I realize now why becoming a mom threw my world into upheaval and sent me spiraling into the black hole of postpartum depression in that first year. The answer is actually very simple. I was completely unprepared for motherhood past the act of giving birth and I had a false notion of what having a child actually entailed. Well duh…because no one talks about any of that.
No one told me about postpartum depression or that I would wouldn’t fall in love with my baby immediately. No one told me that breastfeeding could kill my spirit every time my son refused to latch and screamed in the process. No one told me that I would rather stay in bed asleep all day then smile and coo at my new little one. No one warned me that motherhood could strip me of my identity in a matter of minutes. And I definitely had no idea then when I got better, my version of motherhood would be completely different than the one I had pictured during pregnancy. I had no idea I would spend the first year of motherhood on antidepressants, talking to a therapist who finally convinced me that my identity as a mother was good enough and to not give a fuck about the identity I thought I should have had based on moms I knew, celebrity moms I followed on social media, and Pinterest boards.
All I knew was the vision of motherhood I had created for myself based on what I thought others experienced. I would welcome my baby into the world and feel an overwhelming sense of love, joy, and amazement the minute I brought him home. I would happily breastfeed him while supplementing with formula at night for the baby nurse so I could sleep. I would spend my days outside walking him to the park and meeting other moms with new babies. As he got older, I would make his baby food, sit on the floor and play with him, read him books, and continue smiling and cooing. Time would pass, and he would be my little buddy, coming with me everywhere. We would do crafts together and build towers out of blocks and legos. I would be supermom, master and lover of all things motherhood.
The joke was on me. It took me months to bond and fall in love with my son. It took medicine and lots of therapy. There were endless tears and anxiety and the feeling of never wanting to get out of bed to care for another person. I quit breastfeeding on day five. Why the hell was I going make my own baby food when Earth’s Best, Plum, and some woman named Ella already did it for me.
I still value sleep above all else and I am not the biggest fan of getting on the floor and playing with my son. This is where Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse come in to help me parent. I lose my patience easily and I need help and breaks. And do you know what else? I love my son to the moon and back. I couldn’t picture life without him. His sense of humor and spirit are infectious. I read him books and am constantly amazed by his love for them or when he says new words and phrases. He is my little buddy, but I don’t cart him everywhere. I do most of my errands when he is at school or with our part-time nanny because I can’t stand the public tantrums and meltdowns. I couldn’t survive without babysitters because I need adult time on a regular basis.
And the most important thing? I accept myself as this mom and I don’t apologize for it. If another mom wants to judge or call me into question, well fuck her. She isn’t my friend and she isn’t someone I want to be around. I need real, honest, no bullshit people in my corner because the truth about becoming a mother is that it’s the hardest journey you will ever embark on and for that, I want support and to know that I’m not alone on mine.
When I got better and accepted myself as the mom I am, I decided I wanted to talk and never stop talking about the things no one talks about. For me, that came in the form of writing and here we are today at my blog. Writing about being this mom who survived PPD and fell in love with her son, but not necessarily all things motherhood has really helped me re-create my identity. Owning who I am, speaking the truth, and refusing to pretend has transformed me into the honest, brave, fierce, strong, independent warrior woman and mom I am today. I am proud of this woman I have become. I want all moms to allow themselves to feel this way.
I remember that while being in the throes of PPD, sobbing that I would never get out, I would always look for other’s stories of women going through the same hell I was. I wanted to read success stories. I wanted to see other moms talking about the fact that being a mom can suck and that sometimes they just wanted to quit or run. I needed concrete proof that I was normal, would return to myself, and love being a mom to my son.
Three years ago during my journey, I had trouble finding that. So I decided that when I was ready, I would become that for other moms. I would share my postpartum depression survival story with the world and take it even further. I would own the type of mom and woman I became as a result and I would never compromise my truth. I would never pretend that I immediately fell in love with motherhood. I don’t even think I am presently head over heels in love with motherhood. I wouldn’t just write about the amazing moments and there are amazing moments. I would write about everything, especially the hard shit. It’s those stories moms need to read so they don’t feel they have to pretend that they live in a world of rainbows and unicorns all the time. The more we are bombarded with these social norms of perfect motherhood, the more we feel like there is something wrong with us because we don’t fit them or don’t want to fit them. It leads us to hide the truth because we either feel ashamed or as if we failed in some way at motherhood.
Social norms are bullshit. We need to stop listening to them. They ruin so much about motherhood for most of us and make us feel horrible about ourselves and our capabilities as mothers, especially at the beginning. Breastfeeding making you miserable? Stop! Breastfeeding making you feel fantastic, capable, and close to your baby? Keep doing it! Not loving the infant stage? That’s okay. Infants are boring. Feeling guilty for taking some time for yourself? Don’t! The only norm should be, “Happy mom, happy baby!” We shouldn’t need permission to be happy and especially to be ourselves. Happy is what works for you, not what everybody else says should work for you. Embracing motherhood means embracing the mom you are and they way you parent, not the mom you think you should be or need to be. Motherhood is not one size fits all.
So if you need permission, you have mine. Be you. Do you. It’s enough. And if anyone tries to convince you otherwise, shames you, or makes you feel like less of a mother, fuck them!