Having a baby is the single most life-changing event I have experienced to date. I went instantly from running my own life to being at the mercy of the cutest little nugget. It was a confusing time though: mostly joyful, definitely hard, sometimes kind of lonely. Now that I am eight months postpartum and in a really good place emotionally and hormonally, I feel like I can finally share this part of my story with you.
My oldest was born via c-section, not exactly the birth I had wanted or planned. I ate right and exercised and took all the vitamins, and she just wasn’t in the best position. Luckily, in the moment, I was able to accept the decision to do a c-section pretty easily because I just wanted to meet her so badly and after pushing for an hour and a half, I was simply exhausted. Also, I thought (as part of my positive self-talk), you know, this labor drama was kind of scary and uncertain (I’m a huge planner and control freak), so the next time we have a baby, we’ll walk in calmly, have a c-section, and go on our way. So I convinced myself it was alright. And my physical recovery wasn’t even that bad since I had taken care of myself. I was strong. When we brought her home, I cried the first night. She wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t stop screaming and I couldn’t deal. Thank God my patient husband knew to just take her away and let me have a minute. Plus, my mom is amazing and did all the cooking and laundry and dishes for a week or so after she was born.
But then, we all calmed down and settled into a kind of rhythm. Sure, I had some normal postpartum issues: my hair fell out and I was super weepy for a few weeks even though I wasn’t sad. But I loved being a new mom and staring at my sweet baby for hours on end. And I felt really lucky to have pretty much missed the crazy hormonal shift I had read about. And then, three years later, it was time for baby number two.
Yes, we showed up at the hospital calmly, suitcase packed, grandma and grandpa taking care of our daughter at home. But it wasn’t quite as uneventful as I’d hoped. It took the nurse four different tries to put in an IV. For a girl who doesn’t do needles well, you can imagine this wasn’t super fun. Then we went to the OR and the anesthesiologist came in to put in the spinal. She could not find a place apparently because she stuck me with lidocaine and (even though I didn’t see it, I’m pretty sure it was) a GIANT needle FOUR times. In my spine. At this point, I was crying, like the ugly kind of crying, and my OB was PISSED. She really was a wonderful advocate for me that day and I’m so thankful. She basically kicked that anesthesiologist out and demanded a new one, who was able to get it on the first try.
So, our baby boy was born and beautiful, and my OB tied my tubes (a decision we had made months before and felt totally peaceful about), and I recovered pretty well considering he was my second. He was a great baby, great eater, great sleeper. My mom and dad stayed to help and again, I felt really grateful that I was getting through this without any weird hormonal problems. And then one night, I got sick. Like violent tummy bug sick. It’s really weird to sit, staring at the TV, getting up every once in a while to be sick, all while your mom occasionally hands you a baby to nurse, a baby you don’t want to give your germs to. But, I got better, and my parents went home.
A couple days later, that tummy bug hit my daughter and my husband. Hard. And I was so helpless. I had this little baby to protect, so I couldn’t take care of my other two. I was still sore from surgery, my body still adjusting to motherhood again. And slowly, they recovered, although my daughter had these recurring bouts of sickness, and I started to notice that I was very fearful, very anxious. Every time someone coughed, or spent too much time in the bathroom, or even complained of being full or chilled, I completely FREAKED out. I felt powerless to get the sickness out of our house, and I even convinced myself that I had caused it somehow.
And it only got worse from there. When my husband didn’t answer a text right away or was even five minutes later that I thought he’d be, I was sure he was dead in a ditch somewhere. I would open Google Maps obsessively to check traffic, looking for accidents along his route home. I worried constantly if the food I was cooking, especially meat, was truly cooked all the way through. The night time was the worst. I felt bad about waking my husband who had a long commute and a challenging job, so I knew he needed rest. I would get up, alone, nurse the baby, and put him back down. Then I’d lay there, staring at the ceiling, worrying about everything from the temperature of the house, to the amount of clothing on the baby, to how I wasn’t loving my daughter enough. I remember thinking, I worried about her when she was a baby like normal new mommies do, but this felt different. I felt out of control. I couldn’t relax. It was a dark time.
So, why am I telling you this? Because I want to tell you what saved me. And here it is: I asked for help. I didn’t go to my OB, although that would’ve been my absolute next stop if I didn’t start feeling more like myself and quick. I started at home, honest with my husband about how I felt. He offered to get up in the middle of the night with me, and sometimes I let him. Even if he didn’t though, he’d hug me close when I came back to bed as if to say, “It’s okay, I’m here, you’re doing great.” He would walk in from work and immediately jump into changing diapers and cooking dinner and playing princesses.
I asked for help from a few close, non-judgmental friends. I was surprised to hear that many of them had felt exactly the same at some point postpartum. They encouraged me to speak aloud (or text) my fears, my crazy thoughts, my paranoid delusions, whenever they popped up. And they listened, no questions asked. They didn’t laugh at me or tell me I was crazy. They said, over and over, “It’s okay, I’m here, you’re doing great.” And I felt safe with them.
Eventually, the darkness lifted and I was able to think rationally again. I was able to sleep. I could handle the germs and tummy aches and I felt like myself again. And just today, my daughter threw up in her car seat on the way to school and I just calmly turned around and got her cleaned up without overanalyzing or having a panic attack about it. I was unsure about writing my story down, because I felt like, oh it wasn’t that bad. I was never diagnosed with any actual postpartum mood disorder or needed medication (which I would have certainly used if it had come to that point). But I guess I decided to tell my story anyway to reassure anyone (new mama or not) that it’s okay (and necessary) to ask for help sometimes. I feel like women have this idea that we need to do it all ourselves, all the time, or we risk appearing weak. But it’s not weakness. In fact, I’ve come to believe that asking for help and being vulnerable with others is incredibly brave.
Currently Reading and Baking will return soon. For now, I am spending every free moment packing a house which is basically impossible with two littles, so we are in survival mode!
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.