To Hell with the Hormones

One of my dearest friends was kind enough to give me a call the other day to find out how I was doing. The hubster had gone back into the field and my mom and other house guests had returned to their homes and normal lives. My house was finally empty and I was alone with baby, so she thought I might be feeling rather down in the dumps.

It was pretty good timing on her part because I had been thinking a lot about the so-called “baby blues” that I had heard so much about during my stay in the hospital. (The nurses had even sent me home with an informational pamphlet.) I was wondering if I was going to get them, what was it going to feel like, and would I recognize that I was in fact enduring my very own blue period.

So, when my friend asked me how I was doing, I really didn’t know how to answer. I mean, did I miss my husband? Of course. It was definitely heartbreaking to see him leave; he only got five days with his newborn son before he had to go back for training. Was I sad to see my mom go home? Absolutely. I can’t hardly put words to how much she did for me and baby during her time with us.

To me, that didn’t really sound like baby blues kind of stuff. That just sounded like life. Who doesn’t miss her mom or her husband when they aren’t near–new baby or otherwise? But even if I wasn’t technically suffering from the big, bad baby blues, I definitely wasn’t feel exactly emotionally stable.

I held a pretty even keel during my pregnancy. I was definitely more emotional every time my husband came home and then had to leave again; it can be sometimes overwhelming to be managing your family’s life–from your career to the house to the finances to the construction work we were having done to the dog–by yourself. Fortunately, I had a plain vanilla type of pregnancy, so I felt good and had few issues, so dealing with all that other stuff on my own was actually possible, even if less than desirable.

But in the days following baby’s arrival, I found myself getting super emotional at random times.

One night I was sitting on my front porch, enjoying a beautiful evening and a nice glass of wine and I totally got weepy just thinking about how amazing the stars were and how much I enjoyed my life.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Another evening, I got the waterworks flowing after I stupidly started leafing through the nursery staple, Guess How Much I Love You. (I strongly advise new mommies to hold off on reading that childhood favorite for awhile. I’ve opened the damn book three times and dissolved into soggy mess every time, so I’m thinking I need to wait until the hormones even out before I try that again.)

And then just the other night, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy and one of the doctor’s had to put another doctor’s dog down. I was a total mess watching the episode. I just kept thinking about how sick my own pup had been just a few weeks before–five days in doggy ICU was stressful to say the least–and how scared I had been that we were going to lose him.

So, I start telling my friend that what I was getting emotional about was not really baby-related stuff. I was finding myself getting worked up over bigger, darker thoughts. For example, I kept thinking about the fact that one day I was going to lose my mom. That thought would just pop up unexpectedly in my head and even if I didn’t spend much time entertaining it, it would have me so upset.

I was sort of embarrassed to be saying any of this out loud, even if it was to my best friend, but I felt better  when she told me she totally understood. “You’re literally just in awe of the miracle of life,” she said.

I have always hated that term–“miracle of life”–but I think she may have hit on something very real. Suddenly you have this perfect little baby in your arms and your sort of have these feelings of amazement and wonder colliding with a crushing sense of responsibility. And you also realize that your mom felt this way about you and you feel grateful to have her as your mom and guilty that you weren’t less of a pain in the ass. It’s a perfect storm of emotions.

But I think the thing that really “gets” to me is coming to grips with a basic fact of life: Nothing lasts forever. As exciting as it is to watch, anticipate, and enjoy the baby growing and changing, there’s no getting around the reality that every day is one less day we have. We’re all getting older and eventually our time will be up. Our mom’s won’t be with us forever and we’re not going to be with our kids forever, either. That sort of face-to-face with mortality is proving rather hard to digest for this newbie mommy.

“You probably don’t want to hear this,” said my friend. “But that feeling takes awhile to go away.”

Her daughter is two and she says she’s just feeling like she’s getting past that whole we’re-all-going-to-die-someday realization now.

Great. So much to look forward to.

So, knowing that all these feelings are (1) normal and (2) not going anywhere soon, even if their rapid onset and intensity calm down as my hormones get back in line, I’ve decided to ban certain tear-jerking items from my life until my hormones gone on hiatus:

  • Sentimental children’s books. I’ve moved books such as the classic Guess How Much I Love You or Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You to the bottom of the pile of books in my nursery.
  • High drama TV shows. No medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or House or any of the other rip off shows and no crime or mystery shows, particularly (and sadly) Law and Order SVU.
  • Anything with animals. I basically do everything I can to avoid Animal Planet in general and any shows in particular that showcase authorities removing animals from disgusting homes.
  • Sappy movies. Chick flicks definitely got me through my pregnancy, but I’m not even going near anything with any sad undertones. Topping my list of do-not-sees for fear of flooding are P.S. I Love You, Family Stone, Steel Magnolias, My Sister’s Keeper, My Life, The Notebook… you get the idea.
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9 Comments

Filed under baby blues, birthing, depression, emotions, mommy care, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

9 responses to “To Hell with the Hormones

  1. I think it is great that you have decided to take some pro-active precautions to keep your moods balanced. Postpartum depression and baby blues can be a short or long-term condition, striking at any time, but it usually festers in the period immediately after birth and may grow into something more or become more noticeable after awhile.

    The best tips for preventing postpartum depression and lessening the baby blues are to draw on community, become very involved with your current role, and breastfeeding is also a great way to balance the hormones, increase the loving, happy endorphins and baby-bonding hormones and it regulates other parts of the body and provides a form of active relaxation, like meditation. Meditating, or finding some other form of active-relaxation, especially something creative will also help, as well as keep your body as healthy and hydrated as possible, and getting PLENTY of rest.

    In many traditional communities a woman is nourished by the other women in the community with various forms of support for at least 6 weeks following the birth. With the stress of your husband leaving, I would greatly encourage you to rest and have a teen helper, doula and/or friends come over to assist you and have regular get-togethers, potlucks, a book club, or movie night, especially if you can find other mothers with babies to come over often to help you, physically would be great, but emotionally/socially would really influence and lessen your chances of developing a more serious version of postpartum depression.

    It is great to connect to your intuition, spirituality and connection to life and the universe with awe and acknowledgement of it’s intensity, but if you are having uncontrolled negative, alarming or depressing thoughts about losing your mother, or losing the times you have now, or any other prevailing thoughts that are coming out of that blue, I would suggest deeply finding activities to put you more in the moment, planning, and integrating your new role in the now… enjoying where you are and disconnecting from the hands of time.

    Yes, postpartum depression has become normal and prevalent in our society, but everything that is normal is not necessary or unpreventable. I hope you can find more ways to alleviate the blues and the thoughts you are having, because the feelings can go away if they are worked on. Of course you might occasionally reminisce on the intensity of life and loss, but parenting is a busy process and the action should outweigh the analysis, try to be more “in the now”.

    :::Positive baby-bonding thoughts, your way:::

  2. Sarah,

    I have forgotten about the baby blues seeing that my “baby” just turned 8 but you are so right- you do became enamored with the miracle of life at that point. Thanks for the tips as I will be needing them in the next few years when I have another. I will have to save this page so I can remind myself what to avoid in my emotional unstable state. Also love the book as we still have a copy and break it out of the archives every now and then for some mommy/child reading time!

    Enjoy these times they are so precious and irreplaceable. This blog will be like gold to you in a few years.

    • Thanks, Ashley. I’m definitely glad that I started the blog because it forces me to actually articulate what I’m sort of dealing with in my mind. And once I can say it, I can remember it–and that’s really what I want out of this whole exercise. I want to remember how special and life changing having this little boy is. Thanks for reading!

  3. Becky

    Sarah,

    I love reading your posts. I just wanted to tell you that I think I still to this day get the “baby blues” from time to time. Paige will be 13 in 10 days and Abby just turned 5. I believe my blues come from the fact that I know that I will never have anymore children and they are growing before my eyes. I wonder if the hormones ever really leave your body??? Humm…..something to ponder I guess.

    • Thanks, Becky. For as much as I’m enjoying writing these posts, I’m really loving hearing from people who either have been down this road before (and have some awesome pointers for me) or are going through something similar now. I was wondering if this “feeling” ever really goes away, and if I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like it doesn’t. Makes me wonder how my mom wasn’t dissolving into tears every other day. Do we just get better at holding it back?

  4. Paige

    I’m up-to-date with your recent posts, but I hadn’t read this one yet. I haven’t even had baby and this made me cry 🙂 I’m already an emotional sap so I can only imagine what’s going to happen after she’s born. I’ll definitely be taking your advice to heart, and I’m sure they’ll be lots of late night calls.

    Have I told you lately that I love your blog?

    • LOL. I didn’t get that emotional in the pregnancy stage–I think I was too busy–but the last days and the days immediately following, I was a mess. One night–I think I was still pregnant–I just sat in my rocker, looking at the nursery, and I just thought, “This is so beautiful.” It was like 90+ degrees, I had no air conditioning, and I was overdue. The hormones just get you when you’re not looking and wrap themselves around you, and there’s no reprieve until you just cry. I look back and think it’s crazy, but just try to enjoy the ride. It goes by quickly. Love you!

  5. Pingback: Not So Hot on the Hormones « mum's the word

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