…. and suddenly come to a full stop after speeding down the highway at about 80 miles an hour.
I can think of no better title for this blog post.
I wonder how many of you can empathize with this particular Mack Truck. You have been cruising about in your life. You are an adult and have finally found a way to feel in control of your identity and you are feeling pretty darn good about yourself. Perhaps you are a professional in one field or another. You have joined many other women in this generation who are making things happen in the world. You are accomplishing. And doing. And moving. And shaking. You are being noticed and validated for your accomplishments. You have expectations of yourself (both that come from within and also that come from society) to achieve. And you are!
And then you have a baby and, guess what? Suddenly the world seems to stop around you. But this “stopping” is complicated. Some people expect you to simply “slow down” and “be happy at home with your baby.” People say you must rest. Stay off your feet. Heal. People encourage you to “just be” for a while. People say “you are so lucky that ALL you need to do is to be home and stare at your sweet babe!”
Others (perhaps the biggest other in this is yourself) expect you to continue to move. And shake. And do.
And along with the collection of very real and often very uncomfortable emotions that come along with having a baby, is the very real and often uncomfortable truth that suddenly “doing” involves being at home in your PJ’s all day, ruminating about the color and texture of your kiddo’s poop, practicing (and struggling) over and over to get breast feeding right, practicing (and struggling) to forgive yourself when its not that easy, and trying, often though trial and error, to understand and connect with this new little being who relies on you for his or her well being.
Oh, and on top of all that, your hormones and brain chemicals are deciding to rebel against you and so even if you wanted to “just be” with your baby, it is literally impossible to do so.
Ready, set, STOP!
Ugh.. Mack Truck-like, no?
While we know that the first layer of risk in developing a Postpartum Mood Disorder is the biochemical imbalance that occurs after giving birth due, mainly, to rampant changes in hormone levels, we also know that other psychological and social risks can exacerbate an already challenging situation. Women who feel more grounded when they are in control, women who set high standards for themselves and live by “perfectionist” thinking, and women who are very, very used to knowing what to expect tend to have a harder time once their baby arrives. In addition, lacking social support (and we are in a society that expects women to do it all by themselves gracefully!), family or origin conflict, and traumatic experiences can all contribute to a new mom’s vulnerability.
And so, all of this is to say that if you feel like you are suddenly asked to slow down after being so used to moving so quickly or if you feel like you are expected to do it all even though your body and/or baby is telling you not to, you are absolutely not alone. And if you feel overwhelmed or anxious or sad because you can’t seem to feel happy slowing down in this very fast paced world of ours, you aren’t alone either. This transition called “New Motherhood”is just plain complicated.