Most people will agree that giving birth is the single most grueling experience for a woman, but I’ve always had a problem with statements like this.
Don’t get me wrong, labor pains and the whole chaotic environment you find yourself in will push your mind to its limits. The hours after your husband rushes you to the hospital are going to test your willpower and pain tolerance like nothing else can, even if everything goes fairly smoothly.
However, when you call it an experience it sounds like something you go through in a day and then you’re fine. What about the months leading up to it, and the challenging first year after it?
As a lot of mommies have already pointed out, your brain doesn’t just magically switch into maternal mode allowing you do everything right based on pure instinct.
My not-so-magical childbirth experience
I had some trouble getting my work done and focusing on my career during my last trimester, but then all hell broke loose. I had a very rough childbirth, and all my dreams of a “natural” birth came tumbling down when I was told that the baby was in such a position that a caesarian would be the safest way to deliver.
I was exhausted by the end of it all, in pain and hardly able to hold my sweet beautiful little baby. What should have been a moment of joy ended up being a depressing affair and I felt just awful.
In the following months, I was a depressed wreck
Now, when I got home I started worrying about my work – I worked online, mostly freelance writing gigs and some blogging, so I figured it wouldn’t take long to ease back into it. Yeah, that didn’t go so well. I was still shaken up and would see that damn hospital bed when I closed my eyes and tried to relax.
To make matters worse, my hair was falling off in clumps when I brushed it, I had trouble controlling my bladder, the baby was keeping us awake all night and I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything I did was wrong, and that I was going to be a terrible mother.
Getting it together was the first step in a long recovery process
The real wake up call for me was my husband, who had always been there for me, had to take off for the weekend to attend a corporate event – a lot of big shots would be there and it was a great opportunity to mingle.
Up until that point, I always counted on him to provide me with emotional support when he came back after work, or just to get things done around the house when I felt like I could barely get out of bed.
And now here I was, all alone with my baby, with all the household chores and the nagging doubts about whether I’ll ever be able to get back to my old work schedule. I spent an hour on the phone with my mom the first morning during those miraculous moments when the baby was actually asleep, cried for a while and then just stared at the ceiling.
It’s strange, but it’s as if that morning was a mini spiritual journey for me, and before the baby was up I had decided that I was stronger than this. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that if I wanted things to change I had to change them myself.
The feeling of dread wasn’t magically gone, but there was now a strange excitement brewing in my mind, I had a goal to work toward.
Resilience and determination can be learned and cultivated
I think that taking that first step of trying to be objective about your situation and focusing on a clear goal, is essential for any major life change.
I never thought of myself as a resilient person that bounces back after problems and gets things done, but there’s an amazing wealth of resources on becoming more resilient and building up your self-confidence.
In fact, it’s not just about confidence, it’s about facing your demons head on, and pushing through even when everything looks dark, impossible and pointless. I started out with simple things like meditating for 10-15 minutes every morning, jotting down a few goals for each day and making a schedule.
My schedule wasn’t exactly set in stone, and I had to move things around quite a bit, but at the end of each day I had my 1000-1500 words written, I had spent an hour looking for gigs, and shared a few posts on social media.
The baby came first, and chores like cleaning and making dinner often took a big chunk out of my schedule, but I found solutions to issues as they popped up and kept improving.
It’s all about creating a positive flow and finding support
Full disclosure, during the first six months I had to determine an acceptable level of chaos I could live with, my husband had to learn to iron his own shirts and he often jumped in and helped with chores or put the baby to sleep while I worked.
However, as long as I had clear goals and some sort of flow to each day and each week, it was much easier to tackle any problems. I would even lose myself in my work and forget about my body image issues and nagging doubts about the future.
It’s a process, it takes courage and commitment, but you can learn how to harness your inner strength and become a more powerful woman and a great mommy and wife.
Working on myself first and then on my career and family is how I overcame the stress and depression after my rough childbirth and kept my career going, and I hope I can inspire other mommies to do the same.