I’m a 24-year-old mom from Dothan, Alabama, and just had my baby boy Locklin James about a month ago. Prior to becoming a mom, I heard everyone talk about how sweet the times will be, but the reality for me is that it’s been an emotional roller-coaster.
No one prepares moms for the psychological aspect of postpartum. When you’re pregnant and people see you carrying a child, they tell you constantly “you’re doing so great,” and “you look great.” But after labor is over, people just want to see the baby and hold the baby. These days, my closest family and best friends are the only ones who even think to ask me how I’m doing and if I’m ok. It can be pretty isolating. I completely understand why postpartum anxiety and depression is such a big problem in America.
Personally, breastfeeding has been a lot harder. And I came into it completely underprepared. Everyone makes breastfeeding sound like it’s uncomfortable but totally natural and manageable, and how once you get the baby to latch, everything just goes smoothly. So I never even considered getting any outside help in advance. But then I ended up having issues with producing enough milk, and felt horrible and guilty and self-conscious and like there was something wrong with me when I really needed that help.
I’m strong in my faith, and that has really been a source of strength for me throughout this process. I’ve printed out and refer often to one of my favorite quotes “Am I now seeking the approval of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) It can be difficult for moms to swallow their pride and admit that they’re having trouble or ask for help from a lactation consultant. But every day, I grow stronger in my acceptance and self-confidence that I can still be a good mom if I accept help from others, and that supplementing with formula does not mean I don’t have my baby’s best interests in mind. There are many ways to be a wonderful mother, and we can’t let the mommy shamers out there or the perfect images of celebrity moms dictate how we “should” be as mothers.
I admit that I’ve felt frustrated, sad, and depressed. For me, the stress with breastfeeding has been the root of a lot of it. You also feel like you need to be a better mom, and that if visitors are coming, that you need to have your house clean. People tell me constantly to sleep when the baby sleeps, but then the house is a mess, you don’t see your husband, and you don’t do anything for yourself that you want to be doing.
To be honest, I still struggle with feeling a lot of pressure. And I’m working on it. I’ve realized that almost all of that pressure is pressure I’ve put on myself and allowed myself to take on. And stress is so counterproductive – being stressed out actually decreases your milk supply! I’m so thankful to have an amazing husband who would constantly look up things and proactively come to me with psychological, mental, and emotional support. This kind of support from him has led to tremendous physical improvement for me, and has even gotten me to breastfeed exclusively again!
Getting outside daily has also been extremely helpful. Being stuck inside all day will make any woman depressed! I’ve always been big on exercising. Any kind of exercise will boost your endorphins and make you happier. Praying, listening to worship music, and going for runs have helped me to come back to my baby a better mom. I would not be the mother I want to be if I didn’t take my personal time.
If I could give one piece of advice to those who care about moms-to-be in their lives, I’d say that the most important thing is to help her rest and recover and to not forget about giving her words of affirmation. I would’ve loved to hear my village just tell me that no matter what, I’m doing a great job, rather than focusing on what the baby looks like.
It really does take a village to raise a kid, but it also takes a village to make a mother feel like she’s doing a good job. Encourage her to do something for herself, or better yet – do something, say something, get her something that makes her feel loved and special.
Hailey is an avid runner and new mom in Alabama.