Monday, December 5, 2016

Baby Blues

I loveloveLOVE being a mommy. I look at Zoe and my heart explodes with the kind of love I literally had no idea was possible. This may sound silly, but I am entirely certain that she was a meant-to-be addition to my life. I feel no ambivalence at all about the decision to have her, and I believe in my bones that she is perfect for me, for us, and for the world.

(Not but)


It's really hard. I've been struggling much more than I've shared publicly (because mom guilt.) But it's really important to me that I live authentically everywhere, even on social media and at work and on my counseling blog. So I'll admit that this hasn't been an entirely smooth transition for me, and that I routinely grieve the death of my independence and freedom. (I didn't want to admit this in particular because so many people annoyingly reminded me when I announced my pregnancy that "you know you can't just sleep whenever you want anymore!" and "you won't be able to go to breakfast and out for wine and travel all the time anymore!" and I was all confidently "it'll be fine" but turns out that part actually really sucks).

Hanging with the baby, I often get bored and lonely and overstimulated all at once. I cycle between feeling joyous and awed to feeling resentful and sad. I cry a lot, often for no reason I can adequately articulate. I probably frustrate Rodney (although he doesn't let on) because I move so quickly through my feelings and moods. The other day I literally googled "Postpartum cyclothymia" to see if that was a thing, because I felt myself cycling so rapidly between OMG THIS SUCKS and OMG I LOVE HER.

But then I had breakfast with a mom friend the other day who made me feel way better about this. She said she's pretty sure everybody feels some iteration of that cycle, but that some people don't talk about it and other people don't even recognize it. She said basically that it's impossible to feel like you have it all together all the time when you're raising little ones, especially when they're little tiny babies and can't say any words, and that it's unreasonable to expect that of yourself (myself).

Side note: hormones certainly play a role in all this too, but to greater or lesser degrees depending on your sensitivity to hormonal shifts.

So, with all that being said, I am working on some *intentional* shifts and changes; I offer them as suggestions for you as well if you're struggling with anything similar.

One shift is trying to mindfully, lovingly, gently remember that I am no longer in control of my life in the same way as I was. And being kind to myself when I remember that I spent 37 years being in charge of just myself and doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I mean, I had *decided* not to have children. Given that I took such an extreme turn on my planned trajectory, I'm trying to keep in mind that this is all pretty normal insofar as I am in a pretty predictable grieving process (for my old life) and it takes time to surrender to the new way things are. So I'm trying to be patient with myself and stop holding on so tightly to my freedom. To see this as a new kind of freedom. I'm raising this amazing, beautiful, hilarious baby with a wonderful partner (a partner who incidentally strongly encourages me to still "be a person"). While this life wasn't my "plan", I can't say it's not a pretty great accident. I can honestly say I would not change it, if I were given the option. So I have to constantly reframe, shift, let go. (I have control issues, so this is hard af).

Another shift is more self-care and working on not feeling badly when I prioritize self-care, especially since my partner is so supportive of me doing this. So I am going out of town this week for 2 days while Zoe hangs with her daddy (with his blessing). I'm going to sleep in and read books and drink wine and talk to my very wise mom friend Geneva and laze about. I will miss my family, but I *need* a small break where I'm far enough away that I can't feel guilty and come back. And, I think missing them will be good for me, to remind me what I have to come home to.

I've also been to yoga four days in a row; I realized that when I'm not moving my body regularly, I feel extra super terrible and have even less resilience to stress. Since Zoe was born, I haven't felt good in my body at all. In addition to the expected pain associated with C-section surgery, and even after that faded, I've felt stiff and sore and old and fat. I have joked that it feels like I got a body transplant from somebody's grandma. But I felt guilty (there's that theme again) prioritizing yoga when I could/should be spending time with Zoe or doing laundry or giving Rodney a break or developing a new money-making endeavor or whatever. It felt frivolous. But that's dumb because doing yoga at my beloved studio actually *makes me happy*; just one hour a day there has made a huge difference already.

I also reached out to a new therapist, because having somebody on deck who can give me perspective is helpful. I called my OB and got back on the antidepressant I was on before I got pregnant, because I believe that while medicine doesn't solve everything, it's a wonderful addition to a self-care regimen if/when you need it. Reminder: mental health is not separate from physical health, and requires the same attention and maintenance.

I intentionally go to bed super early, so that when the baby wakes up early and needs me I don't feel so irritated (because that makes me feel guilty too).

I am writing more and reaching out to friends more. I'm trying to make more plans with mom/dad friends who "get" it and won't be annoyed by the presence of a baby and/or the attending needs/unpredictability.

I am writing this and sharing it on my counseling blog in part because it helps me to process in writing, but also to offer support to other new parents who may be struggling with the transition or any part before or after. I personally found pregnancy challenging, childbirth traumatic, and the first months of parenting difficult. It's given me so much perspective I didn't have before, though! I will add to my list of services: Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Parenting Transition Struggles. I mean, I had opinions about parenthood and how to do it before I had Zoe, but I realize now that with all my good intentions, I had no idea what I was actually talking about from an 'in-the-trenches' perspective. Everything is new and different now. It takes time to adjust, and I'd be happy to help anyone else with their adjustment, in part for selfish reasons: because in helping others heal, I often end up healing myself.

If you're in a similar place, and don't have someone you trust to work through it with:

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