Every post I’ve mentally started composing since Olivia’s arrival generally starts with “But no one told me _________” (insert thing about new motherhood no one told me). I’ve of course been only mentally composing these entries because I can’t seem to find time during the day to actually sit down and type something out. Instead there is feeding and comforting and diaper changing and trying my best to nap when the baby naps and maybe the dishes get done and if we’re lucky the cat box gets scooped, and then it’s 5pm. J gets home and O gets fussy and then somehow dinner needs to get on the table and then we climb into bed to start all over in the morning. My point is, there’s not a ton of downtime around here.
And here’s the thing about no one telling me whatever the thing is they didn’t tell me at that time- how could they? Do you really, if you’re a decent person, go up to a very pregnant (or even a little pregnant) woman and tell her that there will be a moment when she is so tired that she’ll discuss leaving the baby at the fire station, but she won’t be kidding? Not even a little bit? No, because that would make you an asshole of the “just wait” variety. What, exactly, is the woman going to do with this information, anyways? She’s not going to terminate the pregnancy based on your doomsday scenario (EVEN IF IT’S TRUE), and if she’s me, she’ll think things like this: Well. That will never happen to me, because I am approaching this in a totally novel and different way and I am a special unicorn, etc, etc, you get the idea. Look, I never said I was immune from being a smug mothering asshole, I just usually don’t verbalize it (you know. Unless it’s on the internet).
But the thing I really, really, really wish someone would have told me about (and I know, from the paragraph above it seems that I wouldn’t have listened, which is probably true. But if someone HAD told me, I might have remembered it when I was in the thick of it, and it might have helped, maybe, just a little bit) is how horrible the “baby blues” are. The lies are already there in the cutesy name- “baby blues” sounds like maybe you get a little teary, kinda the way you do at a Kleenex or cotton commercial, if you happen to be watching them at the right time of the month. Or maybe you feel a little overwhelmed, the way you do when you have a big project at work, or a looming deadline.
Basically, that’s all bullshit. The first two and half weeks Olivia was here, I cried multiple times a day, over things I couldn’t identify. I had panic attacks when we left the house, and I had them when we stayed in. I did a lot of crying in the shower, and I had to reassure my doula, my midwife, and the pediatrician that I wasn’t planning on harming myself or the baby. I couldn’t tell you what, exactly, was wrong, just that it was a mishmash of regret over what I’d done to my life, fear of fucking up the baby or losing my relationship with J, and an overwhelming feeling of itsy-bitsy smallness in the face of the monumental task of raising another person. It was flat-out awful, and I had NO IDEA going in what I was in for. Everything I’ve read and been told since indicates that it’s all totally normal, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see the end, you know?
My particular flavor of baby blues is compounded by my own anxiety issues- for which, I am sure I’ve mentioned, I am medicated. But knowing that I am prone to excessive anxiety made the normal anxiety worse- what if my meds aren’t working? What if this is postpartum depression? How do I take a baby to a therapist? What if I cry every day for the rest of my life (mood disorders are dramatic, y’all)? Everyone else knowing I’m medicated didn’t help either- from this vantage point I know my family was just looking out for me, but from the inside I felt watched and judged and found lacking.
I am so glad to report that every day did get better, and that by Olivia’s third week I couldn’t remember even ever having those feelings. Sure, it’s all still hard, and I sometimes cry in frustration, but it’s not the nasty despair of the first weeks- it’s motherfucking sleep deprivation.
So here it is, mothers to be: the first two weeks are horrible, but you’ll make it. I did, and you can too.