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Motherhood Is Mental: My Journey Through The First 3 Months

Motherhood Is Mental: My Journey Through The First 3 Months

The first 12 weeks postpartum is often called "the fourth trimester" or "the newborn stage." I simply dub it The Dark Ages. It's a profoundly vulnerable period for all mothers, but for a first-time mom who had never even held a newborn baby, it completely upended my world.

Bringing my son home after sixteen hours of labor and nine months of nausea, pelvic pain, and fatigue, initially felt like everything was coming up roses. As I woke up on that first morning at home, my husband brought me coffee in bed while our baby peacefully slept nearby in his bassinet. I couldn't help but count my blessings, reveling in the "easy" delivery and our healthy eight-pound bundle of joy.

However, reality hit like a belly flop from a high dive not even 24 hours later when my baby's relentless screams echoed through the walls, plunging my mind into a state of frantic overdrive. There was no magic button to summon a nurse, no manual to consult, no helping hand. Just an overwhelming surge of anxiety coursing through me with every ear-piercing shriek.

The cumulative effect of sleepless nights (because let's be honest, what even is third-trimester sleep?), coupled with the myriad challenges of motherhood, left me feeling inadequate. From mastering the art of diaper changes (while sporting my own diaper) to grappling with the emotional rollercoaster of breastfeeding, each day presented a new hurdle.

Instead of joy, tears became my constant companion. Despite reading about the baby blues, I found myself sinking deeper into a pit of despair. It had been over two weeks and I hardly cracked a smile. Family visits, meant to offer support and levity, only grated on my nerves with every joke or silly comment. How could they not see that this was no laughing matter? I’m sustaining human life over here! 

As someone who typically exudes positivity and loves a good laugh, I felt like my entire personality had been stripped away. Would I ever reclaim the carefree spirit I once knew?

For weeks on end, my shoulders remained perpetually tense, my body rigid with stress. Sleep, a distant memory, remained elusive, leaving me depleted both physically and emotionally.  I will spare you the agonizing details of my breastfeeding journey, but let’s just say, it came to a painful halt upon discovering my son’s oral ties.

Transitioning to formula brought a semblance of physical relief and a few precious hours of uninterrupted sleep, now that my husband could help with night feedings. But with that also came a whole new mental hurdle: guilt.  

As a wellness writer, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching the health benefits of various nutrients. Naturally, when considering my son's well-being, I was inclined to opt for the natural way of doing things after reading about the benefits of breastmilk. So when it didn’t work out as planned, I couldn't shake the feeling of failure. It took multiple breakdowns before I could finally accept that prioritizing my well-being was synonymous with prioritizing my son's. 

During this period, I became a shadow of my former self. The passions and hobbies I once cherished—writing, playing guitar, spending time outdoors—all fell by the wayside. While my husband encouraged me to reconnect with friends to feel a sense of normalcy, even the simplest tasks felt impossible (did I brush my teeth today?). Sacrificing the very essence of who I was for the role of "mom" was just another bitter pill to swallow. 

It wasn't until my son flashed his first smile around six weeks old that I felt the weight begin to lift. With each passing day, his coos and gurgles nudged us closer to brighter days. Now, at four months old, I can reflect on those tumultuous first twelve weeks with a blend of laughter and tears.

I can chuckle at the absurdity of my 3 A.M. readings on sleep training or the comical complexity of car seats and stroller assembly. Yet, there are still days when tears flow freely when the challenges of motherhood loom large. I've come to realize that this is part of the journey—the ride of a lifetime—and I’m buckled in.

I've been gradually reclaiming pieces of myself, one baby step at a time. Whether it's jotting down my thoughts in the morning when I've had a decent night's sleep, soaking up the sunshine with walks in the park, or faithfully taking my vitamins and magnesium supplements, I'm slowly finding my rhythm again. I've even dusted off my guitar a couple of times.

While the physical journey of childbirth often takes the spotlight, the mental aspect can easily slip under the radar. So, whether you're knee-deep in the whirlwind of the newborn stage or still wrestling with postpartum blues long after, just know you're not alone in this.

Here's the takeaway: I've come to appreciate the value of a restful night's sleep, the vital role of self-care and nourishment in supporting mental well-being, and above all, the undeniable truth that mothers are bona fide superheroes, capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit.


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