As a society, we’re only recently starting to normalize the realities of mom guilt, comparison, and baby blues. Studies show that up to 80% of new parents experience some form of “baby blues”, and 10-20% have PPD. One conversation with most any mom will reveal that comparison with other moms (especially in this day of social media) and “mom guilt” are not foreign to her.
While I have not personally struggled with PPD and know it’s a very sensitive topic, I do think I had a touch of the baby blues and, when I assessed, was on the cusp of PPA 2 weeks postpartum. So I do have some thoughts and experiences with these phenomenons and I wanted to share a few of them.
First of all, I think that, for me at least, when I was in the middle of the newborn phase with Theo, my son who is now 6 months old, I didn’t think that I had any sort of baby blues. Of course, I was in the middle of newborn bliss, and I was living in the fullness of that. But tack on 3 severe tears and a surgery that I was recovering from, rendering me in pain 24/7 and barely able to walk, practically no sleep, and a difficult breastfeeding journey, and that bliss gets at least slightly disrupted. I remember having thoughts like…
Will it always be this hard?
Who am I now?
I can’t take any risks with this baby. I must keep him completely safe.
I’ll never sleep again.
He must not be getting *any* milk.
How come this is so easy for everyone but me?
My daily life was suddenly COMPLETELY different, and I was mourning a bit. I loved my baby more than words could ever express, but I was dealing with new hormones, feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and difficulty not falling asleep every time I breastfed.
I remember even feeling angry at my surgeon for the postpartum recovery regimen he suggested because it included 3 herbal sitz baths a day. I needed those baths desperately, but how was I supposed to find that kind of time? Could other new moms somehow fit that in? I had a baby who took upwards of an hour to breastfeed every 2 hours, and who needed top-ups with pumped breastmilk. So nursing, pumping, bottling, cleaning, feeding myself, and sleeping was already more than a full-time job.
Having a baby is a HUGE adjustment, and I knew that. But you never really know what it will look or feel like until you’re living it. But slowly, each day became a little clearer, more familiar, and “easy” as breastfeeding became slowly easier, sleep slowly increased, and my pain slowly lessened. Now, my life is still drastically different than it was 6 months ago, but I’ve adjusted, and I absolutely LOVE life with my sweet babe. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I don’t have that constant cloud of the newborn days hanging over my head, exacerbated by intense pain and no sleep and constant feeding or pumping.
We had some friends, who had recently had a baby, stop by and drop off some baby items when Theo was about 2 weeks old. “It only gets better from here,” Benjamin said. I clung to that. As much as I was absolutely in newborn heaven, baby bliss, the thought that I would always be this tired, always pumping and feeding for 12 hours a day, was a scary one. So, to the friend who is pregnant or trekking through the newborn stage: know full well that it absolutely does get better and better. Enjoy all the snuggles and take advantage of all the help and support in those early days and weeks.
But what about mom guilt? When does that start? Does that get better with time?
Of course it’s different for everybody, but I started experiencing this phenomenon pretty much immediately. Separated from my baby after birth for surgery, I felt instant guilt that I wasn’t able to breastfeed him right away. I think that kind of guilt is to be expected, and yet I needed surgery as soon as possible, so what was I to do?
If I let mom guilt win, it would win every day. It would convince me that I don’t play with my baby enough, don’t have enough of a schedule, have too much of a schedule, don’t have enough toys, have too many toys, don’t pray enough for him, etc. etc. etc.
And, what we need to be careful with is that some of these thoughts may be true. Maybe I haven’t been playing with my baby enough and have been busying myself, seeing him as an interruption rather than my important focus. Rather than letting guilt and shame have their voice in the conversation, there’s an opportunity to let Jesus convict, challenge, and change us. Guilt makes us wallow and waffle and wade. It can leave us paralyzed. But JESUS loves us just as we are, so much that He could never love us more or less than He already does, convicting us to change.
Another practice that just causes us to wallow rather than transform is that of comparison, and, in the age of social media, comparison is more rampant and tempting than ever before because these “perfect” moms are in our faces every day. (Read about my social media convictions and why I chose to get off of it here.) Is it healthy for us to scroll through curated home decor wondering how she keeps her house so clean, filtered selfies wondering why our skin isn’t so flawless, and reels of moms talking about how their baby totally skipped the 4-month-sleep regression when you haven’t slept in weeks? Will this lead to healthy transformation, or coveting, jealousy, and comparison? Research suggests the latter.
Since I decided to log out of Instagram about a month ago, I have not looked back, and I’ve been far better off. I was addicted to it. I think that might be true for many of us. And so much of that comes from the FOMO of not being “in the know” – not seeing what my friends and even not-so friends are doing. I had to be self-aware enough to realize that, even though I wanted to use the app for good by contributing meaningful content, it was very much mostly a tool for my own demise, a tool for comparison and envy to run rampant, a tool for sloth to have its way, a tool for pride to sink its teeth deep. Our pastor just concluded a series on the 7 Deadly Sins, and he talked about how social media is one way that every single one of these sins can so easily manifest. I didn’t want to give room for that.
I had to ask myself what good I was actually doing. Was I actually building God’s Kingdom on there…or my own?
But more on that later. I’m finding that, without a feed to constantly scroll, there is so much less in my life to actually compare to now. And it’s making me a better, more present mom, a better wife, and a better servant of my King Jesus.
Finally, I want to leave you with some Scripture verses that have encouraged, challenged, and changed me on these topics.
Scripture for COMPARISON
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. GALATIANS 1:10
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. PHIL 2:3
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. MATT 7:2
Scripture for MOM GUILT
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ROMANS 8:1
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 PETER 4:8
Scripture for BABY BLUES
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ISAIAH 41:10
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. MATT 11:28
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 PETER 5:7