The road of parenthood is a long one. I've learned this recently while sitting at a table with my aunt. She and I were discussing her very long and, more often than not, challenging road with her forty-something son. I sat at the table holding my own son, just six and a half months old. She said, "When he was young, I thought 'he is amazing, so special' and he was - he was so full of possibility." I looked at my little blondie and thought the same thing: he is so little, but simply so perfect.
The beginning of my relationship with my son was complicated by my own emotional mess. I felt tortured by my own mind. I would wake up each day in the very beginning and feel the weight of responsibility. For six weeks I cried because I was happy, stressed, disappointed, thrilled, exhausted, blessed, frustrated, blissful and alone. I could not put my finger on why I cried, why everything seemed to add stress, nor why I felt so lonely and consumed by sadness while surrounded by a large family. All of the unknowns seemed only to make me cry more.
There were obvious triggers. Breastfeeding this child wasn't as easy as the first child. He seemed to fight me on every go. I worked with a lactation consultant at the hospital and met with her twice afterward, but even while she was trying to help me and while I wanted it to work, the fact that it wasn't smooth sailing created a desperate disappointment and made me feel as though I was failing. In moments of clarity, I knew that wasn't the case. I wasn't a failure as a mom - I'd done a fine job with everything else-growing him, delivering him, nurturing him, bonding with him. Feeding him, though, was so critical that it overrode all other aspects.
Trying to make the transition smooth and emotionally uncomplicated for my three-year-old daughter was a battle. It was, however, a battle I was fighting with myself alone. I created the complications in my head before they arose, I planned for the worst case scenario. I was certain the introduction of a brother was going to cause strain on my perfect relationship with her and send her into a state of worry and sadness. I was projecting my own feelings onto her. Again, in moments of clarity, I knew that wasn't the case. Additionally, if she did initially struggle with the newness of the boy - she certainly wasn't going to be permanently scarred by it. She wouldn't likely even remember her life prior to his existence. The frustrating element was that it was my own mind creating the majority of the anxiety - as it turned out, there was very little going wrong for my daughter. She had a heck of a good time with Mama and Papa; she got presents from everyone she knew for several weeks for no reason at all. She made out like a bandit.
At my first post-partum doctor visit I cried from the moment my doctor stepped into the room until she left. The whole time. It was as if the sight of her unleashed all feeling. We talked at length, she filled in so many blanks, she said "Call me anytime - night or day and we can talk more. I want to hear from you." She put me on depression watch for weeks afterward; she wanted to see me every other week until I felt better, and at each visit she offered a prescription. Instead, we created a plan for coping: ride it out for six weeks, then she would refer me to a therapist if it hadn't passed, and prescribe something if at the end of six weeks I wasn't feeling more like myself. Her plan and proactive approach gave me immense hope and encouragement.
While I sat at the table with my aunt listening to her lifetime of struggle, I wondered when, as mothers, we aren't happy, stressed, disappointed, thrilled, exhausted, blessed, frustrated, blissful and alone. While the crying spells of the baby blues had an end for me it is ever clear that the emotional roller coaster will never cease. Where is the doctor on call for the next 40 years? It will always be something, and we will never have control of it as we think we do. The only thing we can control is how we respond in the moment. I hope to maintain my doctors proactive approach - have a plan, be hopeful, have encouragement.
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