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I saw a friend of mine yesterday with her brand new, less than a week old baby, her third. I asked her how she was and she said, “fragile.” I can’t think of a more perfect description of myself immediately after having each of my babies. I felt like a broken live-wire, with my emotional nerve endings frayed, buzzing and sparking in their new exposed state. The slightest touch or breeze and they’d shock and jolt me. When kindly people came by to drop off a meal, meet the baby, see how I was, I lied and said “great!” when asked.

Here I am, self-proclaimed teller of motherly truths and I perpetuated a very damaging lie to brand new moms. I was not great, not fine. I was a mess and felt like I should not be trusted with this brand new baby. By the time S came around, I knew the baby would be fine, but I was again shocked, raw and frayed. In a moment, I could go from rapturous wonder at my new perfect baby, to despondently crying. My moods shifted on the slightest notions. I was fragile.

I had been told I’d be hormonal. And the few people who saw my emotional flare-ups reminded me that I was hormonal. But this was more, different. I had been hormonal before. Afterall, I just finished pregnancy. But pregnancy is different. It feels transient and thus less real. This felt permanent. I felt crazy. And I hid it.

Of course it was not permanent, and I was hormonal. Slowly my self emerged again, well, maybe a more tired shadow of my self. The fragility gave way to a new brand of strength. An ability to hold it all together, to move forward, to lead myself and my kids through each day no matter what presents itself: days of no sleep, weeks of colic, illness. This is the stuff that makes a mom a mom. It’s not something I could have predicted or had heard about. And even though I experienced it with L, I doubted it when S came along. But it did come back, reinforced and stronger.

I’m certainly not saying that my life is without challenges and I’m without days when I feel harried, emotional, and like I can’t possibly take another minute. But it passes and I do take another minute. And another after that. I don’t really know what the purpose of this post is. It kept me up until 1:30 AM writing itself in my head. Maybe I just need to publicly acknowledge that I lied to everyone when I first had my babies.

I have a few friends who are expecting their first baby and I hope they read this. It’s just my own experience, but in case you’re feeling fragile in the days and weeks immediately postpartum, know that you’re not alone, you’re not a bad mother, you’re not crazy, and that you will come out on the other end as a bona-fide mom. If you need help, ask for it. And if any twit tells you anything stupid like “it only gets harder from here,” or dismisses your overwrought anxiety, you can punch them in the face and blame your hormones.

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