I Think My Postpartum Happiness Has A Name…

I have never felt better in my whole entire life than I did in the first months after Maggie was born.

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(I know. These are words you don’t typically hear from new moms.)

Maggie was a good sleeper (sleeping through the night by the time she was four weeks old), so I was getting lots of rest, but it was far more than that. I felt like the best version of myself. I had energy for days. I was elated ALL the time. I was productive. I felt so good in my body. I felt strong and focused and invincible. Every minute of maternity leave was incredible.

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I was reminded of this the other day because I’ve been thinking back on this time last year recently. Lately, I’ve been struggling with feeling kind of…blah, I guess. Not down or anything, but also not especially motivated, and certainly not as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as I felt this time last year. I found myself longing to be back in those early weeks of motherhood, where the world just seemed brighter and I felt so GOOD in my body. (I felt strong, and also at the same time like I was kind of floating all the time. It had never felt so good to be me, emotionally and physically.)

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(Again, not the standard new mom feedback.)

Now, I just feel…normal again (and have for several months).

So I turned to Google (duh) to see if anyone else out there had experienced this postpartum bliss. (Finding some analogs was tricky, because when you search things like “incredibly happy postpartum” you get results like “7 tips for postpartum clothes that won’t make you look pregnant” and “overcoming postpartum issues.”) I dug a little deeper, though (and tried some different search terms), and realized those feelings were probably tied to a real thing: postpartum elation, or “the baby pinks” (not as alliterative as “the baby blues,” but you get the drift).

Had you guys heard of this? It was news to me! I mean, we all know about postpartum depression — I was steeling myself to be on the lookout for THOSE signs before Maggie was born — but postpartum elation? Nope. Not on the radar in the slightest.

And it can be more than just feeling super happy. At its most extreme, postpartum elation can require interventions like medication and therapy, or even hospitalization (just like postpartum depression can call for more intense measures when it gets especially serious). But, as with most things like this, there’s a spectrum and, luckily, I think I was on the mild side of things. I was reading an article about postpartum elation, though, and really related to one mom’s experience:

Toronto mom Liz Hysen would easily describe the first one or two months after she gave birth to both of her children, Leon and Louise, as amazing. She was excessively happy. “It was an almost addictive feeling,” she says. But Hysen never developed any other potential symptoms of the baby pinks. She considers herself lucky — the early days were easier for her than for a lot of new moms. In fact, she says she has a hard time relating to women who felt horrible postpartum.

Yep, Liz. You and me both, girl! “Excessively happy,” “addictive,” “hard time relating” — all true for me as well.

It was oddly isolating to not be able to relate to the standard new mom experience, which I know sounds like that girl who always talks about how she can’t put on weight even though her doctor desperately wants her to (which, come to think of it, is probably oddly isolating for HER, too…). I’m very glad I had the postpartum experience I did, but it was definitely not one I heard my friends talk about. I was watching Ali Wong’s latest stand-up special last weekend, Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife, and despite her making tons of very funny jokes about pregnancy, the postpartum experience, etc., I wasn’t able to relate to much of it on a personal level. Again, I’m definitely not complaining — only saying that it makes me feel juuuuust a little left out of the traditional new mom club in some ways.

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Before officially bestowing this self-diagnosis of “the baby pinks,” (I can feel the mental health professionals out there collectively cringing!), I talked to Kevin about it. I asked him if I’d seemed different during those early months of Maggie’s life, and he quickly told me I had. He said I’d seemed almost manic, but not in a frightening way. He said he was shocked at how energized I seemed, starting in the hospital right after Maggie’s birth when I barely slept and wanted everyone to come visit us. Meanwhile, he could barely keep his eyes open.

I remember those first hours after Maggie’s birth feeling like the most amazing high. I felt like I could do ANYTHING. After all, I’d just had a baby!

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That elation continued when we came home, and lingered for several weeks (months?) afterward. I’m not sure how long it lasted, and thankfully coming “back down to reality” isn’t something I remember as feeling difficult or even memorable. All of a sudden I just…felt like me again. The world was a little less shiny, and I was most definitely more tired.

It’s weird to now feel like I was experiencing something — something with a name — without realizing it. Like I said, I was poised to have to deal with postpartum depression, but feeling amazing after giving birth? I didn’t think that was in the cards. And when it happened, I just felt grateful to feel so very much like me (an enhanced, superhero-like version of me, even) that I didn’t think about digging into it at all. Then again, I think it’s okay that I wasn’t aware of what was going on. After all, my “baby pinks” — assuming that’s what I was experiencing — never got close to a place that was scary or dangerous for either Maggie or me. Whew!

I tried to describe the feeling to Kevin, and landed on this analogy: I felt like a Disney princess. I seriously wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d been surrounded by cartoon woodland creatures. Everything was almost enveloped in cheerful background music, and I felt beautiful and so, so happy. I really miss feeling that amazing, in fact! I’m also incredibly curious to know if this will happen after the birth of another baby. This time, I’ll be watching for it. Stay tuned…!

Has anyone else out there dealt with this? I’d love to hear about your experience…

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