On May 1, 2019, my little man arrived seven weeks early because of a spontaneous membrane rupture. Due to how quickly my labor progressed, they were only able to get one set of steroids in me, which resulted in over two weeks in the NICU, where he had to learn how to breathe, feed, and regulate his temperature on his own.
As much of a horror as this was for any new mom, this wasn't where the frightening times finished for me. Once we learned what all the beeps of the machines meant, we grew comfortable with our support system in the hospital. We had an amazing team of nurses around to help answer all my questions (of which I had many) and to be a guiding hand as we started our journey into parenting. For me, the real test was when it came to taking him home. Don't get me wrong — I was over the moon. But I was also petrified at the thought of being solely responsible for this precious life. I wasn't sure I could do it on my own. My partner was amazing with him, and I wasn't sure I could be as good a parent as he was.
My partner was amazing with him, and I wasn't sure I could be as good a parent as he was.
I spent many early mornings (or really late nights, depending on how you think of it) in an internet rabbit hole: Will my preemie know who I am? Why don't I love my baby? Developmental delays of premature babies?
I was suffering from PTSD and postpartum anxiety, which only seemed to amplify while browsing online. I quickly realized that social media is a double-edged sword, and you can often find only the picture-perfect portrayal of any situation. There is this pressure to show your good side, often at the expense of the genuine artifact, and this type of pressure during the early stages of motherhood was overwhelming to me. It added another layer to an already challenging experience. Motherhood is most definitely not a "best side" kind of experience; it is messy, emotional, and exhausting. That is why when I found Peanut (an app that matches moms based on location, interest, and ages of babies ), I was so excited. It allowed me to start having honest conversations, which was so important because those conversations encouraged me to take a little pressure off myself.
After chatting with a couple of moms on Peanut, we arranged to meet. We conveniently planned a coffee date the day my partner went back to work. Going out on my own and meeting these other women, all going through the exact same worries as me, made me realize that I was going to be OK. My partner even commented how much better I seemed when he came home. Meeting others who can relate to what I'm going through has been invaluable to my own journey, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the supportive network of moms I found. The weight of getting motherhood "right" was lifted, and knowing my concerns were the same as everyone else's made my feelings of guilt and anxiety so much more manageable.
I have truly begun to love motherhood. After all, we're in the same boat and are just looking to do the best we can for our little ones.
Rachael Ainsworth is a new mom and a member of Peanut, the app for modern moms to make new friends, chat, and be a part of a community of supportive, like-minded women. This content was created in partnership with Peanut.