Mental Health and Postpartum

I gave birth to my son, Malachi, in April of last year. Childbirth was the most simultaneously great and challenging thing I’ve been through since a Jet Ski hit me in 2005 and left me paralyzed. I was unconscious for a lot of that time so I’m tempted to give childbirth the #1 spot, but let’s not get carried away.

Beale_Mental Health and Postpartum

Malachi made his grand entrance and, thank you paralysis, I experienced no pain or discomfort; he’s healthy, my delivery was seamless, and I never knew I could love someone as much as I love him. In the weeks after that enormous milestone, though, my mental health slipped more than it has.

 I’m not claiming to have Postpartum Depression, thankfully. Contrary, I had the support I needed to glide into my new role as mama and I had a beautiful boy to stare at for as long as I could stand it. My circumstances seemed ideal and there wasn’t something I could call out as “the problem,” but still I was strapped tight to an emotional rollercoaster that I couldn’t get off. Excuse the cliché, but that’s what postpartum emotions feel like: a spiraling rollercoaster.

Enter: my paralysis; my weakened core and back muscles; and the smallest [crying, wiggling] baby. The reality of my disability was brought to my forefront for the first time in close to two decades, and in ways I didn’t anticipate: extra steps to maneuver baby from surface to surface; the (in my case) difficulty of breastfeeding every hour or so; concern over my disability getting in the way of taking care of baby; fear of dropping and accidentally rolling over him; and all the ridiculous but legitimate things that pop into my head at 3 am when I’m still awake. I wasn’t feeling as much of “I can’t do this,” as I was “this would be much easier if I could pick him up with one motion, walk around, move him to a surface without using equipment, etc.”

Maybe I’m being sensational, but this is how my memory of that time is written. Coming from me, who rarely has an emotion outside of “I’m happy, everything is good,” postpartum was a dramatic time. The emotions hit me like – not a wrecking ball, but – a large stone. That is, it didn’t take me out, but it made me teeter.

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Eventually I got my Mama Confidence and my emotions evened out a bit. Until then, I just cried some, prayed a lot, accepted help/support from my husband, lamented over things I couldn’t control (my disability), and tried my best to smile through it. Smiling comes easily with a newborn baby around, believe that.

Malachi is 10 months old now and my hindsight is strong: My disability is a beautiful and special part of my son’s life, and I’m able to raise a better person because of it; and there’s a workaround to nearly every obstacle my disability has thrown at me, and it’s all on the Internet.

For proof of either my “rollercoaster” or deep love for my son, I’ve cried many times just from looking at his face and being amazed at how beautiful he is. In the same minute as crying, I’ll laugh at myself, be annoyed for crying about nothing again, then back to smiling like a Cheshire cat. These emotions give me whiplash. Thank God they’re temporary and they’re justified.

No matter how non-sentimental you think you are, postpartum will sneak up on ‘ya and turn that around. Embrace it! It’s natural and necessary for us to be the best moms we can be. Cry if you feel like crying; say a prayer if it gives you comfort; talk to someone who loves you; write about it if that helps; and hug your newborn tight. You’re the most important person in his/her life right now, so get close. Change into a clean diaper, grab a washcloth (so much spit up), and hug that baby.

You’re doing great, mama.

About the Author - Kristin Beale

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of three books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, Wide Awake, and a comic book, Date Me. Instagram: @kristin.gupta

Kristin Beale

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.