This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
Tears burst out of my eyes and streamed down my face. Large, round drops fell from my cheeks to my shirt. All it took was for someone to ask, “How’s it going?” And I couldn’t stop. For an entire two weeks.
What could I possibly have been crying over? I had just delivered my third child. I had yearned for that moment my entire life. I had dreams as a little girl of having three children—in particular, three boys. And I got what I wanted. He was full-term, healthy, and thriving for a newborn. I had absolutely no reason to be sobbing uncontrollably. Other women and families would give anything to get what I had, and yet I couldn’t even crack a smile. Was there something wrong with me?
My husband looked baffled and perplexed. “Isn’t this what you wanted?” he asked. I had no explanation. I just cried again.
Unfortunately, no matter how blessed you may be, or how happy you should feel, depression and anxiety have a way of dominating your thoughts in a negative way. Is this a relapse? Postpartum depression? Why do I feel this way now, but I didn’t after I had my other two children? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I snap out of it?
Postpartum depression is no fucking joke. Between raging hormones, sleep deprivation, and a significant life change, it makes sense why so many struggle from such a disorder.
So, “how am I doing” immediately following the birth of my child? I’m a fucking mess is what I am. I am barely sleeping. I am chasing around a 3-year-old boy who has more energy than the Energizer Bunny, and I’m dealing with an almost 5-year-old boy who wants the baby “to go back to the hospital” or “back in mommy’s tummy.” I am anticipating the day my mom leaves town and leaves me alone with these three children. Our routine that was so perfectly established just got blasted by a newborn who needs to eat every few hours, each feeding lasting an hour long, and who cries uncontrollably unless he is held.
I live for routine and schedules. Newborns are exactly the opposite. How long will they sleep? When will they wake up screaming for their next feeding? Will they give me a good stretch tonight? And worse—my babies have all had day/night confusion. You know… where they sleep all day and party all night. But the partying happens to be screaming at the top of their lungs, fussing, and not sleeping!
How am I doing? To say it in an appropriate fashion… I am adjusting. To put it bluntly… I am exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious, and scared. Until we create a new “normal” in our household, it is pure chaos. Even though we all naturally ask it, and have kind intentions, I will never ask a new mom again, “How are you doing?” It is a loaded question that no mom will ever answer truthfully. Instead, I will offer a hand, let them know how amazing they are doing, and validate their current feelings because I have been there before, and know as special and incredible it is to have a newborn, it is not easy—emotionally or physically.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.