On a cold January morning, my son initiated me into parenthood with a very fast and painful birth. In between pushes, I glanced out the window to notice snow falling. It looked so peaceful, so calm. As though the world was giving me one last moment of serenity before my new life started. My new life of utter exhaustion, anxiety, tears and confusion.
When the doctor handed me our son, I could hear my husband’s tears beside me and all I felt was relief. Relief that he was out safely and he looked healthy and I had done it! But I didn’t feel effusive love. I didn’t feel moved to tears. I wasn’t on cloud nine. I didn’t think much about it because I knew I was still experiencing the rush of childbirth. I was chatty and hungry! But after eating, moving to our recovery room and a little nap; the hormones kicked in.
I cried nearly the entire hospital stay.
I wasn’t prepared for how much pain I was in or the emotional roller coaster I found myself riding. My husband rocked our son, changed every diaper, stayed by his side for every poke and procedure, handed him to me to breastfeed and took him from me when we were done. But me? I laid in that bed with lots of tears and an overwhelming sense that my life was very different and it didn’t feel like a good change.
Going home felt even worse. We were alone now and had to figure out our new normal. Anxiety set in. How do I breastfeed? When do we sleep? Is that rash normal? Why is he making all those noises when he sleeps? Is he making enough wet and dirty diapers? My husband was a full-time student and we thought scheduling evening classes was ingenious. Babies sleep in the evening right? Wrong. Once the sun set, my husband left for classes and I never felt more alone, scared or depressed. I called my mom every night at 8 PM crying my eyes out. Once, I remember staring at the wall thinking “Why did I want this?” and “I think I made the biggest mistake”. I felt mortified and guilty at having these thoughts. But there they were. It never occurred to me that I was experiencing the baby blues or perhaps even something more, postpartum depression.
I thought I was just in over my head or maybe just a bad mom.
I thought everyone took one look at their baby and fell madly in love, allowing that feeling to carry them through the first few months of exhaustion and adjusting to baby. I didn’t know it could feel so bad even though I knew in my head that I loved our son.
The first time I felt deep love for my son was two or three weeks into his life. I was so overwhelmed and overcome with anxiety that I never stopped to marvel at him. To soak him in. To study all his features. To enjoy all the snuggles. But once I began feeling more confident in my role. Once I figured out how to successfully feed him. Once I got used to this new life. Once I got a glance of a little smile. Then, then those feelings of love began and started to grow. And they haven’t stopped.
My son will turn two this week and sometimes I find myself in joyful tears watching him play. My husband and I get caught up in discussion every evening about just how smart and wonderful he is. As I write this, my four month old daughter is soundly sleeping beside me and as I look at her, I think how in some ways she had a better start than her brother. She got a confident, calm and loving mom from the start. My son got a scared, frantic, sad, anxious mom at the start. But I’m okay with that now.
My son and I will always have a special bond because we are navigating this new life together. Thankfully, those few weeks of intense anxiety were just the first chapter. In many ways, he is my anchor in the storm of motherhood. When I feel frustrated or overwhelmed or failing, he gives me an ornery smile and shows me that we are just fine. One day, I’ll tell him all this. But until then, I’ll wipe his boogies and clean his hands and tuck him in and give thanks every day for our beautiful, messy, overwhelming, unexpected life.
If you are struggling, seek help with your healthcare provider. Several of our sister site contributors have experienced postpartum depression. Read their stories here: