Several of my friends are trying to get pregnant. It’s callous, but everytime they tell me this, it makes me furrow my brows and say, “Try?” And they wait patiently for me to stop being so rude about their struggles, since when it came to getting pregnant, there was no try for Mitch and I. Do or do not, friends. Yoda style.
It’s been 8 months since Maren was born, which means that I am just chock-full of perspective right now. My c-section scar has finally stopped hurting/itching, and even though Maren still isn’t sleeping through the night, I’m feeling a lot more like myself. Or maybe I’m just in kind of a zombie-dreamy-in-between-land that is my new sleep-deprived reality.
Usually when people want to talk to me about having a baby, they want to know just exactly how painful it was. What I always tell people is that next time I am seriously planning to labor in the parking lot, if that’s what it takes to not take all kinds of crap about getting an epidural.
The second most frequently asked question is what its like to come home.
Here’s the thing.
Becoming a parent was so much more than I thought it would be. I knew that it would change everything– in a kind of nice, happy, intellectual way. It’s one of those things that you just don’t know until it happens to you. And this question– what it’s like to come home, what those next few weeks are like– that’s something that no one prepared me for. Not in all my crazy paranoid stress induced Internet research– nothing addressed what coming home would be like.
Mitch and I made a bunch of mistakes preparing for Maren, and a bunch more after she was born.
Mitch took 3 days off work, thinking, hey, no problem, 3 days should be plenty. And it may have been, had we had a normal birth. Instead, I was in the hospital for closer to a week, and Mitch had to go back to work while we were still there.
I felt like if I sent Maren to the nursery, I’d be a terrible mom. So I kept her with me for every moment of every day– so neither of us slept. Literally. And I’m one of those people that hates when people use the word ‘literally’ the wrong way. If I hear one more person use the word ‘literally’ incorrectly, my head may explode.
When I got home, I asked my mom to stay with us for a few weeks. And then I felt guilty anytime I wanted to take a nap, or a long shower, or go for a walk, because I felt like my mom would be bored.
I went back to work at 6 weeks. Before everyone freaks out, let me tell you that I think that 6 weeks is perfectly fine for some women. But I was not ready to go back. At that point, I had just been diagnosed with post partum depression, and had only been on meds for a few days. I should have given myself some time.
All of that ended up being a perfect storm. I’ve got to be the most paranoid early childhood educator mom there ever was. I’ve seen a billion kids go through a million things and turn out just fine– but my nerves were so shot that every whimper and hiccup that Maren had terrified me. Working with kids turned out to be a curse as well– because I’ve also seen lots of little innocuous looking things turn out to be something terrible.
In addition to that– what I’d really like to talk about– is that other half of me. That part that still exists, but gets squashed because the Mommy part is so much bigger.
And don’t get me wrong– I love love love being a Mom. I love my little girl so much. But this is a blog about those first few weeks, and what I didn’t expect.
I’m not super social. I need lots of downtime. One of my best friends, McKayla, is a perfect friend for me because she goes home to northern Nebraska every weekend, we don’t talk on the phone very often, and if I don’t hang out with her for weeks she is never upset. So I was totally shocked when, after I brought Maren home, I started to panic about being alone. “Isolated,” I think, is the term that the mommy-bloggers use. I felt totally isolated.
I would be at home, and my husband would be at work, and my milk wouldn’t come in, and Maren wouldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t allowed to drive because of the pain meds– not that I would want too, because I was way too terrified– oh yeah, and the pain meds were prescribed because of the intense pain I was in, and I would log into facebook and read about all the super awesome stuff that everyone else was doing. And then my nipples were bleeding, and my c-section scar got infected, and Maren STILL wouldn’t sleep and my milk STILL wouldn’t come in… we tried to put Maren on formula and she broke out in hives everywhere and started projectile vomiting, and, again, I would log into facebook and see that everyone was still leading happy, normal lives… while I felt like my bones might be built out of sand and like the person that I thought I was didn’t exist anymore. This sounds really selfish, and it is, but I felt like this HUGE thing had happened in my life that had caused my world to STOP TURNING, and I was completely bewildered that no one else seemed to notice.
When you put it like that, it’s easy to imagine that I got into a few squabbles with my friends. Mitch and I fought a lot, actually. I yelled at my Mom a few times. And my girlfriends and I had a few fights.
In fact, some of them haven’t really talked to me since then.
I wish a couple things about that, now that I’m no longer nearly as frazzled as I was.
I wish that I’d prepared a little bit better for coming home. I wish that I’d had asked for more help, and I wish that I’d put my foot down and made Mitch ask for more time off. I wish that we’d done more prep before Maren was born, and I wish that I’d had a better idea of what kind of help I would need. For example: when I look back on those six weeks, what I would have absolutely loved would have been someone to hold the baby when I showered. Just the thought of taking a shower that lasted longer than 4 minutes seemed like such a luxury. What I needed was someone to come by every few days and shovel out the trash that had accumulated, wash a few dishes for me, and make sure that I had eaten something at least slightly warmed through in the recent past.
But when we were making all these decisions and plans, I thought that I was going to have a “normal” baby who slept 17 hours a day. I also thought that I’d be recovering from a natural child birth, which, I’m told, is loads easier than a c-section. I thought that I’d be breastfeeding and pumping, I thought that I’d be throwing Maren in a sling and heading out to the grocery store. When I think about those thoughts in relation to the reality, it feels like getting hit by a truck.
And above all, I wish that I’d gone to my doctor right away when I was having these anxious feelings, and gotten on meds sooner. I wish that I didn’t just chalk it all up to ‘baby blues’ and really paid attention to what was going on.
But here is something else that I wish.
I wish that my friends had been a little more understanding. I wish that there was an avenue of communication that was still open, wherein I could say, “Dude, I was a douche.” And they could say, “It’s okay, I was a little douchey, too.” And then we could all just go back to being friends. I’m not saying that it’s all their fault and that I should get free pass because I’d just had a baby, but…. okay yeah I guess I am kind of saying that. It’s not like I murdered anyone, okay? I just got a little snippy.
Because here’s the other thing that happens when you have a baby: you just don’t really have time to try to track down who said what and what happened then and how can I make it up to you. So what ends up happening is opportunities are missed, and 8 months later, when you are back to feeling like yourself, you look around and realize two things: A) The people who really loved you and cared about you AND your baby are STILL HERE and B) the people who really didn’t are not. The world keeps turning, Maren keeps growing, my priorities changed, but I’m very pleased to say that my personality really didn’t. The Mommy and the Lady in me are now homogeneous. And I feel bad that I lost some friends during a time in my life when I never thought I’d be able to reconcile the two. But I also feel bad for THEM… because Maren is awesome.
All I can really say is: Dudes. I’m sorry for what I said back then– but I can’t chase after you now. Literally.