Three kids… oh how it happens so fast. With the first one I remember the perfect visions I dreamed up for myself and I worked damn hard to fulfill them. Clean house, dinner on the table and I had to drop the 60lbs I gained at an alarming rate. It killed me to wait four weeks to get back into workouts. I stressed constantly over the dust bunnies, barely able to to pry open my sandpaper eyes. I was downing a full pot of coffee a day in a desperate attempt to fit the role of MOM I had in my mind. You know, that perfect mom everyone drools over that has it all together. The one in the magazines shocking the world with her instant hot momma bod, the one making the big titles, "how she does it all", "hotter than pre baby in 2 months!". I constantly measured myself up against these standards and felt defeated when I couldn't compete. But I fought hard, anyway.
With my second I was determined to have a better, fit pregnancy. I decided I was going to keep my weight gain in check and keep active. I had a healthier mindset about balance but still felt so much pressure to keep within healthy limits. I obsessed about the number on the scale and the numbers going into my stomach, my widening hips and increasing cellulite. Right from day one I was determined to "handle" it and thrive. I had two kids, I was super mom I could handle this! I was back to working out at just TWO WEEKS postpartum. Did you know in some cultures women are doted on hand and foot for months? We don't even realize how much we undervalue new moms, how much pressure we put on new moms to bounce back, get back to life, to work, to housework, to carrying it all.
I did a great job…. both times I did a great job but deep down inside I was burnt out. I was exhausted, I was never good enough. I could never measure up to those model-moms we look up to.
By the time I fell pregnant with #3 I started realizing some things as the pregnancy got off to a rough start at a highly stressful time. I was determined to pull through strong. And I did a fantastic job. But as the pounds piled on despite very healthy eating habits, exercise and watching calorie intake, as my stress load increased, I wondered what was wrong with me that everything was so out of control. I began to really struggle I started noticing the heavy focus on these perfect pregnancies, these perfect moms, moms harshly judging other moms about everything from the chicken nuggets they feed their kids because they're too burnt out and exhausted to cook to how present they are with their kids on the playground while their phone rings. This is what we're taught. To keep pushing, not show weakness, be strong, be stronger and do it all. Alone.
Things got to the point that I felt like I needed help working through the stress of the last year. A shame, a burden I felt I had to carry alone I could not show weakness despite the clear fact that the year HAD been horribly rough and challenging. It wasn't weakness, it was strength for too long. It was taking on too much alone and not asking for help.
Then, baby #3 was born. I began to really see the pattern and why it bothered me. It didn't bother me because these women were doing well, and it was only partly jealousy (don't we all wish we had it so easy??), it was because THESE were the only women that felt confident enough to speak up, to show pictures, to show the highlights of their lives. The rest of us were hiding in shame with matted hair and spit up perfume, crying in the dark before drifting off into a broken sled interrupted by screaming babies, a thirsty toddler and a hot 5 year old that just can't take the blanket off himself in case there's monsters out there.
Here I was taking on a massive burden alone, too ashamed to ask for help. I was home all day with the kids, I should be able to handle it all, right? Everyone else seems to be doing it but me… why can't I handle it? It got to the point that I was literally sitting beside my husband, SCREAMING inside and felt like I couldn't reach out and ask for help.
I'm JUST hitting 6 weeks post partum and I can tell you I am no where near adjusted and healed from pregnancy, labor and birth. I have made peace with the dust bunnies, the sink full of dishes and endless piles of dirty laundry. But it took almost a complete break down to finally reach out and ask for help with basic daily survival because the truth is, I'm struggling. I mean, really struggling. I love my kids with an insane amount of passion but mommy hood is hard and life has been brutally unkind for almost 2 years. As I wait for my luck to turn for the better I was forced to reach out, to build supports and create a plan to help me through this sludge. We don't talk about the dark side of motherhood, we don't want to share our weaknesses, our struggles and yet MILLIONS of women are screaming inside with a big, fake smile on the outside.
I'm tired of pretending, that's not who I am. It's time to share the darkness and be the voice for women like me. Who don't have their shit together, whose shit is completely taking over. Post partum depression needs to be talked about, normalized, the stigma burned to the ground. THIS is not weakness. I don't have the research to back it up (I'll look into that) but I can bet the rates of PPD in North America are significantly higher than in cultures that nurture and care for their new moms AND babies. I am not alone. YOU are not alone. THIS is what happens when we are strong for too long. I'm breaking the silence.