At the beginning of the month, my daughter turned one! These past 12 months have been a roller coaster ride of emotions and I’ve spoken candidly about how difficult the transition into motherhood was for me. Within the last year, I’ve watched friends become parents and transition seamlessly into their new role as “mom”. Even though I am proud of them and happy that they’re happy, I have a hard time accepting that I didn’t adjust well into motherhood like them. I tend to beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t cherish all those newborn moments. Knowing what I know now, I wish that I could go back and tell myself that motherhood would turn out to be what I expected it to be and more. I love being a mom more than anything in this world, so it’s difficult to admit that I had some postpartum struggles that consumed me. Even though my feelings towards motherhood have completely changed since then and I’m now the happiest that I’ve ever been, I remember feeling like I didn’t fit in. Society showed me that I was either supposed to be a natural and overjoyed about motherhood or I was supposed to be miserable and suffer from postpartum depression. No one talked to me about being in the middle, and that’s exactly where I was – in the middle.
I’m the girl who has always known that she wanted to be a mom. There was never a doubt that I would have children. I wanted a soccer team of kids running around my house and painted this picture in my head of what motherhood would be like. I was so excited about the future and wanted to be a mom so badly because “I was made to be a mom”. I knew that motherhood would have it’s challenges, but also felt confident that I could handle it. Between work and family, I was around children all of the time and loved it. When we found out that I was pregnant, we were thrilled! Even though pregnancy was less than pleasant, I believed that the sickness and aches and pain would all be worth it in the end.
After delivering my daughter, I was on cloud nine. I was amazed by what my body was capable of, I fell in love with my baby immediately and felt so empowered. But then I faced my first and biggest challenge – breastfeeding. This was the beginning of a huge internal struggle that carried through into the first few months postpartum. In that picture that I had painted in my head, I saw the way I wanted and expected things to go. It’s funny because I would laugh at women who had “birth plans” yet I had unknowingly created a “parenting plan” in my head. Without even realising it, I had put a lot of pressure on myself as a mom. I had set these expectations on myself and felt “mom guilt” when I couldn’t keep up with it all. Even though I knew motherhood would bring on its challenges, I thought that my life with children would be different. I had been waiting for this moment for forever and there was no way that I wasn’t going to be good at being a mom. This pressure I put on myself turned into anxiety and the anxiety turned into an obsession. I was obsessed with schedules and being in control. I feared that if I wavered in any way, everything would fall apart and I would “mess up”. This fear consumed me and while I felt in control I was the most lost that I have ever been.
During that season in my life, I knew that I wasn’t depressed but also felt that I wasn’t as happy as I was “supposed” to be. I was in the middle. I felt love and happiness but at the same time, I was overcome with sadness and defeat. The love for my daughter was true and I wanted to enjoy her and I was enjoying her but I was alos in a constant state of worry. These feelings became my new normal and I was convinced that these postpartum struggles would last forever. But when I looked around me and saw other moms living life and seemingly enjoying themselves, I felt alone. I would make up excuses as to why they were able to leave their houses and why I had to stay in with my daughter. I remember thinking “They’ll understand how I feel, soon.” I disconnected myself from friends and family because no one understood me.
The fear of failure consumed me. I had unknowingly set expectations on myself and wanted to make sure that I did everything “correctly”. Ironically, I’m not one to care much about what others think of me, yet when people kept throwing their opinions at me and were telling me what I should and shouldn’t do with my daughter I was overwhelmed. All that confidence I had before my baby was born was completely thrown out the window. All these years I had this idea on what motherhood would be like and the life that I was living in that moment was not what I had prepared for. So there I was, in the middle – feeling happy but not my happiest and trying my best but always feeling defeated. I remember looking around at other moms and thinking “I can’t be the only one….”. And that’s when From the Playpen was born – my outlet and way of connecting with other like minded moms and women.
In all of this, I realised that in order to be the mom that I wanted to be, I had to teach myself to let go. I had to learn to go with the flow, give myself a break, set no expectations, believe that I was an amazing mother and strive to be flexible. I was determined to overcome this and refused to let my fears control me. My motto was “what’s the worst that could happen?” and most of the time, the answers were silly. Little by little, I began leaving my house more, loosened up on those nap schedules, did what I felt was best for my family and overall became less judgemental. I relaxed and enjoyed the moment rather than fearing what would happen if I didn’t follow my “routine”. Slowly but surely I came out of that shell and began doing the things that I loved again and it was freeing. Losing control freed me.
So to all you moms out there who are drowning in postpartum struggles, feel anxious and like you’re in the middle, it’s time to free yourself. You’re not alone in this and this isn’t your forever. Do the things you love, relax, enjoy and take it all one day at a time. Your baby loves you regardless. There’s no such thing as being a “perfect mom” because they just know you as “their mom” and that’s all they want… they want you as you are. There’s no sense in worrying about the “what ifs”. Roll with the punches, take a deep breath, distract yourself from the negativity and know that you’re an amazing mom.