A Letter To My Postpartum, Hormonal Completely Overwhelmed Self

postpartum bellyDear Postpartum, Hormonal, Completely Overwhelmed Self,

You’re probably a little bit gone right now. But that’s okay. I’ll talk anyway. I know you’re tired — no, exhausted beyond anything you’ve ever known. I know you’ve been up all night for the past 10 straight nights. I know the only thing you want is sleep, not for a few hours, not for a night — for a week and then some. I know the thought of moving forward and into another day is exhausting in itself and knowing that that you can’t call out sick, you can’t give up, it’s all on you, no matter what, is crushing.

I know it’s hard to picture everything being okay because you’re walking into the unknown with a weight you’ve never felt before and it seems like that will never fade.  I know that suddenly your body feels like an old woman. Crippled from hours of leaning over, feeding your child, from the grief of what you’ve lost and the weight of what you’ve gained all at the same time.

I know that everything is different now. There isn’t time to sit and think or talk with friends and pour your heart out. And it feels like you can’t catch your breath and nobody knows; nobody realized that you stopped breathing; that you haven’t taken a full breath in weeks; that you’re dying and growing a new soul and a new heart and it hurts when it’s happening. But it has to happen.

I know you can’t let go because you’re scared of what might crumble if you do. And the next feeding, the next diaper, the next uncontrollable scream that you’ll try for hours to soothe is lurking. It’s any moment. It’s coming.

I know you feel like you’ve lost it all, your youth, your freedom. The responsibility is endless and you’re right. There is no end in sight. You can’t go back.

So just let me say it, since you can’t. Since no one will believe you, since it hurts too much to even think it. Since it won’t make you feel better. But I’ve been through the judging and the misunderstanding and the “suck it ups” and so I’ll say it for you. This is hell. And it’s mean and it’s sweaty. And you will have to claw your way out from the bottom up. There it is.

But let me tell you what else I know.

I know that you are growing more now than you could have in 30 years; that you’re in the process of discovering how to live. You weren’t doing it before. You were existing and it’s not the same thing. If you want life, this is it: the good and the bad. It’s real and it will remake you if you let it.

You can move forward, but you have to embrace it all first. This is your life. Own it. Claim it. Breathe it in so that you can start to feel the earth shift. It will be slow at first and then faster and faster until you’re running to catch up.

You will find your way, but stop pushing back. You’ll only have farther to fall.

Trust your instincts and embrace your mistakes. There will be plenty and so there’s only more to learn. This is how we grow as mothers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you will hear yourself talking and not recognize the sound of your voice but keep talking. Let go of negativity from others, but let your ears be open to their truths. Everywhere you look someone will say you’re doing it wrong, but don’t be so afraid of the bad that you forget to look at the good.

Go with it.

You’re going to be a great mom.

Love, You (a few years down the road)

(photo: aclockworkjordan)

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  • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

    Sarah, I am going to marry this article. Forever and ever amen. LOVE so much.

  • Bethany Ramos

    This is awesome to read since I have a 4 week old (second baby). I am coping better this time, but sometimes I’ve wondered why God made it this way – why are babies so high-maintenance? :) I’ve come to think that it’s because it stretches you so much and helps you connect with that little blob so that you can deeply love him, whether things are tough or easy. You also learn to be kinder to yourself (hopefully). Great letter!

    • Myriam

      I have a less prosaic answer… The reason babies are so high maintenance is because we walk upright and develop a big brain. To be able to come out, babies are born a good 3 months early. The head and body would be to big otherwise!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Also a good point. ;)

    • bootness

      During my sleep deprived pondering, I couldn’t help but think that just maybe, it was the same as how certain groups (the army, cults) will foster complete and utter devotion to the group by using sleep deprivation and shared hardships. It does form a strong bond! Natural brainwashing. I’ll never forget the night I woke up when someone’s car backfired nearby, and I jumped up all bewildered, and covered the bassinet with my body. I was in super-protect mode!

    • Bethany Ramos


    • Sarah Morgan

      Don’t forget too, that for most of human history (and to this day, in certain parts of the world), it wouldn’t be just you, alone, or even just you & your partner, taking care of this high-maintenance bundle of adorbs. You would have a whole group of family and friends to pitch in. My brother in law and his girlfriend lived with my husband & I when I was pregnant & had our son, and we were really lucky to all get along, and they helped out a ton and it was amazing (sometimes doing grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning, babysitting…). I got totally spoiled–now that they’ve moved out, I’m terrified of the prospect of having a second without all that support. I don’t know how the rest of the Western World accomplishes it.

  • Blooming_Babies

    Really excellent piece, I’m a couple years from these times but it captures the feelings perfectly.

  • Smalls

    This letter made me terrified to have a baby. :(

    • Guest

      So did the picture

    • kitten

      i have three, and i would not say anything as dismal as some of whats contained with in, i think shes speakign to personal experience :)

      (also, abdomen looks nothing like that)

    • Anika

      I just had one recently and I didn’t find her newborn stage that difficult at all, but I know she’s an easy baby. It’s all the luck of the draw!

  • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

    Hear, hear. Love this!

  • Hayley

    WOW!! Thank you!

  • Sarah

    I’m really happy to see the photo accompanying this article. For once, it’s not a stretch mark-free, perfectly round, toned, taut stomach – pregnant or not.

  • http://www.whatwouldshethink.com/ Rachelle


  • Zettai

    I know I am supposed to be proud of that picture, but my grilled cheese sandwich almost came up looking at it.

  • G.E. Phillips

    It’s been 3 years, so maybe I’m forgetting, but I feel like I don’t remember it being that bad??? But I was lucky enough to have a fairly easy baby and not to have PPD or anything like that, although I had very little help and had gained a LOT of weight.

    • kitten

      i feel badly than some women did feel this way, as I say above I never felt this badly either, even when i was on number three and being woken, caring for three children under the age of 5. (and that was less than two years ago)

    • G.E. Phillips

      I definitely acknowledge that it was hard, and I’m sympathetic. I was mainly saying that 1) Time has allowed me to forget a lot of it and 2) I was fortunate enough not to have extenuating circumstances that made it harder. If I came off as unsympathetic, I apologize–I did not mean it that way at all.

  • sarahbregel

    thank you for embracing this post. for this who say it’s not “that bad”, i’m very glad that was not your experience. this piece is for the moms who did experience something similar and it seems there’s quite a few of us. good luck out there, mamas!

  • Carmen

    I want so badly to share this with my pregnant friends because I identify with everything you’re saying so strongly, but I’m afraid it will scare them. Maybe it’s best to experience it for yourself? They’ll understand why I didn’t tell them how hard it is… right?

    • kitten

      i would NOT share this with pregnant women. 1, not everyone feels this way. 2, it will scare the fuck out of them.

    • geckomommy

      Yeah, I’m due in 8 weeks and found it pretty scary. I’m hoping to get something halfway between this and “sunshine and rainbows” – is that too much to ask?

  • Bran

    If I weren’t currently on hour 3 of my 1am cluster feed with my 5 week old, I would give this post a standing ovation. It isn’t this way for all, but for many, pregnancy and caring for an infant is bloody hard work and this piece hits the nail on the deliriously exhausted and overwhelmed head.

  • Holla

    You nearly made me cry…I could’ve written this with my first one. He was sooooo hard! Colic, relfux, me with PPD and requiring emergency kidney stone surgery (they were the size of peanuts) 3 weeks after emergency c-section. I really think we must have been high on meth someone hid in our coffee when we decided on the second. But the second has been much easier. I’m guessing not only because he’s an easy baby, but that the “growing” described here stretched me into a more capable mother. But I am still not so far removed form the hell of the first time that I would ever consider a baby again :)

  • Cindy

    What a great letter for a first time Mom to herself. At first I thought it was going to be all about how horrible it is to have a newborn, but the second half really describes what becoming a Mom is all about. The sad thing is many women are too afraid to have a baby because they don’t think they can handle the lack of sleep, and nonstop work of taking care of an infant. But it’s going through that process that makes you a stronger and much less self absorbed person, then you could ever be without experiencing motherhood. Wonderful article. Loved it.

    • lea

      “makes you a stronger and much less self absorbed person, then you could ever be without experiencing motherhood”

      No. Yuck. I find this sentiment smug and offensive.

      There are plenty of amazing, strong, giving, caring, selfless people in this world who somehow manage to be that way without having had a child.

  • http://www.piperpixiedesigns.etsy.com/ PiperPixieDesigns

    This is a fantastically awesome post! I swear, I could have written this to my 12 years younger self:) And yes, thank you for posting a realistic postpartum photo!

  • ksu_artist1

    I know not everyone feels this way after having a baby…but I certainly did. I didn’t have PPD, but I can relate to the feelings of helplessness and feeling that I was incable and doing everything wrong. I wish I had read a similar letter back then (a whole whopping 16 months ago). What annoyed me was people saying things like, “Being a mother is so amazing and wonderful, isn’t it?” Yes, yes it is, but I was not as in love with the growing process as many claimed to have been, and it certainly was not a picnic most hours out of the day.

  • blueasterisk

    Thank you for this article. I have been there, 3 years ago. I didn’t realize what I was in, but it was what I call my “dark ages”, the first three months of my firstborn’s life. I did not feel any of the “joy” that other mothers talked about. Some of my thoughts were so dark I was afraid to tell them to people. Reading this took me back to that haze, and made me proud of the mama I am today. May this help women who are in that same terrifying spot right now. It does pass. Talk to trusted friends, find a counselor or talk to your doctor. It will pass.

  • Evenings

    My stomach still looks like that. Its been 25 years since I gave birth. I think the Dr. should have included a coupon for a free tummy tuck in the price of my C-section.

  • Rosary

    Could do without that vomit inducing picture.

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  • Anon

    I have now had two. For one it was that bad or worse. He was tough and colicky; it was hell for many months. My other one was happy and chill. If you only had that, you cannot even begin to imagine the physical, mental and emotional challenges of a tough baby. We did survive and it does get better! My heart goes out to the moms living those long dark days. Hang in there; there is light at the far end of the tunnel.

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