I sat at home for six weeks after I had my baby. Alone. I mean, my husband’s mom came over twice and his stepmom came over twice, but I was mostly alone. I didn’t take walks and I didn’t ask anyone to help after birth; to come sit in the living room and just bear witness to the massive life change that had occurred, along side of me. Instead, I shriveled up, in fear and post-surgery pain, and believed I was in charge of everything.
The equation seems so simple. So doable. One plus one. Momma and baby. Mother and child. And while I spent a lot of time stroking his little palm, I also often felt like I was engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Taking care of a baby is hard. There is no being needier than an infant. Needy, and bold in their need. It can be terrifying. It is best done with all of the help you can get.
This doesn’t mean it can’t be done alone. People do that all the time. But most of us don’t have to. Most of us have someone we can turn to, in brutal honesty and with an open cry for help. The hard part is in allowing yourself to ask.
I didn’t ask for help because I wasn’t sure who I should ask. I’d had other friends who had children. They came home from the hospital and made it through just fine. Their babies grew, cute pictures were posted — nothing was shown of their struggle. So I believed they hadn’t struggled. Hadn’t needed help. And so that I shouldn’t either.
I ended up in a hole.
I ended up with postpartum depression, crying in the doctor’s office, losing my car in the parking lot, and yelling at my infant. Because I felt so alone. Like the only thing in the world I was doing in that time was helping someone else — and that no one cared about me.
The need for help didn’t end with the first three months of my child’s life, or with the assistance of medication. The need for help has never ended.
I was so stubborn in my belief that I should be self-sufficient that I turned to medication instead of other people. I started an anti-anxiety treatment a couple months after having my son. I didn’t take it long. The inherent anxiety in parenting finally leveled out and I started to feel somewhat like my old self.
But the need for help didn’t end with the first three months of my child’s life, or with the assistance of medication. The need for help has never ended. I struggle every day to balance what I desperately want to ask for and what I allow myself to. I want to ask everyone I know to babysit every day of the week. I want to ask my husband if it’s okay if I go to the movies and to the mall and if I turn on my phone while I’m gone – so that I can disconnect from the stress of managing a small person – even when I’m not in the room.
Our child is 3 now. And I need more help than I did before. I need help to understand why he screams bloody murder that he doesn’t like pineapple, and then opens up the refrigerator and pulls out pineapple. I need help with him in the grocery store. I need help crossing the street — it’s best if someone is on the other side of him holding his other hand because he likes to break free and run. I need help figuring out how to feed him, whether it be sharing a good recipe with me, picking up takeout, or walking into my kitchen and making dinner. I need help with tips for getting him to stay in bed, and help with taking care of just me. I need someone just to listen to me bitch about him, and then listen to me talk about him like he’s the best damn thing that ever happened to me.
I need them to just allow me. And I need help in simply feeling secure in knowing that everything I experience, and everything I see — is not just experienced by me.
If you are experiencing postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, you can visit Postpartum International to find local support listings, or call 1-800-944-4773 to connect with a volunteer for non-emergencies. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.