How I wish I prepared for postpartum life before I gave birth

When I found out that I was pregnant, I was eager to learn everything that went into the pregnancy and delivery process. And because of my fear of hospitals, I decided to research about midwifery and doula practices. Even though I didn’t know anyone who had a natural home birth, I strived to learn the entire process.

Throughout my pregnancy, every person I spoke to and every podcast I listened to taught me how to maintain a healthy diet and workout regimen, and how to handle the lost of sleep once the baby arrived. With all this information, I felt very prepared giving birth to my son—unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t prepared myself for the aftermath giving birth could bring. Little did I know, I would have also benefited from learning how to prepare for my postpartum mental state—I just didn’t think it would or could happen to me.

Postpartum depression (PPD) can happen to anyone. It can manifest in the mildest form of “baby blues” to the feeling of complete disconnect with your brand new child. It can come in waves of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, or even loneliness. For me, the grand misstep of not learning more about PPD and how it could affect me made it that much harder to learn how to cope as a first-time mother.

A lot of the time, we hear of postpartum depression but don’t experience it firsthand. Many mothers who go through it will find themselves in isolation because they believe no one will understand what they’re going through. This can lead to a lack of empathy or a complete dismissal of their condition, which can worsen their depression.

It is often said that the more you know, the better off you’ll be. In my case, I didn’t have a clue that the feelings I were having were normal. I began to believe I was a complete failure and my son deserved a better mom, even though he was only a few days old. As a result, my first defense against my emotional state was to fight it off as though it were my opponent. Normally, I am a person who likes to get out of the house and be very active, but experiencing PPD made me want to be more reclusive, and I was unwilling to embrace this new part of me because I felt “crazy.”

This experience also showed me that if my husband and I took in the proper information about postpartum symptoms, it would have helped him to prepare as well. After having a baby, it’s imperative to have a proper support system. PPD can make it harder for you to get out of bed, nurse, and care for your baby—or care for yourself. Because we didn’t have coping tools early on, my husband didn’t know how to navigate my newfound snappiness.

Sometimes, I would be very moody and inconsolable, while at other moments, I felt completely like myself. PPD felt like a mind game I just couldn’t win. I needed my husband to be there for me, and although he wanted to be, we also had a newborn and didn’t know how to simultaneously show up for the baby and each other. It was a very tumultuous time for me as a new mother. I was trying everything in my power to navigate the emotions that were outside of my typical happy and effervescent nature.

There were many times when I felt defeated because I couldn’t properly communicate my feelings to other people. I distanced myself from the idea postpartum depression until my sister-in-law asked me if I thought that maybe this was what I was going through. It was a tremendous help having another mom to talk to about how I felt. She became a safe space for me.

Moms with newborns need a support system. It have to be your partner or spouse—heck, for me, it was my sister-in-law. But having someone who has experienced PPD or knows firsthand the hardships of being a new mom can truly make a positive difference, or at least it did for me.

Yes, navigating postpartum can be very difficult. However, having come through the other side of it, I now understand that preparing ahead of time would have served my husband and me in a much better way. The best way to prepare is to acknowledge that this is something many women go through. Find support groups that can help you and your partner learn coping skills and how to show up for yourself and your baby during this time. Remember that while you may experience PPD, you’re not alone. It’s unfortunate that many mothers go through this process and feel this way, but I am a living testament that it doesn’t make you a bad mother or person—if anything, it’ll only make you stronger.

Motherhood—and mothers’ voices—should be celebrated every day. But that also means having conversations about the complexities of parenting. In our weekly series, “Millennial Moms,” writers discuss the simultaneously beautiful and daunting responsibilities of motherhood through the lens of their millennial experiences. Here, we’ll be discussing things like burnout from the several side hustles we work to provide for our kids and pay our student loans, dating app struggles as young single moms, rude comments from other parents at daycare, and so much more. Stop by every week for a judgment-free space on the internet where women can share the less rosy aspects of motherhood.