It’s 3 am. I’m standing in my dimly lit kitchen, crying, holding my hungry, screaming 2-week old baby girl, Hayley. I am attempting to make a bottle with one hand, my boobs are killing me and I’m frustrated that my breast milk alone isn’t enough to keep Hayley full. Upstairs my two other little girls are sleeping in their beds. I hope they stay asleep because I just couldn’t handle having another kid awake right now.
Just breathe; I tell myself. This will pass. You know that you have dark thoughts at night and you will feel different in the morning. Your thoughts are not reality. You are doing your best.
When I came home from the hospital with my third baby I knew everything I was supposed to do and yet somehow my needs –for sleep, for routine, for self-care, were put on the back burner. I am so grateful that I had already done a lot of inner work understanding and improving myself before that moment, otherwise, I might not have known that my intrusive negative thoughts were not the truth.
The sun came up the next day. I ate some eggs, took a shower and put on make-up. I didn’t feel as bad as I had a few hours earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I was still exhausted, but I didn’t feel hopeless. I was still in pain, but it was manageable. My thoughts were brighter in the daylight and just those little actions of self-care made me feel a little more like my old self. As I drove my daughters’ to school that day I felt gratitude for making it through the night and remembered how helpful it is to bring compassion to the present moment. To be mindful. I knew that things could get worse if I didn’t set an intention to take care of myself and ask for some help.
Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. I did my best to get sleep when I could. I started adding in green smoothies to my diet. I told my husband and other family members that what I really needed was for my older daughters to be out of the house having fun as much as possible. I had my babysitter come a few nights a week for extra help. I accepted that this breastfeeding experience wasn’t going to be the same as my previous. I began to feel grateful that Hayley would drink from a bottle so that someone other than me could meet her needs. I shared my struggles with close friends. I gave myself Reiki or meditated each night. I did things that brought me joy. I was patient with myself. I strived for self-compassion.
I still have moments where I feel anxious or I notice that I long for things to be different, but having some tools to fall back on makes me feel confident that I can handle what life throws at me. I even feel proud of myself for how I got through those first few months after having Hayley.
You don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best and keep up the good work mama. Being a mom can be hard; but you got this.
Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive.
Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com/jennifer.