This baby felt foreign to me and I couldn't tell anyone.
Updated: Jan 4
I know now that I experienced postpartum depression with both of my boys, but to different degrees. Back then, there really wasn't a word for it.
I prepared relentlessly for the birth of my first. I read every article, read tons of books, and listened to endless advice on how to raise a baby. My fear of Motherhood morphed into excitement. But, I was unprepared for how I felt when I left the hospital.
My first son came into the world in the midst of family drama on my son’s father’s side, transforming something that should be beautiful into one of the most stressful times of my life. Birthing then wasn't like it is now. There were no water tubs, or lowlights, or beautiful private rooms filled with serenity and peace. It was a regular room in which the nurse came in every hour, put your legs up in stirrups, measured your cervix with her fingers, and called the doctor only when it was time.
I had to drive myself to the hospital because my son’s father had been drinking all night. My mother was the only person who I wanted in the room. My baby was born with me watching my mother’s eyes as he left my body. There was no comfort, no support except for my Mom. He was whisked away to get checked. I spent the second night alone with my baby as my son’s father had to 'rest up' for work. So, was I feeling postpartum depression or was it just plain, regular depression? I would have leaned towards run-of-the mill depression, except for the feelings that followed.
I arrived home the first day with my baby to a houseful of family. I was tired, unsure of what to do, and overwhelmed with everyone arguing about how I was supposed to push up the bag inside the bottle to get the bubbles out before feeding. I felt alone from that moment on, and even when I wasn't, I still was.
I felt alone, and I felt....nothing. I would get up every night, every morning, every time feeding was approaching and just do it. I wasn't happy, sad, mad or anything like that. I just did what I had to do. People complimented me on my patience and even keel with my baby. B, that wasn't really what it was… I just kept keepin' on keepin' on.
The doctor visits early on were frequent due to all the wellness checks, vaccines, etc. and I look back now and realized that not once did my son's doctor or my doctor ask me how I was feeling. I didn't offer any insight to my feelings, out of fear they would then know I didn't have the 'nurturing nature' that all moms should. If the doctor had asked, I likely wouldn’t have been truthful anyway. I did not want anyone to think I did not love my baby, or to think I was sad that my life had changed so quickly.
There were no negative feelings, no positive ones either. Over the following months, it felt like I was playing a part in a movie, acting and reciting to the script of Motherhood, as it was supposed to be. I would watch everyone exclaiming over this cute, happy baby and would dig really deep to reflect the same excitement back. I was never angry, like I hear happens so often. I was just going through the motions.
Some days my son would giggle and my heart would leap, other days he would giggle and I would tickle his belly and move on. I fed him, changed him, cooed and played with him, all the right things, all the required things. But I wasn't overwhelmed with joy and love. This baby felt foreign to me and I couldn't tell anyone, because then I would be a Bad Mother. I mean, 'real' Mothers, Good Mothers, love their babies the moment they are placed on their chest, right? I didn't feel that at all, and to this day I avoid the eyes of anyone that says this.
My postpartum depression did not end suddenly. In fact, I am not even sure how I beat this thing I didn't know I had. But I slowly started relishing in my son’s milestones and antics. I would see him crawl and I would be filled with pride, a real feeling! My giggles with him over silly things became genuine, and every day with him became a new adventure that I looked forward to instead of dreading. And one day, I found myself sobbing over his sweet, little sleeping body. It was not because I thought I didn't love him or that I thought I was a bad Mom, it was because my heart was bursting with love for this sweet little boy that now owned my heart. When I focus on the relationship I have forged with him today, I know that I am a really good Mom. I have put those dark days in the background of my heart.
My second baby was different. My postpartum depression nowhere near the degree that I experienced with my firstborn. My worries before his birth revolved around my first son and new step-daughter. How would this new baby change the dynamics of our family? Would my new daughter think I loved her any less because of the connection I had with the babies grown in my belly? What about my first son? He had such a rough start with his biological father, how would it affect him when he no longer had me to himself? Would I treat my three children equally, or scar them for life with my mistakes? My husband was the available one for the first three months with my second baby, and I was the Mother to the oldest two. When he came home and went directly to the baby, my heart did feel sad. What about me? I often felt frustrated with the baby’s need for constant feeding, and I would cringe at his incessant cries. But, still, the feelings were different this time. My postpartum depression became softer, if you will. I was still a bit sad and worried but I also felt true all-encompassing love. Our family found our rhythm and the rest just sorted itself out.
I have never talked of those days to anyone.