When you're out in the world you may run into a mother who's ventured out with her new baby. You may say hello and ask her how life is with a new baby. She may hesitate to answer as she ponders the question because it's been three months+ since she's gotten any sleep and at least four days since she's showered. Spit up adorns the shoulders of her shirt, and her hands are thankfully washed clean of the poop she had to rinse from a onesie after a rather explosive bowel movement. At meal times she searches through the fridge for food she can eat one handed rather than something nutritious. Dinner times are getting later and later as cooking with a baby draped over one arm proves very difficult. Her body seems to shift and morph everyday as it peaces itself back together from nine months of growing a child, and everyday she sees a new image in the mirror. She never has a moment to herself yet she's never been so lonely. She loves her child so much it hurts but by the evening she finds herself so overstimulated and overwhelmed that holding her child almost repulses her and her breath is labored by the battle her muscles face to hold on regardless. She cries herself to sleep because she dreads another night of six or seven trips out of bed to calm the restless infant. Some days the little smiles and soft snuggles are not enough to balance the hormonal ravaging she endures in her mind that bring about so much guilt and shame. She loves her child but wonders when life will feel manageable again. Some days she feels like tearing her hair out because the disconnect between her body and mind make her feel unbelievably crazy, and no matter how much she tries to make sense of all her thoughts she just can't.
In a split moment all those things flood her mind. . . She smiles tiredly and answers the question with a quiet "Good."
If you bump into that new mother you might just have bumped into me. I'm a currently the poster girl for overtired, overstimulated, postpartum depression mothers everywhere. My sweet baby boy who used to sleep for six to seven hours stretches at a time decided to stop sleeping. It began during my stint with mastitis so I chalked it up to replenishing my milk supply, but after a couple weeks I gave up hope my old normal would return anytime soon. Every night I average 2-3 hours of sleep and each consecutive day of child-induced insomnia I become more haggard and depressed. Every day is like swimming through mud.
Because Sam is sleeping so poorly, my sweet and chill little baby has turned into a fussy fellow with a hair-line trigger. I spend most of my day holding him, especially for naps Then I spend my night in his room rocking and nursing him back to sleep. Because I have essentially no breaks from his constant touch and presence I'm so overstimulated that being touched (by anyone) has become physically uncomfortable. Sunday evening Paul took a turn holding Sam for a bit, and when he tried to hand him back to me I had a full-blown anxiety attack. I couldn't breathe, and between my gasps for air I sobbed.
Sunday night, after being drugged* with gripe water throughout the day, Sam only woke up three times. Monday was wonderful. Sam played on the floor, napped in his bed, and hardly fussed. I felt relaxed, happy, rested, and desperate to eat my deliciously sweet baby in the most affectionate sort of way. Andrea finally got some attention from her mom and got to play with her best friend/brother who happily allowed her to hold his hands, hand him toys, ask him questions, and repeatedly rub his head.
Monday night he woke up five times. The next night it was six. Last night I lost count. How I wish every day felt like Monday.
*I gave him the recommended dose, don't worry.