I am a long-time child advocate. I have nannied, day cared, babysat, played with, entertained and loved on hundreds of babies of all ages. Children speak to my heart. And on February 16, 2013, I was given the greatest gift of all.. my own baby. My own little love. But I never expected it to begin the way it did.
When my daughter was born, I was in bad shape from a traumatic birth, and she was in the NICU. We spent the first 16 hours of her life apart. Once we were together, I was ready to feel the love, the joy, the explosion of emotion. I was anticipating it. I’d been dreaming of it.. But then they put my girl in my arms.. and though I was in awe of her.. those feelings never came.
I brushed it off and home we went. After several blank days, the darkness came. There had been many tears, much sadness, but I kept hearing “Its normal. It’s the baby blues. You’ll be fine soon”.
It was a Thursday. I had barely handled my newborn. I couldn’t. Touching her, knowing that my incapable and very, very broken self was in charge of this defenseless thing.. that I had to meet her needs and that I was responsible for her safety… it broke me. I don’t know how, why or where the breakdown happened at that moment. . I still don’t. I pumped, I nursed when I could tolerate it, and I sat in the corner of the room, crying, while my incredible husband cared for our daughter.
That Thursday, I spoke up. I told my husband what I’d been thinking. I didn’t want this life. If this was my only option, I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to die, and I’d figured out how I would do it. I recited, in detail, the way I planned to end my life. I watched the color drain from my husband’s face. He made immediate arrangements for someone to care for our daughter. He took me in to the doctor’s office. My weight. My height. My blood pressure. A survey. I filled out the survey, answered plainly, bluntly, and told them the things I’d considered. No, I didn’t want to hurt my baby. No, I had not hurt my baby. No, I had no hurt myself. Yes, I probably would hurt myself. I laid on the exam table in a ball. My midwife came in and cried with me. She held me, she stroked my hair and she diagnosed me with Postpartum Depression.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of tears, the same feelings for me, and fighting the voice that told me that I didn’t want to live. Medications. Doctors. Tears. Wash, rinse, repeat. After about 2 weeks of this, I was finally mostly in control of myself as far as actually fearing self harm. Those thoughts were still there, but they were only thoughts. I still struggled to be in the same room as my daughter. I would pet her soft hair, or her plump cheeks, kiss her sweet head and be overcome with such failure that it took my breath away There is no fresh hell like being emotionally unavailable to love your own child, so I started googling ways to bond with a child you couldn’t touch.
What a strange thing to Google. But this is what I found: Babywearing.
A centuries old art. Something that is natural and innate to a mother, to want to be close to her young. Women all over the world wear their babies. Different ways, different reasons, but the same beautiful result- a baby who is secure, attached and aware. A baby who experiences life and is taught that they are important and their needs will be met at the same time that they learn that the world happens around and despite them, not only for them. A beautiful thing. A tool to accomplish things, to teach, to love, to nurture. And in some cases, to heal. To save.
I read, read, read. Filled my mind with knowledge. And with my husband close by my side to rescue me when I became overwhelmed, I dug out the Moby I’d been gifted (thank you, Nancy) and practiced using it on my cat.
When my daughter was 3 weeks old, I wrapped her the first time. It was amazingly strange. My entire body was electric at touching this little person, but I still had my hands to feel “free”. And for the first time, as I held this little person without holding her, she snuggled into me and fell asleep. Though I had been regaining control of myself, this was the first sign of progress that *I* felt. Hope. A tiny, tiny, very faint but DEFINTELY THERE shred of hope. A light at the end of my very black tunnel.
As many hours as I could stand it, as many times a day as I could, I would carefully wrap my little girl to me, and go on about my business. When I became overwhelmed, my husband would come to my rescue, he would take her and do the basic care that I still was not able to do. But every day, every time I picked up the wrap, every time my sweet baby sighed and snuggled into me, happy to be close to me, that little shred of hope grew and expanded. The Moby was filling the void. I busied my mind and distracted myself while my body got what it was craving, and let this item facilitate a bridge between my broken mind and my heart. Between my old life and my new. Between my sweet baby, and my very desperate self.
I bought my first woven wrap the first day that I was able to provide care for my daughter. It was a reward for myself. A reward, a reminder. My Kokadi Teo Stars was a beautiful milestone, and to me, may as well have been an Olympic gold medal. It began a new obsession and helped to develop and perfect that bridge.. the bridge between my now less-broken mind, and my heart. The lives that I was now merging into a beautiful harmony. Four weeks had gone by since I first strapped my tiny baby to my chest and didn’t panic. As I was carefully (albeit sloppily) wrapping my baby to me in this new thing, she looked at me and she SMILED.
That smile. The shred of hope blew that tunnel wide open. That wrap, that smile, that moment. My daughter was 7 weeks old the day that I became her mother. All thanks to babywearing. To some, it’s convenience. To some it is sanity. To me, it is a life saver. My wraps may be “expensive pieces of cloth” or “over rated” or “weird contraptions” to some. But the ability to feel my daughter physically close to me while I could safely distract myself.. well, to me, that is priceless.
There is nothing BAD about Postpartum Depression, except for how it makes you feel, and how others make you feel about it. You did not do anything to deserve it, you are not a bad mother. And everyone has their thing. This was mine. This changed me. So to a mother with Postpartum, a mother with weary arms, a mother with an overwhelming need to just scrub the damn floors because it’s NORMAL, and you’ve forgotten what that is.. Wear your babies. However, why-ever, whenever you want. You never know how it may change you.