You Can’t Curate A Perfect World: Battling Postpartum OCD and Unrealistic Expectations As A First Time Mom

I hesitated to post this because I thought it wasn’t relatable and maybe even laughable to some moms. I ran the post idea by a friend of mine and she passionately encouraged me to share, she said she could relate and that others would too. So, I’m going to try my best to verbalize this struggle with you, in hopes that it encourages someone out there.

From the clothes to the nursery, the gear, the books you’re supposed to read, I spent a lot of my pregnancy researching, shopping, and BUYING. We had set a budget and I was in charge of purchasing everything we “needed” for our first baby. Shopping and buying so much stuff in a short period of time was fun, exciting and addicting.

How satisfying it was to see all of this new, perfect, untouched stuff neatly organized and put away. The nursery furniture sat in perfect harmony, decor hung from freshly painted walls. A pristine white bookshelf sat stacked with new books, arranged neatly by height. The closet rails were lined with velvet pink hangers and neat pyramids of Dreft-infused linens rested on the racks.

Preparing for your first baby is so exciting but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the consumerism that comes along with it and I sure did. The greater problem with the consumerism was that it created a dangerous expectation for motherhood, an expectation that I would be able to maintain and curate a perfect world for my daughter.

We have the best intentions as mothers. But, somewhere in between the raging hormones, sleep deprivation, isolation, balding, becoming a drive-through restaurant and having a human hanging off of us 24/7, we create these massively unrealistic expectations for our lives. We spend most of our early motherhood at home, our only interaction with the world through social media, where we compare ourselves to staged and manipulated perfection. Disappointed by the difference, we drive ourselves insane trying to make it our reality. But, contrary to what we see on Instagram, we live in a world that is messy, imperfect and passing away. Our bodies themselves are flawed, dimpled and scarred. No matter how many organic pastel onesies we buy, beach vacations we take, pinterest-worthy nurseries we curate, workouts we try, photo edits we make, photos we stage, we’re left wanting more because exterior perfection, human approval and possessions are wells that run dry! They don’t satisfy us.

I have always struggled with OCD/anxiety/depression but my OCD was particularly strong during my pregnancy and my whole first postpartum year. A lot of my OCD was focused on germs and protecting my daughter and myself from anyone or anything that could possibly ‘contaminate us’. This entailed an exhausting cycle of cleaning rituals, alcohol wipes, saying no to social activities, isolation, anxiety, laundry and controlling behaviors around how others interacted with my daughter. I was also constantly stressed out about breastfeeding, making enough milk, pumping, needing to supplement, etc. These fears were driven by a belief that if I stopped breastfeeding, she would be more susceptible to sickness and have a terribly weak immune system for the rest of her life.

I tried so hard to keep my daughter’s world ‘perfect’ with the intent of protecting her from harm but OCD takes you lightyears away from reality. Your child isn’t a doll in your dollhouse.

Your baby will get sick, they’ll have rashes you can’t identify, fevers that last longer than you’d like, fussiness, tummy troubles and despite all of your attempts to know and fix, you won’t always have the answers and some struggles may just stick around. Your house will eventually feel grimy again, germs and all the rest will keep on returning no matter how many hospital grade wipes you buy off of Amazon. Your clothes, car and furniture will slowly lose their luster as they collide with spit-up, vomit, poop and fluids you didn’t even know existed.

Surrender mama. Breathe. Let go. It’s not meant to be perfect.

18 months later and the nursery doesn’t look the same as it once did. Decor hangs slightly askew, the crib looks like it houses a family of raccoons, the rails marred by a hundred tiny teeth marks. The bookshelf is DEFINITELY no longer organized by book height (first time moms…), instead each shelf is strewn with books of all sizes, their pages coated with fingerprints and unidentified sticky substances. The air smells a little like eau de poo and the closet is stuffed to the brim with boxes and outgrown baby gear. Yet, it’s my favorite room in the house because it’s full of life, perfectly imperfect and uncontrollable life.

18 months later and my attempts to control life have failed. My daughter has been sick multiple times. She’s licked the playground and tried to eat bandaids off sidewalks. She’s had a 105 degree fever. She’s gotten dirty. She’s thrown up. She’s hit her head and she’s fallen. BUT, she’s still perfectly happy and healthy. I’ve been forced to surrender. We can’t control it all, we can’t know everything and we can’t keep it all perfect.

It’s a battle I fight every day and each day I find my grip loosening as I come to terms more and more with the reality that I can’t control life, only myself.

I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes, “Let go or be dragged.”

 

 

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