Pregnancy is hard. Labour is even harder. But parenting—that is hands down the hardest!
Let me rephrase that—parenting in today’s day and age is the hardest. I can’t speak for generations before me, but being a parent in the age of social media is an added stress all on its own.
Before becoming a mother, I vowed to never be “that mom.” You know, the mom who obsessed over her child’s development and compared her kid to everyone else’s or the mom who forgot who she was and got lost in her children. No, that was not going to be me! I was going to be a cool mom. The mom who didn’t care about what people thought and who didn’t constantly compare her kids at playdates. I was going to be easy going and let my kid grow and develop on his own timeline all while maintaining my social life and hobbies.
And then in 2015, my first son, Chase came along and everything I promised myself went out the window. As a naturally anxious person, being a mother amplified my anxiety tenfold.
It started with a horrifying labour, I must admit, I didn’t have that instant mother-baby bond that everyone talks about when their child is born. I struggled to breast feed and I had an episiotomy that left me in severe pain for 6 weeks. I could hardly care for myself, let alone a baby. Why wasn’t this a happy time like everyone seemed to describe on social media and in the movies?
I guess you could say the first few months with Chase I experienced postpartum blues. Being sleep deprived and in pain, combined with wacky hormone levels, I was feeling anything but happy. I was also paranoid that because of Chase’s rough start into the world (he came out not breathing) that he would be a victim of SIDS. So I slept on the floor beside his crib for the whole first year of his life. The doctors warn you about postpartum blues, but they don’t emphasize how common it is and how bad it can get.
After the first few months, I started to develop my bond with Chase. The pain was slowly going away and I was getting used to my new mom routine. Life was getting better, at least for the time being.
As a new mom, I joined lots of Mommy Groups both online and in person. It seemed like the right thing to do, but for someone with anxiety like me, this was probably one of the worst things I could do for myself.
The worst were the social media posts. I could not scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing other mom’s posting about all their kids milestones and achievements. I was slowly becoming depressed and anxious when looking at other people’s lives. When I saw other kids advancing quicker than Chase, I became paranoid about his development. I truly believed something was wrong with my perfect, sweet little boy and no one could convince me otherwise, all because I was doing the one thing I never said I would do-compare him to others.
The Internet also didn’t help me at all. My doctor even warned me not to trust “Dr. Google” but I couldn’t help myself. I would google one issue and would fall down a rabbit hole of paranoia. Everything seemed to be a “sign” or “symptom” of some sort of development delay or problem. It was a vicious cycle and I just couldn’t escape. All the while, I became resentful of motherhood. It became my hobby to diagnose my child with a problem, when there never even was one to begin with. This was all stemming from my imagination and my impression of other people’s children on the internet.
This anxiety carried on in the back of my mind constantly. I learned to live with it, like a shadow following me around. I just went through the motions, and sort of abandoned who I was all together, putting all my time and energy into my anxiety.
It wasn’t until I had my second son, Chad, in April 2018 that I finally broke down. This time, my postpartum blues were worse than the first time, putting me in a very depressive state. My family worried for me, and 6 weeks postpartum they brought me to the hospital for help.
I was instantly put on anti-anxiety medication and was told things would get better. I felt like a loser sitting in the psych ward of the hospital. When the doctor came in to finally assess me, I told him all my worries and fears and acknowledged that they were silly but that I couldn’t seem to shake them.
The doctor then told me that with social media and mom groups, he sees a lot of mothers coming in for the same reasons. I felt slightly relieved after hearing I wasn’t alone in this. The constant comparing was literally making me sick. He gave me some pamphlets for parenting help and a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.
It was shortly after this episode that I realized how silly I was being and how much time I was wasting. I decided I needed some time to focus on myself and my health. I needed some balance. So I began dancing again which I hadn’t done in years, I began to write and go back to the gym religiously, all with the support of my husband and family. Maybe it was the medication or the exercise, or probably a mix of both, but I was starting to feel good again.
I am here to tell other mothers that it’s okay to not feel okay, but it is super important to reach out and get help. In retrospect, I should have sought help a few years earlier, but due to my shame and guilt, I held back. And somewhere along the lines I had lost myself.
Fast forward 7 months after my breakdown and I am feeling 100% better. This journey into Motherhood has taught me the importance of balance. Balance for yourself and balance with technology and social media.
If you can’t fill your own bucket, how are you supposed to fill those of your children or anyone else for that matter? It almost seems shameful and selfish to put yourself above anyone else, but sometimes it is necessary. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, go get a manicure…do something for yourself, because by doing something for you, you are also doing something for your children-giving them the best version of yourself-happy, healthy and open minded.
In terms of social media, I have become more level headed about what I see in my feeds. You don’t realize how much time you waste on there, and the false impressions you get that make you feel bad about yourself. It’s just a highlight reel, and sometimes people forget that. It is easy to get caught up in the world of social media and mommy blogs, especially when you are a new mom and are looking for answers. Just take everything with a grain of salt and know that not everything is always as it seems. You got this mama and you aren’t alone!