I've been trying to write this post for a while now, but it just wasn't coming together. I'm usually most comfortable spilling out my thoughts onto paper (or, in this case, my blog)—but, somehow, this has been harder to do. I figured that I should still try, as I always seem to feel a bit lighter after writing.
January 26, 2012
So, here we are.
When I was at the hospital after having Eisley, I was struggling to get my high blood pressure under control, which led to me staying there for a couple extra days. I remember being so eager to just go home with my husband and daughter, and begin our life as a little family. (I was also eager to get off of the magnesium medication that was turning me into a zombie. I remember feeling so drained that I ate breakfast with my eyes closed one morning, and could hardly lift my arm to hold a spoon. But that's a story for another time.) I voiced my eagerness to get home to one of my nurses, to which she replied, "Oh, believe me. Once you get home you'll be wishing you had more time at the hospital where you had so much extra help!"
Truth be told, once we did finally arrive home, those first days were magic. I found it easier than it was at the hospital—mostly because I wasn't hooked up to a bunch of machines, but also because I finally felt like my life as a mom had truly begun. It was, of course, a lot to handle. Sleepless nights and frustrations with breastfeeding were certainly challenging, but I didn't feel like I was in over my head. I felt okay. Each day brought new confidence and new moments that made my soul dance a little bit. It was good. And it helped that my parents were there to offer encouragement and advice, and Jay was able to take a month away from work to help us settle into our new life.
Even when Jay had to go back to work, I felt okay. A little scared the first couple weeks, but okay.
It wasn't until Eisley was a couple months old that I started feeling a bit more anxious than usual. Eisley was no longer a new-newborn, and that's when I started to put entirely too much pressure on myself. I had taken my homebody-ness to new level, and didn't really go out much. I knew I had to venture out, but it was just…overwhelming. Not normal overwhelming, either. I had this weird social-anxiety, all of a sudden. The very thought of having to go out made me freak out a little bit.
I remember the first time I went to the post office, my heart was racing out of my chest. Eisley was quiet and sweet, and didn't even make a peep, but I could hardly keep it together. Standing in line, I was all, "People can totally hear my heartbeat right now. Fantastic." Having a simple conversation with the friendly postal worker made me feel awkward, and my I'm sure I looked like I'd consumed entirely too much caffeine with the jittery way I was acting.
For the past few months, even simple tasks have seemed ridiculously overwhelming. Emails, phone calls, friendly meet-ups, simple errands, tasks I usually enjoy. Having more than regular day-to-day "mom stuff" on my daily to-do list would make me ridiculously tense, and when I didn't mark everything off at the end of the day I felt like I had to add the uncompleted items to the next day's schedule…and so on, and so forth. I was constantly plagued with thoughts of, "I WILL NEVER BE CAUGHT UP. I AM NOT DOING ENOUGH. I AM FAILING."
I've also struggled a lot with guilt. Unnecessary guilt, but still. It's there, even when I try to fight it. I'm thankful to be able to stay at home with Eisley, and not have to work. This is something that Jay and I agreed upon, but I still feel like I'm not pulling my weight unless I do absolutely everything that I think should be accomplished each day. It's crushing sometimes. There's this mean voice in the back of my head that's saying, "You don't deserve to stay at home. You're not doing enough. Do more, and then you can justify your new way of life."
What's odd is the fact that I fully realize my expectations are way too high, and I can't even really define what "doing it all" would entail. But there is always this lingering thought that I'm not pulling enough weight in order to "deserve" to be a stay at home mom. So, instead of always relishing in these day-to-day moments I share with my daughter, there are times I let that guilt overshadow what should be moments of joy.
And whenever people asked me, "So, how are you doing?" I couldn't really say, "I made frozen fish sticks for dinner last night, so I feel like a failure as a wife. And how are you doing?"
One thing I find rather unfortunate is the lack of addressing this thing called postpartum anxiety. Doctors and baby books have endless information on postpartum depression (as they should), but I hadn't even heard of postpartum anxiety until someone shared this post with me. I've always known what I was feeling wasn't depression. I was incredibly lucky to not experience any typical "baby blues" after the wee one arrived. I was rarely weepy and never felt hopeless; it was more like I was in a constant state of hyperactivity and restlessness. And I knew what I was going through couldn't possibly just all be in my head.
Reading about postpartum anxiety made it a lot more clear. Racing thoughts (um, hello, this is my life), inability to just stop moving and relax (Jay is always like, "Why can't you just watch this movie without getting up and doing a hundred other things?!"), constant worry (constant, yo), sleeplessness (due to those good ol' racing thoughts), irrational fear of awful things happening to your baby (things that couldn't even possibly happen, like her falling out of the car on the freeway). It felt good to just…know that it was something. It wasn't just me. If that makes any sense.
Most of this is written in past tense, because in the past couple weeks I've felt like my head is much more clear. I never went to the doctor, never took medication, was never diagnosed with anything…but I feel confident in saying that I struggled with postpartum anxiety on some level. I still slip into guilt-mode more than I'd like to admit, and most days I feel at least a little overwhelmed by all I want/need to accomplish. But it's not consuming, like it was before.
At this point, I just want to feel like I'm completely and entirely living, and enjoying where my life has taken me. Not dreading and worrying and comparing and feeling needlessly frustrated with anything and everything. I feel good knowing that many of the things I struggled with are starting to fade.
I'm realizing that baby steps are still steps, and they definitely count. I'm embracing imperfection. I'm learning to give myself a lot more credit.
And also allowing myself to just be still. Because that's just as important as anything else.