I have two beautiful babes that I can’t imagine life without. Both of which have brought me some of the greatest joys and also some of the worst guilt trips (self-induced) and sleepless nights. When I had Healthyish Babe a little over a year ago, I was shocked to be confronted with feelings I had not experienced with Healthyish Girl. HG’s pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum days were bliss. Everything about it was wonderful. I loved being pregnant (even though I whined about the normal pregnancy stuff), I had an almost magical birth (Would you guys like to hear that story?), and the days after were filled with loving bliss. I remember as soon as I grabbed her to my chest, I was taken with her. She was so beautiful, and I was so happy to have her! I remember people visiting, and I couldn’t contain my excitement to show off my beautiful daughter. It was really, really great. I recovered from labor and delivery quickly and loved being a mom, even though she didn’t sleep through the night until she was over a year and cat-napped her entire way to toddlerhood. Nothing could’ve made life better.
Fast forward about 2 years, and we are pregnant with baby number 2! Yay! I knew right away she was a girl, and so I was again thrilled to have it confirmed about halfway through the pregnancy with an ultrasound. Two little girls! How much fun! My early pregnancy symptoms were much the same as with HG. Some morning sickness, tiredness, and food cravings, but nothing debilitating. Everything changed around the 3rd trimester mark.
As you know if you’ve ever been pregnant, it gets super uncomfortable at the end and you just want it to be over. (Or maybe you’re in the other camp and you love pregnancy all the way through. Bless you.) With HG I was tired and uncomfortable and couldn’t sleep and was ready for her to be here, but I still felt calm for the most part and happy and like myself. Healthyish Babe’s third trimester was a different animal entirely. I started obsessing over my health and every ache and pain sent me into a panic. I remember lying down with my daughter at bedtime and noticing an ache in my leg that had been there for a few days. I instantly panicked and Googled blood clots during pregnancy. I spent the next weeks fretting, obsessing, and panicking about my body. I have always had anxiety. I was even on medicine for a short time during college to help cope with all the changes in my life. So anxiety was nothing new for me. But THIS pregnancy and health anxiety was completely different. Why? Because I now had a little toddler that adored me and needed me and I was about to die of a blood clot! Honestly, I was petrified.
If you’ve ever had anxiety, you also know you don’t want to tell anyone you feel this way. What if they look at you like you’re crazy? What if they judge you? Or worse yet, what if they confirm that yes, you do have a blood clot and yes, you are dying. All such scary scenarios!
Well, news flash, there was no blood clot, the pain in my leg was from, you guessed it, pregnancy, and eventually I stopped worrying about that and moved on to something else. So, I would sum up my 3rd trimester with HB as ANXIETY. I remember thinking that if I could just have her, everything would be fine. My body wouldn’t ache anymore, and I would get back my sane mind and composure. Boy, was I wrong.
I couldn’t sleep very well on the night of March 11th. I rolled around the bed most of the night, annoyed that my back wouldn’t stop hurting. I had no idea that I was in early labor. With HG, labor began “normally” with contractions every 10 min apart or so, so I just assumed my back was aching because I was PREGNANT. At around 5AM, I finally got out of the bed to get a heating pad to get some relief. I ended up in the recliner timing contractions that I just knew would go away any moment. You see, I wasn’t due for another 3 weeks, I had my baby shower THAT day, and Healthyish Girl had been 4 days late. There was no way this little one would be this early. No way! (I was not prepared mentally OR physically for this baby. We had zero bags packed for the hospital. None.)
I woke Healthyish Hub up after a few painful contractions that I had to scream and moan to get through and asked him to fill up the tub. With HG, any pre-labor contractions always stopped when I got into a warm bath. I knew that would do the trick! Well, it didn’t. After two painful and close together contractions, I looked at him and said, call my mom. Poor guy, he just knew I was overreacting. We don’t have babies 3 weeks early in this house!
I got out of the tub and stared at myself in the mirror (that sounds dramatic but I was about to freak out. Why was she coming now?! I wasn’t ready for this!) and finally said out loud, she’s coming. I’m having a baby today. My mom got there and watched me have one contraction and calmly told HH we needed to hit the road, that she would be close behind us with HG. The pain was intense and contractions were about 3 to 5 minutes apart at this point, and we still had 35 minutes to drive to get to the hospital. The ride was hell, to put it lightly. Sitting in a car during almost constant contractions is torture. I was miserable physically and mentally. Even at this moment, I wasn’t excited. I was mad that she was coming so early. I didn’t have my sub plans ready for school, I hadn’t had any baby showers yet, I didn’t even have a bag ready! This was not off to a good start.
Healthyish Babe was born approximately 12 minutes after we got to the hospital. Amazingly, my doctor actually made it in time. When they placed that gooey, tiny (5 pound) baby on my chest I felt… nothing. Wait? This is supposed to fix everything! I’m supposed to be in bliss. But I wasn’t. At all. I was tired, worried about all the things that I should be doing, and now I had a newborn to take care of again. They took her off my chest to weigh her and check her blood sugar. It was low. I’m pretty sure they gave her some sugar water or formula at this point. I honestly don’t even know because it was like an out of body experience for me. I didn’t care. I know that sounds so harsh and so awful, but maybe you get me. Maybe you are nodding your head. Maybe you felt this way before, too.
The next day in the hospital is a blur. She nursed great and was so tiny, looking back she is the cutest little bald thing ever! But I didn’t feel that way in those moments. She was this tiny thing I was given charge over that was hungry and cried easily, but was she really mine? Everyone that came into my room was so sweet of course, but I think I kept saying the same thing. She wasn’t supposed to come yet. I wasn’t ready. She was too early. Even though she was tiny, she was completely healthy, minus some blood sugar problems at the very beginning, and we got to go home after 24 hours. Maybe when I got home I would feel better, I thought. Unfortunately, that didn’t help either.
The next 6 months were much like the early days with Healthyish Girl, lots of sleeping, eating, crying, and baby holding. But this time I didn’t “enjoy” it. I was so tired, my whole body ached (and not from pregnancy anymore), and I cried at the drop of a hat. Nursing was still going great, except it hurt SO BAD. How could I enjoy this bonding experience when I was in excruciating pain every time she latched on? I didn’t feel like myself, and I couldn’t connect to my youngest babe. I even had a small bout of mastitis which, if you’ve experienced, you know is awful. But through all this, I remembered something a friend had said after my first baby, she had told me to give myself time, even a year, to feel like myself again. Though I hadn’t really needed that advice with Healthyish Girl, I was constantly reminding myself of it with Healthyish Babe. That I wasn’t the only one who felt like this after having a baby, and that I would feel like myself again. On some rough days, I would say to myself, in 3 months these hormones will subside and I’ll feel better. Just 3 more months. I would hold my new tiny babe and look into her face and study her features and try to feel SOMETHING for this little bit in front of me. Anything! But still, I didn’t.
And then, it happened, like a light switch in a dark room, I rounded 3 months postpartum and I began to feel it. Lighter. Happier. I began to feel joy when I looked at my tiny baby instead of unease and anxiousness. I started missing her when I wasn’t with her. This may sound so abnormal to some of you, but I honestly remember that! I was so happy to feel that! I had been waiting for the LOVE to flow out of me for that darling, and it was finally happening!
I would say it took me 6 months after her birth to finally feel like myself completely. But I know for some moms, the feelings stick around a lot longer. Like my friend, some feel out of sorts and disconnected for a year or more.
Momming ain’t easy ya’ll. It’s tough. And I hear it just gets tougher from here. (Excuse me while I quietly cry in a corner) But let’s live in the precious, present moment, even if it seems all but precious. And for the love of all, let’s please be honest with each other. Ask your new moms if they’re okay. If they are really doing okay. Dig deep into their, “Everything’s fine” answers. Maybe all they need to hear is what my friend told me, that it can be tough at first, but it won’t last forever. You will feel like yourself again. It may be a long few months (or years), but one day you will feel connected and love that little thing you helped create.
Now, excuse me while I go grab the banana zucchini bread that just finished in the oven (if this precious babe that’s currently holding my lap hostage will let me;)). That recipe is coming soon. Trying to get it perfect for ya’ll! Have I told you yet how the zucchini is trying to take over my garden? My very FIRST garden? Madness. And the tomato plants. Good lawd, the tomato plants. They are SO BIG. I see lots of salsa in my future.
(This is just the story of my birth experience. I know everyone has a different story. Please know that your story isn’t “wrong” or “bad” just because it’s different. If you have tough feelings you are grappling with after birth, reach out to someone. Tell your doctor. Make them listen. And know from my heart I feel ya, and I’m thinking of you.)