The "I Have It Together Checklist"
The day I was discharged from the hospital with our baby, I went home thinking "Wow - I feel great!" It wasn't until about two days later that I realized I might be experiencing a touch of the "baby blues" when I found myself inexplicably bawling at 8pm to the thought that my dog absolutely did NOT love me anymore. (Spoiler alert: She did and still does.) This was immediately accompanied by the feeling of incredible grief over my past life, uncertainty about what my life would look like now, anxiety about whether or not I would fail (or mess something up that was obvious to every other mom except for me), and sometimes even a feeling of "what have I done? Was I really ready for this?"
Our son was 100% planned, wanted, adored and surrounded by an amazing family who would do anything for him. That extended to Walter and I as well - so why did I feel so out of control?
What is the difference between the "Baby Blues" and "Postpartum Depression
Baby Blues is mainly caused by the drastic drop in hormone levels after giving birth. However, mix this with the physical stress of birthing a baby and the sudden lack of sleep and it's understandable that you would feel overwhelmed, moody and more emotional than normal. Up to 80% of moms report having experienced the "baby blues", usually starting 2 or 3 days after delivery. The important thing to remember is that it should be temporary, lasting only last about 1 - 2 weeks. If it lasts longer than 2 weeks, or becomes worse, you may want to consider the possibility of having postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression is more severe, sometimes affecting your ability to eat, sleep, or take care of yourself or your baby. You may feel overly anxious or depressed over seemingly small or insignificant things and this may make you feel like you are a bad mom or make it feel difficult to bond with your baby. It's important to note that YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOM. These feelings are very real and very powerful but they do not define you or your ability to be an amazing human, mother and woman. But you need to prioritize taking care of yourself so talk to your doctor about what the best next steps might be.
The "I Have it Together Checklist"
This is not intended to be a "I am giving the appearance of having it together so other people won't judge me" checklist. I mean, who are you trying to impress? You just made a human - you're already amazing and perfect and we already know it. I just remember MYSELF feeling like my life was very out of control during these days so I developed the checklist below as a way for ME to feel grounded, accomplished and productive. Some of these may be worth a try if you are experiencing the baby blues yourself.
❏ Make Your bed. I never used to make our bed, but this became a big deal for me during my baby blues. It allowed me to start every morning by checking something completely off my "to-do" list so I felt accomplished and motivated. It only took 5 minutes and, by the end of the month, I was able to do it one handed while breastfeeding. Moms are awesome.
❏ Do Your makeup. If having your makeup done is something that makes you feel strong, confident and beautiful then do it. Even if you plan to stay home. Even if your baby spit up on you twice this morning. Even if you got peed on overnight and still haven't showered. Wing that eyeliner and tell that goddess in the mirror she is killing it (because she is).
❏ Get Dressed. This can be understandably difficult for 1000 reasons so don't pressure yourself to the point of feeling bad if you end up spending an all-dayer in your pjs. Simply be aware that psychological studies have shown that what you wear can change your brain. I invested in a handful of t-shirt dresses from Amazon that were easy and quick to slip on, but made me feel more dressed and prepared for the day than my fuzzy pink pj bottoms.
❏ Take a Rest. Normalize resting without feeling guilty about it. Don't be afraid to ask your partner or someone you trust to watch the baby for you while you take a break either. No one is going to think less of you. And while "sleeping when the baby sleeps" isn't always practical, taking 10 minutes during their naps to just pause, lay down, take a few deep breaths and re-fuel your system in silence can have a bigger impact than you realize.
❏ Get a Haircut. Whether you walk-in to your community Great Clips (or Great Clips alternative), book an all-inclusive hair spa day, or have your best friend come over with a glass of wine and pair of craft scissors (maybe not the recommended way but if it works for you then I won't judge) - set some time for yourself to get some papering done!
❏ Binge Watch a Netflix Series. Or whatever platform you usually watch your tv/movies on. Pick a show and just dive right in! My maternity leave happened to align with the release of Carnival Row, which I quickly became obsessed with. I also discovered Outlander, which became my go-to show to watch when I was up at 6am with the baby.
❏ SAY NO. If you don't feel up to doing something, or if it just doesn't work out in yours or the baby's schedule right now, then don't stress about finding a way to make it happen. This applies to family, friends, visitors, and YES - even those plans you made three weeks ago that you thought you wanted at the time but now it's the day-of and you just don't feel like it anymore. Giving yourself a break is more important and will help you feel like there are less balls in the air all at the same time.
Another important note to consider: If you have a partner, check in with them (male or female). Postpartum can affect everyone mentally, emotionally and physically. You may find they are going through something as well. This can be a tough change for everyone involved and talking about it can help you navigate it together instead of just floating along near each other in this whole new world. If you do not have a partner, this doesn't mean you are alone. Your OBGYN, Pediatrician or hospital will be happy to connect you to groups of other moms who are experiencing all of the same feelings and challenges that you are. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a parent as well. You. Are. Not. Alone. Don't make the choice to be.