The moment our daughter was born was the greatest moment of my life. The physical pain of labor had started to subside, I saw that she was healthy and adorable, and I realized that I had survived. They cleaned her up quickly and laid her down on my chest. I looked down at her and rubbed her little back. “Oh, it’s okay baby. Don’t cry. You’re okay. Hi! I’m Mommy!”
Then I sank. At the time of course I didn’t realize I was sinking. A few seconds after they laid her in my arms I said, “Okay, baby, the nurses are gonna have to take you now to get you all measured.” The baby nurse smiled at me and said, “Oh, no, mama! Not yet! You can hold her for a while longer!” And I froze.
I… didn’t want to hold her.
I looked forward to becoming pregnant my entire life. When my husband and I met and got serious, I squealed with joy (internally) at the prospect that the future was coming! The doors were opening! All the “you’ll just have to waits” were running close to their expiration dates. My life could now begin!
When I became pregnant I was so happy, so blissful, so relieved, so hopeful. I could not wait to meet this little one. It was the greatest feeling on earth.
So when I first realized I didn’t want to hold my newborn daughter, the first thought I had was Well. Okay. It’s. Just. Because. I. Am. So. Tired. My body was worn, as all of our bodies are after we give birth. I got myself back together (literally) and they placed her in my arms to and we were wheeled up to my room. I passed the smiling faces of nurses as we headed down the hallway. I felt their warmth around me; their pride for us and our little family; and for what they do.
Once we got ourselves settled into our room, I placed her down in the plastic crib next to my bed and ordered myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Periodically the nurses came in throughout the night to check on us. I nursed without a problem and properly documented when we did so, just as they asked me to. Perrrrfection.
My husband settled off to some sort of sleep in the corner of the room and I turned on the television. I didn’t hold her at all that night. I mean, I did what I needed to do, but that was it. The next few days flew by; visitors, information, and soon; it was time to go home.
We wrapped her tiny self up into the car seat and headed home; not without first stopping at Starbucks (husband). Woo hoo we made it!
I’m going to share some of the thoughts I had over the course of the next six months. Having worked in mental health my entire career, I knew these thoughts weren’t alright. But, I figured, I’m handling it. If it gets to the point where I can’t do what needs to be done, then I’ll ask for help. I’m alright. I’m alright.
What have I done; there’s no turning back now.
Why did I have a baby. I can’t do this.
I wish I hadn’t gotten pregnant.
If she doesn’t stop screaming, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I don’t like holding her; she’s always pushing back and stiffening up. I don’t like to hold my baby.
She’s crying. I wish someone else would hold her. I don’t want to do this anymore.
I don’t want to go home. Once I get home I’m trapped with her again.
Is he (husband) kidding when he just walks in here while I’ve been nursing for six hours straight and announces he’s going to go to the store.
I’m literally trapped in this bed. She won’t stop screaming. I wish I hadn’t had her.
I can’t do this anymore.
I want to throw her out the window. Is it bad that I can actually imagine myself getting up right now and doing it. Am I losing my mind. Why am I feeling this way. I wanted this. I wanted her. More than anything. How horrible of a person must I be. I wish I hadn’t done this and now there’s no going back. And yet I’m looking at the window right now.
And that’s the truth. That’s the truth of how the first six months of my daughter’s life went. And I loved her. More than anything in the world; I loved her. I knew on some level that my thinking was seriously distorted. I talked to a few friends, family, and to Craig. I told them how I was really doing. I listened as they shared their stories with me, admitted their worst moments, and their vulnerabilities.
Finally I talked with my doctor and told him The Truth, and he prescribed me medication to help get through it.
See the thing is, I knew I *shouldn’t be ashamed.* I knew that post-partum depression was *common and needed to be talked about honestly.* But still, I didn’t talk. Still I felt weak, inadequate, lazy, selfish, and ungrateful. And those feelings I couldn’t stomach; the shame. So many people wanting babies who couldn’t have them; so many kiddos who needed strong, secure parents that weren’t available to them. And here I was, a gigantic ball, for no reason other than hormones and a driving need for perfection.
So, talk. Talk to me, talk to your friend, your mom, your sister, your aunt, your friend at work, your DOCTOR. Talk. You aren’t ruining your little one’s life; you’re recognizing your sensitivities. You can’t take the crying? Sister, I KNOW. Put the little one down safely in the crib on his or her back and take yourself a moment a few rooms across the house. Or six moments. Or call someone to come over and take seventeen moments. At Target. Or Starbucks. Don’t be ashamed. DON’T BE ASHAMED to ask for help. Oh, and also, if you haven’t felt this way, also don’t be ashamed. Parenthood impacts us all so differently. And dads too. Dads may need a hand or seven hands also. They know how to ask for help for themselves even less than we do.
It’s four and a half years later now, and the meeting of a newborn baby is STILL both exhilarating and really scary for me. Still. I love little people; they’ve been my life’s work. But newborns overwhelm me.
And that’s The Truth.
But four year olds? And their sass and their fierceness and their wit? Four year olds I can do. It does get better. It does get easier, and it has.
But it starts with talking, and asking for help.