If there are three things that have taken me away from writing, it's pregnancy, postpartum and becoming a working mom--all three of which are freaking hard. However, after a recent trip to my doctor, it was either take Zoloft (which is not off the table) or journal or both. I'm starting with the latter.
There are so many things people don't tell you about pregnancy, postpartum, and becoming a working mom. They tell you it's hard, but they don't tell you why. I suppose that's because it's a different experience for everyone. Or maybe it's because you (as a non-parent) think they're a little dramatic.
Ok, so joke's on me. I now believe moms when they say it's hard. And I have a new respect for moms who get to work on time and actually leave their homes on the weekend. âAnd I believe single moms are the most incredible women on the planet.
Having the baby
First of all, my labor sucked. I didn't know it at the time, so that's the silver lining. I was so uninformed that I didn't really know it sucked until I started talking to people and saw their reaction. The short version is this -- had to be induced because of preeclampsia, went from a 0-9 cm in 3.5 hours with no meds, had to use a vacuum, hemorrhaged, placenta got stuck, baby had to be in the NICU, I passed out from blood loss, and then I had to be on magnesium, which basically makes you feel like you've got the flu.
First nights at home
âYou'll hear people say, The car ride home from the hospital is the scariest thing. I didn't think it was scary at all because I was prepared to be scared. What I wasn't prepared for were those first nights at home. They were terrifying. I had so much dread about the overnights. I had no idea the baby would essentially keep me up at all hours wanting to nurse, when I had no milk to give. People say things like, I was just worried about keeping the baby alive! But you just think they're being dramatic. Well, another joke on me.
It seems like a really f*cked up way to ring in parenthood. Here you are with this little six pound stranger who's only method of survival basically breaks your spirit. Even "easy" babies are hard AF. And to top it off, you are leaking in every single place that can leak. Your body is ripped and sore. You're afraid to poop. I had to take iron pills for the anemia I earned from hemorrhaging, and I was very afraid to poop. I thought I was going to give birth again and die at the same time because my body just wouldn't let me go. Also, it's funny how poop poop poop is so easy to talk about once you have a baby.
I had no idea I would be so hormonal and in fear that my ignorance in newborn care would lead to negligence or tragedy. I mean, I was truly afraid I would accidentally do something stupid to the detriment of my child.
And even though doctors give you a lot of information about postpartum, I still missed the memo that postpartum could come in many forms -- not just depression, but anxiety and rage. I had a little of all three at first, but I think anxiety really manifested several weeks after birth.
I was afraid to walk in my kitchen with the baby because I could see knives on the counter. I was worried about taking my baby to the grocery store because of the flu. I didn't want to get in the car because I was concerned we'd be sideswiped. I was afraid of touching my child's head because I might push the soft spot. I didn't want visitors because I was worried about their germs. For the record, all of these things still give me anxiety, but there have been times it has been debilitating.
Going back to work
Another cruel joke is maternity leave. I thought I was going to get so much done in 12 weeks, but there were days I barely made it off the couch. The baby would get into a cluster feeding situation, and I remember thinking -- wait, did I drink any water? When did I eat?
The baby doesn't even get to be remotely fun until 8 weeks. And then you start to see why people say maternity leave in the US sucks. If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would really try to take leave for six months. It also makes you reconsider where you work -- I know a lot of people who work at tech companies who give them half a year or more for maternity and paternity leave.
I don't work at a tech company, but I was so grateful that everyone in the newsroom was so encouraging, and they helped me through that first week. I cried. A lot. I didn't think I would be a crier. However, having a baby has made me cry more than I ever have before.
And though everyone has been wonderful about me coming back to work, I'd say there is a grace period for new moms. For me, it was about two months, which is about 40 workdays. It takes just a few weeks for everyone to forget that you're struggling with a newborn-ish, and they put up less with your baby brain. It's not like people are being cold, I'm assuming they forget you're feeling vulnerable. And honestly, sometimes I think moms are less forgiving because they've been there, and they've forgotten how hard it is to be newly exposed to this working mom world. Men seem to tip toe around women, but women can, at times, be fierce.
And that is where I am today.
I love my work, but it's hard to embrace this new working mom title. My husband is also going through an adjustment. âI have three standing appointments each week for physical therapy with my spine... my baby has physical therapy and regular checkups. He's also going to have a surgery in month for an issue he was born with. No one tells you how much trauma your body endures with the beauty of motherhood. We are finding that the struggle is real, but we are still grateful for the journey.