Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...
June 27, 2007
Today we will discuss markers of the postpartum time. I will tell you the things that, for me, announce its arrival, for the first baby or for the fifth, and maybe you can add others you've experienced or heard of.
Sometimes I feel like everything is going GREAT! I am incorporating this baby into the household SEAMLESSLY! It is NO BIG DEAL! It is like I am some kind of NATURAL! I could handle even TWO MORE babies! I have to tell the world that having a baby is not as scary as they think! EVERYONE should have babies! LOTS of babies! Babies are GREAT! I LOVE babies!
Other times I feel like this SUCKS. I can't do this AT ALL. Furthermore, NO ONE could, because this is NOT POSSIBLE. I am twenty steps behind. Everyone is crying. Everyone needs something, and I'm the only one who can provide it. I will never catch up. I cut off one hydra head and three more grow back. I have to tell the world that having a baby is very, very hard and that they shouldn't be alarmed if they feel like it is suckily impossible to cope with one.
Sometimes I feel soppily grateful to my husband. He is the only one who holds us together. He is the only one holding me together. I could never do this without him. He is so good. I am so lucky.
Other times I envy single mothers. I think about divorce. I wonder how I could have married someone so inconsiderate and insensitive and MEAN and YUCKY-SMELLING.
I feel waves of animal-like affection for the baby. I try to stuff him right up my nose, he smells so good. I snuffle his neck. I rub his hair on my cheek. I fiddle with his tiny toesies. I look at him and can't believe how lucky I am to have him. So many reasons he wouldn't be here! And yet he is! He's my BABY! SNUFFLE SNUFFLE SNUFFLE!
I worry that I don't love the baby yet. Other mothers describe feeling an instant connection to the baby as soon as the baby was born, but my babies always look like total strangers to me--and not very cute strangers, either. They could be ANYBODY'S baby. It feels weird to let a total stranger NURSE on me. I remember that I felt this way about each of my other babies, and that I always ended up loving them--but what if it doesn't happen this time? What if I never love this baby? Sure, I feel like squeezing him too hard and that's a good sign--but what if we never connect? What if I had too many children and he's going to suffer for it?
I feel rage at everyone. The cats: they are pick-pick-PICKING at the door at 4:00 in the morning, and it is possible I could accidentally kick them so hard I injure or kill them. I have to make a conscious effort not to. I do still "help them along" with one foot, but stop abruptly because it seems like it would feel so good to actually hurt them. Rage at the kids, and at Paul: I feel like saying ugly things to them, and I do say some. As with the cats, I have to make a conscious effort to stop. It doesn't always work. I hear myself saying the ugly things, most of them involving how much I have to do around here, and how little anyone else does, and how everyone else is driving me CRAZY. When the ragey feeling passes, I feel horrible. The ugly things I said are my fresh nighttime fret fodder. I suspect I'm damaging the children. I shouldn't have even had children. I'm a terrible mother. Rage at the baby: how can he be crying again? I do everything for him, EVERYTHING! And he has everything he needs, EVERYTHING! I've fed him! changed him! snuggled him! burped him! Now why can't he be quiet and needless for FIVE MINUTES?
I feel desperate and panicky for sleep, especially in the middle of the night. I feel as if I'm going crazy. I feel like I will throw up from lack of sleep. I feel like if I have to wake up one more time I am going to go out to the car and sleep there. I feel like killing Paul because he's sleeping and I'm not. I think about how the nice thing about dying is you wouldn't have this feeling of not getting enough sleep. I feel like hurting the nurse when she says sternly, "You're getting enough sleep, right?"--as if I might be ABLE to get more sleep but just CHOOSING not to.
I make plans to escape. I could go to a hotel, not tell anyone where I am. I could make up a dying friend I must go visit.
If I see a sad news story, especially if it has to do with children or pregnant women, I feel a weight descend on me. The world is a terrible place; we can't live here. Bad things happen all the time; bad things will happen to us; bad things will happen to my children. Slide-show of all the bad things that could happen to my children.
If I handle a knife, I imagine it somehow flying out of my hand and hurting the baby, even if I'm nowhere near the baby. If I walk past the railing, I imagine myself somehow dropping the baby down to the first floor. If I bathe the baby, I imagine somehow accidentally letting the baby drown. If I put the baby in the car, I imagine somehow accidentally leaving him in there. It happens every time: every knife, every railing, every bath, every car trip. Every time, it makes me feel like throwing up.
I feel like I can't stand to hear even one more stressful thing. Not ONE. If Paul tells me that he lost a contact lens, or that one of his teeth feels kind of ouchie, or that one of the kids has a funny-looking patch on his skin, I feel like I CAN'T COPE. I feel heavy and weighed-down, like I can't move or breathe. It is too much. I can't deal with it. I can't turn my mind to it. He might as well not tell me, because I am already at maximum capacity for these things; I can't think about anything more.
It feels especially awful as it gets closer to the time Paul gets home from work. All day long I might feel as if things are going well, but as it gets later I start picturing what the house would look like to someone coming home to it after a day at work. Clutter on every single horizontal surface, and creeping on up the vertical ones. Children everywhere, hyper or crabby or crying but all LOUD, with their hair uncombed and stains on their shirts and crust around their noses. Wife with matted-looking hair and shiny forehead and milk-circle-stained shirt, slumped despondently in a chair. Piles of laundry starting to smell like sour milk. Sheets unchanged since who knows when. Mess and noise and neediness EVERYWHERE, how can he STAND it? And picturing how bad it looks to him makes it look even more hopeless to me: everything needs fixing, and I can't fix it, and maybe he doesn't understand that this is a short-term thing, and maybe it WON'T be a short-term thing, maybe I'll NEVER get it together.
...Hey, doesn't postpartum sound like FUN??? And if I felt like the crazy/sad/angry parts all the time, I'd go to my doctor and get a prescription. But mostly I feel okay, and the more food/sleep I get, the better I feel. Thus the 144 muffins. Thus the sleeping in the recliner with the baby to make the baby sleep more/longer.
I think it helps to know it's a stage, and that it passes. It doesn't help much during an individual bad time: if I'm feeling weighed-down and crazy, it's not going to help to think, "Hey, this is just postpartum! I probably just feel like this because of my hormones!" But it's there in the back of my mind, this memory of Being This Way and then, later, Not Being This Way, and I think it improves things overall. It also helps when I hear or read about other mothers experiencing similar states of mind.
I notice there are a surprising number of people who say "no one ever told me" that the postpartum time could be rough waters, so let's make a big list, shall we? People want to be told; we will tell them. Fill up the comments section if you want, or make your own blog post about it and link to it in the comments section.
Posted by Swistle at 11:11:00 AM