I knew motherhood was a sacrificial role that came with many sleep-deprived nights, but I didn’t realize the amount of time I would be sitting in one place. I didn’t fully comprehend how little I would achieve in the 24 hour day. How much I would long to wash an entire dish, not just half of one, or change the laundry and start a new load. I didn’t truly anticipate how much my newborn would want to be held, even during naps and nighttime hours. How frequently she would demand to be fed, which btw, breastfeeding is seriously difficult. It’s a skill that you don’t learn overnight. Despite feeling like nothing was getting done, I was reminded by my sis that I have the most essential job in the world, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I am tending to this tiny human so she can live, grow, and feel secure.
Still, I cried a lot during those first few weeks. For multiple reasons, really, hormones probably being the biggest contributor. I was growing envious of my husband, who moved swiftly and freely around the house completing tasks. He cleaned and cooked for us, which, don’t get me wrong, I genuinely appreciated, and I adore him for taking care of us. But he still took his regular long showers, enjoyed his morning tea, ate food when it was warm, biked to work for exercise, slept more than 4 hours in the night, and even found time to work on his side hustle. I must admit, I was even jealous of him being able to do the dishes (let me remember that for later). As for me, I was stationed in one place, watching him thrive as a human and a new father.
I couldn’t help but question, “Is this really motherhood?” My husband’s life hasn’t changed all that much. Yet my entire being just went through a transformation in a matter of few days. I resembled nothing to the woman I was pre-birth. Would I dub it baby blues? Nah. Early-onset of postpartum depression? Hopefully not. Perhaps I was grieving the loss of my ideal expectations of what I thought motherhood would be while also celebrating the birth of my new identity as a mother. Each hormonal tear was encapsulated with being overwhelmed, jealous, and thrilled. Now, that’s next level crying 😂!
Here’s the part that doesn’t get talked about all that much… attachment to your baby. And this is where my passion lies, attachment theory. Going into motherhood, I knew newborns are in absolute survival mode for the first handful of weeks. Minimal personality or attachment is being shown on their end. However, around the 6-week marker baby’s limbic system starts working, and they begin to build connections and make eye contact. This developmental milestone was my greatest incentive. I kept telling myself just make it to week-6. Everything is going to get better. Just wait. It turned out it did. In fact, my baby started to develop her connection to me around week 4. Even if her smiles were merely gas smiles, I convinced myself it was our deep mother-daughter connection, which allowed my new mother’s heart to grow bigger by the day!
In all seriousness, though, I see how moms fall into postpartum depression so quickly during those first few weeks. I mean, just imagine a brand new mom feeling traumatized (perhaps) from her birth experience, now her body is trying to heal (as well as her mind). She holds her precious newborn baby, and she so badly wants to feel emotionally bonded. Although, her baby shows no real attachment to her yet. On top of all that, the mother takes a drastic hit on her hormones. Her home is a mess, she can’t find the time to cook a nourishing meal, and she is learning to operate on minimal sleep. I think it’s safe to say babies are not the only ones here using their survival brain in the first few weeks, so is mama. As the baby is becoming oriented to the world, mama is also introduced to the new world of motherhood. So yes, I 100% see how moms fall into depression and anxiety during these first few weeks. I mean, it’s almost a miracle if we don’t experience some level of mental health symptoms. Am I wrong?
So, with that all being said, If I can offer any encouragement to a new mom in the first few weeks, I would say hold tight; the overflowing bond with your child is on its way. Just wait (and if it doesn’t, there is no shame in that, reach out for professional help). In the meantime, stay present, attuned, & sensitive to your baby’s needs. You are doing the most important job in the world, and that is building a secure attachment in your child. Soon those motherhood duties will become more manageable, and your connection with your baby will be the most overwhelming part of it all. Now, that’s how motherhood should feel!
References: The Birthful Podcast