I was lucky.
I was lucky when Lily was born that Instagram didn’t exist. That Twitter was just growing legs. That I hadn’t yet created a Facebook account.
Because, as a new mom struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, seeing a whole world of blissed-out moms with perfectly dressed (and sleeping!) babies, gorgeous nurseries and designer gear surely would have sent me over the edge.
Reading about this new mom breaks my heart and rips open old wounds. Because she suffered in silence from a debilitating illness. But also because she worked so hard to maintain the appearance of perfection.
And I can’t help but wonder how big a role the internet played in her ideal of perfection.
There really is no such thing as perfection in life, much less when you’re slogging through the newborn trenches. But the internet tells us it’s out there. It’s everywhere, actually. And why can’t you — exhausted mom with leaky boobs and matted hair and a screaming baby — attain this perfection?
And even if someone else’s reality actually does include glorious hair and makeup, a baby dressed in the latest on-trend clothes who can sleep anywhere and a home that looks like an Anthropologie catalog, that doesn’t make your experience any less amazing or beautiful.
So I have some advice for any new mom feeling defeated by the “perfection” of the internet-Joneses. Some stuff that helped me when my second baby was born and I was hooked to my brand-new iPhone.
These aren’t easy. But they helped me, and I hope that even just one will do the same for you.
- When baby is sleeping, nursing or in your arms just hanging out, put down your phone and try to close your eyes. I know the urge will be strong. To check Facebook. To send a snap. To get the perfect dreamy-light-cozy-moment photo for your Instagram feed. But trust me, there will be tons of other moments to capture. If you have to, take a quick pic, then put the phone down. You can post it later, after you’d had a little rest and your partner is taking care of the baby.
- Quit following any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. I still do this.
- Follow accounts that are REAL. Like @womenIRL and @kidsaretheworst. And any of these. Because many of those mom bloggers/social media influencers claiming to “keep it real” are still posting beautiful, unattainable images of perfection.
- Build lasting, helpful, meaningful connections through the internet. It can be a wonderful place for new moms. There are all sorts of communities of women in your shoes, and you can find them in Facebook groups, Twitter meet-ups and blogs. It’s beyond comforting. It’s validating. And can be life-saving.
- Try to resist FOMO. I know it’s hard. But the most important thing in the whole world is happening right there in your arms.
- Let in those closest to you. The woman who wrote that article above was the mother’s best friend, but even she was being kept behind the curtain of truth. Lean on your partner, your family, your closest friends. Let them see and hear and feel the real stuff. My best friend traveled 600 miles to spend time with me when both of my babies were just a few weeks old. She got puked on, screamed at and saw me at my very worst. But I needed her more than anything, and her presence was the best gift. Let your people help. The whole village thing really is true. And they don’t give a shit about perfection.
AND if you think you may have a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression, talk to your doctor. As soon as possible. Get the help you need. For me, it was medication, therapy and the most amazing support group. And Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International are wonderful resources. You are not alone. None of us is ever alone.