There was a question on Reddit recently: “What’s your ‘thank god that’s over with and I never have to do it again’ thing in your life?” It didn’t take long for me to work through an answer.
Easily, the newborn phase of parenthood. I love Leon now and I loved him as a baby, and as this blog verifies he was always 100% planned and 1,000% wanted, but looking back on it I had some pretty serious postpartum depression.
It started out difficultly because Leon was in the NICU for several days. Instead of taking that time to rest and recover from a major abdominal surgery and trust my son in the care of great nurses, Minh and I woke up every three hours to visit and feed him, then come back and pump extra milk, then maybe sleep for an hour. We did that around the clock for four-and-a-half days. I remember laying on the couch in my recovery room after eating takeout, thinking This isn’t how my life is supposed to be. I should be home with my baby by now. It was definitely that night that the Baby Blues hit. I would consider it one of the Top 5 worst days of my life because of how hopeless I felt. When would we be able to go home? When would I feel normal again? Why do I feel this sad?
Once we got home, everything felt like a nonstop fire drill. Minh was a champ and took the night shift so I could recover, but I was still so stressed from the newness and not knowing what to do. I felt like I didn’t even have time to go to the bathroom, let alone eat or shower. Minh and I requested no visits from anyone including family for three weeks — a decision I don’t regret, as extra people in the house at that time would have just stressed me out more, but it meant that it was just us getting used to this new dynamic.
I felt like everything was different. Everything (aside from the new baby) was the same though, so I couldn’t articulate what was wrong. For example, it was like I came home from the hospital and all the furniture in the house was slightly misaligned — so much that everything seemed wrong and it wasn’t my house…but so slightly that I knew rationally that it was just in my head.
I was so delusional that at one point I hallucinated for a couple minutes and couldn’t figure out where I put Leon. He ended up being in his swing, but to this day I’m not sure how he got there. I honestly remembered him being in my arms. Scary stuff, and it should have been a red flag that I needed backup immediately, but I just assumed I was sleep deprived and that type of thing happens to everyone.
As I wrote in April of last year:
After Leon came home, I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t know if I’d ever feel that sort of love for him. I spent several nights Googling “when does having a newborn get easier” and poring over the forum threads in the search results. I knew I loved my baby based on my reaction to him spending time in the NICU; he was fragile and innocent and didn’t deserve to be sick. And part of me was excited that he was finally here. But there was definitely a part of me that was resentful of the fact that I now had just a few minutes to stuff a sandwich down with my left hand while bouncing and swaying him in the carrier. That after struggling through a painful feeding, I had limited time to pee, shower, nap, or do anything before we’d have to wrestle through it again. That I would be so sore — not just from my c-section, but from mastitis, cracked nipples, strained neck muscles, constipation, clogged ducts, etc. That I would go days without venturing outside, but the effort required to get Leon ready (combined with the fear of a public meltdown) made leaving the house completely unappealing. That I would be so tired I would literally hallucinate and forget where I put my child.
I knew having a baby would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard.
As I mentioned, it stressed me out to think about taking a newborn anywhere, but eventually I was able to load Leon in the stroller and take a walk around the block every afternoon. I looked forward to our daily walks because it was like a little reminder that outside the prison of my house, life goes on and things would be normal again soon.
I’m a million times better now — sleeping through the night, a new psychiatrist, and going back to work works wonders — but it’s something I definitely never want to go through again. But hey, we made it through!