My husband and I struggled with fertility issues for about a year. I underwent invasive ultrasounds and testing and even laparoscopic surgery before finally becoming pregnant. I felt like my family, friends, coworkers, and even Facebook support groups offered me positive encouragement. There were certainly dark times, but I was one of the lucky ones and I got my little miracle.
I had a perfect pregnancy and only vomited once or twice ... every day. I was healthy and she was growing, and then after a long and exciting nine (10) months, she was here! I wound up having a C-section due to labor complications. The C-section wasn’t nearly as bad as I always thought, other than the whole having my organs taken out and rearranged and then put back in thing. I’m pretty sure something may still be upside-down. But she was here and safe and that was all I cared about.
And then I got home from the hospital. I had a mountain of support from my family and my husband’s family. We are incredibly blessed in so many ways. So many moms don’t have that same support system. I was a nursing mother, so my nights consisted of short naps interrupted by constant feedings. I was tired in a way that sinks deep into your bones. The kind of tired where you regret every nap you didn’t take and every time you didn’t go to bed early back when you could have.
Everyone talks about how nursing is so wonderful for baby, and it’s a bonding experience for mother and baby. And it is. But listen here — I toted her around for 10 months in my belly. I couldn’t be more bonded with her if my life depended on it. So when all I read on nursing mom support groups was ways to “increase your milk supply” and pump more often to prolong your breastfeeding relationship, I got progressively discouraged. I was so anxious and worried about having to supplement her diet with formula that it literally kept me awake at night.
But it wasn’t just feeding her that stressed me out. It was the avalanche of things you worry about with a new baby. Conflicting advice about swaddling and co-sleeping and sleep training and cloth-diapering and vaccinations (Just do it!) and guilt over going back to work and, and, and, and ...
And leaving a tiny baby in the care of strangers goes against every maternal instinct we have. I thank God every day for the day care teacher who talked me down the first morning I left her. She told me how my daughter needed to see her mama being strong and happy. I didn’t even cry that first day at drop-off. Not at the day care, anyway. I got to the car and sobbed the whole way to work. I thought I was surely the only mom in the world who was so silly. Moms are supposed to be superwomen, right? Well, yes. But no.
After a while, drop-off got easier, and I started to meet other moms through our day care. Some of these women were younger or older than me. Some were first-time moms like me. Others had preteen children. Some single, some married, some divorced. At first it seemed like all we had in common was that we were working moms dropping our new little ones off. But the more we talked and the more time we’ve spent together as our babes have grown, I’ve learned so much about the shared experience of motherhood.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the only mom who agonized over nursing versus formula. I wasn’t the only mom obsessed with car seat safety and sleep safety. I wasn’t the only one frantically Googling baby poop colors and weird baby behaviors in the middle of the night. I wasn’t the only mom shouldering a heavy burden of guilt over leaving my baby all day to return to work. I also learned that I wasn’t the only mom suffering from crippling anxiety over all these things.
We survived the newborn phase (barely). We transitioned back to work. Babies grew and mamas learned. Once or twice, I even got to get a good night’s rest. But I still struggled with constant worry. I talked to my doctor about the anxiety I was experiencing. He knew something was wrong right away. I burst into tears because I thought surely I must be the only one. He prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine and told me it may take a while and my thoughts wouldn’t suddenly become puppy dogs and rainbows overnight, but that I should reach some higher ground after a few weeks of taking it. And he was right. No miracle cure for sure, but after a while I was able to manage the stress and anxiety much, much better.
But I was ashamed. Why should I need medicine to cope with my beautiful, busy, wonderful life? One Saturday morning at a play date, I was talking to two other moms and learned that they are also coping with anxiety and taking medication for it. I opened up about my medicine and how I felt it had changed my life and made me a better mother. And there, in the middle of a playground, surrounded by shrieking toddlers, I realized that I was never alone to begin with.
The stress, the worry, the pressure — it’s weighing on all of us in different ways. Some moms drink a glass of wine (or five). Some moms go to the gym or do yoga. And some moms, like me, take anxiety medicine. And, whatever a mom’s coping mechanism may be, she is still superwoman to her little one. And that’s really all that matters.