A Letter to My Postpartum Self
As my husband and I consider adding to our family in the not-too-distant future, I have been remembering what it’s like those first few weeks with a newborn. Of course I can’t wait for the snuggles and the feedings and all the sweet “firsts.” But I’m nervous about going through that postpartum period again. Never having been an emotional person, I was completely caught off guard by the constant tears and raging hormones. I knew to look out for “postpartum depression,” which I had been led to believe was a feeling of profound sadness and a desire to harm your baby. I didn’t feel either of those things so I figured I was just crazy. Now I know that postpartum depression can take many forms. Did I have it? I’m not sure, but now that I know what to expect I hope I’ll be more prepared the second time around. Still, I felt the need to write a letter to the scared new mom that I was nearly two years ago, and deliver some reassurance that she’s going to be okay.
Dear New Mom,
Even though it’s been almost two years since I’ve stood in your shoes, I want you to know that I remember vividly what it was like in those first few weeks. The uncertainty. The fear. The physical ache in your chest that feels as if your heart can’t possibly hold so much love. You don’t feel like you will ever be “you” again. But I’m writing to tell you that you will. Maybe not the same “you” as before, but a stronger, better version.
I remember you getting into the car, heading home from the hospital. You cried because you were so overwhelmed at everything you had to teach her. “This is the first time she’s ever seen the sun shine,” you said to your husband as tears streamed down your face. What a heavy responsibility, you thought. The things you took for granted every day were brand new for your baby. How would you ever be able to teach her all the things she needs to know?
I remember the first night, when you laid her to sleep in her Pack n’ Play at the foot of your bed. Even though she was within arms reach, you still set up the video monitor so you could see every move she made. You also had a backup monitor just in case something happened to the first one. You were so worried about every tiny thing. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, you’re doing a great job.
Remember when she moved to her crib? You slept on an air mattress on the floor next to her, because you were afraid you’d miss her too much if you were in the other room. I can see you lying on the floor, crying into your pillow every night, afraid of letting anyone else see how scared you are. I see your face illuminated by the light of your phone as you search for answers in the dark.
“Is it normal to have intense fears about my baby getting kidnapped?”
“How long do night sweats last after giving birth?”
“Can you have postpartum depression even if you’re not sad?”
Please don’t ever take for granted the wonderful people in your life. Remember that one night you were crying, certain that you’d have to live this way for the rest of your life and your husband encouraged you to call your mom? He asked you if you’d want your daughter to call you when she’s scared, even when she’s all grown up. Your mom came over, took the child from your arms and gently handed her to your husband. “Hold your baby,” she said to him, “so I can hold mine.”
I hear you praying to God that you’ll feel normal again. You will, but it will take a long time. And “normal” won’t ever be the same as it was before. And you’ll eventually be okay with that.
Gradually, day by day, the fog will lift. The hormones will run their course. You’ll become more confident as a mother, and your baby will become more independent. You’ll sleep through the night (using only one baby monitor). You’ll put on makeup and do your hair and feel good about what you see in the mirror. One day, you’ll catch yourself laughing over dinner with friends, just like you used to. And it will feel like you’re seeing the sun shine again for the very first time.