Wow. My first blog post. There have been countless hours of rocking my daughter Eleanor with my mind running a mile a minute full of so many thoughts, ideas, reflections on the past, etc. A lot of it has to do with becoming a Mom and the challenging year that I’ve had. Well, I might as well start at the “beginning.” I’m ripping off the band-aid and talking about my deepest, darkest, and most worthwhile experience.
I have a daughter. A sweet, beautiful, funny, feisty, red-headed little goob named Eleanor. She just turned one and I am still in disbelief. Becoming a mother has not been anywhere near what I expected it to be like, and neither was her birth. Long-story short: what seemed like it would be a regular long first-time labor like I expected for 9 months turned into a scary emergency c-section. But we got through it and had a beautiful baby girl to show for it.
I just assumed (first mistake, my dad taught me never to “ASS-U-ME”) that I would just figure this whole baby thing out with few challenges and do everything perfectly. You see all these moms that look so well put together and their kids are so perfectly behaved and you think ok! I want to be one of those moms. Yes, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, a control freak, a little type-A, whatever you want to call it. I quickly realized that it took everything I had to just survive the first 6 or 7 months of her life. I had a feeling that postpartum depression might be a hurdle because I’ve struggled with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) since high school. And when Eleanor developed reflux, eczema, colic, a potential milk allergy, did NOT sleep well at all, and just proved to have a very feisty/fussy demeanor, it was a recipe for disaster. Needless to say, I quickly developed pretty severe postpartum depression. I was in denial of how bad of a place I was in. I kept thinking about those moms I see that just make it look effortless and couldn’t help but to think I was doing something wrong. I had countless offers from wonderful friends and family for help and I turned most of it down. I should be able to handle this! This is MY child, MY responsibility, so thanks, but no thank you. No one talks about postpartum depression or really struggling for that matter. People would always offer their best advice while I was pregnant along with glowing accounts of how wonderful it all is. And maybe some people that have it easy truly mean that but why is everyone that has struggled so afraid to talk about it? I guess they were like me and didn’t want to admit it. I thought I was weak or just not cut out for this. Why was I so deeply sad and depressed? Why was my baby always crying? What was I doing wrong? There were many nights I remember saying out loud to my husband Ryan in despair “I SWEAR I will never forget how utterly helpless and hopeless I feel in this moment and I will never go through this ever again.” I buried or hid most of my feelings. It wasn’t until my husband pushed me to see my old therapist that I realized how bad things were. She saw me with my daughter and bravely told me that I was completely disconnected and in a dangerous place. I was a zombie doing everything I was supposed to do to care for her but there was no connection. I stopped taking care of myself and was consumed with trying to figure out why my baby was so upset and unhappy all the time. I lost weight. I was down to 98 pounds, 12-15 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Eating became an obsession where I limited what I put in my mouth for fear of it upsetting my already upset baby. Eleanor didn’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours stretches until she was at least 6 months old with some weeklong+ periods of waking every 1-2 hours. Bottom line: it wasn’t good.
It was a long few months of finally asking for help, getting the utmost support from my husband, family and a few close friends, learning to accept things for what they were and trying to roll with the punches, getting Eleanor on a hypoallergenic formula, seeing a dermatologist for her eczema, and finally getting sleep, for me to start feeling like me again. I’d hate for this to come off as if I’m having my own little pity party. I look at this last year and I pat myself on the back for getting through it. I’m ok. My daughter is alive and thriving. And I can only hope that some new Mom might read this post and feel a little less alone if they are struggling like I did.
My sweet girl is proving to be as feisty a toddler as she was an infant but with much more sleep I can handle it better. Maybe there is some truth to the red head temper you hear about! But I am so grateful that I have learned to be present, in the moment, experiencing life with this amazing little human. Before I became a mom I had heard so many people try to describe what it’s like having a child and most say that it’s just indescribable love that you never knew you could feel….and I feel so blessed and relieved that I can say I totally am indescribably in love with my daughter.
Eleanor, 6 Months. Photo by Portland Photo Company