When Did Life Start to Feel Normal After Baby?

quoteHey Kelsey,I know you had a hard time right after your baby was born and I just am seeking advice/your opinion. My son is 11 days old and I feel all out of sorts. I want to feel like we can still do things with a baby! So how long did it take you guys to start feeling a rhythm, etc? --Emily

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First, congratulations! You are at the beginning of a very special relationship and it will take time to get to know this little person you created. Soon you will be the expert on everything he wants and needs! Being a mother is fascinating and wonderful and complex, and there is a lot to process and learn as you go. One thing is certain -- you are going to be a fabulous mom!

My heart goes out to you because I remember so clearly feeling what you are describing. And I could answer your question in a few different ways because there are a number of moments along my journey that I can distinctly remember when things got better. Please remember that my story is not necessarily your story, and it may go quicker or a little slower for you.

  • 3 weeks: At 3 weeks, I decided to stop nursing Rooney. For me, this was a huge step toward feeling more "normal." For starters, I could wear my normal clothes again! I think breastfeeding gave me more anxiety than anything else. It was a very difficult decision to stop; there were lots of tears. But it instantly brought me some sanity back by removing one of the "unknown" elements. Because of this, when Rooney was 3 weeks old we felt sane enough to go out to eat as a family! It was great to get out and feel semi-normal again. (Funny story: While we were out to eat, right after we had gotten our food, Roo threw up all over Eric and we had to take our meals to go!)
  • 4 weeks: At 4 weeks, I decided to stop pumping. Again, a very difficult decision; it felt very permanent. But it instantly relieved another layer of stress. I remember going out to eat with a large group of friends from work and feeling like super mom that Roo and I both made it out of the house in a presentable fashion! I was anxious about the outing the night before, but she slept the entire time we were out! Other people held her and would be nervous about what to do, and I was the one giving tips. (Now that Roo is mobile, I realize that the first few weeks were the easy days of running errands with her!) We started to host and attend Life Group again. At this point in my story, our moms and my sister had left us to figure out our new normal, which was an important step in feeling like we had a handle on things.
  • 3 months: I remember laying on the floor with Rooney around the 3-month mark and telling Eric I was ready for another. So, things had obviously gotten much better. Rooney had started to interact and would occasionally smile at us, which made a huge difference in feeling like we were doing something right! I also think once you start to get consistent night sleep, it's much easier to think clearly and feel less like a crazy person. :)
  • 6 months: At Roo's well-baby checkups, I have to fill out a form about the stress in our home. At her 6-month checkup, it was the first time I was able to circle Never for the question In the past month, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless? This was the first I had realized that from 4 months to 6 months, my depression had steadily faded away.
  • 9 months: Similar to my experience at 6 months, at 9 months it was the first time I could circle Never for the question In the past month, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things? It just keeps getting better and easier, and we journey out more and more as a family now.
  • Never: For a while after Roo was born I was waiting for life to get back to "normal." And then one day it hit me -- that is not the point, Kelsey. I could never go back to my pre-baby normal. I don't want to, either. We were happy with our lives before, but we wanted to add to our family. Our life will never be the same, ever. Finding myself again, and getting to know the Kelsey who is now a mom, has been an interesting journey. Try as you might to give yourself grace along the way.

I hope this gives you peace and not anxiety. I hope that breastfeeding works out for you, if you want it to. Be honest with your husband, family and care providers about how you are feeling. I pray that some day you look back at this period when you feel stressed and anxious and can barely remember what it felt like because it was such a short-lived time.