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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Postpartum Weirdness, part two - You are a GREAT mom.

Okay, I told you before that I would come back with my theories on PPD, so here I go.

Well firstly, we all know that the major causes of postpartum ickiness are hormones and stress. Any new mom can tell you that. You are either recovering from the physical strain of childbirth or the physical strain of major surgery. You are bleeding like a stuck pig, no matter which way the baby came out, and then you start sweating. And then your hair starts falling out, and your boobs are leaking all over the place, and you look down at your deflated belly and are totally horrified, because it looks like one of those punching balls we had as kids. No matter how comfortable you are with body changes, or how prepared you are for the sight of your immediate postpartum self, you are still shocked by what you see. You feel so small, yet look so baggy. You are kind of lost in all that skin, and you're leaking all the aforementioned bodily fluids, and oh yeah you're sleep deprived and trying to run a household at the same time.

That right there is a set up for PPD, but then we factor in those crazy hormones. I don't know anything about hormones, other than man, can they mess you up if they aren't quite right. And trust me, right after you give birth, they are so not quite right.

Okay. So all of that stuff aside. We, as mothers, feel obligated to give our children the very best. We work hard, either in our home or out, or both, and we read and we research and we settle into a parenting style, all the while trying our damnedest to give our children our best.

We all have different ideas of what is best. Some ideas just terrify us - for me, it's the idea of letting my baby cry it out, or putting him cloth diapers, which right there clashes. Kind of "crunchy", kind of "regular." Because, you know, you aren't supposed to be "kind of" anything - you are Mom. You have to be Everything. Everything or Nothing At All, and I prefer the sound of Everything.

So you have this baby, and you don't really know him or her. You love this child more than anything, but you're still trying to figure out what makes him or her tick. And you're trying to meet some other people with babies, so you find a mom's group, or a website, or a messageboard with other moms, and you make some friends. And too late, you realize you don't fit in here. At all. You would never circumcise your son or make your baby cry it out at night, or give your baby a bottle of formula. No, this message board is far too mainstream for you. So you find another group of moms, and they're far less mainstream, and you think it will be fine, but then you realize that you do indeed believe in fully vaccinating your children and the idea of homeschooling makes your teeth chatter and cloth diapers? Are they crazy? This is when you realize that you don't fit in here either. Maybe you are like me and you never realize these things until you are flamed to death, because you never bought into masks and parodies and you are always honest and true to yourself to a fault, and the women you have come to know are eating you a-freaking-live because -gasp- you live your life differently than they do.

So now you have some crazy hormones, a body you hardly know, a baby you love desperately, and all of a sudden you are kind of an outcast, because you simply can't do it all.

You can't be all granola, you can't be all mainstream. You can't. You can't! And suddenly this starts to feel a little bit like eighth grade gym class, with funky competition and all, and everyone you know is giving you advice. Oh and also, almost all that advice is total crap, but you are too tired to realize it.

Maybe you did something as a parent that you feel a little guilty about. Maybe you ended up formula feeding, for any reason at all, but you feel a little guilty because we all know breast is best, and maybe your mom friends (who had no trouble at all breastfeeding) are talking about how smart/healthy/skinny their children will be, which insinuates that yours will not. (If this is you, just wait till the kid is older and ends up on the chubby side, or has a cavity or bad handwriting or dry hair or whatever. That makes your current mommy guilt feel like a paper-cut, comparatively. But I'll just let you find that out on your own.)

Mama, you can only do your very best. YOUR best, not someone else's idea of best. If you are reading this, you are a great mom. You are. No matter what your decisions. I don't care if you're June freaking Cleaver, you are going to screw up. The cool thing is, human beings are unbelievably resilient. Babies are surprisingly hard to break and beautifully washable. You will never be the best mom ever, but you will be your children's best mom. You will be the perfect mom for your children. I mean, stay away from the methamphetamine and booze, or at least keep the booze to a minimum, and your kids will be fine.

You do not need to make home-cooked from-scratch meals every day to be a good mom. You do not need to feed your child 100% locally grown organic food with no preservatives to be a good mom. You do not need to be a 'yes dear' dishrag to be a good mom. You don't need to stay at home with your babies all day every day, or work 10 hours a day every day, or anything in between, to be a good mom. You just need to LOVE your children, and do your best to keep them off the shrink's couch as an adult, and you are a good mom. Not a good mom, a GREAT mom. You freaken rock, Mama.

And once you figure that out, and get your hormones under control, and accept and love your postpartum body, and get you some good antidepressants and maybe a therapist - well there. I just cured postpartum depression.


Issas Crazy World said...

holy crap, I kinda love this post. Truly.

Now me, I had post-partum depression from a baby I lost last summer, but not from the one I had a few months back. But it's not easy any way you look at it.

Being a mom isn't like high school, where you atomically know where to sit in the lunch room. It's so much more complicated and people get way more uptight about their choices, so it's almost like you have to choose your words carefully until you really know someone. With my girls being older, it is a bit easier. But dam, first time moms are scary sometimes on the judgments. Heck by #3 you are just happy if you know where they all are at the end of the day. They are all alive= job well done.

mom to 3, bottle feeder, co-sleeping with son, didn't with girls, organic food-ish, iffy about vaccines, circ'd the boy, hippy school...the list could go on forever, but basically I am a complete oxy-moron.

Kimberly said...

I really relate to this post! I myself am going through some of the same things. I have 3 kids (all boys, God help me-what was I thinking?) 5, 3.5 and 4 mos. I am in this weird in between stage with all of them now that my 5 year old is a kindergartner I am reaching a whole new realm of having to meet other parents and set up play dates, when really the whole idea of doing anything other than sleeping is well, exhausting. I am glad that I have found this blog so that I can read about someone elses tribulations with mommyhood imperfections.

Anonymous said...

I repeat this to myself nearly daily: "when we know better, we do better." There are a MILLION things I did with my older son that I would not do now (circ was one of them - little man is intact). I reserve the right to let go of any and all mommy guilt about those things because I didn't know any better.

I try not to judge other moms, because odds are they are just doing the best they can do at the time (this doesn't include things like beating a child, but bottle feeding could certainly fall here)

I'm pretty freaking happy when it comes to my body (at this second, ask me again later) and my semi-conflicted crunchy/mainstream self. Now: let's get these hormones in line and I'm back in business!