I’m sitting here working at my computer, and he’s sleeping. It’s mid-afternoon on a weekday, and it’s quiet. At the risk of sounding like an elementary school kid boasting about a job-well-done sticker, I did it. I accomplished the silence that is currently filling my home.
If you told me six weeks ago that I’d be here today, in the silence of my home, without anyone else’s help, and happy, I would have sobbed and slapped you, calling you a liar.
Six weeks ago, I came home from the hospital with a new baby, and my world got dark.
Not what you’d expect, right?
At least that’s not what I expected.
I have an amazing mother, the best friends, and the most supportive family. I was thrown showers, given adorable gifts, and received thoughtful cards and well wishes. Yet when I found myself home from the hospital with a new baby, I wondered why no one had mentioned The Darkness.
I think it was the pure exhaustion that got the ball rolling. For the first few weeks, there is no resemblance of a sleep schedule. The nights were long and dark, and eventually I lost any bearings I thought I had. I came to understand firsthand how and why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic. The exhaustion wore me down to my inner crazy, and all bets of preserving the facade of a fully functioning adult were off.
The worst part, for me, was that one moment when I felt like I had just fallen asleep, only to be jolted awake by a blood-curdling scream. I would jump up, determined to figured out how to fix it. Sometimes the baby was hungry. Sometimes the baby needed to be changed. Sometimes I was unable to do a goddamned thing, and with every scream I felt a chipping away at my very core, wondering what was so wrong with me because I couldn’t comfort my own child.
I began to question everything. The second-guessing was relentless. Sometimes it was about important things, and other times I just wanted my husband to tell me what to have for breakfast so I wouldn’t have to make a decision.
In the first few weeks at home, I felt a deep, deep sense of despair.
I cried all the time and I felt so alone. Because no one talked about this dark hole, I assumed no one else experienced it. I figured I was a failure and that I wasn’t cut out for motherhood. I couldn’t help but think: what is wrong with me?
I cringed every time someone asked me how much I was loving it. Does ‘it’ mean my son, or being a mother of a newborn? Because those are two totally different things. When I was asked how I was doing, I was too ashamed to admit I felt like I was drowning.
All I wanted was for someone to ask how many times I’d cried that day. I wanted someone to ask me how sad I was. I wanted someone to ask me how confused I was to simultaneously feel such an intense love and such deep despair. I wanted someone to ask how lonely I felt.
Because if someone had asked me any of those things, I would have known it wasn’t just me.
So, if you’re a brand-new, first time parent like me, I want you to know that the nights won’t always be so long and dark, and that your baby will eventually sleep for more than an hour or two at a time, and it will restore your faith in God.
I want you to know that it’s normal to look down at your newborn baby as you feed him or change him or try to soothe him for the umpteenth hour on end and wonder will you ever smile at me? Will you love me? In the beginning, there is zero positive reinforcement, and it’s draining.
I want you to know it’s OK to envy your husband who gets to leave for 10 hours every day and go to work, eat a warm lunch with both hands (at lunchtime!), interact with adults, and wear/fit into real clothes.
I want you to know it’s OK to feel a sense of rage when your baby, who has been crying for what feels like ALL DAY, finally falls asleep 20 minutes before said husband gets home from work. (Double the rage when he walks in, looks at the sleeping baby and says he’s just so peaceful.)
I want you to know it’s OK to feel lonely and to crave social interaction, but also to fear it at the same time. I wondered how I’d ever muster up the energy for small talk, smiles, and chatting about how the baby is sleeping without wanting to shake the woman in front of me and yell TELL ME IT SUCKED FOR YOU, TOO.
I want you to know that the first time you do get out, it’s OK to feel guilty for leaving while also wondering if you’ll run away and never come back.
I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re the best mother for your child. You’re doing it right. You’re going to be OK.
It will get easier.