It’s no secret that it can be jarring to become a mother, but one new mom is spelling it out in serious detail. Gylisa Jayne wrote an honest, raw Facebook post about her experiences during the first year of motherhood—and it’s resonated with plenty of other parents.
In the post, which has been liked more than 76,000 times and shared nearly 70,000 times so far, Jayne details how difficult the first year of motherhood was for her. Among other things, she says she never knew she would “really, honestly never be alone again” (as evidenced by the photo accompanying the post, of Jayne shaving her legs in the shower with her son right in there with her), that everyone would have an opinion on how she raises her child, that having a baby might make her “hate” her husband sometimes, and that her mothering instincts would kick in.
But she also had this to say: “No one told me that they felt mad too after their babies. That they felt lonely and scared and weird and not like themselves anymore. No one told me, so I felt I couldn’t tell anyone I felt like that either, until one day I did tell someone and it all spilled out and I ended up sharing my words with thousands of you. And you all admitted it too.” She added, “And then you all DID tell me that those feelings don’t last forever. That sometimes it comes back and you want to run away, but you all said, each and every one—that it gets better. It gets easier. It will fly past. It will be worth it.”
The things no one told me ✨There has been countless moments during my first year of motherhood, when I have thought '…
Tamar Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF that it’s “incredibly common” for people to not feel like themselves after becoming parents. “This happens in many periods of transition in life—getting married and going off to college are a few more,” she says. “This sense of who you are and how you define yourself falls away, and you’re creating a new definition of yourself. Motherhood is a prime example of this.”
Having a baby is a “potent cocktail” because you’re going through psychological and physical changes like changing hormone levels and sleep deprivation, Gur says. “It’s prime time for your definition of self to be shaken.”
Julie Lamppa, A.P.R.N., a certified nurse midwife at the Mayo Clinic, tells SELF that most women think the transition to motherhood will be easier than it actually is. “Prior to your first baby, you are accustomed to freedom, doing what you want when you want, and likely working regular hours in a career that you feel comfortable with,” she says. “Suddenly, you are thrown into uncertainty, responsibility, physical recovery, and sleepless nights. Why should any of us think this would be easy? But most of us do.”
Karen Kleiman, L.C.S.W., director of the Postpartum Stress Center, and author of The Art of Holding in Therapy: An Essential Intervention for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, tells SELF that after the initial two to three weeks of baby blues, i.e., feeling weepy or moody after giving birth, a portion of moms say that they don’t feel like themselves—and they may be suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.
So, how can new moms tell whether what they’re experiencing is normal or symptoms of postpartum depression? While Kleiman says feeling lonely and scared is common for new moms, having those feelings intensely for longer than two weeks at a time can be symptoms of depression and anxiety. Feeling isolated is also a common postpartum depression symptom, she says.
“Normal is just feeling a little lonely or you don’t know who you are,” Gur says. “When it comes to postpartum depression, you don’t care who you are.” Women who suffer from postpartum depression may have trouble getting out of bed, not want to do anything or see their friends, or not want to go outside at all. “Nothing is appealing to you anymore with postpartum depression,” Gur says. “You might feel hopeless or worthless.”
If you’re experiencing feelings of distress that last for longer than two weeks, experts say it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional (your ob/gyn or child’s pediatrician can typically recommend someone who specializes in postpartum depression). But if you’re just not feeling quite like yourself, it’s a good idea to try to do the things that make you feel like you again. “We all need time for ourselves once in a while, and new mothers are not immune to this,” Lamppa says. Gur agrees. “I always tell people to return to your roots,” she says.
That can mean having a family member or friend watch the baby for a bit and spending time at a bookstore, playing music, or starting to exercise again—whatever it is that you loved to do before you had a baby. “You have to make room for that again in your life—it’s not selfish, it’s for the sake of your kids,” Gur says. “That’s what’s going to get you back. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”