Long, honest, raw post alert. Might as well grab yourself a glass of wine or a mug of coffee for this one. Also, maybe some repetition. I started this post in July (JULY!) and it’s now towards the end of October … anyway, here we go!
It didn't really hit me that I was struggling until one night during a feed, I got frustrated. I got mad even. I wasn't mad at my baby. I was mad at my body. I hated my body, especially my gigantic boobs. Harlowe was so tiny, and she was still struggling to latch properly because of the size of my boobs, how fast my milk flow was, and her acid reflux causing her discomfort.
I enjoy breastfeeding. I really do. But in that moment, I hated it. People say it's so natural, so beautiful, so great that you can nourish your baby. And yes, it is! But it comes with challenges, obstacles... and in that moment... when my baby was so uncomfortable and hungry and frantic trying to latch and she couldn't, I yelled. I actually yelled out in frustration of my big enormous boobs that produce WAY too much milk for one tiny baby. I was annoyed too with my tank top that wouldn't stay put under my boob and kept slipping up and getting in the way (after that, i always wear a proper nursing bra to bed at night to avoid this frustration). I was just uncomfortable in my own skin! So uncomfortable, it made my skin crawl. In that moment, I could feel ever lump, bump, sag, roll of my new "mom body".
I'm rambling here, I know. I'm sorry. It's just when I think back to that night, it makes my skin crawl, still. I was struggling. Something was wrong. Why was I SO ANGRY? I was angry with myself, angry at my husband, and angry at people who keep telling me to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT. Surely, if you've had a baby you know that it is impossible to enjoy every moment. Especially when your baby is so hungry and frantic, but cannot latch even though they are trying so hard. Poor baby girl. I knew I was struggling, when my husband started to notice. The next day, we talked about the night, and he expressed concern for my well being. Lots of emotions in that talk. We were both upset. We were both struggling. Having 3 kids under 2 is hard. Demanding preemie baby mixed with toddler twin boys = the perfect recipe for chaos.
It was all piling up on me. I barely got through each day. I cried just about every day. I was super sensitive to everything. I was avoiding seeing friends, making plans, go out. I was envious of people with only one kid, even two kids. Two kids was manageable. I didn't think anything would be harder than twins. But yep, twins + preemie = harder. And I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. I am just saying, for ME, it was harder than I thought it would be. I'm not comparing my life to yours. I'm comparing my 3 kid life to my 2 kid life, and yes, it's harder. I was mad. Mad at my husband that he got to go to work everyday and get a break. I was tired. Harlowe wasn't sleeping during the night all that well, and I was waking her every 3 hours to eat. I felt like a hamster on its wheel. Never stopping, and just repeating my routine on a 3 hour schedule.
About a week later, I was 6 weeks postpartum and post-op. It's that magic number that says, You're fine. You're okay to lift things now. When in reality, 6 weeks is probably when my PPD and PPA started. People stopped asking how things were going, coming around, and the excitement of a new baby was dying off. I guess reality started to settle in and for me, it felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks. I felt alone, lonely, terrified, embarrassed, self-conscious, ashamed, anxious, angry, but also still grateful … always gratitude. This was a really trying time in my marriage. Communication is something that I really pride myself on in relationships, but when I get anxious and I shut down. Shut off, even. It is my coping mechanism, and although it’s not a good one, it’s what I do. I stop breathing, stop talking, stop eye contact. I shut myself off and go into my own world to try and deal.
My hubby tried to understand, and while he could be sympathetic and compassionate, he simply could not truly empathize with where I was coming from. Bless his heart for trying, but he just had no idea. Once we had some tough conversations over the next couple days, I started to open up about my feelings and realized that I needed help. I hated feeling this way! I was not myself. Harlowe’s 2-month shots came at the perfect time, because you do the PPD survey, and I scored very high for having depression. The nurse suggested the Bounce Back program and told me that she, herself had done the program with her postpartum journey and even later in her life. She put in a referral for me and told me I’d get a phone call and then I could decide if I wanted to enroll in the program.
My mom and Tim urged me to see my doctor too. I went to my doctor and cried my face off for 25 minutes. She was amazing and so supportive. She also suggested seeing the counsellor and practicing self-care. Not that I needed permission, but it felt good to have my doctor encourage me to get my nails done, or whatever I wanted.
Around this time too, I also booked an appointment with a counsellor. This was amazing for me. I did about 4 sessions over the next couple months and it truly helped me. I talked lots, cried lots, and just made time for myself. It was hard work, but so worth it. Around the same time, I started the Bounce Back program. This was great for my anxiety and setting goals for myself. It also just gave me something to look forward to: once every week or so, I spoke with my Life Coach and again, it just felt good to talk to someone who was so positive, encouraging, and supportive. You can customize the program to fit your needs, and there are specific postpartum booklets to complete that I found relative to me. I graduated from the Bounce Back program towards September. I cried on my first conversation with my Life Coach and on the last conversation. I felt so proud of myself. I could feel how much I had changed and grown over the last (almost) 3 months and I was truly grateful. I also made a commitment to eat more vegetables with every meal and get outside more. I know that both of those things would be good for my physical and mental health. I also took some pressure off myself. I started to say “no” more often. I felt like I was forcing myself to do too many social things and really I didn’t want to, so I just stopped or limited myself to 1 social thing a week. I really felt safest around my family only, so that’s what I stuck with. I started to say “no”, which for me felt good. Later in my journey, I slowly started to say “yes” to more things.
Tim was off on holidays for 7 weeks in the summer. This was extremely important for me and my recovery. To have my life partner with me everyday for those 7 weeks was what truly helped me. We stuck with a schedule that we were most comfortable with, got our baby napping in her crib (and sleeping well at night!), reno-ed our basement (hello, ship lap Joanna Gaines!), saw family, went on outings, and got outside lots. I also started to cook again, with the help of Hello Fresh.I had promised myself that I would up my veggie intake because I know how important plants are for mental health.
In the middle of July, I broke my toe. While this may not sound like a big deal, I felt like I took two huge steps back in my postpartum journey. I was told it would take a month or so to heal, and I was supposed to stay off my feet and rest as much as possible. Luckily, within a week or so it felt much better and I could exercise (without too much discomfort) and carry on with my regular life. I did have a panic attack in the hospital that night and at that point I felt sorry for myself. I let myself wallow, but the next day, things were looking up.
For me, it is the sleepless nights and the exhaustion that trigger the postpartum depression and anxiety. If the baby is not sleeping, I spiral out of control. I feel helpless that I can’t calm an upset baby and then I get upset because I am not going to sleep. Those first few months, there are no days and nights, its like one long day, but half of it in the dark. The dark is the worst. There were many nights that my mom came over to help so Tim and I could get a few hours of sleep. And often (most) times, Tim would take on those hard hours in the night because I would completely shut down from anxiety. I put white noise in all our rooms, and even wore earplugs so I could sleep. I know that might sound horrible, but my baby was taken care of and I needed to sleep away those tough hours so that I could care for myself and my baby the next day(s). I always felt good in the morning, and then as each hour crept towards the evening and night, I could feel the depression and anxiety creeping back too.
The other factor to my PPD and PPA was me not feeling like myself (or confident) in my own body. Physically, this pregnancy took a toll on me. I am still not back to my “post baby” body. I might never be. My hips are wider, my stomach hangs over the incision scar, and as Beyonce said, everything on me is just thicker this time around. With the boys, I “bounced back” quickly, physically, because I was breastfeeding two babies around the clock for 5 months straight. Harlowe, being a singleton, and small, doesn’t eat as much, and I’ve now birthed 3 babies, and my body is just different. I am not at the point of acceptance yet. I’d say I tolerate my “new” body but still dream of my “old” body. I lead a healthy lifestyle, but I like my treats and I don’t exercise everyday. But having healthy habits makes me feel good mentally, and I know with those habits, the physical will come too. It is just taking longer this time. Harlowe is almost 7 months and my stomach still looks like I am 4 months pregnant. But that is okay. I am trying my best to be okay with it all.
Now that Harlowe is sleeping better (still doesn’t sleep through the night: we can’t kick that one feed!), I am feeling better mentally. I am still physically exhausted from having 3 babies, but overall I am feeling more and more like myself each day. I am doing more social things (and LOVING it!), having time for myself, and sleeping better at night. I still practice gratitude each and every night before bed. I made a commitment to say 10 things I am grateful for before I fall asleep at night. I heard once somewhere, that you cannot be anxious, if you recognize all that you are grateful for. I also read an Instagram post by Leslie Ann Bruce and she put it so perfectly, “I am capable of feeling two complex feelings at once.” I can feel anxious/depressed AND grateful at the same time. This is okay. This is NORMAL. Getting help for myself has made me a better mama. CONNECTION has helped me immensely too. If you are a gal that I have connected with about depression and/or anxiety, you know who you are and I thank you. Those conversations are what got me through some of my darkest times. Just talking about my struggles has helped me recover. If you are having any feelings of depression or anxiety, you should talk to someone, anyone! I bottled up my emotions for weeks and when it all piled up, I burst. I had many angry outbursts, followed by extreme sadness. And if you have no one to talk to, talk to me. You can find me on my IG (tay.haine) and I am always hear to chat.
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to summarize this post by listing the things that have helped me during this postpartum journey:
SUPPORT SYSTEM: it was really my mom and hubby that helped me and got me the jump start on needed on getting better. Just saying my feelings out loud was the first step I needed to take on my wellness journey
EATING GREENS at every meal: This is so important! But gut health is so connected to your mental health
FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE: I started getting out for more walks (without babies!!), started spinning again, do my own workouts at home, and yoga. Anything to get moving!
SELF-CARE: I literally get my nails done every 2 weeks. It is something that I look forward to and I feel so put together with my nails done.
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE: many times, I would pack up Harlowe and we’d just go to the mall for a wander, get my favourite bevy at Hot Shots, or do errands downtown. Even if it was only 45 minutes out of the whole day, it felt good.
DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMEONE ELSE: it feels SO good to give! Whether it be a small treat, an act of service, or just helping someone else with their wellbeing … it feels good!
PRATICE GRATITUDE: Name 10 things you are grateful for every single night before falling asleep
BOUNCE BACK PROGRAM/DOCTOR/COUNSELLOR: whoever is a part of our health team … use them! They are the experts and they’ll have you on your way to better health with time and effort. You have to put in the work!
I don’t know if I rambled on too much, but oh well! You made it to the end, so you’ve obviously here for some reason. Whether that be curiosity, connection, interest, your own personal journey, or just the fact that you love me …. thank you for reading. It means so much to me to have a supportive community who have followed my journey.
Until next time,
MRS. + MAMA