No amount of preparation, no number of birth stories, no level of research can fully prepare you for the reality of having a baby and going through the postpartum period. There’s a prevailing narrative about the experience: That those first few weeks after you welcome your baby are just blissful. Exhausting, yes, but blissful. 

People refer to the day they gave birth and the weeks following it as the best, most magical times in their life. They talk about falling madly, instantly in love. 

That’s the narrative that’s considered socially acceptable, but it’s not the only experience people have before, during, or after giving birth, and it’s time we reflect on that. Because the reality is, so many mothers find themselves wondering if there’s something wrong with them when they don’t experience exactly that.

We of course know about mental health conditions like postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis. But we often hear about those conditions in their most extreme forms — which is of course, so important to talk about (severe postpartum mental health issues can quite literally be life or death situations). That doesn’t tell everyone’s story though. The postpartum period can be characterized by the highest or the lowest lows — sometimes both, or sometimes something that doesn’t resemble either of those extremes.

There’s truly no way of predicting how someone will experience this time, but it’s so important that we shed light on how different it can look from person to person. Because even though it’s impossible to fully prepare yourself for the postpartum period, when we normalize the range of experiences, we can help people understand that what they’re feeling isn’t bad or wrong.

Here, five moms on Rescripted’s team share what they wish they had known about postpartum mental health before the fact:

“I thought once I brought my baby home, that I’d finally feel relief.”

"There were so many things I wasn’t prepared for postpartum. After experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss, I had a pregnancy journey full of anxiety. I thought once I brought my baby home, that I’d finally feel relief and I wasn’t prepared for that anxiety to morph into new worries and obsessions.

I wish I’d trusted my instinct more instead of doing endless hours of research to make sure I was doing it “right” (how to set my baby up for good sleep habits, etc). Because of my new anxiety, I didn’t make the time to do anything for myself and became completely lost and overwhelmed.

I also wasn’t prepared to experience moments of mom rage, either. It made me feel incredibly guilty and question if I was even capable of doing this. All this to say, it’s hard, and amazing, and complicated. I wish I’d reached out for therapy and medication earlier than I did, but I’m so glad that I finally asked for help." ~Sarah Cocke, Community Manager, Rescripted

“There was so much emotional confusion for me.”

"I wish more people talked about prenatal mental health conditions vs. just postpartum mental health conditions. In my case, I was happy as a clam postpartum, but suffered deeply during the first trimesters of both of my pregnancies. There was so much emotional confusion for me during these three or so months, especially given the fact that I’ve only had IVF pregnancies. I should have felt absolutely over-the-moon, but the reality is that I could barely get out of bed. 

I’m grateful for an integrated OBGYN practice that encouraged me to chat with their in-house therapist, as well as family, friends, and colleagues who saw me, heard me, and loved me during those long few months." ~Abby Mercado, Co-Founder & CEO, Rescripted 

“I wish I had known not to equate postpartum mental health with postpartum depression.”

"There are so many things I wish I had known before becoming a mom. First, that women who conceive via assisted reproductive technologies like IUI or IVF are more susceptible to postpartum mental health conditions, as are moms of multiples (check, and check).

Second, I wish I had known not to equate postpartum mental health with postpartum depression, because while I wasn't sad, what I experienced during those early postpartum days was so much more than "regular" anxiety. I want new moms to know that it's okay to ask for help and it's okay to go on medication, even if only for a little while. You can't pour from an empty cup, and your baby needs a healthy mom more than anything else. Seeking support shows incredible strength, not weakness." ~Kristyn Hodgdon, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Rescripted 

“There was just a fog over everything.”

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“When I gave birth, I thought I knew everything there was to know about prenatal and postpartum health — after all, I had years of experience covering these topics as a journalist. But nothing could have prepared me those first few days of postpartum. It was truly an out-of-body experience — I felt so disconnected from absolutely everything, even the precious babies I had just welcomed. There was just a fog over everything. 

All I had ever heard about giving birth was that it was the happiest, most beautiful day of a person’s life. I wondered what was wrong with me, because I just felt all the color had drained from my world. For me, the fog didn’t last long, but that combination of sleep deprivation, hormonal shifts, physical recovery, plus the aftermath of many pregnancy and delivery complications had a huge influence on my mental and emotional health. 

I wish more people talked about how sad you may feel after giving birth. The hormonal shift is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I was never diagnosed with a postpartum mental health condition, but I still definitely struggled to feel like myself again for weeks after.” ~Zara Hanawalt, Staff Writer, Rescripted 

“My expectations for postpartum life were so high and unrealistic.”

"I wish I knew that it’s ok to take things slow. That lying in bed and on the sofa with your new baby is ok! That my only job in those early days, weeks, months was recovery for me and that my baby only needed love, food, and sleep during that time. My expectations for postpartum life were so high and unrealistic, and when my life wasn’t matching the pretty picture I painted before the baby came I felt like a failure. Take it slow. Take my time. It’s ok and it’s what I need! That’s what I wish I known and done differently." ~Jacqueline Solivan, VP of Partnerships, Rescripted

Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, MarieClaire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.