of what mom life would be like. I don’t know where it came from… TV? The movies? Pinterest? Seeing what others around me looked like with their newborns?
Regardless, I constructed this image in my head (wherever it came from), and it was not the reality I was living.
Instead, I had to come to terms with my reality. Which was a process.
It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
Maybe you’ve been met with disappointments in pregnancy, birth, postpartum, or motherhood in general.
I recognize I don’t know your exact circumstances, but I do know the feeling of unmet expectations, the disappointment, the feeling of failure, guilt, and shame.
I don’t know what it’s like to experience loss, so if this is part of your story, please know my heart holds space for you. I will never pretend to know that kind of pain, or equate it to anything. That’s not my place.
(This will be one of those topics where I’ll bring others in who can speak to what that loss is like.)
Regardless of what didn’t go according to plan… The labor, the delivery, the stay at the NICU, the diagnosis.
Whatever isn’t going how you thought it would in motherhood, you need to realize you are not the ONLY one.
But also, take a minute to pause and reflect.
If it didn’t go according to plan, or how you hoped it would, in any way, it is okay.
Maybe you need to hear that today.
Maybe you need to be reminded, it is okay to be disappointed, or hurt, or frustrated.
However the unplanned circumstances make you feel, those feelings are valid. You don’t have to apologize for them or cover them up.
You don’t have to be superwoman.
But, you have to acknowledge them. You have to acknowledge the feelings. And maybe it’s not something you admit to anyone else, but you have to admit it to yourself in order to move forward.
It’s okay to not be okay.
And the first step to being okay, is admitting you’re not okay.
I knew I wasn’t okay, but I wasn’t saying it out loud, or writing it out, and I definitely wasn’t telling anyone else at that point.
It actually took my mama speaking some love into my life and encouraging me to reach out to my doctor. I’m thankful she did, because I’m not sure where I’d be if I had continued living in that darkness.
Getting to the Root Cause of Your Emotions
Now, before I make this next statement, hear me say, I know doctors and medicine have their place in the world…
I saw my OB and he prescribed me medication to help with the anxiety and panic. It did help.
It helped me function more as myself, but what it also did was put a bandaid on what was truly going on for me.
I will always advocate for medication with therapy. Because unless you address what’s truly going on underneath everything, you’ll never be “okay.”
No one was addressing my birth trauma. No one was helping me cope with the unmet expectations, with the overwhelming feelings of failure.
For me, I had to go through a time of mourning.
As crazy as it sounds, I had to mourn the loss of what I thought would be, how I thought birth and delivery and postpartum would go.
The loss of what I thought the whole process would look like.
I’ll never forget, having moments in the early months of postpartum where it felt as if I was still waiting for my baby to be born. It was like my body and mind weren’t connected and hadn’t processed the fact that she was already delivered because I never pushed her out.
It was surreal and I can’t really explain it. Maybe if you’ve had a c-section, then you understand or maybe not. That’s okay too.
It took me YEARS to work through, appreciate and truly be thankful for the experience of my first birth.
I’ll be honest, there is still a little pain and heartache there. I don’t think it’ll ever truly go away.
But the more I made space for my feelings, acknowledged and accepted them, the less they consumed me.
Making space for my feelings was not something I knew how to do immediately. It was a process. But it was something I had to figure out how to do on my own because, at that point, I didn’t know your average person went to therapy.
At that point, I thought therapy was for mentally insane people, or for someone with an extreme case. But I was badly mistaken.
Begin to Get Honest With Yourself
I did what I could with what felt right at the time.
I knew I wasn’t okay and I started expressing and working through it. This is what I want to encourage you to do.
Wherever this finds you, start where you are.
Start asking yourself questions regarding the unmet expectations.
Do you have resentment? Do you feel sad? Angry?
Questioning opens the door to becoming more self aware.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, please reach out to 1-800-273-TALK.
Or if you just need support postpartum, you can call Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.
There is no shame in reaching out to a close friend, family member, or medical professional when things are feeling like too much for you to handle.
Acknowledge Your Motherhood Isn’t Going According to Plan
When my motherhood didn’t go according to plan, whether it was my birth birth plan versus the actual birth story, or the postpartum experience I never saw coming… My motherhood has not been the picture I had in mind.
I bet you can relate to this in some way too.
Maybe in motherhood you’ve been met with disappointments or heartbreak.
Maybe things haven’t gone exactly how you thought they would.
It’s okay to not be okay. But the first step to acceptance is acknowledging your feelings.
What have you lost?
In what ways has life shifted?
What is the reality of the situation?
How did it play out? And what was your expectation?
How does that gap make you feel?
Sad, mad, frustrated, angry? What does it look like for you?
Take some time today to answer these questions honestly. If you are looking for ways to start asking more questions, check out this survival guide I made for the overwhelmed mama.
You’re strong, brave, and you’re doing really hard things. It’s okay not to be okay, but it isn’t okay to stay stuck in the brokennes.