This is the ONLY photo of me after delivering my daughter, Eleanor in February 2019. I even cropped it because I couldn’t even face what my right arm looked like in the photo. No raw or real moments captured for me in the delivery room on that chaotic day and I feel guilty about that. I've been struggling to find my way this past year. I've continued on a journey to make sense of my purpose in my new life as a new mom. It was the furthest thing from what I expected and (shamefully said) I hated it.
I feel like anymore we spend so much of our time trying to please everyone that we forget who we actually are. We become this person dictated by social media or reality TV and we spend so much time wishing we looked "like that" or wishing we "had that" (whatever THAT is for you) instead of being okay with what we *do have* or what *we do look like*. It's truly one of my biggest struggles. I’ve become so obsessed with painting a mural, of a feeling that want to have about my little girl that I think I forgot to enjoy so much of her during her first trip around the sun. I feel like I forgot to be in the moments where I was meant to be so in love with her little fingers and toes because I was feeling guilty for the moments not looking perfect to me,
I want to share my postpartum journey with you and share what that looked like for me. Everyone’s story is different and that’s a good thing. There are so many take-aways from each one. It’s important for you to share yours and know that it too, is credible, Whatever that looks like for you, do it honestly. You could be saving someone else's life.
Finding out I was pregnant was such a surreal feeling. As a mom, we’re always the first to know and it’s up to us how we want to share with our partner and those closest to us. You pray and hope for a strong healthy baby with a thriving heartbeat the whole way. I was lucky enough to have a little girl growing on the inside for 38 weeks (and two days). My pregnancy was ALOT for me I didn’t love it. I honestly hated it. I didn’t find joy in all of the moments and I felt guilty about that, I still do. But I always told people I felt great when they asked. I tried not to seem ungrateful or like I was taking for granted what miracle I was creating or that I couldn’t handle it. I continued to put on weight. over the next 38 weeks. Alot of it (50lbs, since we're being real here) and my doctors made sure to give me a guilt trip at every appointment which sucked hearing. I'm someone who has been obsessed about everything I’ve ever eaten and feel guilty in every bite, good or bad (though my body has never reflected that obsession to something I was proud of) 50lbs for me was horrifying. I began resentment early on of this new life I was creating. I felt like I was creating something that was already taking so much from me. I was embarrassed to go out, even to work. I felt ashamed about how I looked. Being pregnant felt like a burden. Soon enough (almost 364 days ago) though it felt like an eternity, my water broke early (God bless America) and a healthy baby was born at West Penn hospital after a fairly easy labor and delivery surrounded by an incredible team, support and my absolutely amazing husband.
I didn’t know what to think as soon as she arrived. While I felt so empowered and amazing during the labor and delivery as soon as she was on my chest, I felt so unimportant. I felt so overshadowed, so underwhelmed. During my entire hospital stay in recovery, I felt replaced. My husband who had taken such incredible care of me during my pregnancy...the responsibilities around the house, picking up all the slack and putting my shoes on for me every day (to say the least) was just as amazing to our newborn in the overwhelming hours in our hospital room. He was taking such wonderful care of her while I often found myself in hysterics for the dark place I was in. Eleanor was always crying, hungry, she was unpredictable and restless. The pressure to breastfeed was on and it was damn hard. With a newborn that wouldn’t latch and a less than ideal milk supply was an awful combination. I remember in our recovery room passing Eleanor off to J.R. And saying that I hated her. That she was not what I expected and I didn’t even think she was cute. I was hysterical and hated myself even more for feeling that way, it was a true nightmare to me.
Getting released and heading home the feelings continued. J.R. assumed the role of mom and dad in the late nights and early mornings and picked up all the slack in between. I truly felt incapable. We gave into formula right away to fill her belly but I continued to hook myself up to a pump for less than 5oz of breastmilk a day because I didn't want anyone to think that I was trying to do the "absolute best thing for her." I felt defeated and so useless. How could I make a baby and not be able to provide for her? I felt like she didn't need me, that I wasn't enough for her. She was always crying in my arms, it felt like she didn't want me at all. In these same moments, I was feeling the guilt for not loving every second of my newborn baby and it was a downward spiral. What was wrong with me?
While tired and delusional, I continued felt disgusting as the weeks passed. I kept asking myself why and telling myself “this is your new life.” I hated it. I didn’t want to accept it. I continually felt selfish in sleeping often and not finding a way to bond with her.. It felt like J.R could do everything I could do and even better and so I truly wasn't needed. I thought about running away too often.... the idea of a whole new life far away would free me from this anxiety and would make everyone happier... I told myself she’d be in better hands with J.R. than with me, a mom who hated her new life. My feelings of inadequacy were so overwhelming I felt like I had reached a point where I truly couldn't face it anymore.
Weeks and months passed and *don't worry* I didn’t forget to take a monthly photo for instagram. I didn't forget to fill out her baby book with all of her milestones and the things that made us laugh. I didn't forget to start compiling photos and Pinterest boards for her first birthday inspiration. I wanted to make sure all of the things that I could control, were in line. So many of my friends truly gushed over their little ones and motherhood and here I was.... not loving it. I felt like so unfit. I felt like such a liar.
Fast Forward a bit...
Because of my hardworking, selfless husband- I’ve had the opportunity to stay at home full time with Eleanor. Something I always dreamed of but It felt like a curse? Something that was supposed to make me so happy just didnt. Soon after realizing how much it was emotionally for me is when I reached out to the Alexis Joy D'Achille center for women’s behavioral health at West Penn. I felt relieved and guided to have professional help scheduled in my planner. The center was made for us; for new moms and for moms with more than one... it was beautiful. I was able to change Eleanor on a changing table stocked with diapers and wipes in more rooms than one. I was able to go in and be myself and be seen for what I needed help with. I didn't have to look like the mom that had it all together. My postpartum struggle undoubtedly looked so different from the next mom walking in, but we were all there for support. Never once did I ever feel like I wasn’t a priority, no matter my story. I was listened to and I was guided. I was recognized and taken seriously. So much support was provided In every appointment, every single week.
I’ve taken advantage of individual therapy and group therapy sessions for the majority of this past year. Most recently “circle of security” on Thursday nights with a group of other moms lead by researched professionals. It helping me to understand Eleanor's exploration of the world as she continues to develop and that it doesn't mean that she doesn't love me or need me. I've been able to reflect on my own struggle with women around me and find peace in not being alone.
(BTW, thanks J for handling Ellie's bedtime routine solo on these nights. How could I even do life without you?)
So here I am, almost one year later to the day.... a stronger woman and a different woman. I’ve continued to work on finding the “new me” without feeling like I’ve sacrificed the old one. I feel loved and supported by some incredible women and by the man that I married who never gave up on me. I know he feels like the help I've been provided has given me my life back. I hope he feels like t's given him his wife back and most importantly it's saved my life so I can be able to be the mom that Eleanor deserves. I will say, it does help when Eleanor says "mama" here and there... it cuts the edge off occasionally.
So in my new journey with sharing openly, I'm hoping to use this as a positive outlet for providing a genuine and authentic voice in regards to a postpartum journey and motherhood unfiltered. I want to be an open book about my *almost* toddler and share things we can all relate upon. I want to talk more about what's filling MY cup... what I've found to be therapeutic when I feel like runner up. I'm hoping it'll inspire you to take a second to make sure you know what's filing yours.
We can do better for our families, our husbands, our babies, our friends and for ourselves just by not being afraid to talk about it. By being real and being right where we need to be and not thinking twice. They all need us and we are not alone..
That's "My Why"- what's yours?