When I was pregnant with my first child, I did everything I could to learn about how to have a healthy pregnancy, create an awesome birth experience, and take care of a newborn like a boss. I was going to ROCK at this motherhood thing. And for the most part, everything turned out well! God gave me a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. I had a beautiful, drug-free birth experience. My daughter started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old.
Of course, none of this could have happened without my mommy-tribe. I knew then and I know now that mommy’s need to stick together and help each other through this journey called motherhood. None of us know what we’re doing completely, but when we all help each other out, everything seems so much more doable.
One of the things I learned from my mommy-tribe (and partly from movies and TV) is that I would feel this unexplainable bond and rush of love as soon as I held my baby. It was purely biological – I didn’t need to do anything! Just sit back, and let the hormones do their job. Skin to skin helps, so I was sure that was in my birth plan. My doula was all over it. I told you I was prepared!
When baby girl was born, she was placed on my chest and I literally remember thinking, very matter-of-factly, “Okay, hormones. Go!” Nothing. Actually, something happened – I started shaking all over uncontrollably. I was terrified I would drop her, and wondered why no one was helping me hold her. Then the nurses started pressing on my belly and I screamed for the first time of the whole experience! Nobody tells you about the pain that happens AFTER the baby is out! This was not the magical experience I had hoped for. But we nursed, and eventually bonded fairly easily. She was my world, but I will say it was not because of some magical rush I felt. We just gradually loved each other more and more each passing hour.
15 months later, it was time for baby boy to be born! I assumed everything would be the same – I mean, I was a pro by this time, right? I skimmed a book once or twice, and moved on to the birth. Rather than being a silent, worshipful experience like my first, I screamed in pain the whole time and little man came out FAST, with a swollen and purple face from shooting out like a rocket. Cue the shaking and pushing on my belly. UGH.
But no worries, we would love each other just as deeply as I loved my first baby. Sure, I wondered how my love could stretch that far, but my mommy-tribe ASSURED me that love multiplies – it doesn’t divide. More hormonal magic. So, my baby was here and again I waited. “Okay, hormones. Go!” I waited. And waited. Sure, I would protect this baby with my life – he was my son! But what a really felt? He was stealing time from my baby girl. Her babyhood was cut short by this surprise baby. I mourned the time lost with my “perfect” daughter. No magic, no hormonal fireworks. I was just mad that this one didn’t sleep as well as the first. He must be broken, because I am a pro. Then, there was the guilt. My love had divided – not multiplied. Maybe I am broken too. What was I thinking, desiring to have two children so close together? I can’t do this!
By the grace of God, I didn’t spiral into the worst that postpartum depression can offer. But I can see how it easily happens to so many AMAZING mommas. I never admitted to any of the feelings I had, to anyone. I was afraid I would get labeled a “bad mom” and be treated like a crazy person, with people giving me weird sympathetic looks. Let me tell you something I have learned: You CAN and SHOULD talk to someone if you are experiencing postpartum depression symptoms. No, not everyone needs to know. But there are people you can trust, people who will support you and lift you up, people who won’t look at you like you’re crazy. They have been there. And they will walk through it with you.
Four years later, I love my boy deeply. I fought for it. I knew skin to skin would help, so we did that when he was a baby. I prayed. I cried. I never gave up. Even though I didn’t spill my guts, I refused to cut myself off from friends and family. Even now, I still hold and cuddle him INTENTIONALLY to feel my love hormones kick in. I take him out on dates. I listen to his never-ending rants about whatever pops up in his mind, because I want to learn what is in there, and I want him to never stop telling me what is in there. It isn’t easy. If I’m being truly honest, he’s still probably the one I have to love most intentionally. Although, I think that has more to do with the craziness of a 4 year old boy than having anything to do with hormones anymore – he has ALL my love (all my kids do…it eventually DID multiply!).
The moral of the story – things might not always turn out like you assumed they would. That again proved to be true when baby #3 came along, but in a completely different way. You might have to modify. You might have to throw your plans out the window and stop trusting your own “wisdom” so much. But praise be to God, we have a Savior to hold us and carry us through. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7