I have been mama to my daughter for nearly 17 months. I’m 31 years old, so I’ve only been mothering for like 4% of my life, but there has been exponential growth and change within that short time, for my daughter and for me. As I was talking to a friend who is in the middle of her fourth trimester, I realized that I have undergone some major transitions with my own mental health. I would say that the first few months of my daughter’s life, I suffered from some postpartum anxiety, although undiagnosed. I rarely let her out of my sight, and besides her father, there were very few people I trusted with her-- even just to hold her. I started seeing a therapist regularly at about 6 months postpartum and she definitely helped in curbing my worrisome thoughts, and also, I gave myself time to grow into motherhood (still growing).
I found a balance between caring for my daughter as well as myself by doing things like going to therapy, finding a community of mom friends, and taking care of my body by eating well and exercising.
I have been going to a gym regularly, during off-hours, and thankfully the owner of the gym allows me to bring my daughter. My daughter usually hangs out in the play-pen with a bundle of toys and is content for the duration of my workout. The other week my daughter was having one of those days, and she was very cranky and it didn’t look like she’d be sitting quietly through my workout. A fellow off-hours gym goer was just finishing up his workout when I got there. He noticed I was bouncing between my workout and trying to keep my daughter entertained, and I was doing both poorly. He came over to us, and offered to take her for a little walk so I could finish my workout in peace. Without a second thought, I thanked him and handed over my daughter. He and I aren’t super close, but friendly enough, and he’s a dad of two daughters, so that was enough for me to trust him. As I continued my workout in peace, I realized that if this had happened a year ago, one of two things would have happened because of my postpartum anxiety: I would have:
a) Just told him “no thanks” and quit my workout as not to let my daughter or anybody else feel uncomfortable with her crying.
b) Reluctantly said yes. But then after saying yes I would have immediately regretted it, unable to do the workout because instead I’d be going through the list of potential horrific outcomes: what if he took her and never came back? What if he accidentally ran with her in front of a car? What if he lost her in the parking lot? And about fifteen other awful things.
That moment of realization last week made me laugh with appreciation for how far I’ve come in my mental well being. Being able to let go a little to do things for myself has improved my life overall.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even picture this for myself, let alone do it. I’m very grateful for time being a significant part of my healing. I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who allow me to experience my journey but also encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. A year can change so much, so to the mama that is sitting home with her newborn feeling like the long days will never end and that you’re going to feel helpless forever, I promise, it gets better.