We recently asked our ParentData Village to share some words of advice and encouragement they needed to hear postpartum. Our Village showed up! Here are some of the amazing comments you all shared. We hope this offers encouragement and comfort during your own postpartum experience.
Many well-meaning friends and family told me to “trust my instincts,” which made me feel terribly inadequate. I struggled to make decisions about my baby or feel like I knew what was right. I wish someone had said instead: “You’re brand-new. It’s okay if you don’t feel like you have ‘mom instincts’ yet. They will come. We’re all just making it up as we go along.” (Also, it turns out that difficulty making decisions can be a sign of postpartum depression.)
I wish more people encouraged me to put myself first. Everything is so focused on the baby that at times you can lose your sense of self and overall happiness because of all the demands (hormones, sleep deprivation, and other things, of course). So put your needs above others and do what works for you. Forget the “mom guilt” and do something for you, because when you’re taking care of yourself, you’re also taking care of your family.
It is okay that you don’t love this phase of motherhood. I feel like there is a message that if we are struggling with something, it is a reflection on us as mothers/parents. For me, the newborn phase was incredibly isolating and frustrating that my partner couldn’t take some of the load (I was exclusively breastfeeding). Just because I didn’t enjoy that doesn’t make me a bad mom.
The PPD screening forms are very easy to game, and it isn’t necessary to have the most extreme PPD to need help. If you think you could use support, reach out to your doctor. I just pushed through what I realize now was severe PPA, and looking back I can see I suffered so much more than I had to because I thought it was another thing my overachieving personality could just handle. Ask for the help.
For everything you feel you’re failing at now (transitioning back to work, caring for older kids, just making it through the day), you’ll look back a year from now and not understand how you could have possibly done so superhumanly amazing under the circumstances. This moment is just hard. Anything you’re managing to do at all is incredible.
It’s perfectly fine to want and be ready to go back to work. If you have a career that you’re good at, take pride in, and feel accomplished at, it’s really, really okay that you might feel ready to go back to doing that thing that you’re good at instead of something (newborn care) that is all-consuming, offers you very little control over your day, and has very little sense of accomplishment. Feeling like you’re very ready for mat leave to be over does not make you a worse or less “natural” mother, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Using different parts of your brain (and heart) during the day can be really good for you and for your kids.
I’m currently seven days postpartum and have lots of people who are willing to help if I ask them for something specific, but I find my mind is so fried I don’t even know what I need. Plus, juggling the mental load of micromanaging how others can help feels worse and more impossible than simply struggling alone/with my partner to do it ourselves. I’m sure a lot of people don’t want to overstep, but instead of asking what I need, I would love someone to take some of the mental load off my plate altogether.
It is okay to trust yourself. It’s also okay to change your mind. Information and research should empower you. If you find it is leaving you breathless with anxiety, take a minute to sink into your feelings and acknowledge your needs, your thoughts, your feelings. Your journey — and your little one — is unique. It won’t, it can’t look like anyone else’s.
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