HOW DO WE TALK ABOUT THE HARD?
The hard postpartum stuff. Everyone experiences it, right? Right…???
It’s not as fun to talk about as how cute your baby is, how your heart has exponentially expanded with your baby’s arrival, or how you just want to snuggle them all day, but it’s just as much a part of the postpartum experience. Right? I mean, am I the only one dealing with the hard?
Sometimes it feels that way. I find myself asking these questions during each postpartum experience: am I the only one dealing with this? How do other moms handle it? Like when Kaia is screaming inconsolably during her “witching hour,” and in desperation I try pacing up and down my block in the cold dark of the night, like a crazy person, trying to get my baby to sleep. I think, “how come I never see any other moms doing this? What do they all do?” Or when my baby screams bloody murder when she’s in the car seat, as if she’s going to explode any second. Or when my husband gets COVID and I’m left handling all the kids by myself- how the hell have other moms been handling this? I know I’m not the only one feeling like I’m going to lose it!
We all have different ways of handling the hard, but I’ve talked to enough moms and been through this enough times to know that it exists for everyone. So why don’t we talk about it more? Why when someone asks, “how are you doing?” to a postpartum mom, the typical answer you hear is “good.” I’ve come to respond to this mom with a dead stare, “Really?”
It’s not all hard- ABSOLUTELY not. There’s a reason I chose to have a third baby, and I am so glad that my husband and I did! And sometimes “good” is an appropriate answer. I get that. I’m just saying that the hard exists also, and there are good reasons to talk about it more..
Maybe there’s benefits to not talking about it too. Maybe neglecting it helps to convince ourselves that it’s not that bad. Like a coping mechanism: fake it till you make it. I’m not naturally drawn to that method. I’m more of a be-as-transparent-as-possible kind of person. So I tend to talk about the bad, maybe too much. Am I reinforcing negativity by speaking about it?
Maybe, but in my opinion, we need to recognize that it exists. Negative or challenging experiences are a part of life, just as much as the happy ones are. Denying them only creates more harm. Ekhart Tolle offers a great theory on processing “negative emotions”: recognize it, experience it and let it pass; rather than hanging onto the perceived pain of it. So for our own personal well-being it’s important to give light to these challenges, process them (maybe by speaking about them) and then letting go of the suffering. Maybe we do this by talking about it with peers, but we definitely don’t achieve this by the “fake it until you make it” method.
There’s also a societal benefit to sharing our challenges. By sharing what you’re coping with you are likely comforting someone else. Tell a mom your challenges, so that she knows that she is not alone in her struggles. It’s not just her and it’s not just her baby. There’s nothing wrong with her. She is not alone. I might be the only one pacing streets, but there’s another mom out there doing something just as whacky, I bet.
The benefits of sharing outweigh the benefits of not sharing. So how do we talk about it, without dwelling in it, like Tolle suggests? Can we share it without feeling like we’re “dumping” on our friends, or seeming like “a mess,” or whatever else it is that we fear? I can get in the mindset of, “there’s nothing anyone else can do about it so why share?” Share because it helps you and your peers. Do it for the greater good. Share in whatever capacity you need. Break down if you need to, because I guarantee that it will give someone else who is needing it permission to do so as well.