documenting motherhood · parenting · reflection

how it is, how it was

I’m writing this in solitude.  Nobody’s home, just me.  The quiet is surreal.  My husband has taken our boy (can’t say ‘the baby’ anymore, he’s too big!) out to pick up some groceries, and specifically ordered me not to do any dish washing or chores.  I’ve got a rotten cold, so I took a dangerously hot bath.  I adore painfully hot baths.

I realized something as I slipped into the steaming water–I wasn’t feeling concern.  This seems small, but in the timeline of a postpartum woman, I think it is huge.  

Every journey is different, and perhaps some will read this and roll their eyes.  “She’s talking about this again?”, or the basest point:  “Get over it.”

It’s okay.  If this is you, it’s just not your type of journey, and really that is wonderful.  I wish my postpartum experience hadn’t been so fraught, but it was, and I think it is important now for me to shine a light on that and also provide reassurance to anyone going through (or about to enter into) the thick of it.

How it was: I couldn’t leave my baby.  Not with others, not for a moment, not for a date or a shower or a pee.  When I did, it felt dreadful.  I hated it and wanted my old life back.  I felt guilty all the time, felt like taking ten minutes to shower was selfish and somehow hurting the baby.  I rushed, all the time spewing out crazed apologies.  “Ssh, it’s okay, it’s okay, Mama will be so fast, so so fast…”

How it is: The guilt is gone.  We go shopping, and leave Felix with his grandparents.  Felix goes on happy excursions with Dada, while Mama takes an hour or two to bathe and breathe and process emotions.  Felix is fine, he is not damaged or worrying about me.  I am fine, I am not damaged or worrying excessively about him.

How it was
: I was so tired, so tired, so incredibly tired.  Never before had I experienced that type of jaw-clenching anxiety, that deep an exhaustion.  I worried so much that when I was given time to sleep, I often couldn’t.  In the first few weeks, I had these odd sort of shocks–hallucinations, almost.  I’d wake from a sleep, and immediately panic about the baby’s whereabouts.  My addled brain focused on shapes and shadows–how did the baby get on the mantel?  The baby’s at the edge of the bed!  This irrational behavior wasn’t something I could control or even share.  I clearly remember nursing Felix on the couch, and looking up at a shadow above our window.  A wave of panic hit me: the baby was strung up in the curtains!  No, he was in my arms.  

How it is: Seventeen months in, and I am calm and comfortable with Felix exploring his little world.  He tinkers with toys in his room while I scrub dishes.  He chats to himself, we bounce around the apartment and are safe and comfortable in our space.  That heart-squeezing anxiety doesn’t exist anymore.  I don’t dread sundown, I certainly don’t hallucinate.  I am tired, yes, but I dream and sleep and cuddle and relax.  New mother, you will again, too.

Dada returns from an outing with Big Boy Felix, who has fallen asleep.

Seventeen months postpartum, and I am still marveling in the happy moments.  I am still amazed and blissed out when things feel calm and normal and good. Perhaps there is no point where one is fully ‘recovered’.  Maybe mothers are always “postpartum”.  We cope and we grow, but I deeply feel that we are living in a world that grossly underestimates and devalues what is happening after the wrapping paper is thrown away, showers are bestowed and nurseries are decorated.  Something very raw and real is occurring, something that doesn’t fit into the rules and requirements of modern American life.  Never feel shame about how your journey transpires, you’re charting waters that define what it really is to be human.  It’s sometimes ugly and daunting, but if you read this and relate, I hope you can focus on how it is for me now.  Your dawn will come.

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3 thoughts on “how it is, how it was

  1. I definitely felt much anxiety leaving Nora (and didn’t for 6 months)
    It’s totally normal however, I think anxiety decreases with an increase in both parents’ experience have with raising kids, helping with siblings, being a nanny, etc. and a strong support system of friends/family.
    Also, I love hot baths. They are the best.

    Like

  2. Thank you for this. I have a series of doctors appointments coming up and for the first time I can’t bring Bea with me. Dennis can’t miss work that many times and so we’ve had to reach out to his work’s back-up care program which will send someone with a ton of experience and a thorough background check and certifications of all sorts to our home to spot me for a couple hours. I felt physically ill after I made the phone call. Tomorrow is the first time they will come and I feel just awful. Just awful. Intellectually I know that I can’t be with her all the tim and that at some point she WILL be with people other than family… but I just didn’t want it to happen so soon. 😦
    I’m really looking forward to the day where hopefully I can relax a little when she’s not with ME. (Or relax a little period. lol)

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