Friday, May 6, 2016

Back in the Middle

We are settling in.

Two days after writing my last post, I woke up feeling happy. Just like that, the weight lifted, as if somehow overnight I had stopped teetering on the edge of what used to be and stepped into the new. It's much easier to live with both feet planted, ready to take steps forward.

There's always so much more to write when things don't feel easy. When they get easier, there's less to report, and I often don't return to share the good news, having moved on to other things. But in this case, I wanted to revisit this space to put into words what I wrote only in faith last time: it gets better.

I think what I was going through was at least in part attributable to a big hormone dump (what many would call "baby blues," though I despise that name--way to infantilize a very hard and very common female experience) rather than full-blown postpartum depression. This makes me very, very lucky (though any time in the first year is fair game to develop PPD, so we're not completely out of the woods yet).

That said, I think a few things helped it pass a little more quickly than it otherwise might have. Far and away, I think what helped the most was being honest about what I was feeling and thinking. Telling my mother, husband, friends, providers and you that mourning was a big part of my new mom world. Nope, this wasn't pretty. It didn't fit with my deep defensive desire to portray an "I've got my shit together" image. I felt a lot of shame about being handed this beautiful gift and essentially crying about all I (felt was) lost in the trade. I felt even more shame about not feeling immediately consumed by love for my son, both because I felt he deserved a mother who was head over heels for him, and because, well, that's just now how you're supposed to do it. I was doing it wrong and I wasn't capable of doing it right.

Which, of course, is total bullshit.

First, let me say, I love Bennet more and more every day. I've started to miss him when I put him down to sleep and I spend an inordinate amount of time every day kissing his face and snuggling all the sweet little bits of his chunky self. I love him, I love these moments, and I am so relieved that switch was flipped, because there were moments when I wasn't sure it was going to. Because there isn't a cultural story for the process into motherhood taking time--it's supposed to be intant, instinctive. Because it wasn't that way for me, I didn't have the reassurance that I would still get there.

I don't like reading all the advice--true as it may be for the sharer--that includes some version of "you will feel totally overwhelmed with love for your baby," or "you will feel exhausted and overwhelmed and happier than you ever thought possible," because they show only one way to feel about the experience. Guess what? It's okay if it takes awhile. It's okay if you generally struggle with change and thus struggle with this change (it usually takes me months to adjust to big life changes--even sought-after ones like graduation, new jobs, marriage, home ownership--why in the world did I think this change would be so different?). It's okay if you need to get to know this new little person a bit, to get to settle into this new relationship, before the feelings come. A friend gave me some very good advice when I was in the thick of it: "It is wise to ask yourself, what in the fuck just happened to me?" Because WHAT IN THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED TO ME?!

I know we're supposed to be hard wired as women to adjust from not being mothers to being mothers in seconds. Perhaps the most significant changes of our lives and we're not allowed time to adjust or to use our brains to decide how to approach the new phase because, as we all know, women are born to be mothers.

LOL.

So, in short, I had to give myself permission to do this my way, to let the process take its course. I had to remind myself that Bennett basically cares about my giant, bountiful, sore chinchas and having a safe place to sleep (or 15 safe places to sleep, as the case may be). He was not evaluating me against all the other mothers he could have had.

I'm going to repeat that: your baby is not comparing you to all the other mothers. Your baby is not judging you. Your baby is not disappointed that he got you.

It was also really important for me to make it okay to pass off some of the baby care, like having his dad give him a pumped bottle in the evening when one more nursing session would send me over the edge, or waking his dad up once each night to change a diaper. I'm completely capable of changing a diaper, but I needed that act as tangible evidence that keeping this baby alive and cared for wasn't on my shoulders alone. I needed to let my mom come over to hold him so I could nap or (cue the mommy police) lie in my bed to mindlessly scroll around social media on my phone. I needed to leave him in his swing for awhile every morning (also called by one friend, his neglectomatic) so I could shower and put on lotion and blow dry my hair and sometimes even put on blush and mascara.

I needed a little space. New mothers aren't supposed to need space. We're supposed to live in the glorified world of "I haven't eaten a meal with both hands or showered even though I get spit up on my three times every day and I haven't slept more than 3 hours a night or put on real clothes since I don't know when." And this isn't me saying any of those things are wrong. This is me saying any way you make the experience of new motherhood feel true to you is good. Not just acceptable, but good. Rockstar level, even.

So we are doing much, much better. Sure, we have our moments, like when it took five tries to get Bennett in his carseat without screaming so I could go restock groceries, or how he is consistently absolutely starving and pissed when my milk supply is lowest right before bed, but too, we have our moments, like when he does a goofy uncoordinated smile-face over and over again while I'm holding him, or when he falls heavily asleep on my chest, or when he sleeps for 2 hours in the morning allowing me to do things that remind me of me. We are definitely moving into the new normal.

Oh, also, watching a hilarious TV show that reminds you how amazing it feels to laugh is a very, very good remedy for the baby blues. Catastrophe is at least 60% responsible for getting me over the hump.

And, though I'm not sure this all was as thought out or directed as it could have been, I'm leaving it at that.

xo