The Baby Daze
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
I recently read a blog post that really resonated with me. I read it once, cried, then went about my business of being slave to a nine month old. But I couldn’t stop thinking about this article. The post describes being “in the trenches” - that dark, confusing time after you’ve just had a baby (check it out here - https://www.littlejemmings.com.au/mumming/in-the-trenches). It’s author, Janessa, writes how “the advertisement for motherhood, while noting plenty of side effects… does NOT prepare you in the slightest for those first few months in the trenches.” She’s SO right. Janessa’s article really made me feel something. I can’t exactly describe the feeling because it’s just so raw… there is so much emotion, even a slight sense of nostalgia behind it. That period of time is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s a time that is celebrated in movies and on my social media feeds, a time depicted as being peaceful, glowing and complete; when a new mum is getting to know her perfect babe. The reality for me, was so far from that image of bliss. My memories of that time are filled with pictures of a dim, messy house, a crying, unsettled baby, and a fearful mind. I remember being overwhelmed by such an acute sense of isolation, despite the network of support I had available to me.
It didn’t start straight away. During those first few days after giving birth, I was positively euphoric. I spent my time in the hospital happily pottering around (as much as one can potter whilst recovering from a brutal episiotomy), full of optimism and surrounded by family. Even arriving home was fine. It probably took a good five days after the birth before I began to feel slightly less chipper. As my milk supply came through and my energy levels sank lower, my happiness levels also plummeted. The baby blues had made themselves known. “Depressed beyond belief” is an accurate description of how I felt at the time.
I can still feel the anxiety that would set in as the sun went down. It was a fear of the unknown - embers of panic flaming in the pit of my stomach, growing stronger as the sky grew darker. How long would she cluster feed tonight? How many hours would I sit on the couch, the only light coming from the muted television, trying not to move a muscle for fear that she’d wake up and scream? When would I next be able to sleep for more than an hour? How could I possibly breastfeed for a minute longer? I was full of self-doubt, afraid that I wasn’t meant to be a mother, that I wouldn’t be able to give my baby what she needed.
I remember lying in my bed choking away my sobs, on the phone to a midwife who was ringing for a routine postnatal check. I treated that conversation like a therapy session. So many worries, so many questions, so much fear that this was how my life would be forever. I don’t even remember that midwife’s name but I am pretty sure she saved me from having a full blown anxiety attack that day. I was trying to keep the tears from sounding in my voice so she wouldn’t think I was crazy. Pretty sure she could hear every emotion I was trying to mask.
And through it all, I had the most overwhelming sense of worry that there was something wrong with me. I thought I was the only new mother to experience these feelings. No one had forewarned me that the exhaustion and the hormones and the abrupt change to your way of life could result in so much inner turmoil. The feeling of inadequacy as a mother, combined with the guilt that I wasn’t happy was so intense, it absolutely shook me to my core. I started to worry that I was suffering from postnatal depression. I made a promise to myself: If I didn’t start to feel human again within the next few weeks, I would seek help, for the sake of my baby.
And then, as quickly as it had started, the feeling left me. I wasn’t sad anymore. My body began to heal from the birth. Breastfeeding stopped being painful. Chloe started sleeping more at night, so I was able to. I started to really fall in love with her. I would go to bed longing for morning so I could hold her again. Anxiety was replaced with a sense of excitement and anticipation for my new life. I was becoming more comfortable with my new role as a mother. I felt lucky again.
The baby daze is experienced differently by every new parent. I don’t profess to know the best way to navigate this difficult time, or how one can avoid being stuck “in the trenches”. All I can hope is that, by writing about this, other new parents might feel slightly less alone, slightly less guilty, or slightly more hopeful than I did. It’s a tough ride, becoming a parent, and the journey need not be made more tough by truth bombs like this being kept hidden. For anyone who is going through it, the best piece of advice I can offer is that you WILL come out the other end. The newborn stage is fleeting, though it may not feel like it at the time, and one day you will probably look back with rose-coloured glasses and decide you want to do it all over again. In the meantime, do what you gotta do to survive, girlfriend. You have DEFINITELY got this.
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