I was the first of my close friends to have a baby. While some of my friends were getting engaged, I was suffering from terrible morning sickness. While others were planning their weddings, I was attending labor and delivery classes. Fast forward a few years and my friends started their families and, suddenly, the whispers began. The “shameful” confessions were blurted out in private company, always with the disclaimer, "Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby.” Don’t worry friends, I had plenty of terrifying thoughts postpartum that I too was afraid to say out loud.
It never fails. I come to visit the new mom and the new baby and the mom opens the door. She's pale, visibly sleep deprived, and she's pleading "help me" with her eyes. "Help me," she silently begs. "What is happening?" she'll maybe ask, and I'll repeat over and over again, "It gets better. I promise." And it does get better. After a few months postpartum, it all comes together. You get more sleep, you feel less helpless and less alone, and you adjust to your new life.
However, prior to all of that, you spend your time thinking (or some variation of thinking). Since you're often too tired to think rationally, you start thinking irrationally. You have thoughts you wouldn't share with anyone, not even with your spouse and not even with your best friend and, perhaps, not even with your own mother (if you enjoy a healthy, close relationship). Later, you realize most moms have similar thoughts, however varied they may be. But while you're in the moment, while you're in it, some of those thoughts make you feel like you are the worst human in the history of humans and you don't deserve to be anyone's mother. You're not. You're just postpartum.
"What If I Break This Baby?"
This one was instantaneous. Pretty much as soon as I got to hold my daughter, I was scared. She looked so fragile, so tiny, and so intimidating. I was immediately worried. "What if I drop her? What if I don't support her head properly? What if I look away for a second and something terrible happens? What if?"
"I Want Everyone To Leave Me Alone"
It's lovely when everyone wants to come visit you and smell the new baby. However, sometimes it's too much. Yes, at times it is so nice to have company, but most of the time I was too tired to entertain. All I wanted was to be left alone. I often wanted absolutely everyone, including my husband, to just go away.
"I Don't Want My Partner To Go Back To Work"
Even thought I wanted my husband to go away, I also wanted him to stay. I didn't want to be totally alone with the baby all the time. I was scared and exhausted and when he went back to work, I wanted to drop down to the floor of my home and cry.
"This Baby Needs To Stop Crying Before I Hurt One Of Us"
There are times when the baby cries incessantly and you don't know what to do. You've done your usual checks: changed, fed, rested, held, and rocked. Nothing helps.
In my experience, if the crying persists you slowly start losing patience. It doesn't help that you haven't slept in days, or even weeks. It doesn't help that you're in pain. The crying is hard and sometimes you think about just putting your hand over the baby's mouth just so she stops crying. Just for a few minutes. Just so everything is silent.
"I'm Not Cut Out For This"
I've already failed before I began. I thought about how hard it all was, this whole parenting thing. I constantly thought I couldn't do this baby thing, either. I felt like I don't know how to do anything and that, one day soon, someone will realize I'm just phoning it in and come and would take my daughter away.
I also thought that would be a relief.
"I don't think I was meant for motherhood. I'm too anxious. My heart feels like it will soon explode. This is too much."
"I Think I've Made A Mistake"
Yes, I thought I made a huge mistake. What was I thinking, having a baby? This isn't a game. This isn't something I can take back. The baby is mine forever and my responsibility and now I'm completely in charge of another human being and anything that happens to that human being is on me. That is an overwhelming feeling.
"I Don't Feel Anything For This Baby"
Well, here it comes. That dreaded confession. I know many moms feel this way, but don't feel like they can express that feeling. So, I will.
In the first month or so postpartum, I felt fear and exhaustion more than I felt any affection toward my daughter. I was on autopilot, making sure I could feed, change, and hold the baby adequately. I was in survival mode. All I could tell myself was, "Make it through this. You can do it." I'd give myself pep talks instead of cuddling my baby, and I wasn't singing her lullabies. I was a robot, simply trying to keep a child alive.
The affection came later.
"I Want To Cry All The Time"
Yes. I wanted to cry all the time. Because of the hormone dump, you're emotional to begin with. Couple that with sleep deprivation and you're just one hot mess. I wanted to cry constantly, even when there was nothing to cry about.
"I'm Jealous Of Everyone Without Children"
Hey there, child-free friends. Yeah, after I had a baby I wanted to be you. I wanted to be able to quickly run out and grab lunch with you girls. I wanted to be able to go get a manicure without trying to find someone to watch the baby. I wanted to spend Saturday night in a lounge, sipping on mojitos, not changing diapers and consoling a newborn with acid reflux.
"Will It Ever Be 'Normal' Again?"
Is this is? Is this going to be my life for the rest of time? Constantly tired, always worried, and relentlessly anxious. Is this my life forever and always? The adjustment was shockingly difficult, honestly. When two becomes three, it's not just an extra person in a relationship, it's a whole new level of different.
"I Hate My Partner"
Dearest husband, some days I fantasized about banging your head against the wall. No offense, but you wanted this baby so you should stay home with her while I go to work. I mean, I love you of course, but sometimes you are more annoying than a crying child and I want to kick you.
"I'm Never Having Another Baby "
Definitely not. One is plenty. This womb is closed for business. No, thank you. When you're home for the first time with a new baby you often wonder how people manage to have more than one kid. "Why would anyone do that to themselves, twice?" I thought.
Yeah, now I have two children.
"I Want To Run Away"
Yup. I considered packing my things and running away. Far, far away. I imagined lying on the beach somewhere, completely and totally alone. I pictured backpacking through Europe, completely and totally alone alone. I envisioned meeting a beautiful stranger and trekking through Tokyo, maybe not so completely and totally alone. I wanted to just leave it all behind and start a new life. Alone and free.
"I Wish Everyone Would Just STFU"
Enough. Enough with all of the unsolicited advice. Not only is it rude, but I just don't care. Unless I ask for your opinion, I don't want to hear it. Unless you think I am putting my child in actual danger, I don't want to hear it. Your way isn't the only way, so please just stop.
I had many thoughts postpartum, and some of those thoughts I still have today. I still wonder if I'm a good mother and if my children will think so, too. I still wonder if I am cut out for this (not like I have a choice). I still fantasize about flying alone to some island and spontaneously going out on a Saturday night. However, I take comfort in the fact that my friends have similar thoughts, too. I take comfort in the fact that I may not be the worst human of all humans, after all.