Tuesday officially marked my baby's two-month birthday. By the way, her name is Ava.
Ava celebrated this momentous occasion by sleeping
through most of the day, only opening her eyes and squeaking or
crying when she wanted to be fed (right now she doesn't ask for much). For
the first time in eight weeks, I finally -- finally! -- have
time to sit down and write something, which I really should have been
doing from Day 1, but all other excuses aside, I've been so busy with
Ava that I often can't remember what day it is, much less how to even
begin recording my thoughts on this whole process online or getting back
to writing the book. While time, or the lack thereof, was a factor
keeping me from blogging, I have to be honest and say that I was also
scared to start writing about it all. Especially that first month of
having her. Why? Because it wasn't the idyllic situation that I always
envisioned having a baby would be like.
I felt that if I admitted this through words it would make me a bad person (and an equally bad mother). Something like Joan Crawford's character in Mommy Dearest,
minus all that wire hanger business. By week 4 or 5, I literally felt like I
was going insane. Of course I love Ava to death, but those first few
weeks were so foreign to me. It felt like I was tossed into a maelstrom
of transition that I wasn't prepared for, what with the sleepless
nights, uncomfortable healing "down there," and the stress of hearing a
tiny baby emit hours of bloodcurdling cries and an inability to
understand what it is they actually want after diapers are changed and
tummies are fed.
The frosting on the cake for me was my
detachment from the situation. I felt like I wanted to turn in on myself
and disappear. Sometimes I felt like she was a stranger when I'd hold
her. Other times I felt like she didn't love me because she didn't
recognize me as her mother (which is stupid, really, since at that age
she couldn't recognize a zucchini, much less her own mother). Often I'd
resent her -- for needing so much of me that I had nothing left over for
myself. Terrible to say, right? And I feel guilty for even writing it
now, although I've since come to grips with most of this. I'd cry for no
reason, missing my "old" life even though I was happy to say goodbye to
it up until the day we brought her home. I'd be so pissed at J,
sometimes even resentful of him, for giving me this new life and being
able to leave every day for work while I had to suffer through it alone.
I hated how my post-baby body looked and missed the old times where I could actually feel my core and use it for good posture.
day was an up/down confluence of emotions, going from extremely sad to
(once in a while) very happy. I felt like I was stuck in someone else's
life, taking care of this baby that I had no connection with. I was
scared that I felt any of this, even though I'd read about it in popular
baby books and heard from endless television doctors that this was
"normal." Well, it might be considered normal but it didn't feel normal
to me. Normal moms were put together and organized, loved their new
lives as mothers and got pure satisfaction from their babies. I felt sad
and resentful, terribly absent-minded and mentally scattered, like
my brain was in a fog. The worst part was that I didn't want to talk to
anyone about it. J was the only one who knew what I was going through. I
felt guilty for feeling the way I did and that I'd somehow be a failure
if I admitted any of it out loud to close friends or family, which made
me feel more isolated because I didn't feel I could be honest with
anyone, sometimes not even myself. This would just feed into my sadness,
which would make me feel even more isolated and...well, you get the
So at my six-week postpartum
checkup with my doctor (you know, that awkward office visit where
doctors pretend everyone alludes to sex as "intercourse" and they let
you know whether you can or can't have it yet), they made me take a
written postpartum test. On this test I had to circle answers in
multiple choice form and apparently I couldn't hide my sadness enough
because my doctor told me I had borderline postpartum depression.
first thought was: "Great, I'm officially a statistic," because though
I'd read about postpartum depression I didn't think I'd actually ever
get it. It was one of those scary things you hear about and hope to
never experience, like foreclosures or herpes. Other people might get
those things, but those type of people serve as cautionary tales. My
second thought was "Jesus, if I'm borderline, I cringe to think what
full-blown postpartum depression is." After all, I was always a
happy-go-lucky girl, easily finding humor in even the worst situations.
That girl is still in me, but now I just need to work at maintaining
her. My third thought was: "How the hell do I get better?" I didn't like feeling blue all the time.
My doctor's answer was simple. "Prozac," she said, suggesting it like taking Prozac was as common as chewing gum.
really rather not," I said. After all, she had just said I was
borderline, not full-blown, and I refused to believe that medication was
the only way to happiness again. At least not in my circumstance.
"It would only be for a month or two. Three tops. Then you can stop taking it," she said.
I think the look on my face, a look made of two-parts confusion and one-part fear with just a dash of skepticism,
said it all. "Okay, but is there anything else I could do besides take
pills?" I asked. Visions of me losing my mind and moving to L.A. to be a
failed actress with my anti-depressants instantly surfaced, because
clearly -- to me, at least -- anything related to pills has to be lifted
from the pages of a Jacqueline Susann novel. Yes, my limited knowledge of prescription drugs pretty much centers around Valley of the Dolls.
asked if I used to work out, and through my haze I did actually find
this funny since there's nothing I loathe more than working out, except
maybe men who wear athletic sneakers. I told her I used to walk a lot,
but this wasn't so much for working out as it was a good excuse to get
out of the house and listen to my iShuffle. Nevertheless, it was still
some form of physical activity that didn't include getting off and on
the couch according to Bravo's TV show lineup.
could try walking again," she said, and then went on to tell me how
endorphins play a part in us humans being happy. "...But when I see you
at our next appointment, let me know how it's going and whether you want
to start Prozac," she added (endorphins aside). Jesus, I thought, this
lady was really pushing the meds. I thanked her and said I'd think it
over between now and our next appointment, but the truth was I wanted no
part in Prozac.
So I started walking. Even when Ava
cried or acted fussy for hours on end and it probably would have been
easier to stay at home in my PJs with her and zone out on some Real Housewives episode,
I'd get dressed, pack her up in her stroller and we'd stroll the
neighborhood together. She'd fall asleep while I (quietly) rocked out to
Lady Gaga and miraculously I started to feel better. Just a little. At
about week 6, I decided it was time for her and I to get out into the
world more, past the confines of our neighborhood. I know this doesn't
seem like much, especially since the old Crystal went out into the world
every day, but with a baby, the world kind of feels like a new place.
Taking your baby out into it for the first time is terrifying. What if
she cries while I'm shopping? I'd think. How or where will I change her
diaper if she needs to be changed? What if I can't get the carseat
properly put in the car? What if I run of out of bottled milk while
we're out and she has a fit? (I'm not one to whip out the boob in
public. I just. Can't.)
Slowly we'd go out more,
running an errand here and there. I got the hang of snapping her carseat
in and out of its base in my car. I grew more sure of myself unpacking
and packing her stroller into our trunk. If she'd start to cry in a
store, I became more adept at understanding what she'd want. Pretty soon
us going out became like second nature to me and the blues I had slowly
began to fade.
Then one day she decided to smile for
the first time and it was like sunshine peeking through my gray cloudy
haze. All of a sudden something connected between us, with that smile of
hers, and I couldn't help but smile back. That smile told me that she
finally recognized who I was, that all this hard work was paying off. I
smiled back at her and it was all over. Since then she smiles almost
every time she sees me and in the last week or so she's started babbling
and trying her hardest to mimic sounds I make. They're all nonsensical
sounds, but it makes me so much happier to feel like we're somewhat
communicating with one another. If you had told me this the first couple
weeks of her being home I wouldn't have believed it -- how would a
smile or babbling make me happy? But it just does. Maybe it's this
instinctual thing hardwired into my mother gene. Who knows.
As much as I love the babbles, I also knew I needed to
make friends with other moms in my area, which would motivate me to get
out even more. So I did. Right now I'm part of two mom groups in my
town and while I still routinely have out-of-body experiences when four
or five of us walk down a street with our strollers (I never thought I'd
be one of those women), it's nice spending time with people who
are going through the same thing as me. I don't connect with all of them
equally but unlike clubs for books or movies, babies seem like a true
commonality you can bond over.
So in the end I am
doing better (thank God) and this whole "being a mother" thing seems to
get slightly easier every day. I still don't always have the time to
eat breakfast or lunch, and there are days I want to bang my head a few
times against my brick fireplace because I've been holding her for 4+
hours and I'm tired and hungry and my arm feels like it's going to fall
off, yet I can't put her down or else she'll start wailing. But then
there are days where I can see what people mean when they say it's "all
worth it." Those are usually the days where she'll look up at me with
those baby blues and give me a big toothless grin. Just a simple, silent
grin. And on those days it feels like my heart smiles.
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