Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bliss and Blues

It's been awhile since I've written in the blog.

Thank you, Captain Obvious!  Any other enlightening tidbits for us?

Well, yes.  How about some brutal honesty?  Here goes.  I had every intention of making my blog a mix of humour and information, steering clear of the journal-like 'woe-is-me'-isms that probably have no business in a public forum.  But, the truth is, I haven't felt particularly humorous or informative recently.  I have, however, felt pretty full of 'woe-is-me.'  So rather than let my blog suffer any more neglect waiting for something funny to pop into my head, I figured I might as well just write about what's in my head now.  And, hey, maybe it will be informative for someone.  I don't know.

A week or so ago, I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed Ebba.  Granted, I still do sometimes, especially at night or whenever she's willing.  But I'm no longer on a crazy crusade to increase my supply or breastfeed exclusively...because I had to admit to myself that that probably will never happen.

This was a difficult decision for me, but ultimately I had to realize what my crazy obsession was doing to myself, and to my family.  I hardly had time to appreciate the amazingness that is my daughter because I was so filled with self-loathing and stress about "not being able to feed her properly."  I attributed every little problem to our feeding issues.  As I wrote to a family member:

So, here we are, sad about life, with an awesome husband and a beautiful baby in a fabulous city.  I can't really get more irrational than this.  It's like people say, "look on the bright side," and I do...I try to.  But it's like through a cloud.  A cloud of "buts" (no, not butTs! :))  This is what I do: "Ebba is amazing BUT she might be healthier if she were breastfed."  "My life is awesome BUT I'd have more time to spend with my daughter if I weren't always mixing formula."  "Ebba and I totally rock getting out of the house BUT it would be so much easier if I didn't have to lug bottles everywhere I went, or cut outings short because I didn't bring enough food for the baby."  "I checked out all those 'breastfeeding-is-tha-shit' studies and they aren't really all that convincing, BUT when I breastfeed Ebba seems happier and it just FEELS more natural." "David is the best Dad and husband ever, BUT I hardly get to enjoy him because I'm always mixing formula...or crying...or crying while I mix formula."

But, my empty boobs aren't really what I wanted to write about right now.  I wanted to write about what I've found to be the paradox of becoming a new mum, how it's possible to be a blissed out mama-goddess on one hand and a bluesed (sure, that's a word!) out mummy on the other.  I wanted to write about how I probably have postpartum depression, along with about 25% of other mummies.  And I wanted to write that that fact doesn't make me (or any of us) less of a blissed out mamma goddess.  (And that maybe some of those blissed out mamma goddesses that we're sitting here envying also cry several times a week at home with their baby.)

Here's the thing, becoming a new mum (or, I'd imagine, even a second time mum) is not an easy thing.  It's a wonderful thing, but not easy.  There is no real way to prepare completely for it as far as I can tell.  You can nanny, read all the baby books, spend time with your friends' new babies, practice waking up 8 times a night for a few months...bring a stuffed animal and a tape-recording of crying with you to every shower and bathroom know.  But none of this will really prepare you for the love and stress and bliss and terror and excitement and exhaustion that your baby will bring you.  And none of this can prepare you for the crazy flux of hormones that goes on after birth.

You might think I'm about to talk about the crazy flux of hormones now, but I really have no specific idea of what it is and I'm a new mum, so I am not going to research it right now.  But I'm sure a quick google search will enlighten you, should you not be a new mum and actually have the luxury of time for frivolous google searches. :)

Anyway, with this mystery hormone stew, coupled with the radical change in lifestyle, it's no wonder new parents (I say parents because some dads get it as well!) can get the blues.  The thing is, no parent plans to get it, and I think that's what makes it so difficult.  I personally skipped over the postpartum depression chapter in all my baby books because I thought, "Oh I'm having a mamma-goddess natural birth; what could possibly go wrong?"

I'll never know if my feeding troubles are what caused my sadness, or if something else would have triggered it anyway; just as I'll never know if my feeding issues were caused by something I did or didn't do, or if they would have happened anyway.  The only thing I can do is move on and spend my energy on adoring my beautiful daughter, who makes it easier to recover everyday.  If "recover" is even the right word.  See, the thing that I have come to realize is this (as I mentioned above): the baby blues or even postpartum depression doesn't make the bliss of motherhood any less, unless you let it.

I think it is hard for a lot of women to admit, or even realize, that they have PPD because they feel like it makes them less of a mum, or that it takes out the bliss they had envisioned becoming a mum would bring.  I certainly hadn't put that label on my bummed out mama feelings because I unconsciously thought those words, Postpartum depression, would minimize my whole experience.  But, bliss and blues are not mutually exclusive, as far as I can see now.

After I accepted this label, I was still a bit sad.  As I told someone: GI Joe was wrong; knowing is not half the battle.  But, a week later, I realize that knowing (accepting the label) really did help me come to terms with things and deal.  So, I hope by my admitting my own battles with PPD, other mums come out of the dark, look at how they feel, and get help if they need it.

Since then, I have taken E. on her first road trip, gone swimming, gone on picnics, threw our first bash at home, and had a whole week of feedings (boob and bottle) that didn't involve tears.  I have just thoroughly enjoyed my life as a mum and my life with Ebba.

Other new mummies, how did/do you feel?  Bluesy? Blissy?  Both?  How did you deal?


  1. Love this. I had some pretty intense 'baby blues' for the first 3-4 weeks and I had a lot of anxiety and worry about something bad happening. I think it was mostly hormonal, but I sometimes feel that I narrowly escaped a deeper depression because my parents were here helping out for the first month and our own feeding issues were resolved relatively quickly. I found falling in love with this tiny human quite much responsibility and possibility for disasterous outcomes! But here we are, three months later, and things feel lighter and less like we're walking on a tight rope that we could fall from at any moment. At the same time, it's a serious comfort to know that all mums are walking on that tightrope at some point or another, and we can always turn to each other for support.