It’s a scene in many-a-war films… The village has just been under attack. It’s quiet now. The dust is starting to settle and the villagers start to emerge from beneath the rubble. Apprehensive, they start to rub their eyes, push the hair out of their faces, tend to their wounds.
Is it over?
They realize the worst is over and relief washes over their faces. They start to smile, laugh and hug each other. They made it out alive. And now it is time to rebuild.
That’s kinda what is happening here.
Needless to say, these past 3 months have been rough. Actually, if I am being honest, I haven’t had a tougher time physically and emotionally.
Just when I thought I had beat the darkness of postpartum depression, it creeped up on me in an unexpected way. Instead of the deep-dark-despair-depression that I had with Lula, it has manifested itself in a pretty bad case of anxiety. Heart racing, can’t breathe, walls are closing in, can’t swallow, somebody-make-it-stop anxiety.
i’m in over my head.
i’ve been through extremely intense situations in my life. why can’t i handle this?
women have two children all the time. more, even. i must be so weak. a failure. i wasn’t cut out for this.
i’m so alone. does no one see that i am so alone here? i’m floundering. why won’t someone hold my hand? pull me out. pick me up.
i keep losing my shit. poor lula. poor olive. poor ryan. they didn’t sign up for this. i need to get it together.
there is something wrong with me. i’m going to be like this forever.
olive is so unhappy. i’m doing something wrong. she’s not even 3 months old yet, and i’ve failed as a mother in so many ways.
These thoughts, they take over, and spin ’round and ’round in my head until I can’t take it anymore. I break down.
Olive is a high-needs baby. Well, all babies are high-needs, but Olive really is high-needs. Some babies don’t care who holds them, some babies tune out sensory over-load and fall asleep anywhere. “What a happy baby! What a joy!” Olive cries if I am not holding her. She fusses most of the time, and typical soothing techniques do not work for her. She will be smiling and laughing one minute, and literally start screaming the next. Dr. Sears calls them “Draining” Babies. Or more like a “Siphoning Baby” because I am transferring my energy to her to help her thrive. Lula was the same way. I have taken it personally. The parents of happy babies have it figured out. They must be better parents than me because their baby is so happy.
I know deep down this isn’t true. I caught up with an old friend last week who has a 6 month old, and she said something that struck a chord with me. She said she has to remind herself that her daughter is a human. She is an entire person, whom she cannot control. This is so true. Olive has her own feelings. Her own needs. She is different than me. Different than her sister. Different than other babies. And different is OK.
Lula was a sensitive baby. The chaos of the world around her was too much for her a lot of the time, and she wasn’t able to process the overload. My sensitive little baby has grown into a brilliant, curious, and vibrant child. I have to remember this. Olive is a lot like her sister. Right now, all I can do is meet her needs. So I do. Through all of the anxiety, all of the frustration, the exhaustion…I feed my baby. I change her and bathe her. I wear her most of the hours of the day, and cuddle her close at night. When she cries, I try my best to make her feel comforted. And slowly, little by little, my baby is trusting me. Learning that her Momma is here to do nothing but love her.
The past couple of days Olive has been transforming. She has been smiling smiles that take up her entire face. Giggling and squealing with delight. She has been easier to soothe, easier to get to sleep. She can be set down for long periods of time and she is able to take in the world without becoming as easily overwhelmed. I can lay her down by herself for naps, and for that, my aching body is thankful. I have noticed my anxiety lessen, my ruminating thoughts subside…the relief of knowing that this chapter might be ending. I know she will only be this little once, as this newborn stage is so fleeting. But it is oh-so-very-hard. My tank is on low, and some days, I wonder if there is enough left in me to give to my family.
But there always is.
It’s been a blur. But the dust is settling, and I am starting to clearly see the joy that the future holds for me. I’ve stood myself up, brushed myself off. Now I’m ready to start really living this life. I’m ready to embrace every moment, good and bad. Practice “being present” like I have always preached.
I have to remember that I am that much stronger for making it through this. That much wiser. Someday, I will pull from this experience and be able to hold my daughter’s hands through the sometimes merciless territory of Motherhood and be living proof that they will make it out alive. And not just alive, but they will come out stronger, better, happier versions of themselves.
I love my daughters. I love my family. This battle is ending, and I am ready to rebuild myself. Put my pieces back together. All is not lost. And really, I have gained so much more.