This Isn't How I Thought It Would Be
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
When my husband (David) and I decided we wanted to start our family we had been married for nearly 5 years already. We got married at the young age of 21 so we wanted to get settled into our careers and life as a married couple before adding kids to the mixture. We had countless conversations during that time about how we wanted to parent, how many kids we hoped we would have and how nice it would be to share life with mini-Davids and/or mini-Ambers. Essentially, by the time we decided to start a family we felt confident and prepared...two words that I would never ever associate NOW to describe becoming parents, LOL!! When we got pregnant with our first baby it happened quickly and the pregnancy was super easy on me - we were very blessed as I know that this isn't always the case. Labour was a WHOLE other story (maybe I'll write a blog post on all that another time) because it was LONG and HARD, but in the end we had our first beautiful baby girl - Elizabeth Karen Clare - born on September 3rd, 2012. You know how mothers will always say that it's incredible how you can love someone SO much even though you only just met them? Well it's true - Beth was stunning in every single way and I couldn't get enough of her!!! But the post-script to that is how much your life and perspective changes in that same instant that you become a parent. Going home from the hospital, it felt like either a million years had passed since we entered only 3 days before or we had entered a new dimension. EVERYTHING felt new and/or unfamiliar because I was no longer living just for myself anymore - instead I am literally the life-giver and life-sustainer for a new human being. WOWZERS.
When I reflect on the first few months of Beth's life I can see that there were signs that I was experiencing Post-Partum Anxiety (PPA) right from the start. In the first few weeks I unexpectedly decided to formula feed instead of breastfeed. It wasn't that Beth was not latching well or because she wasn't growing properly. It was because my anxious mind had latched (pun intended ;)) onto an irrational fear that I was not providing her with enough food AND that I would be secluded from people forever because I wasn't comfortable feeding her in a group/public setting. Not to mention I was exhausted from her long labour and the nights of little sleep that immediately followed. I was being tortured by these fears constantly for the first two weeks of her life and it was getting to the point where I was feeling resentment while nursing her, instead of bonded and connected. With David's support, and after more than a few conversations with my Mom and close friends, we transitioned Beth to formula by her third week. While this decision was right for our family and did bring me a lot of relief, it also brought with it intense guilt. I believe that this guilt was the beginning stages of what caused my PPA to become so severe. This guilt caused me to doubt my ability to be a good mother - it planted the seeds of negative self-talk and was undermining my confidence in being able to mother Beth on my own. Without realizing it I was digging myself into a well that was very deep and very hard to climb out of. While I was getting through each day with Beth on my own with relative ease, I was feeling extremely lonely and constantly worried about my self-perceived inadequacy as a new mom. I was also unexpectedly missing my work and co-workers very much - this surprised me! While I had always loved my job and who I worked with, I did not realize how much it had become part of my identity and I struggled to know who I was without it. Something was not right, but I couldn't pinpoint where that feeling was coming from nor how serious it was. This wasn't how I thought it would be...but why not?
In January 2013 our first niece was born in St. John's, Newfoundland - we were SO excited that Beth was going to have a cousin so close in age!! Automatic bestie for life, right?? We planned a trip to visit my brother, sister-in-law and the new baby a couple weeks after she was born, in February. For a number of reasons we had planned the trip so that I would be in Newfoundland a few days before David and also leave a couple of days after him - I would be travelling solo with Beth. When we had initially planned this I knew that it could be tough travelling alone with a 5 month old baby but otherwise I really thought nothing of it. In the days leading up to our trip I noticed that I was beginning to feel really anxious about it - mostly about being with Beth on my own. I was worried that she wouldn't fly well - since she drank out of a bottle I was concerned that the change in pressure would cause her a lot more pain than if she had been nursed (the guilt of not breastfeeding sneaking its way in there). I was worried about the time change, as it was 3.5 hours earlier there, and I was very sensitive about her sleep schedule. I was also worried that I wouldn't be enough for Beth; that I wouldn't know how to comfort her properly or that I would run out of patience. It was at this time that I was realizing that I depended on David a whole lot more than I ever thought I did and the idea of being without him was literally scaring me! A 26 year old mother terrified of being alone with her baby...I felt ridiculous and weak.
When travel day finally arrived I was a mess - I was extremely stressed, very emotional and felt unable to get any kind of control on myself. I did not feel like me at all and I didn't understand why this had become such an issue, which also made me feel frustrated and angry at myself. There were two things repeatedly running through my mind during this time: 1) what is wrong with me?! and, 2) Beth deserves a mother who is way better than me.
These were the first few days of what would becoming a VERY LONG journey. While the PPA had been slowly building since the very beginning it wasn't until this trip that it truly began to affect me in a way that was debilitating and ultimately dangerous.
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