A Trip Down Postpartum Lane

Although I did not fully intend to take a maternity leave from my blog, it seems that scheduling, exhaustion, and emotions have effectively accomplished that for me. The miracle of life continues to be extraordinary for those of us who brought it into being, but for those who did not, I know that reading a daily log of my new son’s eating, pooping, and sleeping schedule may be somewhat less than thrilling. Unfortunately these are the things that consume my days as of late. Combined with an ever-present struggle to maintain my sanity through the fog of postpartum hormones and little to no sleep, it has been hard to find the energy and inspiration (much less time) to sit down and write. But writing is an integral and important part of my fulfillment – and hopefully important to some of you, my readers, as well – so I am making the time. Forgive me if the subject matter is somewhat sub-par. It is where I am now and it is what I have to give.

The involuntary drugs I am constantly hopped up on – otherwise know as postpartum hormones – are a cruel and unusual reality. I know that they are the cause of much of the way that I feel (which makes me feel crazy), but the feelings themselves are real and valid. I cannot simply ignore them. Allow me to give you a tour of what goes on in my head most days lately:

I find it exceptionally difficult to separate myself from my tiny newborn son. Even now, I have his video monitor right next to me as I write and I find myself looking at it at least as much as I look at this screen on which I am typing. For nine months he and I were connected. Two people existing together in the same body but separate. And as much as I hated pregnancy there is an odd and intense separation anxiety that happens when he is no longer part of me. It feels unnatural, in a way, for him to be across the room, even though I know it is, of course, not. I am jealous and possessive of him and feel disconnected from everyone else. Like no one else really understands… or cares. And I don’t blame them. Perhaps my life has changed radically over the last three weeks, but theirs hasn’t. Sooner or later, my new baby is not the center of everyone else’s attention. But most of the time if feel like it should be, darn it!

Everyone treats a pregnant lady, especially a big pregnant lady, special. But almost as soon as the baby is born, all of the special attention transfers to him. And this too feels unfair. I had major abdominal surgery 3 weeks ago and now, for all intents and purposes, am housebound while still trying to care for both of my children. I deserve to be treated special too, right?

And my hubby, whose life has also changed dramatically, has the added privilege of dealing with all of my insanity. This often makes him withdraw, because really, what is there for him to do besides take care of all of our practical needs (which he does superbly)? He can’t even begin to touch everything that’s going on inside me. This, in turn makes me feel distant from him and guilty for making him have to deal with me. He practically had to beg me to go out to dinner with him tonight and let my parents, who are visiting, watch the boys. And yet, it feels so wrong for me to leave the baby, that I almost resent him for insisting we go. Crazy, right? I know.

And you remember those fears I mentioned a while back about whether or not I would be able to love Owen as much as Aiden, who I have adored intensely from the moment he was born? Everyone told me that I would have no trouble. That love multiplies rather than divides. They were, of course, right. I adore Owen every bit as much as I do Aiden. But the irony of it is, I sometimes find myself even resenting Aiden for demanding so much of me at a time when I ought to be able to enjoy my new baby as much as I was able to enjoy him. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve ever shown him these feelings but it’s bad enough that they’re there. Especially since he has been SUCH a wonderful boy since we came home from the hospital and SO tender and loving with his new little brother. It is astonishing and beautiful to watch and makes my heart swell.

Then there are feelings of inadequacy. Like I just can’t handle each new step along the way – leaving the hospital; Jonathan going back to work; visitors coming; those same visitors leaving; returning to work myself… Jonathan is going out of town 3 time in June and I don’t know how I am possibly going to manage the boys by myself while he is gone. I know I will. I have to. I just don’t believe that I can.

And in the middle of all of this, I am having to search for new childcare for when I return to work. This gives me constant and recurring panic attacks. If I have so much trouble leaving my baby with my mom, how in the world will I be able to leave him with a complete stranger in 5 or 6 weeks. I have no idea.

Add to this the fact that this baby, who I am so protective and possessive of, is one giant bundle of need – perpetuating a cycle of nursing, diaper changes, gas pains, fitful and broken sleep, and repeat – and you have the recipe for a perfect storm.

I know that all of this will pass. I had many of the same feelings after I had Aiden, perhaps to a worse degree. But when you are in the midst of them, flooded with emotions and hormones that you can’t control, it is sometimes hard to remember that life will return to normal. A new normal perhaps, but normal nonetheless. So in case any of my friends are planning to come see me anytime soon, bear in mind that this is the me that exists on the inside – even if what you see on the outside is remarkably held together. And if this inside me is too scary, I completely understand. I’ll let you know when the fog clears. If not, come help me weather the lonely craziness and I’ll try to keep the monster at bay. Besides, Owen is so incredible cute and wonderful, that seeing him is worth braving me ;)

Thoughts Of A Working Mom On Bed Rest

It’s every working mom’s dream, right? To have plenty of time to lay around on the couch and have everyone else take care of all your responsibilities while you just . . . rest. Hmmm. You might think so until you have a doctor tell you that you have to do just that. For a month. This forced hiatus from life, otherwise known as bed rest, is anything but a fantasy, as reality sets in and you realize that you no longer have any control over your life, your home, or your children. Everything must be done for you and your bank account slowly reminds you why it is that you and your husband both work. In the mean time, your hubby takes over all the details of your finances, family, work, and home while trying desperately to hang on to the last threads of sanity. You can forget romance or sweet nothings – you just hope this whole episode doesn’t crush him. Although your job has been expecting to lose you to maternity leave in a month, they find themselves spontaneously in a lurch and end up hiring a temp to replace you. You hope and pray he’s not as good as you are and everyone is glad for you to come back when you’re ready, but will they be? And your little boy, whom you adore cries in your arms every night because he misses you and there is almost nothing you can do with or for him anymore. All the people you love and care about do everything they can for you and, although you are extremely grateful, you can’t help but feel like you’ve just become a giant millstone around everyone’s neck. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to protect your unborn baby and bring him safely into the world when he’s ready. So you while away the hours with books and the internet and TV while your life marches on around you but without you.

Still sound like a dream? Well, it’s not exactly peachy, but there are a few things that I have learned from this whole process so far:

  • People who really care are willing to do SO much. It is more than words of sympathy, it’s service that stuns you. And although you may feel guilty for asking so much of people, you know that no one who has given anything resents what they’ve given. And it is beautiful.
  • My hubby would do anything for his family. Even when it feels like he can’t, he does. He is a man worth having and holding and I am lucky.
  • Once again, as I have said so many times before, I am reminded that we have to hold tightly to the little things. The beautiful things. And not become bogged down in difficulty. Rather than sink in the face of all that I cannot do, I need to cherish the time that I do have to read my son countless stories; do silly projects on the couch like paper plate superhero masks for his birthday; write notes of gratitude to the many people who are helping us (something I am normally so bad at accomplishing); and catch up on some blogging that pain and stress have kept me from staying on top of.
  • People so often surprise you, and most of the time in a good way. You never know who will stand up and do something extraordinary that you never expected or something small that is touching in its intimacy.
  • It is never shameful to ask for help. Those who want to give will do so gladly and those who judge you for asking can either get over it or get lost!
  • Rest is overrated! So in the future when I complain about being too busy or stressed, I need to remember that it is those very things that fill my plate and make me so busy that I miss when they are taken away. They are the building blocks of my life and add purpose and fulfillment to it. As Jonathan always says, “To be a happy man, I have to be a tired man!”
  • In the end, a month or two of hardship is tiny compared to the new life we are bringing into the world. One that will, as his brother did, completely change our lives and enrich them in ways we never even thought possible. Owen, I know you are worth it and I can’t wait meet you!

♥ For any who are interested . . . A Small Way to be a Big Help