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World Maternal Mental Health Week: Hang in there – an open letter to new moms

 

In honor of World Maternal Mental Health Week…

These are examples of the emotional struggles we can all face as we come home with a newborn:

You’re in shock, your body feels sore.

You open the door of your home, and the familiar smell hits you. It’s comforting.

But it strangely feels quiet and empty without the help of midwives around you.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

You’re bursting with love. More love than you thought you could ever feel. A selfless love. Yet it’s coupled with crippling anxiety about whether you’re doing things the ‘right’ way.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

You feel a million emotions in a matter of minutes, as tears of joy and sadness take turns streaming down your face. You know you need to take care of your baby, as well as your mental health.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

Seeing all the items you thought you needed in your nursery, you realize all your baby needs right now is the comfort of you. You’re tired though, and you need sleep.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

Your nipples are sore or you second guess the amount of scoops you added to the bottle.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

You’re not sure when you last had a shower and dry shampoo is your new best friend. Yet you have guests coming to meet your new little bundle.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

The words ‘that’s not how we used to do it’ echo in your living room as relatives bustle around to get their first cuddle.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

Your partner leaves for work for the first time after being there with you since the birth.

Hang in there, you’re doing your best.

As the first days and weeks pass, you’ll find your new rhythm.

And your confidence will grow, until you believe that actually, damn right, I am doing my best. 

I found those first days of life with our newborn daunting. Yes, I was beaming with happiness to have him and hold him.

But we went through a complicated birth, and the fragility of life suddenly felt so real to me. So, when we were finally discharged from the hospital I was full of such protective love and such anxiety at the same time.

While trying to get my strength back I was also trying to find my feet in my new role as a mother.

I loved it. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I’d feel. You can prepare for the practical things. Ticking off the list of items you need in your nursery and hospital bag. But suddenly you experience the emotional side. Like lightning, it hits you like a bolt. Both the most amazing gift coupled with the complete unknown.

My life was always full of love before I had my son. And I knew I’d love him more than anything. But I never knew my heart could feel like it was pulled open and exposed in such a way. From now on I was not in control of it and I found this both a beautiful and scary emotion to come to terms with. We’d done the courses, read the books, and had experience with children. But, nothing could’ve prepared me. And I wish someone had said, ‘It’ll be okay. Just hang in there.’ Because it does get easier. You eventually get more sleep. Your emotions will settle. You find your own routine. Your new balance as a family. And suddenly, you’re in a rhythm.

This selfless love you’re experiencing is a gift.

But there’s always an expectation on moms to have it all together from the beginning.

To be nothing but grateful for this journey. And I want to remind you that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, or anxious, or sad, or everything all at once. Your bond as mother and baby will not be any less stronger because of it. 

It turns out that after my traumatic birth experience, I suffered from some post traumatic anxiety. But, even after speaking to friends and moms who had straightforward births, I learned they still experienced this overwhelming sensation of emotions. It’s World Maternal Mental Health Week. So let’s be there for each other and talk loudly and proudly about our feelings and our mental health, because we’re all in this together and we should all lean on each other when we need it. 

Hang in there, and believe me that you’re doing your best.

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