I want to tell you all about my experience with postpartum because in my first few weeks of motherhood, when I was figuring everything out and it turned out I wasn’t, surprise! just like the model mother I’d heard about, I instantly assumed it was because something was wrong with me and not because, say, I just happened to be different from other mothers. Luckily I had sensible friends who were able to provide me with personal examples and blog posts to assure me that there wasn’t a problem with me, just that I wasn’t what, for some reason, everyone said a mother would be (like with lactating).
My experience with postpartum is not exactly like that, not that it was so different, I don’t think. But I had a hard time recognizing the problem was postpartum and not, again, me. See the thing about it was that I had a really hard time getting attached to my baby. And that was entirely postpartum. But I didn’t realize it until now, two months later, as I look at my baby and love and adore her and it didn’t take any effort on my part, I just love her.
She wasn’t like my daughter to me most of the time. She was like a baby doll that was so animated she was alive, this responsibility that had appeared suddenly in place of this pregnancy that I’d had for a while. It’s not that I didn’t expect to have a baby, because obviously when you get pregnant and carry the pregnancy to (near) full term, you get a baby out of it. But it just didn’t ever feel like my baby. Instead I felt like the pregnancy had been a dream and I woke up from it so it’d just dissipated, and all of a sudden I was babysitting someone’s baby, someone who would be back some time eventually to pick her up and take her away. Not that I exactly wanted someone to take her away, but it just seemed like she wasn’t mine and someone was going to.
I suffer from OCD to some degree and the obsessions I have turned quickly to EE. If I pick up my laptop and move it over her little bassinet, even though I have a firm grip on the thing, in my mind’s eye it’s slipping from my grasp and smashing her. If someone else is holding her and they are standing over something hard, like cement, I’ll at least see them drop her and her head will crack open. There’s so many ways for something terrible to happen to her for me to obsess over – and yet, when I tried the strategy of thinking through it and finishing the obsession, working through the worry, I always found myself ending the line of thought without major grieving. I couldn’t imagine myself grieving for her, really missing her. I actually thought, amidst other thoughts, the line “I’d get my life back”. And that horrified me. How could I possibly think that? HOW COULD I POSSIBLY THINK THAT? This is my daughter. She is my world!
…she isn’t. But that means I am the worst mother in the world. Ever. The only comfort was that I knew that wasn’t quite true because at least I still saw her as my responsibility and I wasn’t about to ignore her crying or let her die to keep playing Runescape like more than one set of WoW-playing parents. But how could I not love her, see her as a huge burden?
The thing is, a baby is a huge burden. Having a child is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I’m not even doing it alone. I have a fully supportive husband, especially now that he’s done with school (for now). I can’t do a lot of the things I used to do. I can’t spontaneously go on a walk to the cupcake shop nearby, not nearly as easily. EE has a hard time with long trips. Even if I do decide to just pack her up and go, I still have to pack her up and go, I can’t just go. I can’t sleep until I decide to wake up; I wake at the slightest noise she makes. If I sit down to write, and I’m focused, and I can tell my husband “not now”, I still can’t say that to her. And she can’t say, “Mom, I have this exact problem.” All she can do is cry hysterically and reject a pacifier and bottle as she squirms in her perfectly dry diaper in the coziness of her warm blanket. My daughter isn’t colicky but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t sometimes have an indiscernible problem.
Babies are hard. They are insanely difficult to take care of full-time long-term. And I was depressed, and postpartum – not me, postpartum – was making it very difficult to become attached to that baby, that sweet little child. There wasn’t a problem with me where I was some sociopath that didn’t love my own child and viewed her as a burden because I am just that horrible. A chemical imbalance made it hard for me to make those connections with her as she was proving herself a burden. A burden I had very, very much so desired before I got pregnant, and all through the pregnancy, but yes, a burden.
About two months have passed and I love that dear child. I love her more than I have loved anything else I have ever known (except for my husband, although the love is different). And it wasn’t anything she did or that I did that changed things. The postpartum has just passed. She’s still a burden, but she’s the most desirable of burdens. I mean, writing a book is a burden. Our pet cats are pretty big burdens. I think most thing in life are burdens. But they’re worth it. The burdens we pick because our life would mean nothing without them. And I don’t think of EE as a burden. I think of her as my adorable sweet girl. I think about my future with her when she will crawl and walk and grab things in the store and ask me to get them for her, when we’ll walk around in a few falls and I can tell her to jump on leaves and when we’ll sing songs together and my husband and I can each take one hand and do the “one two three swing!” thing. I think how she has only a few more months before she can laugh and how she’s already trying out her vocal chords. She’s so precious when she smiles and my heart melts around her constantly and I love her and want to keep her forever and ever.
I didn’t think I was struggling all that badly with postpartum because I wasn’t suffering familiar symptoms of severe depression. I mean, I was depressed, but not for very long and not terribly severely. The main symptom of my postpartum was this trouble with EE, I think.
There wasn’t anything wrong with me earlier when I didn’t adore her like this. Not with me as an individual. I wasn’t a bad mother. I was an excellent mother because despite the postpartum, I still worked hard for my baby’s comfort and growth, I still forced myself to be patient with her, I worried that something was wrong because I wasn’t totally enamored with her. I just needed time for the postpartum to pass.