I still have a hard time talking and thinking about those first few months with my son. It was a mixture of extreme highs and extreme lows. I felt so overwhelmed. With love, with loneliness, with gratitude, with anger, with joy and with sadness.
When I think back to that time, I don’t recognize the person I was. I am naturally a very calm person. I teach yoga, I meditate, I journal and I cope well in stressful situations.
I did not cope well in those first months.
I think it all started with my lack of sleep. I remember being so afraid to sleep because I worried he would stop breathing. Or that he’d choke. Or just die. I was so afraid to sleep because I didn’t trust anyone else to look after him. And then I became unable to sleep.
I remember some days it was hard for me to leave the house. I was so nervous that he would start crying when we were out. I remember feeling irrational and yet unable to gain any perspective.
He would only sleep on me. So I let him sleep on me. I’d nurse him to sleep and then I would sit staring at him in complete awe. I would try to sleep, but when it wouldn’t come I would spend the hours looking at pictures I took of him earlier that day and watching Netflix. (I watched every Gilmour Girls episode!)
He would only settle if I walked with him in the carrier. So I walked for hours a day. If it was raining out I pace the house. I lost my appetite and I lost weight even faster.
My husband and I were ships passing. Both angry, both frustrated. We were not a team and I had never felt so alone.
My friends and family visited for the first little while and then there was no one. I was completely alone and I remembered thinking: this can’t be normal. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this is what people do. People have kids all the time. Is this how it was for everyone? Was I normal? What was I doing wrong?
And then one day, when my son was about four months old, I was out walking with him in the Ergo carrier and I remember feeling a sense of calm. I felt the wind on my face and heard the trees rustle above me. I looked up and saw the sun poking through a mass of clouds.
I know it sounds silly to remember that, but in that moment I felt such a profound shift in my emotional wellbeing.
From that day things gradually got better. I started to breathe again.
I still had cloudy days and I still felt extreme emotions (I still do), but after that it was manageable. When he started sleeping through the night at 10 months I finally started sleeping again. Things got much better after that!
My son is now 20 months and I’m nearly 21 weeks pregnant with my second. I try not to think back to that dark time because it scares me. But I know it’s important for me to think about it and remember that it does get better. The clouds do part and the heaviness lifts.
And who’s to say that I’ll have the same experience? Perhaps my son will help ground me. That my husband being home will help ease my anxiety. That this little baby girl won’t be high needs like her brother and I’ll have the emotional space I need to take care of myself.
But if I do have the same experience, I do like to think that I’ll find some comfort in knowing that the clouds do part eventually.