I read up on it. I knew about it. I expected it – though, hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
And then it happened.
The initial postpartum blues, I remember, were debilitating. As my OBGYN visits increased to every week at my last trimester, all I remember my doctor telling me is that it was normal.
“It’s normal, but if it lasts more than two weeks please seek help.”
I gave birth to my baby girl at 3:26 AM. My whole family was already on their to visit, of course. I did it when my nephews were born. You obviously expect your family there. What you and they don’t realize is that you may be a different person shortly after birth as medication wears off, and as you experience a surge of hormones.
I felt jealous of everyone.
I did not want to share my child with anyone. Not my husband. Not my mother. Not the nurses.
I had carried this child in my body for 10 months – that’s right, 40 weeks, not 9 months. I have taken this child to sleep with me. I have showered while this baby was growing inside me. Wherever I went, she went with me.
At that moment, I didn’t feel like my child was mine at all – granted she never was just mine. Dad had a fair share with contributing to it… ha! But there I was, laying on the hospital bed, freaking out that I had no bump, and my baby was sleeping away from me in a hospital newborn bassinet.
All of the sudden, everyone had their right to my child. The right of grandparents, the right of an aunt, an uncle, of a father. Everyone could share in the joy of raising her, but for the first day, none of that was absorbed in a positive light. I was raging with emotions, utterly hopeless, recalling how much I wanted my baby out of my womb to hold, but simultaneously wanting to still be pregnant with her. Those feelings fired through the early morning hours. I slept briefly, then woke up in a shock, dazed from medication, touched my bump-less stomach, and cried uncontrollably.
I wasn’t the only sleep deprived person in the room. My mother slept on a make-shift cot out of four chairs in the family waiting room, my husband slept in the cot provided to significant others alongside the mother. Everyone was sleep-deprived, “hangry“, filled with raw emotions. Jubilation coupled with fear.
I slept briefly, then woke up in a shock, dazed from medication, touched my bump-less stomach, and cried uncontrollably.
I can only speak for myself. This is my story, and yours could be different.
Breastfeeding was agony, pure agony. No one tells you this, and I didn’t even read about it while pregnant, but you can still experience contractions during your first couple of breast feeding sessions. Everyone’s level is different. For me, I felt the worst contractions I had ever felt next to birthing contractions, but I let her latch on because I didn’t want her to miss out on the “liquid gold” or as medically known, colostrum – the initial milk produced by a mother after birth. The one rich with nutrients. The one that breastfeeding advocates will tell you is crucial to survival *rolls eyes.* What happens in the situation when a mother can’t nurse. Will the child die? No. Thank God for the advancement in medicine. Formula is a blessing. But at that time, I completely convinced myself that I had to, otherwise I was a terrible mother. So, I suffered a great deal while in the hospital, trying to breastfeed; that obviously added to my already frail mental state.
When we arrived home, my mother was there, too. The next day, we went to the pediatrician for baby’s first checkup. Of course, she had jaundice, I thought – a first time mother panicking in full action. I cried all the way home while my husband calmed me down, something I appreciated so much. But how much can a partner tolerate? I felt bad for my husband. I felt guilty. I truly appreciate all the partners out there who are just present for the mothers during initial postpartum days.
The first two weeks – postpartum is no joke. Despite your training, you feel like you were thrown in a pit of fire. Waking up every 2 hours to nurse and change. I could fall asleep in literally 3 seconds, and wake up in 1 second, all while having a vivid dream. You might think it’s an exaggeration, but it truly felt that way. I was a walking, talking, mom-zombie and my husband was too, but he wasn’t nursing and I refused his help. I refused a night bottle (remember, I was convinced it was breast milk or death at that time). My perspective on that topic totally changed having breastfed my child for the first 12 months – albeit, by 9 months, it was solely nursing at night. I returned to work when my baby was 3 months old and pumped at work, but I digress.
On day two after coming home from the hospital, the first out-of-the-blue crying spell occurred. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I was feeling. I just cried out of nowhere. It sucked and it hurt.
I felt guilty for thinking things like, “My life is over!!!” and “I have this human being to take care of now” or “I just want to sit and watch TV but I can’t anymore.” All I could think about was that I couldn’t be my old self. I felt I had to let that Fatima die and become ‘Mom Fatima.’ I didn’t vocalize this initially because I felt too ashamed. Was I being selfish thinking those things? I don’t think so, and the more I spoke with other moms about their early postpartum days, I realized it’s such a common feeling – the feeling that you need to part ways with an “old self” and instantaneously become “nurturing mom to the rescue.” This new self: one whose life is now completely revolved around your child(ren), one who must sacrifice, one who must always be responsible. In the beginning, it’s daunting, it’s completely new, and yes, you have to be super responsible, since a newborn is wholly reliant on you. But once that phase is over – correction – even during that phase, you are still allowed to be you, to be your “old self.”
I felt I had to let that Fatima die and become ‘Mom Fatima.’
I got so caught up in the things I couldn’t/shouldn’t do anymore that I thought I had to “change” myself. It might seem clear to some, but for me, realizing that I that I didn’t need to change any part of me was a process. I think I could have overcome it with more ease if I was just a bit more vocal with my husband and close friends and family. I know this because since talking about my postpartum blues with my husband and my close momma friends out there, I have been given so much support. It’s OK to need support. It’s OK to talk it out. If you need to go a step further, please do seek professional help. Nothing is wrong with you.
I think there’s always this pressure to seem put together. We are always “faking the front” to a certain extent. But nothing is wrong with feeling unraveled and confused. Nothing is wrong with feeling “not put together.” I don’t believe you need to shed a part of you to take on something new. You’re just adding more awesome-sauce to your already awesome self. You are adding another label to your being. That label is Mom and it’s beautiful, fulfilling, and a blessing. Alhamdulillah.
You were a kick-ass rock star before and now you’re a kick-ass rock star momma. Don’t you dare think you lost a part of you. As soon as I realized that, I began to speak out and, more importantly, I accepted the support I refused before. For me, talk therapy was incredibly helpful and it allowed me to overcome postpartum depression. For some, you may need more. At times, I felt I needed medication, but Alhamdulillah, I was able to find myself again without. Some moms can’t – and that’s OK, too. I was finally accepting of and happy to take on my new role.