I love being a mother, I say to myself over and over again as I sit huddled in the bathroom, towel over my head, hiding from the crying newborn in one room and the fitful preschooler in the other. The baby is about to be two months old. My amazing wife is trying her hardest to get her to sleep. And because I was up with her all last night, instead of trying to comfort her, I want to just shut the door and make it all stop. I cry to release the pent up frustration and yearning for sleep, but of course that only makes my eyes even puffier and headache even worse.
Having a baby is hard. I’m sure it was hard with my first one but, now that he’s three, when I look back I just remember the good stuff. I know (ok, I hope) that when we get through the sleepless stage I will feel the same way.
Sleep deprivation is a bitch. Right now I feel like I am walking through life with a veil over my eyes. I can see everyone else having fun and enjoying life and mentally I can see it but I just can’t feel it. I’m too crabby and my brain just isn’t functioning correctly.
I wrote that from Sonoma, where we were preparing for my best friend’s wedding. I wish this was a post about the beauty of Sonoma or traveling there with kids, but it’s not. It’s about postpartum depression and maybe about not knowing you have it until you’re just about out of it.
It’s taken me a while to write this because it’s taken me a while to be able to think clearly enough to look back and know what was going on. I was a mess. I don’t know if it was because it was my second child, because of the hormones, or because having a newborn is just plain hard. I blame it mostly on the lack of sleep.
It was the middle of the summer, the best time of year in Seattle when the sun is actually out every day, and I didn’t care. I didn’t ever want to leave the house. I just wanted to sleep and it felt like sleep was the one thing I could never do. Whoever said “sleep when the baby sleeps” obviously never had a second child.
So I was tired, which made me crabby. And everything was hard. Breastfeeding was difficult and painful and felt constant. I thought nursing would come easily. It was my second time around, couldn’t I just pick up where I left off with my first child? No, we went through it all again. It makes me sad now that I didn’t appreciate that my baby needed me. Instead, I cried when she cried because she needed to be fed, yet again.
On top of it all, I was trying to be especially attentive to my 3 year old. I wanted to make sure he knew that Mommy still loved him even though the baby was here. So I insisted on doing the bedtime routine alone with him so we had some special time together. I put so much pressure on myself to be this great, loving and nurturing mom. But then I ended up taking care of everyone else and completely neglecting myself. For two whole months.
Then August came and with it my best friend’s wedding in Sonoma. We loved her soon-to-be wife and were thrilled that their wedding day was here. Well, honestly I was happy for them but a wedding now meant that not only did I need to leave my house (ok fine, it was time) but I had to do so in a dress and heels.
Of course nothing fit my post baby body. Nothing in my closet, nothing at Macy’s, and nothing at Nordstrom’s. You know where I had to buy a dress to wear to this wedding? Motherhood Maternity. Just the thought of it was mortifying. Then, to look at myself in the mirror was just too much. It was one thing to be accepting of my body that just created and carried a human being for nine months when I was at home in comfy clothes being all motherly. But it was another thing entirely to be dressed up and around other people who were also dressed up looking their best. I felt like I need to wear a big sign around my neck that said, “hey, I just had a baby, ok!” because I was so self-conscious. So I’m hormonal, and tired, and now I’m fat.
Then something amazing happened. Right around the time we sat down for the ceremony I realized it wasn’t about me at all. I was there to witness the union of two people who loved each other deeply and to celebrate with them. So I decided that I really would celebrate. Thankfully, we had a few generous friends who graciously offered to hold the baby for me most of the night, bringing her to me when it was time to nurse. It was my first time really having any space from the baby since she was born and it was all that I needed to catch that glimpse of “me” again.
That night I danced so hard. I literally danced like no one was watching. And truth be told, they weren’t watching me. That wedding was such a blast that everyone was dancing and smiling and the room was full of energy. In that moment I wasn’t the mommy, I was the bride’s best friend, and it was my job to dance and have fun. I had no idea how much I need that. It was like a shot of happiness entered my body replenishing something I didn’t know was missing.
Things after the wedding didn’t miraculously change over night. The baby still didn’t sleep more than two hours at a time for a while and I did get a little squeamish looking at myself in pictures. But, the baby is so awesome and getting cuter and sweeter every day. I love my kids so much and I really do love being a mom. And, fortunately, the feeling that night at my best friend’s wedding was so powerful that it’s easy to conjure back up whenever I need to remember.