The first feeling I had as a new mom was, “it is not about me anymore.” After they rolled me out of awake-surgery (which is now and forever how I will refer to a C section) they handed me the person I had felt but never met, and everything became instantly about her. This was deeply affirmed in the weeks after she was born, when I attempted to recover from major surgery by not sleeping more than two hours in a row, wincing in pain for hours a day nursing her, and putting every need of mine after hers were met (and babies need to be taken care of constantly, in one or two hour cycles, repeated indefinitely). When I was wheeled into the hospital for induction, I’d spent nine months taking the best care of myself I ever had, in support of her. Once they wheeled me out, I stopped thinking of myself all together.
I’ve gotten better at that, recognizing my own needs, in the months since Lu’s birth. For the last couple of months I’ve been cruising: I started sleeping again after switching to formula, I get out often, and I’ve felt happy (in control).
Now, at 4 months postpartum, something is shifting. A couple of bad days have turned into a bad week and a half. I’m wrestling with insomnia and bad dreams. The black cloud of doomsday anxiety that cornered me as a kid seems to be taking up residence again. I feel overwhelmed by the thought of caring for Lucy for another whole day without help, which is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had, because it’s the only thing in the world I want to be able to do. Maybe it’s just a bad week and a half, but maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe I need help.
There’s a lot going on. I’m home alone with Lucy in a town where I don’t know anybody for 12 hours a day, her sole care provider. During her increasingly infrequent and short naps, I’m trying to start a business so I can continue to stay home with her. My hormones are jacked up from birth and, more recently, birth control. I threw my back out five days ago rocking her to sleep at 2am (because she’s so good at sleep), and then couldn’t turn my head or neck for three days. I don’t have time to heal because I spend 12 hours a day with a 15 pound jellybean on my hip. I think anyone would have anxiety in this situation, right?
I’m deeply wary of psychiatry, having spent more than a few years over a decade ago on a varying cocktail of pills. I’m also skeptical of new-age therapy, where you sit in a little room on a big brown couch while a woman in yoga pants with certificates in Healing Energy guides you through a visualization of your inner rainbow chakra. Neither of these things have worked for me in the past, so why should they work now? (I realize there are other options, and I’ve tried a lot of those, too.)
I need to make a plan, because maybe this will get better, but maybe it won’t. I’m not willing to sit back and roll with it, because I desperately want to be present for my life right now. I’m not sure what I need, but it’s time to start exploring.
I took a restorative yoga class this morning (and god, my back really feels a lot better now). As I was relaxing into stretches, into my body, I fought the urge to break down more than a few times. The moments that almost made me cry were the ones where the teacher came around and put a blanket over my legs because the room was cold, or a small bolster under my neck for support. They were little physical acts of human kindness and gentleness that I have not allowed myself postpartum, because I’ve given them all away.
I’ve always felt this disconnection between my body and my brain, but it’s so much more pronounced now. After an incredibly traumatic birth (have I mentioned the AWAKE SURGERY), I hated my body for not allowing me the kind of experience I’d imagined: the one where I’d revel in the unity of my body, mind (and, okay), spirit. The one that wouldn’t be held back the physical and sexual trauma it had known. The one that would Overcome Something and Produce Something and make me feel like a fucking warrior.
But what actually happened is that I had a shitty birth experience, and then I turned down the volume on myself, and turned every sensitivity, every nerve, into a way to provide for Lucy. I’ve done everything to feel good and keep it all together, but now it feels like the facade is crumbling. If I really dig deep, the truth is that I’m in pain. I’ve tried to ignore it and fight through it, but the weird, hurt, damaged child in me is starting to feel like a weird, hurt, damaged adult.
I need help, and I’m going to ask for it.