Jessica’s Postpartum Depression Story

Jessica is a Midwestern native and moved to Oregon with her husband Mike. Before coming, she taught school for four years and worked as a CNA for three. She is now a stay at home mom. Jessica has two young boys, George and Gilead, and has also had four miscarriages. Jessica loves to sew, create, and read.

Do you think your birth trauma contributed to your postpartum depression? If so, how?

Absolutely! I got a lot done in the first three months of my son’s life. I worked, cleaned, canned, and cooked. We took a couple of day trips and a weekend to see friends five hours away. I was living well, because if I stopped to feel, I was going to die. I had a breast infection when he was four weeks old and again when he was eight weeks. To me, that was a sign I was doing too much. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I had nightmares.

When you were suffering from postpartum and anxiety, what did a “typical” day look like?

When I got to the three-month mark, I crashed pretty quickly. I was so exhausted in body, mind, and soul. Within three days my doula, my favorite midwife, and my sons’ pediatrician all told me I needed to go to WellMama.

I fought going. I thought I would choke and die. I thought the world was going to spin me right into outer space. I could not read. I could not think. I could not care for my household. I could not tell anyone what was really going on in my head.

What steps did you and your family take to help you get better?

First, I tried to muscle my way through for a few weeks. Then, I tried to get mother’s helpers for at least a couple hours in the morning. That got harder, and I got more desperate.

My sister Lynnelle had a six-week break in her nanny job, and we asked her to come spend it with us. The thought was that I could relax and breathe and heal, and we could go on. When she left, I thought I was going to die. I was so far from ready to be alone all day everyday.

In an extraordinary turn of events, she was no longer needed and was without a job. So she came back to Oregon and stayed with us for 26 months. But when Gilead was about 15 months old, Lynnelle got really sick. It was soon very necessary to have more help. At the same time, my sister Melissa was at the end of her job, so she came to help us for 2 months. But she ended up staying for 14 months.

During your recovery, what did a “typical” day look and feel like? Did it feel different than before you recognized there was a problem?

I went to every WellMama group for a long time. I went to counseling every week for quite a while, too. I was on high doses of medication. But I still struggled to care for my family. I didn’t see how I would ever get any better.

I was never suicidal, but I didn’t care if I died except my exclusively breastfed baby needed me. I was never psychotic, yet I dreamed and longed to go to the hospital, because I was so tired and I knew (or thought) I could rest there. I never breathed that fantasy to anyone. I knew if I went, I would not be able to even help care for my baby. And I couldn’t live without him.

Recovery felt worse than before I realized I had problems. It felt like I had been in this trench forever, and it would go on for forever.

What advice would you give to another mother going through postpartum depression and anxiety?

You are not alone. Find the support you need. Take care of yourself. Self-care is so, so important.

My Experience with Motherhood

My story with depression is a long one and a difficult one to put into words. I haven’t only struggled with postpartum depression. I’ve been battling one form of depression or another for my entire life. Because of this, the struggle with postpartum depression has been closely intertwined with a battle to overcome abuse from my past and has morphed into an overall attempt to pull myself once and for all out of the cesspool of damaging thoughts and personal beliefs about myself not only for my sake, but now for the sake of my children. For brevity’s sake, I’ll begin with a pathetic attempt to sum up my entire childhood with as few words as possible.

Suffice it to say, I spent almost my entire childhood being sent from the hands of one abuser to another. I recall a time when I was around seven or eight years old thinking that I was sick of it all: sick of the physical abuse, sick of the emotional trauma, sick of crying myself to sleep every single night, sick of helplessly watching my little brother being abused as well, sick of wondering if we’d live to see our teenage years, not to mention anything beyond that.

I remember vowing to myself that if I lived to see eighteen, I would devote my life to making sure that children never get hurt the way we were. After surviving an abusive step mom, being molested by people we knew, and, in later years, experiencing emotional abuse from a loving mother who had survived childhood abuse herself and who had thought she’d broken the cycle of abuse (but really hadn’t), I became an adult. An adult who thought that compared to others, I had a decent enough childhood. An adult who was sorely wrong about that. An adult who had no idea the severity of the abuse she’d endured or the way it had already changed her, nor the way it would impact her once she became a mother herself.

Fast forward a few years: I’m married. To a wonderful man. A man whose love and patience is incomparable and to which I still struggle to find the words to explain what he’s done for me. A man who’s helped me realize a lot of things. For starters, I had no idea what love was until I met him. In loving him and trying my very best to learn for the first time in my life how to allow another human being to tear down the very walls I had to build just to survive to see another day, I’ve realized that for the first time in my entire life, I can trust someone. Someone who won’t hurt me. Someone, unfortunately, who will never understand how much hurt I’ve already endured and how it now affects every aspect of my life. Little things, normal things, often times trigger memories of the past, and I go to a very dark place emotionally. He’s had to hold me close on many an occasion and help me remember how to breathe again, that he’s not going to hurt me, that I’m safe. I’m finally safe…I wonder at what point that’s actually going to sink in.

We had our first baby, the tiniest little angel. A baby girl who turned my world upside down. A child, a gift from God, placed in my care. So perfect, so innocent, so breakable. It was then that the gravity of the situation was more than I could handle. This little angel was placed in MY care. The care of a woman who’s had what kind of examples in her life? My parents are good people and did their best, just like any parents. Yet they both introduced people into my life that hurt me. And in later years, my mother ended up hurting me herself by refusing to get help in breaking the cycle of abuse. So here I am thinking that this little girl is bound to be hurt.

I don’t know how to be a mother. I don’t know how to really love. I’m still learning myself how to trust. How can I be asked to have her trust me? It’s only been since I got married that I’ve been safe, that I’ve been able to learn what love really is. I’m still learning…how can I teach this? Someone help me! I feel frantic. Oh no. I can’t breathe. Her well being is in MY hands…I think my heart stopped. The room is spinning…I can’t do this. I need help. Oh my goodness. I need help now! What is this feeling? I feel so sad…like I’ve already let her down.

I look into her eyes and smile at her.

She’s so perfect. She trusts me. That is the scariest feeling in the world. She shouldn’t trust me. I’m going to hurt her. I’m going to hurt her so bad, and there’s going to be no taking it back. I of all people know how irreversible the damage is. I can’t look at her. That trust in her eyes hurts too bad…I just can’t look at her…

These thoughts were present almost all the time. We had many normal, good moments. But the thoughts were ever present. A lot of the time, they were in the back of my mind, and I could manage.

Then there were moments they were all I could think, and it would choke the life out of me. Those moments were hard. It took everything I had to force myself to breathe, to stop hyperventilating, and to focus and be strong…for her. After the better part of three years, I looked back to realize how much time was spent not connecting with her the way I always wanted to because those thoughts were so damaging. They darkened every experience.

I had been in therapy for a couple years, trying to overcome the childhood trauma. Most days, I felt so broken that no one could ever fix me. I was unreachable, unfixable, as I told my husband on many occasions. I was too far gone, too broken. I felt hollow, empty. And so incredibly sad…all my life spent feeling this way.

What kind of life is that? What could I possibly offer my little girl and now this new baby on the way? What was I thinking getting pregnant again. I’ve already damaged the first one. Who am I to damage another? What right do I have creating a life when I can’t even figure out life for myself? You’re supposed to teach your children, shelter them, encourage them, strengthen them, love them. I’m still looking for the shelter myself. Courage? I know nothing about it. I’m a coward. I hide myself. No one knows about my past. I go to church and see normal women and think that they wouldn’t understand this pervasive sadness that’s always welling up, threatening my very breath. I know if I talk to anyone about how I feel, I’ll start crying. And if I start crying, I’ll never stop. I’ll cry for years at how unjust it all was. At the helplessness I still feel years later. At the worthlessness that was drilled into me at such a young age that never left. I still feel worthless. What can I really offer the world? Nothing. What can I really offer my sweet husband, my beautiful Tara, this baby growing inside me? Nothing. They’d be better off without me. I shouldn’t be here…

Then I feel Tara’s tiny little arms around my waist, and she’s saying, “Mommy, you’re my best friend.”

Oh wow. She has no idea what she means to me. This little girl will never know what she’s done for me. SHE SAVED MY LIFE.

She rescues me with each hug, takes me down from a very dark ledge. She truly is my angel, and I know why she was sent. I’m worth something. She’s teaching me that. So is this little boy who’s been with us now for nine months. His smile is captivating. His giggles are the sweetest sounds in the world.

I know why I’m here now. I know why it’s important to stay here. And now I know what a mom is supposed to do. Because my beautiful children teach me every day. I’m everything to them. But more importantly, they’re everything to me. And they’re worth sticking around for. They’re worth learning for and striving for. And they accept me for me. All my failings, all that I don’t know, and all that I wish I could offer but can’t.

And it’s starting to get a little brighter. I feel hope and joy. And I feel like that day isn’t so far off now when I’ll be able to accept who I am also, the way they do. I’m not so foolish to think that I’m past it all now. It was only at the beginning of summer 2012 that I looked at a checklist online for postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis. I took the test and afterwards it said if you scored a ten or higher to contact a medical professional immediately. I scored a 19. Only test in my entire life that I’ve passed with flying colors.

And also, it was only on October 23, 2012, that I had a breakdown in the shower and was so overwhelmed by the crushing sadness of depression that I went to a place I’d never been to before. I was standing in the shower hyperventilating. Having scary thoughts, crying out loud for help, someone to help lift me out of this depression. Someone to save me from myself. I was attempting to pray, but all I could get out in between sobs was, “Dear God, please help me. Oh God, help me. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.”

All with alternating between dry heaves and sobbing. My mind went blank. I stared at the shampoo and actually thought, “I know I’m supposed to do something with this. I just don’t know what.”

Staring at my hands, not sure what to do with them. All I could feel was the hot water pouring down on me and trying to ignore scary thoughts that were just there all of a sudden. Wondering if something were to happen, how Sean (my husband) would find me. In what manner I would have chosen to give up on trying to make it in this world. The thoughts were so frightening I couldn’t remember how to breathe. I knew it would take all my energy to focus on just taking the next breath.

I finally regained control, finished my shower, and immediately called Sean and told him to come home. I said it was an emergency and that I was sorry, but I needed help. That was only a month ago. So I am not so deluded to erroneously believe I’m okay yet. I’m getting there though. It’s a struggle, but I’m learning. The hardest part has been not knowing anyone like me.

I’m aware that vast amounts of women worldwide as well as in my own community have struggled or are struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. I feel so alone though (which funny enough is a symptom of depression), because I don’t know any other moms who are dealing with postpartum issues who are also trying to overcome childhood abuse.

Part of my struggle is deciphering each day where certain thoughts, emotions, automatic reactions, and habits are stemming from. Is it stuff from my past, or does it fall under the category of “normal” postpartum depression issues? I just need help. And a friend who’s been there.

I thought I’d share my story because what’s the worst that could happen? Someone says, “Hey, I understand.” That’s not exactly a bad thing! ????

Blog Author: Melissa Martindale. Melissa is a work-at-home mom. She and her husband Sean currently reside in Eugene, Oregon, raising their two children, Tara and Liam. She feels that being a mother is the most important job in the world as well as her greatest joy. Some of her favorite quotes to live by are from David O. McKay:

“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.”

“Children are more influenced by sermons you act than by sermons you preach.”

“If I were asked to name the world’s greatest need, I should say unhesitatingly wise mothers; and the second, exemplary fathers.”

“No other success can compensate for failure in the home. … The poorest shack…in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than [any other riches]. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles. … Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of Heaven.”

Melissa feels that when it comes to rearing children in love and righteousness, there is no greater work to be had than work done in the home on a daily basis. She loves her family and friends and is grateful for support available for those times when it’s not so easy to do the work of being a mom. She hopes that her story will help others who might be having a similar experience and that they’ll take hope and never give up.

Postpartum Depression in Men: Recovery Story

My Experience with Male Postpartum Depression

Nick grew up in southern California and now lives in Springfield, Oregon. He works as a wine merchandiser for Southern Wine and Spirits and plays bass guitar in the local band Wanibra. He and his girlfriend had their first child in May 2010. After researching their options, they chose to have a home birth with a licensed direct-entry midwife. Their son, Vryce, was born at home nearly four weeks early without complications.

We often hear women sharing their birth stories, but men’s voices aren’t heard as often. Tell us about what birth was like for you.

Terrifying. My girlfriend and I went to childbirth classes, but they didn’t really help. She was in obvious discomfort. I wanted to help, but I couldn’t tell if what I was doing was actually helpful. I didn’t know whether everything was going to be okay or not. There was just a lot of anxious energy.

How did you feel the first few weeks after your son was born?

I was relieved that the birth turned out fine. But I was really exhausted and hyper vigilant. We had a close call with our son choking on birth goo just a few hours after he was born. I spent a lot of time watching my son and girlfriend to make sure that they were okay. I did a lot of cleaning up around the house and made all of the food since my girlfriend didn’t leave the bedroom for the first two weeks except to go to the bathroom.

My son also had difficulty regaining his birth weight, and the situation got pretty scary. My girlfriend would pump and we would feed him breast milk through a tubing system attached to our finger. We did that around the clock every hour. Everything was run by the alarm. I didn’t get a lot of sleep. No matter what was happening, when that alarm went off, everything stopped to try and wake him up and feed him.

Men typically experience difficult emotions when the baby is three to six months old. What was that period like for you?

I definitely had postpartum stuff, depression. I don’t really know when it started. I was just super anxious about what to do and when to do it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know whether I was being helpful or just in the way. The uncertainty and anxiety just really got to me.

How did you handle those difficult feelings?

My girlfriend and I just argued a lot. And I drank a lot during that time as a form of self-medication.

Men often report that their romantic relationship with their partner changes after having a baby. Did you find that to be the case?

Totally. I didn’t think our relationship should change, but it did. My girlfriend was a mom all the time, and it was hard for us to be intimate. I was pretty sure she didn’t want to have sex, but it was still really important to me. After so much rejection, whether it was real or imagined, I kind of gave up.

Looking back, I easily forgot about that stuff. I don’t have negative feelings anymore toward her about the lack of intimacy after the birth of our son, which is good. It means I’ve come to terms about it, rather than having hard feelings.

The more we talk about things in a constructive way, the better our relationship gets. I mean really talking – a compassionate talk instead of “you did this” or “you did that.” Talk without criticism. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

Are there other things you wish men knew about life after baby?

If the sanctity of your home or the thought of being home with your family is important at all to you, you need to give yourself and your partner some space. The phrase “choose your battles” is ridiculous, because that implies that everything is a battle, but it is important to realize that there are bigger things going on.

You have to talk compassionately with your partner. If you let enough things that are not important go, they become important. Sometimes when you feel down, it’s time to step up for yourself and talk about what you expect. You still have to follow the rules of communication, even if you feel like you’ve been backed into a corner and those rules no longer apply.

Also, try to spend as much time with the baby as you can. Don’t be afraid of changing diapers or rocking or cuddling or singing to your child – even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. Don’t accept “Oh, I’ll handle it” as an answer from your partner. You will be put in situations where you are the only one who is going to provide for that kid, and it’s really important that you have those skills early on.

Oh! And babies make weird noises. It’s okay. You don’t need to take your kid to the doctor for making pterodactyl sounds.

Miscarriages and Healing

The first time I became pregnant, I had been married for just over a year. I was so excited to finally be a mother, something I had looked forward to for several years. I had started babysitting at the age of eleven and always wanted lots of babies of my own. I, of course, told all of my family and friends of my pregnancy and all was going well.

I went in for my three-month checkup, and the heartbeat of my baby could not be found.

I was devastated that my baby had died, and to make matters worse, my body did not want to give it up. I had to go in after waiting a week for the “natural process” to happen and didn’t, to undergo a D&C. I bawled throughout the process, knowing my baby was indeed gone, and no miracle was going to happen to make it otherwise.

At about the same time I lost my baby, a good friend of mine, Emily* gave birth to a little girl named Claire*. Emily, in contrast to me, had no experience on how to really take care of Claire and didn’t know how to get things done for herself or her home while juggling a baby. I educated her and showed her several things that I knew, and after talking to her in depth, I offered to pick up Claire every weekday after work for four hours. This would allow Emily to get household chores done, food made, time to herself, and give me the opportunity to take care of a baby I so needed at the time.

Emily was happy to let me care for her daughter, giving us both time to do what was needed. I took care of Claire for several months, being her babysitter on the weekends if needed also. We both learned the benefits of taking care of Claire this way.

During this time, I went through a second miscarriage at six weeks along.

I was extremely grateful I could hold and feed Claire. A year later, I gave birth to a son and could finally call him MINE. I quit my full-time job outside the home and continued to care for Claire, plus two more small children who lived next door, full time in my home. I was so happy and busy!

I was able to have two more sons and a daughter during the next eight years.

When my children were the ages of twelve, ten, seven, and four, my husband and I adopted two girls, sisters who were six and eight years old. They fit in nicely, and we knew our family was now complete!

I would encourage women of all circumstances to communicate with one another and help one another.

Experiencing a loss, as well as not knowing how to cope with being a new mother, dealing with postpartum depression, and just taking on the responsibility of a new life is very complex. Talking with other women, relaying how you feel, and seeing if there are options for you can be very beneficial.

Looking back, I feel so blessed to have had such a great friend who would trust me with her newborn. I couldn’t have endured those six months in which I lost my first two babies without Claire. I loved her as my own, and Emily knew that. Emily was able to get her life in order so she could enjoy being a mother. She had a second daughter five years later and, to this day, is still a great mother.

*Names have been changed.

Blog Author: Stephanie Stanley. Stephanie lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband of twenty-two years and their six children. Being able to have a large family has brought such joy into their lives. They are a very close, loving family that supports each other always.

My Experience with Birth Trauma

Jessica is a Midwestern native and moved to Oregon with her husband Mike. Before coming, she taught school for four years and worked as a CNA for three. She is now a stay at home mom. Jessica has two young boys, George and Gilead, and has also had four miscarriages. Jessica loves to sew, create, and read.

Jessica’s oldest, George, was twenty-two months old when she gave birth to her second child, Gilead. She had planned to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).

What did you expect Gilead’s birth to be like?

I expected to have to fight a bit for what I wanted, but I knew I could do it. I was very well prepared. I was aware of the risks of a VBAC and of a repeat cesarean. I expected to labor like my body was made to, to push for a while and have a wonderful little boy to care for as a reward.

I expected pain, because labor is not a joy ride, but I knew I could handle it. I had labored for ten hours on pitocin during my first son’s birth with no pain medication.

What was his birth like in actuality?

I fought well and returned to my contractions with warrior-like stamina time and again. The doctor on call was certain I was not well cared for. He was mad that he had to leave his daughter’s graduation party because I was in labor. My midwife hauled him to the hallway and had a chat three different times. Each time he came back a bit subdued, yet pushing for me to sign a consent form for a C-section.

I labored well. After five nights of prodromal labor, my water broke, and I was instantly in transition. It was very intense, but I welcomed it. The day had finally come. But the pain became unbearable. During each contraction, I was in so much pain. Throughout the labor, there had been a voice in my head that said this was not going to work. I had a hard time discerning if there was something wrong within me and my baby or if it was the world around me spewing gloom and doom. Finally, we ascertained that the pain was caused by my baby not having his chin tucked so my cervix was being pinched between his skull and my pelvis during each contraction. All that quickly lead to involuntary pushing and only more pain. Based on the rate of swelling, I knew that was the source of my inner voice. At that point, the doctor was very calm and far from gleeful about having to do the C-section.

After Gilead was born and breathing, there was nothing else to know. I had made the doctors swear they would do nothing to him until I could be there. I knew in my gut my baby was a boy – and a big one. There was nothing left to know except whether or not he would breathe. And he did. At that point, I was thinking about the pain that was to come of healing from surgery and then I thought of all I had been through with the birth and recovery of my first child. The horror of going through all that pain and sickness again was more than I could handle.

There was a part of my head that pulled back from the thought. The people and the room started to swim out into the darkness around me. I knew I was disassociating, so I fought to stay conscious. And yet everyone rolled back like a deep silent fog. The midwife told me I batted at the blue drape, and she snapped at me to not touch it. I don’t remember that, but I never lost consciousness.

I have never in my life felt so alone. I could see no one, yet the glare of the lights in the ceiling grates haunts me even yet. I was so helpless, strapped to that stupid table. At one point, I do remember thinking, “This is how Jesus felt on the cross.” It was hideous.

How did the differences between your expectations and what happened make you feel?

The differences made me feel so very alone. People told me, “Just be glad you have a healthy baby.” That is such a bunch of crockery. My first baby was injured. My friend’s baby died. I felt lucky to have survived two of these very difficult births and actually have a baby alive and doing well.

I felt so very alone. I thought I would find comfort and support in my community. There are people who have faced terribly hard things. But I didn’t.

How did you handle those difficult feelings?

I don’t very well remember how I handled the difficult feelings. I bottled a lot up, because I didn’t feel safe to talk about it. But I could only live like that for so long.

What would you tell a mother who was coming to terms with a traumatic birth?

I would just listen to her. Let her talk. So many people wanted me to be quiet.

I would also help her find an outlet. It is different for every person, but an outlet is available: art, music, writing, blogging, exercising, counseling, WellMama. Something!

But mostly, I would listen to her talk.

One Year Reflection

As my daughter Taylor’s first birthday is coming up tomorrow, I’ve been dwelling a lot over this past year and all I’ve learned from it. How much Taylor’s changed, I’ve changed, and our lives have changed. At the moment in which I’m writing this post, she is happily snoring next to me, probably dreaming about a better way to sneak into the planter again or about how delicious her last dinner was (right?). But of course, things weren’t always this simple…12 months ago I sure as heck wasn’t able to leave the house without a feeling of doom, let alone write a blog post while she slept peacefully next to me.

When Taylor was first born, I was already neck-deep in depression and stress. So much so that the added postpartum hormones took that into what I feel now was postpartum depression. I felt like I was in a complete haze, and I wasn’t myself at all. I was full of unnecessary anxiety (I couldn’t let anyone hold Taylor without hyperventilating and going into full panic attack mode), I hated leaving the house or being in new social settings, I was angry/overwhelmed/and sad, and I also needed to have a great feeling of control in my life (from organizing all of Taylor’s things to knowing absolutely everything that Taylor came in contact with). Even with the huge amount of love and help from my mother, sister, and Franki, I felt lost and depressed. It took me up until her 4 month “birthday” to feel even a glimmer of being alive again, and even then I knew I had a long journey ahead of me.

Now that I’m at the place where my body is back, my humor is back, and my brain is kinda back (those special mom-ents are sticking around I’m afraid!), I feel that I can share some of the advice I’ve gathered along the way in the hopes that somehow I can pay it forward. I can’t say it enough: being a good parent is difficult no matter where you are, who you are, or what level of life you are in. I really hope that some of this advice finds its way to you, if only to help you make it through one more sleepless night.

To everyone who has been in my corner, rooting for us…thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness and love constantly continue to pull me through every slump and hold me higher through every triumph.

1) The days are long, but the years are short.

This has been probably the most eye-opening advice I’ve gotten so far. After reaching out on Twitter for advice on balancing my life, I received this from a follower, and it snapped me back into reality. Yes, this might have been the longest day ever. Yes, balancing school/baby/cleaning/cooking can seem overwhelming (and it is), but when she is 5 or even 16, you’ll look back and somehow wish it were longer. Her first year has already passed me by so quickly; it makes me want a magical pause remote just so I can savor a little more of the baby stage. Every phase has an ending, so keep your head up and find that light at the end of dark sleep tunnel.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not feel guilty for doing so.

This was one I struggled with constantly. Anytime I wanted to ask for a small break, some rude voice in the back of my head said, “This baby was your choice. You brought her into the world. She is your responsibility at all times.” I felt so much guilt for wanting a break that I hardly ever asked for one and that took a ginormous toll on me. While it is my responsibility to raise my child, in order for me to do the best job I possibly can…I needed to help myself too. It’s like the “crash rules” in an airplane. Help yourself before you can help someone else. Asking someone you trust to watch your baby while you shower/eat/take a walk around the block, is good for you and for your baby.

3) Just breathe.

There have been so many moments with Taylor (especially in the earlier months) that I just wanted to scream and hit a wall or sob hysterically and lock myself in the closet (which might have happened a few times). The mix of her acid reflux, lack of sleep, amount of responsibility growing, and her extremely active personality (opposite from my pop in a movie and put my feet up on the couch personality) took me over the edge often. This new life of my mine was a huge and sudden adjustment. This simple advice that I was given by my Healthy Start home-care worker, Joanna, was to “Just breathe. It’s okay to just take a step back and calm down.” It honestly worked so well. If you ever feel like you’re just about to lose it, I urge you to place the baby somewhere safe (crib/pack-n-play/etc.), go to another room, BREATHE, and re-center yourself.

4) It is okay to cry and be frustrated, but you have to stop sooner or later…and still need to decide what to do about it.

I read this quote somewhere on someone’s Facebook page I’m sure, but it spoke to me very loudly. In the early days post-Taylor, I would wallow in my sadness about Taylor’s biological father not stepping up and the pain and stress he continued to cause…but where did it get me? Nowhere. Complaining about my stress just made me more upset, and it became a vicious cycle. So when these feelings or situations came up again, I decided to let myself feel the pain and sadness…but then I needed to figure out a solution. No pity, no wallowing for days…just let myself feel what I had to feel, then attempt to find an end or solution to my problem.

5) Breastfeed for as long as you can.

The boob is my go-to tool for a cranky Taylor. Not only is breast milk full of amazing and hard-to-duplicate nutrition for your child, but it also acts as a painkiller! Anytime Taylor was teething, in pain, tired, fussy…nursing solved it. Since it’s always conveniently there and always at the right temperature, I found that it’s incredibly easy to feed or calm her any time of day or night. Not to mention it’s helped me lose over 70+ pounds! If you’d like more information on breastfeeding click here, here, and for a mother-load (ha! pun) of information on breastfeeding click here.

6) Save money. Shop at secondhand stores.

No real explanation needed here! Babies grow incredibly fast. Bank accounts…not so much. You’d be surprised how many adorable and hardly worn baby clothes, toys, high chairs (got our brand new Graco for $20!) are hiding at your local secondhand baby stores.

7) Listen to your instincts.

If I had just one piece of advice to give, it would be this one. Your internal mothering instincts are so incredibly important when raising your child. You know your baby better than anyone. When Taylor was a newborn, I held her all the time. Not just because I wanted to, but because I had this intense feeling that I should. I was told by numerous people to, “Put her down. Don’t spoil her,” and, “You’ll need to let her have her own space sometime.”

It felt so wrong to put her down and away from me, and even when I would attempt to, she protested by crying constantly and fussing. It felt right to hold her during the day, but even more so during the night. The first night I had Taylor back at home, I laid her to sleep in her co-sleeper on the bed. She began to wheeze, breathe rapidly, toss her arms around, and cry. I picked her up, placed her back on my chest, where she calmly fell right to sleep. From then on, she and I both preferred to be closer to one another.

If that wasn’t an indication that I was right in my instinct, this next moment sealed the deal. Taylor was only 3 weeks old when she woke up from a nap on me, formed a giant frown face, and turned completely blue. Adrenaline rushed and panicked. I called 911, and we were in the hospital for the next week trying to figure it all out. It turns out she had intense acid reflux. When the acid came up it was too painful, and she didn’t know how to deal with it so her body tensed up and stopped breathing. As dramatic as this may sound, I honestly feel in my heart that without a doubt, if I wasn’t holding her, she would not be alive today. Your instincts are suited for your unique situation and your unique baby. Just listen to yourself, and both of you will be better off!

Taylor recently has been able to nap alone on our bed and fall asleep without needing me to rock her. After all the security I instilled in her over the past year, I feel that she is finally at a place where she is confident in herself and comfortable with her surroundings to be able to lay alone. We still co-sleep and will until she prefers not to, but I’ve got to say waking up next to Taylor cuddled on my arm snoring is the best feeling in the world.

Taylor has become such a little toddler now. It’s hard to believe that our first year is already coming to a close. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I could go back in time and somehow magically become un-pregnatized, would I do it? As strange as it sounds coming from a single and early 20-something female, without a doubt I would still have Taylor. Regardless of all the ups, downs, and meltdowns, she has given me such a positive purpose for my life, and I can’t wait to see what our crazy lives have in store for us next!

Blog Author: Stephanie Greenwood. Stephanie Greenwood, originally from sunny Southern California, is a student at the University of Oregon. Since becoming a surprise mother, Stephanie likes to take things one day at a time with as much snark, silliness, and humor as possible. This blog post originally appeared on Stephanie’s blog, “Those Young Moms,” and we have reprinted it here with permission.