Motherhood: Always and Never Alone
My experience as a stay-at-home mom dealing with being lonely when I'm never truly alone. At only five months in this has been the most rewarding, yet challenging five months of my life.
I used to be woken up to the sound of a gentle soundscape coming from the speakers of my iphone. I'd roll over to see my dogs still cuddled up next to me and I'd think to myself, "What should I do today?" The possibilites were endless, I could write, paint, watch a movie, go on a drive or even take off to another city or state if I wanted to. Fast foward to the present day, I am woken up to the sound of crying or the crippling anxiety that I face. I roll over and think okay time to get up, get the dogs out, start a bottle, change her diaper, etc. The list of things to do already slowly taking over my eight hours I have without my husband home to help. I try to take breaths and not let the never-ending daily tasks overwhelm me before I even get out of bed.
I try to keep my daughter on a strict schedule because I thrive on routine and I hear the same goes for babies. She's five months old, she's new to life and i'm five months into motherhood so I'm new at that. I never want to sound ungrateful though because I wanted this. After a miscarriage in 2019 I was left devestated. It took us five months of trying before we were blessed enough to conceive our rainbow baby girl. I love being a mom but there is so much pressure and loneliness that you can never understand until you are one.
I have always struggled with mental health from a young age. I had horrible depression and anxiety majority of my early teen years and around the year I turned nineteen I was diagnosed with bipolar 2. With my pregnancy, I found that my mental health eas at an all time high. I felt great every single day. I was truly in the best place. I viewed myself as beautiful for the first time because I was growing life. I welcomed my growing belly and loved every inch of it. I took vitamins everyday, ate well-balanced meals and drank about five to six bottles of water every day. I was thriving for nine months, well about six months because the first 12 weeks were filled with morning sickness. (If you know, you KNOW.)
My birth was traumatic. Since 16 weeks of pregnancy, I was so ready to give birth. I had taken hypnobirthing classes, written down everything in the book but no level of prepartation can truly ready you for birth. It certainly helped, but childbirth is something you truly cannot understand until you go through it. I had gone over my due date and as any 40 week pregnant woman can tell you, at that stage we are ready to be DONE. We love having our baby safe in our womb but the aches and pains of lugging around a six to sometimes ten pound baby is exhausting. I told my midwife I was ready to be done. I was 3cm dialated (almost 4) and having prodromal labor (look it up) since about 36 weeks. I was beyond done. My induction was scheduled and we checked in on February 24. After a grueling labor process and what felt like forever, I was ultimately stuck at 5cm dialated. A heartbreaking discovery after nearly 24 hours of labor and my water being broke for about 8 hours at this point. The contractions were intense and I wasn't progressing. I opted for the epidural which for an hour or two was sweet, sweet pain relief. Until, it suddenly wasn't. I started feeling each contraction more and more. I was quickly back to the horrendous pain I felt before. Only suddenly, it was worse. They checked and I was 8-9cm and fully effaced. They decided to redo my epidural and at 9cm dialated I had to sit still enough for a long needle to penetrate me again. I did it! Sweet relief. Only this time, no where near as long. It didn't take, AGAIN. But too late to do anything, it was baby time. After an hour and 30 minutes of pushing my sweet baby girl was ripped out of me and laid on my chest. SHOCK. That is the state I was in. Proud of myself, feeling a new type of love for my husband who was rooting me on and was truly my rock during it all. A love I had never felt for this little 7 pound 11.5 ounce, 19 inch baby girl, Paisley.
I was on cloud nine. They were stitching me up, pushing on my stomach, which hurts like a BITCH, but did I care? No. I was holding my baby and I was proud of myself. I felt an indescribable pain that I could only imagine being burned alive feels like but I DID IT! Postpartum was hard but I was on a high like no other for the first two months. We were blessed with a beautiful, very well-behaved baby. I was healing better and ignoring all the changes of my body or maybe I just was ignoring them because of this high-on-life type feeling. Then around three months postpartum my mindset started to change. I noticed all the stretch marks, I noticed the hanging extra skin around my stomach, my sagging boobs that failed to nourish my daughter, the vagina didn't feel the same and I could see scar tissue. I couldn't wear tampons anymore due to pain, I can't hold my pee in when I really have to go, I cannot even walk around the zoo without pelvic pain. I get hit with random, awful hot flashes that come from no where and worst of all, that beautiful mental state I was in was replaced by horrible anxiety and feeling down. My body was no longer the same. I look in the mirror and don't recognize myself anymore. I hadn't felt that way since my sexual assault. I couldn't wrap my head around why I loved my pregnant body growing life but hated my stretched out postpartum body that grew life's most precious gift.
Society played a big part in it. So much pressure to "bounce back" and I wasn't bouncing back like I hoped. I still have a "pouch" from my stretched skin and I feel insecure. I don't know why I feel this way. I see other women and view them as beautiful. They grew life, they should be proud of their new body. So why didn't I apply this mindset to myself? My mental issues are a whole other demon. I'm worried sick about my child every day. Yes, motherhood and parenthood come with new anxiety but this was unusual. I cling on to my daughter's stroller in public terrified anyone will grab it and take off. I do not post pictures of my daughter's face for the fear of people tracking her down and stealing her or creeps looking at her. I don't ever want to take her out in public because i'm terrified she'll get sick, RSV, get hurt or stolen. I wake up multiple times in the night checking on her even though she has an owlet sock. I criticize everyone who holds her worried she will flip backwards and fall and I even visualize me dropping her sometimes, so I get scared to pick her up and when I do, I hold her so tightly. These anxieties are eating me alive. I have stomach pains every single day.
A lot of my mental struggles on top of anxiety are the loneliness of motherhood. I'm a stay-at-home mom because it's what we decided as a family would work best. I was loving it for the first three months but as my mental health took a toll I noticed my feeling of being lonely growing rapidly. I stare at the same walls every day and despite their vibrant aqua color, it doesn't cheer me up. I'm surrounded by dogs and a baby two things that can't have conversations with me. When Paisley goes down for a nap, the pressure of housework comes. This pressure makes no sense to me. I have a wonderful husband who comes home from work and immediately helps out with our daughter. He offers to clean, cook dinner, whatever I need help with, he offers. He never expects me to have the house clean or have dinner ready but yet, I feel this pressure which I can only assume stirs from the biggest critic of all, myself. I've always been a perfectionist. Once someone points out a flaw, I'm stuck on it and my mind starts being mean to me about it. I put an overwhelming amount of pressure on myself that when she's down for a nap, it's time to clean, vacuum, wash bottles, do laundry, etc. If I don't get around to it, I feel like a failure. Then my daughter wakes up and I feel mad at myself I didn't get more done. But, it's time to entertain her and even then I feel like a bad mom. I don't do enough for her, I don't play with her good enough, She doesn't like me. Those are thoughts that enter my head every day. Somedays are better than others but majority of the days I feel so lonely.
My husband gets home and I get some relief but the worry and negative thoughts never leave me alone. The cycle never ends either because I know in five hours it's bed time and then I wake up all over again, lonely. When I sit here without my daughter, my dogs want attention but I am touched out and need my space. More guilt floods in my head. The constant feelings of having to juggle motherhood, being a dog mom, being a wife, cleaning, etc. outweigh my needs. I went from taking care of myself during pregnancy, like I mentioned: the vitamins, five to six water bottles a day, well-balanced meals to now. I drink 300mg minimum of caffeine a day to get me through. My diet consists of a bagel in the morning, no lunch and sometimes a meal for dinner if it's a good day. If not, I resort to the good old PB&J. Water intake? NONE. Maybe one bottle, if I'm lucky. I took baths every day in pregnancy and now i'm lucky if I get a shower every other day. Gross, I know. I have lost the need to take care of myself. My constant struggles and the need to care for eveything around me has allowed me to put myself and my needs on the back burner.
Society puts a lot of pressure and guilt on moms. Oh you formula feed? I could never. Screen time? Not good for babies. You let your toddler eat fast food? Yikes, couldn't be me. Oh, you went out on a weekend trip? "WhErE's ThE bAbY?" As if taking a break is a bad thing, dads can't equally parent, formula feeding is "poison", breast feeding in public is a disgrace, screen time will make your baby's IQ be a 3 and fast food will destroy your child. To all those comments I say, FUCK OFF. Mothers need to really, really support eachother and not judge and society well, you need to just fuck right off. Mothers cannot juggle all the pressures, standards and expectations that are put on them. So next time you see a mom formula feeding, think to yourself wow look at that amazing mom feeding her baby. If you see someone breastfeeding think wow look at that amazing mom feeding her baby. When you see a mom out and about without the kids, don't ask dumb questions. Assume that the dad is PARENTING (not watching) or they are with a trusted person because they are. Tell that mama you're so glad she is getting a break because I guarentee she is feeling a touch guilty for leaving so applauding her will give her validation that yes, I am getting a break and that is OK!! Just in general, stop. shaming. moms. We feel so isolated and judged for everything so some support for a change would be a breath of fresh air.
Another thing, don't isolate your mom friends. We were people with hobbies and enjoyed doing fun things before we had a baby. It didn't magically vanish once we popped a kid out. I used to be a painter, a writer, a friend, someone who loved taking drives, going on roadtrips and then I felt like I lost my identity in motherhood. I'm slowly working to gain my identity back and start doing the things that made me Kacey. Involving moms can help with the loneliness we face every day. It may be harder to make it work, you may not see us as often as we used to but please, don't give up on us. If we can't get out and about today offer to come over and help or just come sit with us. Nothing is worse than having a bad day and having no one to talk to. Support from friends and family can really help mamas in challenging times.
I hope you all get a bit of insight what it's like every day as a mom and if you are a mom yourself, maybe you related to this and know, you are not alone! You're doing AMAZING. Keeep doing whatever works for you and know if anyone judges it'll never be me! If you see a mom struggling tell her she's doing awesome, offer help, or just give her a hug. Postpartum and motherhood is such a vulnerable time with changes constantly. Be something that is secure for a mom whether it's a friend, a helping hand or someone who comes by once a week. I guarentee she'll look forward to that day. Mamas keep pushing, keep mothering. As the iconic Kris Jenner would say, "You're doing amazing sweetie!"
Motherhood. Always and NEVER Alone
Kacey Baker. 2021.