Trigger Warning: Big Feelings in Postpartum and Parenthood.
If you are struggling with managing your emotions please know that that is normal. Nutrition, deep rest (easier said than done!) and tactile in person community and/or doula support are all great places to start to feeling more stable. That said, if you are feeling unsafe with either yourself or your child because of exhaustion or immovable depression/anxiety please reach to your doctor, a therapist or find emergent and non emergent support here. You are not crazy or worthless. You are of value, we see you and you deserve to be supported.
I know you know I am writing this for you. That I can see you, on the couch, the chair, the toilet- holding your babe and wondering if it is ever ever ever going to feel easier than how totally impossible it feels right now. I know you feel my hands on your shoulders (okay that’s a bit creepy but go with it) reminding you to breathe and letting you know you don’t need to hold it all. The world cannot fit on your back and was never meant to.
Your tears are many in the night as you wonder how and when it will be different than it is right now. Why didn’t people tell you it would be this way? This specific feeling of burning shame that you need to fall apart but who will you be if you do? What if you let it all go? What if you fall completely apart until everyone is crying and a big old mess? Even if you do, even if it all consumes like a wild unrelenting flood that totals your inner landscape- even if that happens- you are still okay. I believe you are tethered enough within yourself and to your child to know what to do when you’ve had the space to feel what you need to feel. Bossy Doula Protip: It is probably to feed yourself and your baby, take a shower and get some sleep.
I dreamt last night of someone from my past. They asked me to usher them and their partner out to a rocky outcropping at the end of a rugged and beautiful beach from our shared island home. We got out there and it became clear to me that a hurricane was coming and that the tide was on its way in. “I know you want to stay here a bit longer” I said “But I can feel the air is heavy and the storm is coming”. As this particular person is known for, they rejected my advice and decided they knew better. I stated my boundary, and began my return. Halfway back I turned to see them surrounded by water as the tide rushed in around them. They weren’t in mortal peril (guys, it was a DREAM) but they would be forced to camp and wait it out. The storm would render their cell phones unusable and they would be forced to work together and be extremely courageous and resourceful. They would return changed- deeply humbled by powers exponentially larger than themselves.
As I sit here today, although we haven’t had contact in years, I am certain they are expecting a baby. This is what it means to be on the threshold of understanding how completely helpless we are in the face of change. This is what it means to have our spiritual scaffolding leveled by sleeplessness and the immense weight of love. This is what it means to see how completely backwards our society is with its commercial celebration of parenthood yet no real support structure: a glossy 8X10 propped up by a couple of toothpicks.
Yes, this is life. This is embodied humility. This is every lesson we ever read in a book entering our body at once. You can call me crying your eyes out on the street with your baby strapped to your chest holding a bag of laundry and all the fears and hope in your heart and I will nod and normalize it even see your rawness as miraculous and authentic beautiful truth. This is the work of your heart- sometimes it hurts to expand our capacity. When the work of birthing our children is done, we are still working to birth ourselves. The emotionally labor of parenting is never ending, as is the opportunity for inner expansion- how brutal, how magnificent.
In short: What you are feeling is normal. You are normal.
I feel deeply honored to witness you, to validate you. I can see how much you love your baby. I can see your devotion. The tears take nothing from that. The late night worries are a reflection of it, not a strikethrough it. The world will not fall apart because you do. Some mornings you have to pull up your socks (if you can find any- hey, I know laundry is a big struggle right now), put the feelings in a box and just get the F on with it. And sometimes you need to sit out the hurricane. Both are needed, both are healthy. You are not hysterical or a robot- you are feeling through the labyrinth. You are doing it. This is what it’s like sometimes.
Oh and don’t let me forget: the answer is yes. It does get easier. It gets easier at the rate of your financial and other such privileges (and if you’re reading this and have financial privilege to outsource support please for the love of everything DO SOME OF THAT), and it happens developmentally over time. It gets easier day by day at a rate, for most, so slow that it hardly feels like it’s getting easier at all. But it is.
One day you’ll be sitting alone in a coffee shop, writing something or reading something or staring out the window- and your children will be somewhere safe and happy (a somewhere that isn’t on your body) and you’ll remember the time you called me crying, fearing you were failing. And when you find yourself in that self-proclaimed moment, call me and tell me: hey, it’s easier now.
PS. Most people I serve feel these feelings sometimes. That doesn’t mean they have depression. Or anxiety. It certainly doesn’t mean they don’t love their babies. It does mean that they need to be validated and supported. That said- conversations around mental health don’t need to be avoided like the plague. Depression doesn’t need to be a dirty word. Shame keeps us from getting support when we need it. Let’s pause before we label ourselves and others. Let’s also pause before we avoid a label for fear of stigma. Sometimes a label can actually really serve someone and provide a track of healing.
PPS. If you are a Doula or other support person for the perinatal period and want to: deepen your knowledge base, have direct access to thought leaders and authors in the field and join a community of birth workers who are passionate about continuing education and expanding their capacity you might consider joining Doula Book Club