I was sobbing in the shower.
It hurt to cry so hard, but it also felt like a relief. Like it needed to happen or else I’d burst. Actually, I guess I was at the bursting part already.
My husband, hearing what was happening, walked in holding our newborn son. He saw me behind the glass — tired and defeated. I cried, even more, when I saw them.
He smiled gently and propped our baby up so I could see him better. I remember it being a sweet sight. I knew they loved me; I was grateful for that. I also knew I didn’t feel like my regular (albeit anxious) self. It was a different kind of anxiety and sadness than I had ever known.
After they left, I stayed in there a little longer, crying. It was necessary and cathartic.
When I got out of the shower, I knew I had made the right decision in starting to see a therapist who specialized in maternal mental health. It had been about a week since my first session. After this shower episode, I realized many more appointments were required.
And that was okay because I was ready to do what I needed to heal.
It was about 5 or 6 weeks after having my first child and I couldn’t quite process what had just happened. What my body or mind had gone through. I had a healthy baby boy, but I couldn’t appreciate that.
I was angry, disappointed, and constantly afraid.
Angry because I had a C-section — and an unplanned and scary one at that. I did not imagine this happening. I was going to push. I was going to do immediate skin-to-skin. How could this happen? Did I do something wrong? Did my body not do what I assumed it was designed to do?
Disappointed because I was not the mom I thought I was going to be. Nothing was coming easily — breastfeeding, burping, bathing, you name it. I thought I’d be a “natural” at all of this, but I couldn’t even do the most basic thing (feed my child from my own body) let alone any of the other things I just assumed I would be good at.
Afraid because I was certain I would unknowingly and accidentally harm my kid or that, if I wasn’t ever-vigilant, he’d stop breathing, suffocate or become too cold or hot for his little body to handle. I would always ask my husband to come in and check on our son with me, so, if by chance there would be a lifeless baby in the bassinet, I wouldn’t be the only one to find him there. I am not fit to take care of my baby alone. I cannot take on this responsibility. Why did I have a baby? I could leave and everyone would be just fine without me.
Each day was a chore. I woke up wishing for the day to be over, only to be anxious for nighttime to hit. I would pray each night for my baby to make it through — to literally stay alive until morning.
I would sleep in another room a few nights a week because I couldn’t bear to hear his small, uneven newborn breathing.
I told my husband and mom, on multiple occasions, “I’m never, ever doing this again.” “This” being having another baby. The thought of growing a life again only to then give birth and possibly experience the trauma I had during my first pregnancy was just too much to fathom. No newborn snuggle or cute sneeze could make up for the way I was feeling.
Not only was I not enjoying this experience as a new mom, which completely threw me, but I was also resolute in this thought: “I don’t want to do this anymore.” It was hard to reconcile these feelings. For my whole life, above all other accomplishments, I wanted to be a mother, but this experience was so far from what I ever dreamt about. I was so disappointed. I was so sad.
Guilt consumed me, too. I had a healthy child — something so many people wish to have. I had him, right in front of me, and still felt lousy.
Something had to change. So, I’ve been working to feel better.
I am proud of myself for seeking out ways to feel better. Going to see a therapist, talking to family and friends, and taking medication have all played a role in this healing journey.
Eight months later, is every day bright and easy? Definitely not. But I am gaining some peace in the following areas:
- A C-section is most definitely a legitimate way to birth a baby. It is not the easy way out. It is hard and scary. It is not a failure. It is a birth. It is my birth story.
- Breastfeeding is something that is learned by both the mother and baby. It hurts. It sucked (literally and figuratively) my energy and patience. It’s beautiful, and it can feel magical. It’s frustrating and emotional. It’s a personal choice.
- Baby formula isn’t bad and it certainly isn’t a failure. It’s simply another (or an additional) way to feed a baby. We needed to supplement with our son and thankfully, he took the formula and bottle we offered him.
- More often than not, there is no optimal or “best” decision regarding my baby; it’s just different (but equally fine) to other options or other routes family, friends, or Instagrammers have taken. (Thank you to my therapist for this one.)
- I absolutely am enough for my son. We’ve all seen some version of that meme, right? The one that says something along the lines of: “You are exactly who your baby needs.” It’s so true. I may not have known how to most efficiently change a diaper without getting peed on or how to perfectly rock my baby to sleep when he was sad (yes, I actually thought these were failures), but I did have love for him. I do have love for him. A deep, vast well of love for him that pours into everything I do. That did come naturally to me.
Do I feel better? I do, most days, and I’m grateful for that. But healing, while so very rewarding, is hard work — just like being a mom or parent.
If you’re a mom or parent who is experiencing something similar or has gone through this, I’m really sorry. It’s hard and scary and lonely at times. But I want you to know you’re not alone. It’s okay to feel this way. You are not a bad mom or parent. You are not broken. There are people and resources out there to help you. Here is a great place to start.