Your world is officially rocked.
You have been handed a squishy, little, mewling babe. This baby is probably angelic and terrifying at the same time. Along with this baby, you have unknowingly been handed “judgy pants.” Unfortunately, you may find that these pants fit very well. Try your damndest not to wear them… not when hearing about, or being around other mothers… and especially not in your alone moments at home.
I had the judgy pants. I may have even had them before my first baby was born, because I spent my pregnancy days reading, researching, taking parenting classes, and had come to the conclusion that I was going to be the perfect mother.
From the day I brought that baby home, I was not.
I had a traumatic birth and a colicky baby. I also had no nearby family, no mommy friends, and no close friends to rally around me. It was just myself, in my judgy pants, un-showered and alone with a screaming baby.
My son cried endlessly and I was unable to soothe him. I felt helpless. I judged myself as an inadequate mother.
Breastfeeding was difficult, and my baby was hungry every half hour. I judged myself for not being able to provide.
The cries of my son were powerful. His wails opened up a black hole in my world that sucked away everything I was and used to be.
I blamed him. I blamed my husband. I was disappearing. I was exhausted. I was angry.
I cried and judged it as weakness.
I screamed and judged it as an awful loss of control.
I was anxious my baby would stop breathing.
I had thoughts of him falling from my arms and breaking his neck.
I stared as his red, angry face, and he felt foreign to me.
I had thoughts of running away.
I had thoughts of an evil force that was after my baby.
I heard whispers in the shadows.
I had thoughts of dying.
I judged these thoughts as crazy. I scrunched them up and kept them all to myself out of shame.
I had postpartum depression, and later postpartum psychosis. The disorder recently started to rear its head again after the birth of my second son. We knew what to look for this time around. I am trying my best to be open, and forgiving, and to demand time and care for myself. Most importantly, I am seeking professional help. I am also enjoying my baby.
You may or may not experience any of the things I did. However, chances are you were given the judgy pants. Look down, rip them off and put them under the dirty laundry pile. Chances are you won’t get to that pile for an obscenely long time, so consider the pants lost.
Instead, I suggest some talky pants. Or better yet – a talky muumuu. Don’t judge which feelings are worth sharing. Judgment, and fear of it, keeps you paralyzed and hidden. Talking can shed light on a mood disorder if you have one. If you don’t have one, it just helps you feel less alone.
The clichés are all true:
They grow so fast.
The hard times will pass.
Make time for yourself.
Enjoy it while they’re babies.
Trust your instincts.
Or at least they can be true if your brain lets them. Here’s what is also true:
You did not make a mistake.
You can be capable.
You do not have to feel alone.
Motherhood is shockingly hard.
It can also be great.
Trust me, it will also be the best thing you ever did.
Jenni writes on her personal blog, MommyNaniBooboo.com, and was honored as a Voice of the Year at the BlogHer’11 Community Keynote. She is outspoken as a PPD survivor, and as a survivor of sexual assault. She believes in therapy, the written word, and the power of laughter. Don’t call her on the phone – she’s not skilled at the phone. You can follow her on Twitter @mommynanibooboo.
The 4th Annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health is presented by Postpartum Progress, a national nonprofit 501c3 that raises awareness & advocates for more and better services for women who have postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth. Please consider making a donation today, on Mother’s Day, to help us continue to spread the word and support the mental health of new mothers.