Dear Is This Normal,
I’m having a hard time after the birth of my baby. I feel really sad and I can’t express anything about what’s happening to me. I can’t say what bothers or angers me, because I feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way, so I keep it all in and now I don’t know what to do. Is this normal?
Sad in Silence
I know you can’t physically feel it, but just know that I am wrapping my arms around you in the biggest virtual hug right now. What you’ve described is SO incredibly normal, in that it happens to SO MANY WOMEN. But I also know that it can feel abnormal, because we just don’t talk as openly about it as part of the entire motherhood journey. And we should! It’s imperative that we, as a community, talk about mental health and motherhood and remove any of the stigma still attached. Because it can be really lonesome when you feel like the only mama in the world who isn’t brimming with excitement and happiness over the birth of their child.
Organizations like The Motherhood Center of New York are doing some incredibly important work in this arena, offering support and services to moms who need it and broadening our collective conversations around mental health and motherhood. I know everything probably feels very heavy right now, mama, but I want you to know that you don’t have to bear this burden alone.
The easiest thing would be to say, “Well, just talk about it!” But that’s not very helpful, is it? Especially when you don’t really know what IT is, where these feelings are coming from, or how to process them. You are going through some massive changes right now——hormonal, physical, emotional. And you’re trying to adjust to all of that while caring for this new little person! It’s overwhelming.
To start trying to find your voice again, the experts at The Motherhood Center say it starts with practicing self-compassion. Instead of trying to block out your inner critic or shut down your feelings of sadness or anger or helplessness, recognize that the voice is coming from you and try to understand the feeling behind it. What is happening externally when those feelings start to get overwhelming? Your emotions are trying to communicate something to you, and in order for you to communicate your feelings outwardly, you have to acknowledge them.
Your emotions are valid, and feeling sad or angry or confused by what is happening is nothing to be ashamed of. The Motherhood Center says that by beginning to label your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you’re better able to process them and communicate your needs to those around you.
It can definitely feel easier to just stay quiet and keep it all in. But when we do that, that inner critic often gets louder, and more persistent. You’re feeling sad, and those feelings of sadness make you feel worse because you don’t think you should have them, and in turn you feel even MORE sad and now perhaps angry at yourself and ashamed that you can’t manage this – does that sound about right? It’s a vicious cycle, one that many of us have been trapped in, and it is made worse by not giving ourselves the compassion and grace we deserve. It’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling, and it’s OK to communicate those emotions and thoughts with people you love and trust. Be kind to yourself, mama, and give yourself space and patience to process your emotions. Once you’ve acknowledged that inner voice, bring it out into the world and unburden yourself.
One final thought: don’t let feelings of guilt or this idea that you need to just power through and deal with this keep you from focusing on yourself. For a lot of moms (myself included), self-care and attention to one’s self is the first thing that goes after they have a baby. All of our attention, energy, and resources are being funneled to this new little person, and that new little person requires a lot of all of those things! But our mental and physical well-being is equally important, and we need to feel complete too. Even if it’s just 20 or 30 minutes a day for a quiet moment alone, a hot bath, or a brisk walk around the block, anything you can do to decompress and recenter yourself can help. Check in with your mom friends for support—chances are they know exactly how you’re feeling because they felt the same way at some point, or are in the trenches themselves at the moment. Community in motherhood is crucial, and can be the respite and rescue you need.
Silent No More,
Is This Normal