Hey, New Mama! I see you.

by Stefanie

When I say “New Mama”, I don’t mean first time Mama, although that is definitely included! (I only have one).  But being Mama to any new baby can be sooooo challenging as you could’ve had five angel babies, and then number six is an incredibly difficult angel baby…all babies are angels of course.  So here’s what…

When I had Emerson my husband went back to work 2 hours after delivery.  You read that right, two. hours. after. delivery.  I had no plans of family help due to the COVID-19 peak in late 2020.  However, my husband saw me the first few days and secretly recruited Magical Aunt Abby (my aunt) who drove here – no notice – within a day.  I WAS SO FUCKING LUCKY TO HAVE HER.  She could only stay a week, as she is the caregiver to my legend of a Grandmother, Betty Lewis (in case you’ve heard of her).  My husbands work schedule is an average of 10-12 hour days/ 6 days a week.  So I had to learn REAL quick how to take care of an infant.

The first month was an absolute hell that I will bury deep, deep down as long as I live.  Yep, I said it!  New babies are joy, yes.  But it’s a joyous hell that we mostly shall never speak of.  I’ve never been good at not speaking up 🙂  INFANTS ARE SO HARD!!!  Never, not ever… not once have I questioned God in my entire life.  I survived my mother’s sudden and tragic death in a freak accident.  I survived waking up one day to a long-term boyfriend who had hung himself.  Not until I had a baby did my faith in God waiver.  I was so angry.  In the middle of the night (or morning, rather) I would be sobbing and wondering why the fuck God would design babies to come out too early, not know how to sleep, and make it so that their mothers are on the brink of complete death day in and day out for the first few months – a year, or sometimes longer.  It’s a terrible design, and I have told God this many, many times.

Let’s talk about PPD.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are running rampant.  According to statistics that I can’t remember where I read (you wouldn’t believe the amount of hours I’ve spent on baby/ new mommy research), 80% of women experience PPD.  Only 20% “report” it to their doctors.  I think a large percentage just seek help elsewhere, and the rest of them are just lying or in denial.  My experience with PPD was terrible, as far as seeking help was concerned.  I did all of the right things, which are as follows; 1) Told my doctor at my first postpartum appointment.  Not only did I tell him, I didn’t minimize it AT ALL.  2) Followed through with the counseling and medication he recommended.  3) Reported back that the daily anxiety meds prescribed were making my anxiety worse by a long shot.  That’s right – anxiety medication can make the problem worse.  Read the side effects.  If “nervousness”, “increased heart rate”, “worsening anxiety”, or “insomnia” are listed, keep a close eye on that shit, because adding fuel to that fire is deadly.  Just ask my friend Tony whose wife blew her brains out when baby was nearly one year old.

I had a very positive track record with an “as needed” anxiety medication, vs. a daily medication that I would have to ween off of.  I repeatedly told my doctor(s) this, yet they wouldn’t prescribe it to me, as they wanted me on a daily med.  I decided that I was done working with them on my path to healing and figured it out for myself.  I’m one of the lucky ones, because I did figure it out… over and over again.  I am still figuring it out every breakdown I have.  It happens often.

This is what postpartum depression looks like (the term PPD includes anxiety, by the way and MASSIVE anxiety is so common in New Mama’s).  At first, your delirium is accompanied by pure astonishment and earlier mentioned baby joy, which carries you through most times.  Then… what I call “the shift” happens.  Your physical, mental, emotional, and spirit all break down.  Usually all at once.  It happens once every few days, maybe for a few hours.  So you have a few bad hours and you either sleep enough (at this point 2 hours is life changing), or you just suck it up and DO because you are a motherfucking woman.  Next, it’s a bad day.  One full day of bad.  Of breakage.  Of being completely unraveled… but you are a baby robot by now so you just DO.  You manage to keep the baby alive, and possibly eat one tortilla yourself and you make it.  But eventually one bad day trickles into another, because you lay awake at night anxious, starving, and completely shattered – feeding your baby every hour and maybe sleeping 12 minutes here and there.  So now we have a bad week.  Then bad weeks… months… and eventually it’s just your life.  But again, you are a motherfucking woman, so you just DO….

Mama, you will eventually become extremely ill.  GET HELP.  If the form of help your doctor sets you up with sucks, call me!!! My number is (323) 274-5044 and yes, I am 100% ok putting that info on a public blog because I am so tired of the sorry excuses for PPD counselors.  I am working hard currently to pair up with a Psychiatrist for those of us who need meds, and need them fast.  In the meantime, here’s what I did in no particular order:

  1. Called Brother.  Brother is 18 mos older than me and has been my protector my entire life.  Brother is a hard-ass, but also somehow a baby whisperer (I am so lucky).  Brother drove from NM to AZ with one day notice.  Brother helped for a week and got me back to good.
  2.  Was honest with husband.  Sometimes I vocalized it in ways that put the fear of God in him, and possibly also made him want to run for the hills.  But, I was honest.  I bottled, and just DID a lot of the time, but once in while I let myself be vulnerable and told husband I could not handle.
  3. Found a friend/nanny – enter Elisa.  Holy fucking shit – Elisa!  I wasn’t comfy with an online service, daycare, random sweet old ladies on Facebook offering to help.  Remember, this was the height of COVID.  Elisa, the best human I know, is a realtor and has some spare time.  I’m home 25/8, so she can come any day of the week and it can always change.  Every day is Groundhog’s Day here… so that made it easier.  I didn’t have to find someone to fit into my non-existent schedule.  But she offered, had nanny experience, and is great with Emerson.  But here is the thing, I PAY HER.  It’s hard fucking work, and in my opinion the nanny profession is so under appreciated.  If you have free family help, that is great.  But if you can find someone you know well, that is certified in CPR/ choking protocol, or willing to do so… if you can pay them, do it!  Don’t buy clothes on Amazon for a year if you have to, just get the help and breaks!!  SO WORTH IT, even one day a week.
  4. Prayer, prayer, prayer.  I prayed to the God I was holding in contempt in the Court of Stefanie each and every time I thought I would fall asleep and drop the baby, forget I had a baby (delirium), or wish I didn’t have a baby – SIDEBAR- to all the women who are trying SO HARD to have a baby and who are having issues, I see you!  I hear you.  I am here for you and in no way want to offend you.  However, I must be brutally honest for the sobbing New Mama reading this who doesn’t know how to go on.  I have to.
  5. Did at least ONE thing per day for me, as follows: meditation, yoga, cooking, reading… sometimes only for 12 minutes, but still.  I managed to shower daily (you smell SO BAD after birth, you have to find 5 min shower time).  And I brushed my teeth.  All items mentioned besides shower/teeth only started to happen after one month.

Mama, if you are at the height of a bad moment… it’s ok to leave the baby crying.  Go outside for 3 minutes.  Put baby somewhere safe (crib or bassi) and just go outside.  Or punch the daylights out of some pillows.  Or wake someone else up in the middle of the night.  Run 3 circles around your house.  Furiously type a text message begging for help.  Do whatever you need to do as long as  you are not harming yourself, or the baby.

You ONLY job some days is to keep yourself and the baby alive.  THAT IS IT.

Nothing else on your plate,

Nothing else on your plate,

Nothing else on your plate.

Oh… and I love you.  I might not even know you, but if you are doing this… I love you so, so much.

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

Albert Camus

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