Breaking Down with Postpartum Blues
I was a weeping postpartum mess in the first month of motherhood. I had never felt such a strong need to have a “cry session” — a dedicated time to unashamedly bawl my eyes out with my husband by my side. The urge to cry was like the urge to pee, I just had to let it out! My tear ducts were bursting; my heart and the muscles in my chest were cramping up.
Having prepared, well in advance, for every baby necessity, and having sought the counsel of many young parents, I thought I was all ready to conquer motherhood like a champ. I felt so pumped up for it that I even believed that I would not be a victim of postpartum blues. But how wrong I was as the emotions and hormonal rushes kicked in after my baby kicked herself out of my womb. Motherhood overwhelmed me.
As I plunged myself into the unending routine of breastfeeding, healing from the birth wounds and haemorrhoids, and assimilating into this new season, waves and waves of fears, doubt, bitterness, and frustration washed over me.
There were nights I wished that I could just take a break from it all. I was completely exhausted. I craved for a solid eight-hour sleep. But her sudden cries for milk in the middle of the night would reverberate throughout my HDB flat and jolt me awake. As much as it was a joy to hold her in my arms, it was also a struggle to pull my recovering body out of bed to nurse her yet again. To make matters worse, my (truly wonderful) confinement nanny would take the baby back into another room immediately after each feed. Her well-meaning actions to let me head back to my bed to rest caused me to feel like I was a milk machine — a cow on-demand, who did not get to cuddle with my daughter post-feed. It also seemed like the embrace of my confinement nanny brought much more comfort to baby than my embrace did. I’ve never felt more needed and unwanted at the same time.
In the midst of answering the unending “cow calls” my mind was preoccupied with worries and inadequacies of caring for my baby once my confinement nanny leaves. I had become so dependent on her to comfort baby when she cries, tell me when to nurse, cook my meals, bathe my baby, and even instruct me on when I should bathe. I have not had the time and space to learn baby’s routines, or much less even understand her cries.
If we were to head out of the house, I did not know what I should bring along. If my baby were to scream at the top of her lungs, I did now know what to do. How do I establish a good sleeping pattern? How often and how much should I feed the baby? My mind was in a muddle.
Yet in this whirlwind of emotions and thoughts, I found a calm and stillness in my spirit as I followed the Father’s constant leading to lean on Him. He guided and guarded my thoughts as He surfaced the underlying reason for all my unrest: I was afraid of failure as a mother.
I was afraid because breastfeeding was a painful and difficult journey for me, which made me anxious that I would not be able to provide the best for my child. I also had not learn to read my baby’s different cries, leaving me feeling inadequate in caring for her — after all, shouldn’t a mother understand her child best?
Through my tears, I felt the Lord reminding me that mistakes, mess, and mishaps will happen — and it is perfectly okay. I do not need to have everything under control and I do not need to meet every ideal of being a perfect mother. I had to learn to cast my anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) because He cares for me, and for baby much more than I can ever care. I also took comfort in the embrace and prayers of my husband, who constantly reminded me that it is far more important to enjoy this journey of motherhood (even if it means feeding my baby formula milk, in place of breastmilk, or not getting her sleep patterns right) than to go through it laden with anxiety and stress.
I have come to learn to treasure the tender moments of joy with her, and to give thanks to God for this gift of life. As I look at my child with tears of gratitude in my eyes, cradling her to sleep as she nestles her head in the pit of my elbow, I turn to God and praise Him. How unfathomable it is that God would entrust such a precious life to me! While I was still pregnant, God revealed to me that this baby is the only physical thing that is given to me that will enter into eternity, and that just made my heart leap with awe and gratitude to God. Truly she was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and I know that full well.
I acknowledge that I will never be a perfect mother and I have had to give myself the grace and space to learn and grow through these experiences. As much as I had to be patient with my baby as she learns to suckle, latch, and burp, I had to be patient with myself too.
To all new mamas out there: you are not alone in your struggle and pain though you might be confined in your home. May we all learn that there is grace to grow and learn, and that the Lord is faithful to guide us as we journey through this new season together. Even when we don’t feel beautiful (with messy hair, milk stained tops, and sagging eye bags), may we always be reminded to see the beauty in this season the Lord has blessed us with. Though the days and nights might feel incredibly long with night feeds and messed up sleep schedules, the years are insanely short; our once tiny-babbling-babies will soon grow up to be walking-talking-todds.