“Is it normal not to be excited?”
My heart sank a little. Just a smidge. She was having a scheduled c-section for breech presentation and it wasn’t the birth she’d had in mind or the one for which she had planned. I knew what she was feeling because of my own experience with a c-section 5 years ago.
“Yes,” I replied. “You get to feel however you feel. No one can tell you to feel any differently.”
As I drove up to the hospital the following morning to be there for her, I thought of what I wanted to say here this week on Postpartum Progress. Then I realized I’d already said it.
You get to feel however you feel. No one can tell you to feel any differently.
I mean, they CAN tell you. They undoubtedly WILL tell you. You don’t have to listen to them.
When you’re in the thick of postpartum depression and anxiety and you open up about your feelings, you’re likely to hear any number of well-meaning (but usually completely off-base) responses.
“But you have this healthy baby! Why are you depressed!?”
“You had the exact delivery you wanted! What is there to be depressed about!?”
“Your baby sleeps all the time and never seems to cry! Why are you sad!?!”
If you’re like me, you’re probably able to see all of the reasons why you SHOULD feel differently than you do. Knowing that you should feel differently doesn’t mean you will. In fact, being able to see all the reasons why you should feel differently will likely make you feel worse because you don’t.
You may not be able to explain it. You don’t have to. It just is. The very fact that you’re acknowledging that something isn’t right, that your head and heart are colliding, is enough.
As Gustave Flaubert once wrote, “one can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.”
Because here’s the thing about feelings, especially postpartum feelings.
They’re rarely rational, frequently inconvenient, and almost always uncomfortable, for us and for those with whom we share them. But giving voice to them anyway is important for healing.
Take a look at this:
“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings – words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.”–Stephen King
Read that again. Really read it.
Owning your feelings, speaking them, bringing them to life, that’s what makes them manageable, defeats them when they need to be defeated.
It’s okay to feel your feelings. They are yours. It’s okay to acknowledge them and process and then decide what you accept and what you toss out. That’s your starting point on your way through it and through it is the best way out of it.