Thursday, October 23, 2008

Motherhood: A Year in Review


Written January 2008

The tiny scrap of hair, skin and flattened nose that made his entrance last year has bloomed into a gorgeous, blond life-force of crawling, chattering energy. Yes, my boy has just turned one.

What a ride! Everyone told me what a whirlwind this year would be. I still can’t believe its come and gone. All you moms and moms-to-be, this is for you. For you who are just about to enter this phase of your life, please don‘t be afraid! If you’ve just been on this journey, I’m sure you’ll find some commonalities. If you’re the mother of two, or three, or five, then sit back and chuckle at this rookie’s na├»ve words.

I divide the stages of my motherhood evolution into these:

The Euphoria
Just as I imagine a skydiver feels after that first jump, I was exhilarated immediately after childbirth. My husband and mother, both knowing what a pain-fearing ninny I really am, praised my performance over and over. I was proud of the fact that I didn’t collapse into hysterics at the advent of pushing a nearly nine pound baby into the world (oh no, the hysterics would come later). The feelings of accomplishment were, of course, accompanied by the sheer joy of having a healthy and perfect baby. My husband and I didn’t stop beaming at each other for days. After coming home the euphoria waned a bit, but didn’t go away. If the night wakings were not easy for me, the early mornings were murder. Still, I was positive, happy, and not at all frightened by the aspect of motherhood. Rafe was a good baby, rarely crying. I felt a little clingy to my husband, Jason, which is not really my style, and I confess that I was weepy at bedtime. Ever late to bed, this new regimen of early bedtime was challenging, and I felt very alone when I was up with Rafe during the night feedings. So I struggled a little then, but chalked it up to the baby blues. Jason went back to work, and I began my life as a stay-at-home mom.

The Colic and the Terror
About six weeks into my maiden voyage into motherhood (no pun intended), two things happened to change the course of the world for us. Rafe began to cry. And cry, and cry. For what seemed like hours on end, he cried. His pediatrician, after multiple visits and after hours calls, finally told us, “It sounds like colic.”
At the same time,maybe even a bit before that, my baby blues blossomed into depression. Even on the days when the baby wasn’t crying, I was, ceaselessly. I questioned my ability to deal with motherhood. I dreaded the time I had to spend with Rafe. I resented Jason, for what I perceived as his unchanged routine, while at the same time clinging to him and needing to be near him desperately. If I could have crawled inside his chest, I would have, and still not have felt close enough. I called my mother ten times a day and asked her if I was crazy. I called my sisters-in-law to ask if they had felt like me. I begged my husband not to leave me and go to work. I awakened every morning with a sick feeling that an entire day stretched out ahead, filled with caring for a screaming infant. I started to feel afraid to be alone with Rafe. I imagined myself dropping him, or falling with him, or worse. I felt so wretched that I just wanted to run away. I literally would beg to go to the emergency room just to escape.

Worse, I felt disconnected to Rafe. I didn’t want to hold him, I just went through the motions. Jason would ask me, “Isn’t he precious, Mommy?”, and I couldn’t muster up feelings for him. I was terrified. On top of the fear was the guilt. Here I was, with a healthy baby, a supportive husband and family who loved all of us, but I couldn’t feel happy. No matter what, I was just so sad and frightened. I knew I was experiencing postpartum depression. Even so, I told very few people what was happening. I was good at putting on a show. At church, at the grocery store, I smiled and said my life was wonderful, all the while hating everyone I saw because they felt a happiness that escaped me. My husband was superman during this time. He would calm me down and tell me the feelings were temporary, that soon, I would feel better.

About the third time my mother came over and I sat in her lap and cried, she made me promise to go to my doctor. She said, “Tell him everything. Don’t sugarcoat it, don’t try to be the perfect mother, just tell him how you feel.”

Now, if you’re reading this, and you are feeling any of these feelings, I beg you to tell someone! Don’t be ashamed. These feelings stem from a chemical imbalance, and you are NOT to blame. Tell your doctor, tell your mother, tell your pastor. TELL SOMEONE.

The Rise from the Ashes
I did go to my doctor, and I did tell him how I was REALLY feeling. He took me seriously. He asked me some very serious questions. Then he prescribed medication to help the chemical imbalance right itself.

It took a few weeks for the dread to subside. It took a few more before I could come home from running errands while Rafe was with his grandmother, and not feel nauseated, sweaty, and panicked. Truthfully, I still obsessed about the crying, but that was getting better as I did. The pediatrician recommended we add rice cereal to Rafe’s diet, and that seemed to make him feel better quickly. I still worried about our lives never being normal again. I wondered how people adjusted their lives to include a child without becoming slaves.

The Happy Mommy
Thanks be to God, who heard my often hourly prayers for strength and help, I recovered. I began to relax and enjoy my sweet baby. I started to cherish the days and hours I could play with him, and teach him, watch and listen to him. I felt privileged to be the one on whom he depended.

I revel in each new accomplishment, now. When Jason asks me, “Isn’t he precious?” I can answer without reservation. As I photographed him digging into his first birthday cake this past weekend, I was struck by how far I had come in my journey to be his mother. How blessed I am to be healthy. I know the joys shine brighter after the darkness.
Now, maybe Rafe needs a sister…

1 comment:

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