Much like my weighthate post, I’ve gone back and forth on publishing this. I don’t always feel like I’m eloquent enough to talk about such serious topics. I also don’t want people to think less of me. But even more than that, I don’t want people to question my relationship with my daughter. Because I love her very, very much. I hurt when she hurts, I laugh when she laughs, I love with her love.
But it didn’t always feel that way. It hurts to think that, to know that, to type that.
Lillie was not a surprise. We wanted her. We tried for 5 months. I cried every month (usually to Emilie) when that stick said ‘not pregnant’ and despised any and every one who happened to get pregnant within that time slot. Certainly I deserved a baby more than them – I had been married for 5 years, graduated with my bachelor’s, had a great job and a wonderful man who was just as excited about becoming a parent as I was. I did things right. I was responsible. I was fun. I was going to be a great parent.I guess you could say my pregnancy was pretty textbook. I had no major issues (other than swelling like a damn beached whale in the last two months). Alfred and I talked about what type of parents we wanted to be. We decorated the nursery. I was surrounded by amazing friends & family who honored Lillie in multiple baby showers. I was excited, nervous sure, but I had no doubts that when Lillie was placed in my arms the heavens would open, angels would sing on high and a love deeper than I knew possible would roll over me.
I mean, after all, that’s what everyone tells you will happen. We see it on television that way. Why would I be any different?
My labor and delivery was about the same as my pregnancy – pretty straightforward. My water broke about 7am, the husband took me to the hospital, I was dilated to a 5 before I got that glorious, glorious epidural, at 5pm I was ready to push and at 5:30pm I heard Lillie’s first cries and they placed her in my arms.
But no, the heavens did not open. The angels did not sing. And I did not feel a love deeper than I had ever known.
I felt relief that the pregnancy was over and that she was healthy. Mostly though, I felt just this crushing weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I was in charge of a life. A human life. What if I fucked it up? What if I accidentally killed her? How do I breastfeed? Why does this fucking hurt so bad? Is that blood? Is poop supposed to look like that? Where the hell is a training manual for this shit?
Like most things in my life, I didn’t ask for help. I smiled for the camera. I went through the motions of a new mother, but I didn’t care. I had a responsibility and I handled it in a way I thought was healthy – I distanced myself from my emotions. If I felt something, then it would hurt more if it was taken away. So don’t bother feeling. Don’t get me wrong, when she was hungry, I fed her. She needed to be changed, I changed her. She needed to go to the doctor, I took her.
You know how you watch the news and you see parents who drown their children or suffocate them? I understand that feeling. I hate that I understand that feeling. That feeling of hopelessness, of sadness, of indifference. That absolutely does not make it right, in any way shape or form. I never hurt Lillie. I’m grateful that I was at the very least self-aware enough to walk away when the crying wouldn’t stop. Whether it was hers, or mine.
I remember one instance when a neighbor came over to check on me and see Lillie, she offered to watch her for a little bit while I went to the grocery store. Lillie was perhaps 3 weeks old. I didn’t stay gone long –an hour tops, not because I didn’t want too but because I didn’t want to put my neighbor out. When I returned she asked, “Didn’t you just miss her so much?!” I smiled as I took her and said “Of course I did!”
But, I didn’t. I just said that because I couldn’t let anyone know how I felt. Obviously there was something wrong with me, I didn’t feel the way I was supposed to feel. People couldn’t know I was struggling. I had to be a good mom, what would people think if they knew I was having a hard time being a mother? I saw my friends posts on facebook where they talked about how much they loved their baby and couldn’t wait to get home to them. How their life was perfect because they finally had this child they wanted. Here I was with the child I prayed for and yet, I felt nothing like they way they talked.
I was jealous. I judged myself based on others [one of the many negative side effects I find in social media] I was unhappy and didn’t want to realize it. I lashed out at my husband, at friends, even at myself.
After 8 weeks of maternity leave, I was beyond ecstatic to go back to work. Finally, I could be a part of something I was familiar with. Something I understood. I looked forward to 8am Monday through Friday. It gave me the time away that I so desperately needed but didn’t want to admit too. I started getting into a real routine, I was able to focus some of my attention on other things than the fact that I was what society would deem ‘a lousy mother’.
It helped. I began feeling more like my ‘before’ self and that made a huge difference in my perception. That I could still be Tamara the Person while also being Tamara the Mom. Things started changing, feelings started to change and then one day, I had a huge argument with my husband.
What it started about I couldn’t tell you, I just don’t remember because it’s not what it started about that was important – it was how it ended. With a hug. With feeling like we were a team. I had unknowingly put this expectation on myself that I could do it all. I didn’t need his help [even though he wanted to give it] and I didn’t express to him any of these feelings. I shut him out, just like I shut out those emotions I wanted for Lillie.
That argument turned it around for me. He reminded me that I wasn’t alone. That we’d been together for 9 years of ups and downs and the person I was hurting the most was myself. When I was able to be honest with that, with myself, with everything I had been keeping in for the past year – I felt relief. I wasn’t alone. I never had been.
And you know what? That love I talked about earlier? Where the angels sing on high?
It poured from me.
I was never medically diagnosed with PPD. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I imagine most women who suffer from this aren’t. They’re just like I was – struggling to make it through the day without flipping shit for no reason. And they can’t tell anyone because heaven forbid they don’t feel the way society tells them to feel. Not enough people talk about this. As mothers, that hurts us but more importantly, that hurts our children.
So, here I am. Telling you that it’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t feel those emotions the first time you hold your child, because you will. It may not seem that way right now, but it will come – with time. With reflection. With understanding that you are capable. You are beautiful. You are amazing. You are a good mother. You may not feel those things now, and that’s fine. Because this period of time in your life is minimal compared to the future of the love you’ll be able to share with your child. She’s not going to remember that at 3am you let her cry for 10 minutes while you walked outside and cried in your milk-soaked pajamas. She’s going to remember you cheering her on at her first t-ball game. She’s going to remember you making her French toast for the first time. She’s going to remember every hug & every kiss you ever bestowed upon her because you do love her. You do. You just haven’t found it yet. And that’s okay because when you do, your heart will soar beyond the highest heavens and you’ll love so deeply sometimes it feels as if your heart is beating outside your chest. So, take a deep breath. Give it time. But most importantly – know you’re not alone.
You are not alone.
If you suffer from PPD or think you might http://www.postpartum.net is a great resource.
And of course, I’m always here.
You can email me at Tamara0827 [at] gmail [dot] com. I’m here to listen, not judge. I can’t. Because I’ve been there and I survived. So will you.