A stomach bug made its way through our family this week. Apparently it’s going around. Let’s just say that I was given a firsthand lesson in the difference between spit-up and vomit, and it was memorable.
But something happened while I was sitting on the bathroom floor with a sick, whimpering baby, rocking him as he threw up all over me, with tears in my eyes wishing there was more I could do. For the first time, I really truly felt like a Capital-M Mom.
Ok, let me back up. Remember in November when I posted about not feeling like a Capital M-Mom, wondering when I would really feel connected with Miles and recognizing that not everyone has that lightbulb moment when their baby is first placed in their arms? I received a ton of feedback from a lot of amazing women who told me that they, too, had experienced a different version of motherhood than the one they were expecting at first. That their newborn babies had seemed strange and needy and unfamiliar, not the ethereal extensions of their own beating hearts that we are told to expect. I felt validated and reassured. Normal.
But weeks passed, and my detachment worsened. I dreaded each coming day that I would be forced to spend hour upon dragging hour with a tiny baby who, in my mind, didn’t care who I was except for maybe the fact that I was the one with the milk. Instead of feeling bonded by the ways that Miles needed me and only me, I grew to resent him. I became super irritable, was easily overwhelmed, and resisted participating in anything beyond the most basic actions. Everyone around me, especially Brandon, was extremely supportive, and helped me with every daily task that you could think of. But I couldn’t see a life beyond what, to me, was the crushing weight of Miles’ total dependence. One day, when Miles was about nine weeks old and Brandon was at work, I sat next to Miles on a blanket on the floor and realized that I utterly did not believe that I would ever enjoy anything ever again. And in that moment, I felt totally and completely hopeless. I wanted to die.
Whew guys. That was tough to write.
I had never experienced anything even remotely resembling suicidal thoughts before, and they scared the crap out of me. But I was extremely lucky that Brandon works in mental health and has worked through depression in his own life, so I knew that I could talk to him and tell him what was going on without worrying that he would freak out. Over the course of the following few weeks, I was given immense support by my friends and family, and was referred to a treatment group for postpartum mood disorders at Children’s Hospital. Every Wednesday for 12 weeks, I spent three hours with a group of a half-dozen other moms whose stories, by and large, were much more dramatic than my own, and at first, I felt a little bit guilty that I hadn’t been able to “cope.” My pregnancy was easy. My baby was healthy. My husband was incredibly supportive. My financial situation was relatively stable. And yet despite the varied stories that each mom brought to the group, we all had one thing in common: being a new mom was not the experience we thought it would be. I knew it would be hard and scary and overwhelming and exhausting, but for me, the weight of those realities was somehow heavier than it was supposed to be.
So I asked for help. And I learned how to talk about my emotions, to recognize when they were getting too heavy, and what to do so that I could keep moving despite the weight on my back, instead of letting it sink me into the ground.
These days, I look at Miles and I just want to eat him. He is the cutest, happiest baby, and being around him brings me so much crazy joy. And yet, I still didn’t feel that intense, out-of-body love that people describe when talking about their babies. Maybe I just wasn’t that type of mom, I thought. I’m not a very emotional person, so maybe that just wasn’t going to happen for me. And I was ok with that.
But then there I was, sitting in my underwear on the bathroom floor, cradling a nearly-naked, whimpering, vomiting baby. And the switch flipped. In that moment, I would have done literally anything to keep Miles from having to feel one more second of pain–and this is just a run-of-the-mill, 12-hour stomach bug we’re talking about here. But suddenly I knew that this was what it was supposed to feel like. And I didn’t care even a little bit that I was totally covered in baby puke.
In the shuffle of this experience, I have also spent the past 5 months looking for a job, and I will finally start working next week. And Brandon is starting nursing school tomorrow. So this week, Miles is going to start daycare. Five months ago, the idea of someone else watching him for a full day would have been an immense relief. And I know that ultimately, being a working mom is what’s right for me and our family. But I feel like someone is punching me in the stomach every time I think about handing him over to someone else and missing out on entire days of his life.
In a way, I’m thankful for what I went through to get to this point. I feel like I can appreciate the importance and gravity of the bond that I have with Miles, because it didn’t just happen for us. I had to work for it. And you guys, it was hard. But if there is one thing I did expect, it’s that none of this would ever be easy.