I cannot believe that my little one is 4 1/2 months old today! She has grown so much in such a little amount of time– it is insane! Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast, and it’s totally true. It almost is like a vortex. Time goes slowly, at an alarmingly quick rate. Just yesterday, her smile was appearing, and then just a day before that, she was lying on my chest for the first time, covered in vernix.
But I guess what I didn’t expect, what I was not completely prepared for, was MY rebirth. I read all the books, talked to a lot of other moms, and got so much unsolicited advice about the first steps of mommyhood. But what I didn’t really hear about too much was what I would may go through— a complete and total loss of self.
Something hit me like a freight train running wild on the tracks. From the moment my daughter came into this world, my brain began racing with thoughts– “Is she breathing? Pooping enough? What if I fall down the stairs and drop her? What if she gets whooping cough? What if, what if, what if?” I know that these thoughts are actually quite normal, especially for first-time moms, but are they supposed to be around—always? I find myself wondering if I’m going to mess my baby up by traumatizing her with bad parenting 15 years down the road, or fearful that she is absorbing my negative energy like a sponge.
Are these normal thoughts to have? Am I going crazy?
I then realized that I was going through postpartum anxiety and depression. I found a postpartum checklist, and I checked off more than half of the symptoms: soul-wrenching tears, hopelessness, and barely-able-to-get-off-the-couch fatigue (Also because I am breastfeeding around the clock) to name a few. But, could I really be going through this? I didn’t want to believe it.
I also did not expect to reach such lows after such a high from the birth experience. For starters, it was very strenuous. A 35 hour-long exhausting journey, with no epidural or any drugs to help it along. I had a doula, my mom, my husband, and the midwife and nurse to help me. I pushed for almost 3 hours. I was so terribly exhausted towards the end, that I had to be given oxygen. At one point towards the end of it I thought, “I do not have the physical strength to push this baby out of me. She’s gonna stay in here forever.”And I really believed it. My mom said I almost fainted on the bed. When my daughter was finally coming out, I had to muster up all the strength I had in my body and soul, and reached down between my legs and hoisted her onto my chest. “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” I exclaimed, even though I already knew the sex. I was just in so much awe that that’s all I knew to say.
Afterwards, my body was a saggy balloon filled with Jell-o. I was literally…deflated, in pain, and oddly, angry. I was angry at my body for being so weak after the birth. I expected it to bounce back. I was appalled that I could barely stand or walk for two weeks. Not only that, but I developed diastasis recti (a condition where the abdominal wall separates), and intense perineal pain due to vaginal tearing. My body, once taught and springy, now looks and feels foreign to me.
And oh, the hormones! Daily I am filled with so many emotions: fear, anxiety, love, adoration, awe, and sadness, to name a handful. I am pretty sure that my husband has gone through emotional trauma dealing with my abrupt mood swings, which range from hysterical crying, to laughing with our daughter on the floor.
Now that I have had a few months to adjust to this new life, I feel like I have a better hold on my emotions, but I am seeking counseling for ways to cope with this transition.
And you know what, that’s ok.
Some days I am so nervous, thinking something terrible is going to happen, that I am afraid to leave the house. My husband can usually coax me out, but I am filled with dread as I put our daughter in the car, that we will get into an accident or something, and I feel my legs tense around every turn. At times, all I want to do is stay in bed and cry. But of course, that is quite impossible with a 4 month old infant.
With all this being said, the sight of my absolutely beautiful, unique child makes me joyful and giddy. I am in awe of her. She is the sweetest person I have ever met.
When she picks up a toy and passes it back and forth between her little hands, I am watching a Universe opening up in front of me.
I am so glad that I had her, that she came out of my vagina (still amazed by that) and into this crazy world. I am the one she will call “Mama.”
I am a MAMA.
I am also incredibly fortunate to have the support of my immediate family, including my mother, who gladly watches her almost every morning for an hour or so so that I can start the day fresh and eat a damn bowl of cereal. I realize that not everyone has that as a resource– single moms are my new heroes, and I commend you.
But nonetheless, I miss my old life. I miss being able to get in the car and drive anywhere I want. I look at my face and see a totally different woman staring back at me. Before baby, I was completely self-centered, focused only on what I was going to wear that day or if I should eat Chipotle again.
My whole world was MY world. Now, I share it with a chunky little 18lb girl (Yes, she is a giant 4 month-old, everyone in my family makes huge babies—you should have seen me pregnant), who will grow up and become a badass adult one day! I am responsible for her well-being! AHHHHHHHH! It is totally mind-blowing.
But the most important lesson that I am learning, is how to love myself again.
I never really got the chance to do that, because I didn’t allow myself to do that. Now is the time of my spiritual rebirth, in which I realize that even though I gained weight, and put my dreams on halt for a little while, that I am still a worthwhile human being.
In fact, I’m more amazing than I was before, because I have created Life (insert maniacal science fiction laugh here.) I finally am making the choice to be Happy.
It is a choice that I have to make for my daughter. I don’t want her to grow up resenting her mother because all I did was fuss and worry and push her because I was living vicariously through her.
I want her to see that her mommy has the creativity, power, and strength to do what she loves in a world where women are told they have to “do it all” or to be the dreaded Perfect.
I want her to be proud of her vulnerability.
I want to teach her to embrace her imperfections, and to dance with herself everyday.
But in order for her to believe me, I have to look into the mirror and tell myself “I Love You!” and really mean it. I have this new (stronger, stranger) body, a new mind, and a full heart. I have to accept myself for who I am, right now.
I am reborn.
I am growing up again with my little squishy baby. Hell, I’m squishy, too. We’ll both be squishy and new together.