A Story From My Heart
When my first child was born in 2015, I laid in bed with her staring at her pouty lips and bruised face (rough labour) and wondered when I was going to feel sad. I felt full of life and love - happy and easy going. Postpartum depression and anxiety were becoming increasingly talked about, and I was on the lookout for those tell-tale baby blues.
My husband took a few weeks off work as we adjusted to life with a tiny human. As he prepped to go back, I laughed off the warnings of asking for help if I felt overwhelmed. Parenting was easy! She turned 1 month - 2 months - 6 months - still no baby blues. These women are making this sadness up, aren't they? How on Earth can you be so sad when babies are *this* easy?
Month 6-9 were slightly challenging as my daughter learned she didn't HAVE to sleep if she didn't want to (which, let's be real, she never did because FOMO) but even through those nap battles and sleepless nights I always felt in control. I never felt like I couldn't tread water in the storms we faced. I made dinner every night happily and kept a clean house, visited with friends and kept all my appointments.
Around her 9 month birthday we decided to start trying for baby #2. The next 14 months produced 2 miscarriages and an overwhelming rage for why my body wasn't working to give me what I wanted - another baby. After countless consultations with doctors and the threat of a fertility consultation, baby #2 settled into my womb and made herself at home.
Pregnancy is easy for me. Both of mine felt dreamy. I felt powerful, sexy, resilient. A first trimester of morning sickness was just a small blip on my radar, and I avoided all the aches and pains and SPD and diabetic concerns most mamas face.
And then one Spring morning by the 7am sunlight, baby #2 was welcomed Earthside. A sweet babe with a Taurus Sun and Taurus moon smiled and laid the foundation for the fierce soul that we had just welcomed into our family.
And then the clouds rolled in. My husband got a promotion at work - a financial offer we couldn't refuse - that sent him away for an entire month. With little family close by and little to no social supports, I felt scared. Just me, my toddler, and my baby. Baby cried though - not a little bit, not intermittently - she cried loud, all the time. It didn't take us long to realize maybe something was wrong. More doctor visits and consults uncovered severe silent reflux. Weeks of medication trials found the right concoction for her, and things settled down.
"Okay. I can breathe," I thought.
The clouds got darker. The crying persisted. Colic, we were told. Change your diet, we were told. Test formula, we were told. What did I hear? *failure*. You have failed her.
Baby #2 didn't sleep. As a matter of fact, she didn't sleep more than 3 hours straight until she was 13 MONTHS OLD. I quickly figured out why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic with prisoners of war - because it feels lethal. It didn't take me long to realize I didn't love her - I took care of her to the best of my abilities, rocking her and nursing her and gently bathing her - but it felt like a job. I resented baby #2 because she took precious time away from the child I did love, since all she did was cry and fuss. When I wasn't feeling resentful, I felt guilty. Who on EARTH hates the baby they prayed for? That millions of infertile women would die for?
There were many days I rocked her, me crying as hard as she was, praying that a sickness would take my life in the night because being dead would be better than having to endure one more day of this. I drove the kids to appointments and play dates, imagining a car crash that I succumbed to but didn't leave a scratch on the kids. I believed death was preferable than having to wake up for one more day and tread water in a tsunami. I'd get up for the 9th time in one night to tend to her cries, and as I gently swaddled her and nursed her, I'd envision how much easier life would be if I just shook her until she shut up - and we could go back to the good life.
There was no light switch moment or "a-ha!" instance in which things changed. It was gradual, moment by moment. I finally confided my feelings in a friend, who intensely urged me to tell my doctor. I did. He was SO good about it - immediately taking steps to alleviate the pressures I faced and created a follow up plan for me. I sought out like-minded friends who I could confide in and interact with consistently. Baby #2 slowly started sleeping, slowly stopped crying, I began feeling able to take a deep breath before the next wave hit. I prioritized my self care - after the stress of year 1 with baby #2, I was 50lbs heavier (physically and emotionally). I read. I ate nourishing foods. I slept. I stopped dusting my damn house because all the Instagram moms do it.
And now I am 24 months postpartum. Instead of a daily tsunami in which I never caught my breath, now it is a wave or two a week. It's not perfect but it's real. I oscillate between feeling entirely in control and overwhelming over my head - motherhood, right? My doctor would tell me, "It's always darkest before the dawn." - how true that was for me.
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