Here is what I wrote in my journal a week after giving birth to my first son:
We went to see my therapist today, and while she looks for a psychiatrist for me, she encouraged me to head to the ER to get on some meds. I still don’t trust myself around my son. I finally breastfed him today after staying away from him since Saturday, but I made sure my mom and hubby were right near my side, watching him. I need to take this final step in order to protect my family and myself.
It’s a huge puzzle, this whole postpartum thing. I know I’m not alone in this, that so many women go through it. I just wish there was something I could have known or done to prevent this. I’m not on the other side (yet). My therapist wants to see me at the end of the week with hubby so we can come up with a plan of attack (ensuring I get adequate rest, etc.)
If I knew then, what I know now, I would have gotten help sooner and been less afraid to get help. But hindsight is always 20/20, right?
A few days after giving birth to my son, I felt myself grieving my former life. I remember looking out of the window of my apartment, watching people walking around outside, taking advantage of the beautiful day. When would I be able to do that? When would I be able to go to the gym again? (A place that was my sanctuary and mental health lifeline.) Where were my friends? When would I be able to watch a Netflix show?
I know all of this reads as if they are First World Problems, and they are. But in my sleep-deprived, hormonal, postpartum mind, all of these little things, felt like big things. I felt myself slipping away. My old life, with its carefully planned out Saturdays that nourished every bit of my soul, had disappeared. I didn’t know how I would be able to live this new life…as a mother. And so I broke down around that reality.
Shortly after the above entry, I checked into the psych ward of a hospital, where I stayed for close to a week. I got on medication, got some much-needed rest, and worked through a lot of my anxieties and depression and grief surrounding motherhood.
I remember nearly a week into my stay hubby was visiting and the psychiatrist asked me if I trusted myself to go home. The honest answer is: I didn’t. I felt that all parts of me, were unknown. I had no idea what I was or was not capable of.
But I didn’t want to stay in the hospital any longer. Not with the cramped rooms, limited supply of books and board games, and horrible, tasteless food. I wanted to be home, where I could rest, heal, and be around my family. Most importantly, I wanted to be around my son again. I was mad at myself for not being able to withstand whatever it was that was happening to me. I was angry that I had to be away from my son. So I told the doctor I was ready to go home, because as I said those words, I looked at my hubby, and I knew he would be there for me if anything went sideways. Even though I didn’t fully trust myself, I knew I needed to take a chance, and my hubby would be there to hold it all together.
Thankfully: it did work out. I went and stayed with my parents for the rest of my maternity leave, and my mom and dad and sister and nieces, all helped me put together the pieces of my new life. For the first few days, my parents did the baby’s night feedings so I could rest. My sister (who had three kids of her own) was there to help me take care of the baby and answer any questions I had regarding my newborn. And my nieces cuddled and loved on him like no other. They have a bond with him that remains to this day!
I remember the first time I took a car ride with just my son: we went to pick hubby up from the train station because he was visiting us at my parents’. I studied and lived abroad for one year when I was 21, and went to Iraq as a foreign correspondent when I was 29, and yet the thought of driving in a car, alone, with my baby, for an hour – was terrifying to me. Thankfully my mom and sister reassured me, they told me I could do it. And I did!
I will end with another reflection from that journal entry:
I do hope that anyone reading this, who hasn’t had a child, finds the help and support they need, sooner rather than later. I hope the medication brings me back to myself, so I can be the best mother to my son, and wife to hubby.