Postpartum Journey: Part I

Becoming a mom is a funny thing. You go to bed one night, belly full of baby, and end the following day with your arms full instead and your heart full of love. At least, that’s what happened to me.

I’ve spent my entire life dreaming about becoming a mom. What I’d be like, what my kids would look like, how amazing it would be to have a full and complete family, etc. I always knew I’d be the “cool mom” who made cakes from scratch every day and would go to the park and swim and play and, well, just let my kids get dirty just because. However, life changed and I changed after I had my daughter.

Everything seemed to match my dream after she was born. She and I would cuddle on the couch every day. I’d rock and sing her to sleep every time she woke up. I’d sit and read to her. All of those things I’d planned. Then, I received a diagnosis that changed everything. Symptoms that I’d developed during pregnancy that I thought were just strange pregnancy symptoms ended up being a chronic disease called ulcerative colitis. I was devastated. Not only was I no longer able to eat all of the foods that I loved, but I was told I had to go on medication immediately. That meant I had to stop breastfeeding after only 3 months. I fell into a deep depression. I would cry uncontrollably when holding my daughter and no one seemed to understand how I felt. It was like a huge part of my identity as a mom had been ripped away.

After that, I slowly started to develop more and more anxiety related symptoms, which I did not experience in the first months postpartum. These symptoms sparked anger in my ex-husband. He didn’t understand why I was changing and I struggled to find the words to properly explain it to him. As a result, we began to fight more and more and tension was always slightly under the surface of our relationship. My daughter could feel the unease and would take her frustration out on herself by doing things like hitting herself in the head or slapping my ex-husband. To this day, I’m unsure why she only directed her silent anger towards only him.

In February 2015, things got even worse. My ex-husband took a month long internship in Maine. I wanted him to be able to further his career, so I didn’t hold him back. However, along with being a full time mom, I was also a full time student and worked part time for Starbucks. And, of course, I was still suffering from ulcerative colitis symptoms. All of those factors caused me to break from the stress. I began to develop pretty intense OCD tendencies, which I didn’t notice until my ex returned in March. By that point, I had full blown OCD. I had certain routines that I HAD to do before I could move on to something else. And if something changed, I’d have massive melt down and couldn’t function. (For example, if I accidentally bumped into a wall after having a shower, I’d have to go shower again because I felt dirty.) I was no longer able to cook or eat in my house. We spent the majority of the time at my parents’ and would only be home to sleep. Unfortunately, this caused the slowly simmering tension between my ex and I to erupt.

We’d have full blown screaming matches every single night. My almost 1 year old would stand between us and put her hands on both of us to try to calm us down. I remember my heart breaking because of how our inability to function as reasonable adults was causing her so much emotional stress.

Flash forward a year later and we were still up and down in our relationship. I knew that things were to a point where we would never be completely ok, but I struggled with the idea of divorce. I wanted my family together, so I held off doing the inevitable. Then, one night, we had a massive argument and my daughter, now almost 2, stood in between us, yelling for us to stop. I remember feeling like I was slapped in the face with reality. I saw myself in her, as I too used to stand in the middle of my parents to try to redirect their anger. That was when I decided to put her first and end our now toxic romantic relationship. I knew it would be better for all three of us if we no longer lived together and told him it was over shortly after my daughter’s 2nd birthday. We needed the space between us to have a healthy relationship and, more importantly, my daughter needed to know that we didn’t hate each other.

Willingly becoming a single mom was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but it was the best one. My ex and I were able to mend our friendship and begin to heal the emotional wounds that we gave our daughter. Now, at almost 5, she understands my decision and is able to show love to both of us without holding a grudge against either one of us for how we treated the other. (Which is something I can’t say for my personal relationship with my dad.)

These postpartum experiences are, unfortunately, still with me. While I don’t hold any animosity towards my ex for how things turned out, I do wish I could go back the mom I used to be. There are so many days that I’m angry with myself for not being able to hold my daughter’s hand without wanting to go wash my own afterwards and other things that should be natural in motherhood. Thankfully, however, I now have an extremely patient husband who is working as hard as he can to help me heal so maybe one day I’ll be able to return to some sort of normal.

I felt it was important to share my story in full, as it will give you all insight into my second postpartum journey, which I will be posting soon.