Blessing: Aayden Alexander, born September 4, 2020 at 7:07am
This is long overdue. I started this blog as a way to document my pregnancy and share my experiences – especially because I didn’t have a traditional path to pregnancy or parenthood. However, life happened and the world seemed to crumble around us. The pandemic certainly threw me, as it did to all of us. But being pregnant during the pandemic was especially hard. Then as I progressed along in my pregnancy, I got a pretty severe case of carpal tunnel which prevented me from doing much with my hands, let alone typing for long periods of time. It even made work especially difficult because I sit in front of a computer all day, everyday. And I’m still dealing with the carpal tunnel! I will share details around the rest of my pregnancy at a later time. And I will definitely share details about the birth, as I’m still processing it. But today I want to celebrate the birth of my son, Aayden, and start a discussion about postpartum.
As of this very moment when I’m writing this, I’m 11 weeks postpartum, which means Aayden is 11 weeks old! (By the time I published this blog, Aayden made it to 13 weeks.) He is everything to me – my sun, my moon, my stars. I tear up just thinking about the enormity of being his mom and how much I love him. I’ve heard other parents say these words, or something similar, and I was like, “yes, yes, children are the greatest gift.” The experience of parenthood for yourself changes everything. When I met my niece, Emma, I thought there is no way I could love my own child more than I love her. I assumed the love would be equal. Because when I met Emma, it was definitely love at first site. At the time, I shared my thoughts with my sister and she said, “Wait until your baby is born. You have no idea.” And she was right.
I didn’t know that Aayden’s grin would light up my whole world and melt all of my stress away. I also didn’t know that his cries would become my cries and that I would feel physical pain when he’s in pain. *Cue the waterworks as I write this.* Let me tell you – his circumcision and first round of vaccines were worse for me than for him.
At 11 weeks old, I can already see a resilience in Aayden. He is so strong – physically and seemingly emotionally. He is sweet – just wants to be held and loved on. And he’s already being sweet with his furry siblings – “petting” them when they are nearby. Aayden is smart. He knows when we are changing him and he grins from ear to ear at a clean diaper and fresh clothes. He knows the sound of us making his bottle and responds. And he already sleeps through the night! He’s been sleeping through the night since he was 8 weeks old. (I have some thoughts as to why he’s already sleeping so well but I’ll save that for another day too.) Aayden isn’t perfect, though. He gets fussy but we eventually figure out the reason why. And when we address the issue, he’s a happy baby again. When I look at my son, I feel like there is this cocoon around us and all is perfect in the world. We are in our own little bubble together.
Despite my wonderful son, postpartum has been a bitch. There’s no other way to say it. Leading up to Aayden’s birth, my husband and I took every class that was offered to us – two different birthing classes, newborn care class, child safety/CPR class, breastfeeding classes. Everything during pregnancy prepares you for birthing your child or basics on how to take care of your child. But there aren’t any classes on how to care for yourself or what to expect postpartum. It’s like this black box, this gray area that no one talks about. And I feel slightly disillusioned and disappointed that as a society we don’t discuss this openly. Nor do we have a system in place in the U.S. for postpartum women.
Postpartum depression is briefly mentioned during classes. And it seems like at the 6-week postpartum appointment with the OBGYN, the doctor is specifically looking for signs of depression. However, I feel like there is a HUGE gray area that isn’t really depression but it isn’t normal or pre-baby behavior and emotions either. Additionally, the dynamics in all relationships change – your relationship with your partner, relationship with your mother and father, relationship with friends. It seems like all of the sudden there’s this change and you weren’t prepared for it.
For me personally, (I think) I’m dealing with postpartum anxiety (it’s totally self-diagnosed). I’ve become extremely overwhelmed with the small things – my husband trying to have a conversation with me as soon as I walk in the door from a walk, something not being put back in the right place, finding projects half finished around the house (e.g. laundry), too many activities/appointments in one day. When these situations or any number of others occur, I lose it. I get angry. I cry. I feel overwhelmed and out of control. I’ve joked in the past that I was OCD about things, but now it’s starting to feel like it’s true. I’ve never experienced this before. Originally I thought it was linked to a lack of sleep. And trust me, I was definitely sleep deprived in the beginning. Once I realized that many of my emotions were tied to sleep deprivation, I started making an effort to get more rest. And my emotions improved with more sleep, but they are still there. Everyday is a struggle to remain calm and “normal” without having a meltdown. It takes a lot of effort, and it’s exhausting trying to keep it together. It’s also exhausting when I completely lose it. Ironically my child is more even-tempered than me right now.
When one of my episodes is beginning, I get hot and I almost feel these vibrations throughout my body. There’s this energy that starts surging through me, and it feels like there’s no where for it to go. So I yell. If I’m by myself, I throw things. Feeling these emotions is downright scary because I don’t recognize myself in those moments. That’s not me. That’s not who I used to be before I had a baby. So why now? And how do I not feel like this? What are the tools to help me better manage these emotions? I recognize that I need professional help at this point so this is still a work in progress. However, I’m still left with the question… why didn’t anyone talk about this? And why isn’t there a class to help prepare you for what’s to come after the baby arrives? It’s even more difficult to rationalize these emotions with the immense and overwhelming love I have for my son.
In addition to my foreign emotions, my relationships have changed. For some relationships, things have changed for the better – I have a much better appreciation for my mother and the depth of the love she must have had for me and my sister. I can also see how, as her child, I must have caused her so much worry, panic and distress unknowingly. I think that’s the plight of motherhood – you are always doomed to worry about your child(ren)’s wellbeing. Furthermore I’m moved to tears when I think about Aayden’s future and how I don’t want to miss a single moment with him, and I want to be with him and protect him forever. So now I understand my own mother just a little bit better, which is nice. On the other hand, my mom continues to give me advice on breastfeeding, which is unwanted and unhelpful. (More on my breastfeeding journey later on.)
Additionally, my relationship with my husband has changed considerably, and it scares me because I’m so afraid that it has irrevocably changed. I think my postpartum anxiety has a lot to do with the shift in our relationship. I mentioned that I don’t recognize myself at most times, but I think sometimes Alex doesn’t recognize me either. Additionally Alex is not very comfortable when it comes to discussing emotions. And he’s definitely not one to proactively address situations that make him unhappy or uncomfortable. For whatever reason, he assumes everything is his fault and internalizes EVERYTHING. At the best of times, it made it difficult for him to discuss our communication with each other or share his feelings. Now he totally shuts down, walks into another room if he sees me crying or just ignores me all together. He does this because he assumes that my emotions are triggered by something he’s done. So he avoids me as a way to try and diffuse my emotions but it usually makes me more upset. He can’t seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I’m not the same person I was prior to giving birth to Aayden. And as my partner and the father of our child, no one prepared him for this change or gave him any advice on how to best deal with his emotions, my emotions and the joy and challenge of being a new parent.
While our situation and emotions are unique to us, I believe that there’s a way to prepare new parents for these changes. I think we fail every single new parent every second of everyday by not openly discussing it and creating educational tools to help parents prepare for this aspect of their life. Change isn’t a bad thing but we need to be equipped to know how to best adapt to some of these changes that are expected and happen to every new parent. How have you and your partner dealt with postpartum?