Flipping through the pages of a Pottery Barn Baby catalog which somehow made its way to my mailbox did something I didn’t expect. It made me angry. By about page 15 instead of oohing over the precious little nursery knick knacks and gorgeous white eyelet crib sets I found myself muttering to the magazine.
“Is that crib seriously ship lapped with distressed weathered wood? And that one’s oval? What was I doing relegating my children to rectangular cherry cribs? Where was Joanna Gaines when my babies were being subjected to sub par nursery decoration?”
“Good luck not tripping over your $399 tufted ottoman in the middle of the night as you escape the not really sleeping babe you just laid down for the seven hundredth time. Come on! The whole room needs to be evacuation ready at all times. You can’t Army crawl with footstools, plush bean bags and sitting poofs.”
“Girl that gorgeous $200 linen covered diaper bag with leather handles will never look like that when you use it. Just grab yourself a grocery recycle bag or something you can put in the washing machine to scrub out the exhibit of stale puffs, random hand sanitizers, dried out wipes, pacifiers some might deem too old, emergency diapers a size too small, crumbs of gummed crackers and forgotten squeaky toys covered in a goo you can’t explain. Save the money for when you go back to a decent pocketbook. Next decade.”
“And FYI that roll up changing mat you think you need for sanitary diaper changes? Trust me, a day will come when you will change a diaper on your hiked up knee in a truck stop bathroom like a pro. And when you accomplish the stand up diaper change situation without removing baby’s shoes or pants, then you’ll know that mat was a joke.”
What snapped inside me? Why such lunacy in response to a slick magazine? Truly on this side of no longer hoisting a car seat along everywhere I go and now only seeing the pediatrician on birthdays all of it looks so silly. So shallow.
Now not to discount the importance of creating a space for your little one – although I still laugh at an older family member who told me she used to put her babies in a dresser drawer for the first several months. The excitement of your first is just as magical as being a blushing bride flipping through wedding magazines. So many beautiful pictures, so many possibilities to show your own style, make your own memories.
But just like a wedding, I believe we focus on the wrong element.
Instead of the marriage, our consumer driven nature is to pour everything into the wedding day.
Instead of what kind of mother can I be, we are distracted by showcasing what kind of nursery designer we are.
More attention is given to our personal shopper role then focusing on how the role we are about to take on might affect us as a wife, an employee, a woman pulled in more directions than ever before.
Instead of having truthful conversations as to the reality of life changing with a newborn, even I find myself caught up in asking what are the colors, the monogram, the going home outfit, the push gift and so forth.
Is that wrong? Of course not. New babies are intoxicating and the excitement about becoming a family of three isn’t lost on me. Those were precious days.
Yet as moms on the other side of the expectation train we are beholden to speak truth into our expecting girlfriends. Perhaps a truth we weren’t told. I know I sure wasn’t ready for the “and they took the baby home” chapter of our newborn story.
It’s estimated at least 70% of new moms experience extreme emotions including weepiness, anxiety, vulnerability, depression, sadness and lack of concentration to name a few within the first two weeks post delivery. But nobody’s talking about it at baby showers, right? We are conditioned to believe once that baby arrives all will be right. We will be complete. Our happiness will be over the moon. Our heart will grow twice its size and then some.
But y’all, we all know labor and delivery is literally looking behind the curtain seeing that the wizard is in fact an unplanned episiotomy or emergency C-section. And nursing doesn’t just happen – even to those who adapt pretty fast, it’s still unbelievably painful and in my experience took forced dedication. Add in tongue tied or thrush and it’s a whole lot of on the spot education when at your most undone. Sleep deprivation, night sweats, babies that come with no manual and don’t “get” scheduled out the gate make for more stress. Depending on the mother’s history or family experiences with depression, hormones can trigger some very unsettling feelings.
And all of this happens right after the highest spike we will ever have in our life of progesterone and estrogen which both crash when the placenta is delivered. Even with the understanding of this massive hormonal drop after delivery referred to as “Baby Blues” it’s amazing the stigma is still there. Women are ashamed to admit they aren’t giggling with joy. That those first few weeks adjusting to the baby let alone their own bodies healing are just so very hard, confusing, exhausting and yes somewhat depressing.
So if the majority of women are experiencing short lived emotional distress for a period of time, why aren’t we lessening the exaggeration over how happy a baby will make one? Why aren’t we honestly sharing how hard it is for everyone? Meeting my baby was one of the most awe-struck moments I’ll ever experience. It was wondrous and amazing. Yet before I gush on about the wonder of bringing life into the world, I’m very honest with friends expecting that there’s a really good chance Baby Blues will affect their moods and sleep deprived minds.
Different than Postpartum Depression (a more serious and longer experienced reality for 10 to 20% of new moms), Baby Blues can be helped with more support, more sleep and time. If in two weeks after delivery anxiousness or worry isn’t ceasing or at least lifting, new moms are encouraged to call their OB-GYN’s or reach out to a friend for support. Neither should cause shame or embarrassment.
And just because you aren’t experiencing full blown Postpartum Depression does not mean for a moment your downtrodden emotional state is not of upmost importance as I’ve previously written about.
I’m convinced impersonally handing out questionnaires on clipboards screening for PPD while awaiting a doctor appointment in the first few weeks do nothing more than use up paper. I mean who really feels comfortable checking “yes” when asked have you have ever considered harming your baby? That is so outside the allotted “norm” anybody would fear answering honestly. Will they just snatch my baby out from my arms right here in the waiting room. Out of fear so many new moms check “no” conflicted by the fleeting, scary, ugly thoughts rattling in their heads despite their best intentions to not think such things.
So let’s commit to admit the not so glamorous side of motherhood. Beyond the glossy pages of baby magazines, let’s care more for the mental health of new mommas then their registries. Gently approach the facts. Even more truthful than the statistics is your truth. Your story.
And let’s follow up with those new mommas with more than a casserole. However much she’ll appreciate the home cooked meal (or if your my friend the take out from your favorite restaurant), some new momma needs to be genuinely asked “how are you doing?” Tape an article on Baby Blues to that casserole if you’re too afraid to ask, but don’t waste that moment to throw a silently drowning new mom a lifesaver. You might be the only one offering her hope. And wouldn’t that make the best kind of gift you could ever give her and her newborn?