2012 brought the most intoxicating highs and heart wrenching lows. We found out we were pregnant in May and later that year, that my dad had cancer. I remember going to one of the many prenatal doctor visits and when she routinely asked how I was doing, all these emotions I so carefully bottled up and shoved aside just gushed out. While perfectly empathetic, she also gently cautioned against postpartum depression. Apparently pregnancy helps regulate your hormones and once the baby’s born, your emotions tend to go haywire for a bit. Add to that my father’s health? She said I had an elevated risk of PPD.
Finding out about the cancer was, naturally, a huge shock. Finding out that he’d have only months to live made me want to literally collapse. Those months driving back and forth 100 miles a day to spend time with him were agonizing emotionally and as my belly grew, increasingly physically uncomfortable too. I hated myself for being so tired. I hated seeing my dad’s health ebb and flow. I hated living so far away. I hated having a baby in my belly that took energy away from my dad.
But all that was nothing compared to the onslaught of raw emotions I felt after giving birth – sadness and anger and, unrelentingly, guilt. There was guilt for so many things, but most recently, guilt for not being around enough. I had a newborn. But that was no excuse. So many times I made that drive alone as Baby Ollie stayed home with his daddy and I thought to myself, I wish I didn’t have a baby. Not now.
So many times, the littlest things would set me off — I had a fuse so short that I had absolutely no perspective. His cries would spike my anxiety levels so quickly that I literally felt my body tensing up. Those first few months were undeniably hard for CS. He was sleep deprived like me. He cooked and grocery shopped and handled truly everything for us, in addition to my mood swings. But in my gray little world, I couldn’t process that really, much less give him credit for it.
And when my dad passed, I didn’t know how to handle these extreme emotions – from the joy of watching your newborn grow and develop new reactions and skills to the emptiness of losing someone so central to your core. There were times when I thought, this must be what it’s like to be bipolar.
Some moms are lucky to feel an instant bond with their baby. I told CS once that I didn’t love Ollie until a couple months in. The sleepless nights, piled on top of each other in addition to the sheer exhaustion from the long labor, meant I was trying to just survive. Feelings of adoration didn’t even come into play in those early days.
Slowly though, I did start to feel normal again. I was becoming a real functioning human being again. And all of this is to say, I didn’t have full blown PPD but the baby blues was no cake. I share this because it’s real. And natural. And we shouldn’t hide these unpleasant experiences behind closed doors. I’m a stronger person for it and I see Ollie and know that I love him more now because of hard it was to love him then.