The day our baby is born is the day we are transformed—a mother is born.
It doesn’t matter if we have a six-week maternity leave or one year, but we need to understand during that time the nuances of when we are new mothers. It directly impacts how long we are with our baby. It also affects our early days and months together and the journey forward into motherhood. That time, that transition, and our outlook from that point influences the way we cope and handle the days ahead.
I’m speaking about our physical, mental, and overall well-being as mothers—our maternal mental health. If we were in the wild, would we see a lion cub far away from his mother in the first year of his life? Probably not. In fact, that mom lion is always within an eyeshot, protecting and caring for her cubs. Why would this behavior be different for humans?
We need to understand in this modern-day parenting world that mothers all over this world are hanging by a thread, trying to keep themselves together—including their families and their line of work. That’s an immense load when we’ve just carried a baby for nearly 10 months and are now stepping into what is a wild and tangled society that isn’t forgiving or innately supportive of mothers.
It’s no surprise that most mothers are layered with conflicting feelings of guilt, enoughness, and confusion. It lives below the surface, though. Most don’t outwardly express they are struggling. That’s why I feel that postpartum depression and anxiety turns a mother into a walking, sleep-deprived zombie. People know what it is, but we also don’t have a rescue team in to support it. We actually miss it quite a bit even at the sixth week at the obstetrician-gynecologist checkup.
“Suzy, it’s been six weeks, you seem to be doing well. That’s it for today. Best of luck!”
What I want to say about this is that it’s normal the feelings we’re experiencing. And our feelings may come in various waves in the early months. We could be doing well one day and then be over on the dark side three months in, but there’s no one to check in on us. We’re not in a system that welcomes our bonding time with our newborn—yet. But there will be a day. Because I am a mother, and I value this beyond the systems that are here and now.
We will make progress with this over time. Every mom is unique. Every mom’s home-life is different. Some women return back to work three days after a baby is born and others may have a year or many years home. Those will always be varied circumstances. The bigger change we need to see happen is valuing a mother no matter her circumstance or situation. Celebrating her. Helping her along the way.
I personally didn’t want to be far away from my cubs. It felt unnatural. The feeling never left; I just dealt with it. This is why so many moms today walk around in fight-or-flight mode. I don’t have a clinical background, but what I do know is that there are so many modern moms walking around with what is below the surface. Sleep-deprived moms are left with a nagging feeling and their hearts walking around.
Most will say, “It will get better in time, honey.” But what if it doesn’t? What if there was a better way to navigate this beyond short maternity leaves and anxiety about how to make things work as we grow our family? It’s the thing that is nuanced. It’s like a mom lion away from her babies. We can look at it a million ways. Maybe we need to be hunters and gatherers and carve our days for some work in the wild then come back to our cubs. If it were only that simple.
Breathe in space to this feeling. You are normal. You don’t have to feel guilt about how you’re doing it. You’re doing the best you can. Your cubs chose you as their parent, and you’re perfect for them just the way you are.
Maternal mental health is really important—even if we don’t know what it is. Our minds can play a lot of tricks on us as new moms and even before we cross the bridge to motherhood. What’s important is that we are aware when we need support—when intrusive thoughts don’t feel right and we feel off.
We are not failing. We are not alone. And we need to know that many feel this way; they just may not express it out loud. First baby, second baby, or tenth baby, these feelings can come back just like that. It’s time for us to embrace ourselves on this journey in a way that keeps us close to our cubs. So we can work, play, and enjoy life.
After all, isn’t that what we want for our children?
To see the world untamed and as a playground.
For them to dream.
To meet the moment.
To take risks.
If we show them the way, they, too, will grow little humans who are happy, loved, and always feel whole.