After going back to work and dividing my time between work; and trying to be everything to everyone there, and home; and trying to be be best mom and girlfriend I could be, I was running on empty. For months I had been running between hospital, work, home, repeat, that I had completely forgotten about myself. I hadn’t been sleeping, or doing any kind of self care at all. This seemed to include sleep as well. I was emotionally and physically exhausted and trying to keep things together and I feared that I was failing. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognized myself. Who was this woman with dark luggage under her eyes, a still protruding round-ish belly and pain in her back all the way to her big toes? I felt tired and gross all the time, and anxious. Like my heart was pounding in my throat all the time and I didn’t know how to calm it. Kevin and I were struggling to find a balance and keep our relationship on track and it felt like nothing we did for each other was right or worked or was enough. After multiple blow ups and some rather serious panic attacks for both of us, we sought some counseling for us individually and together.
Finding the right therapist is tricky and while ours helped us to a point, we got stuck over some issues and weren’t able to find resolve or peace with them, but we’re able to find compromise between ourselves and promised to work on things together. But trusts had been broken and words had been said that cannot he taken back. And that was going to take longer to heal than I ever imagined. What was wrong with us? Did everyone have this tough of a time after they had their first child?
Turns out that the answer is yes! I put out a post on Facebook asking for stories or comments on how it affected relationships the first year of a child’s life. Women mostly replied but a few men replied as well and all confirmed that the first year after their first baby was born was the hardest year of their relationships. There are a million books to “guide” you through the first few years of your child’s life (most of these just make you feel like a bad parent when your child doesn’t meet EVERY milestone exactly on time), but there are few on how having a baby, especially a preterm baby who spent 4 months in the hospital, takes a toll on mom and dad. And we were trying to find our own way to heal.
Kevin seemed to be living his best life, getting in shape and healthy and spending time with family and friends, shutting me out of most of it. While I felt I was sitting in the dark, afraid that my fear and anxiety was going to take over and I was never going to see the sun again. I felt horrible about myself-my thinning hair (it had been falling out in what seemed to be handfuls-something they forget to tell you about what happened AFTER you have a baby) was one of the toughest things to manage. I had gone from long, blond, super healthy beach waves, to thin, dull, lifeless hair that I finally cut into a bob to give it a fresh start. My hairstylist and friend, Amanda talked me through it, got me amazing products and gave me the tools to take control of at least one of the things on my plate.
Due to our opposite schedules so that one of us was always with the baby, I didn’t find time to go to the gym very often and my body still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I felt like my body had been blown up and the hit by a car and left in a ditch. Why was I feeling so awful about everything when I finally had my baby girl home with me?
Everything that the “typical” mom goes through seems to be right after the baby is born. The grieving that you are no longer carrying your baby in your belly. The struggle to breastfeed or pump (pumping was something I did not have an issue with!), the hormonal roller coaster that you ride as your hormones try to normalize. I didn’t really do any of those things because I was busy worrying that my daughter actually couldn’t breath on her own. I was busy trying to just heal my c section scar and and didn’t have time to acknowledge that my hormones were at 11, while my daughter’s lungs struggled to work, and I wondered if she was ever coming home. I didn’t have time for petty people and their even pettier whining and their selfishness. I needed something to be stable for 5 minutes. I needed to find some security that someday things will be “ok”. I surveyed the wreckage around me and it looked like a town that had been hit by a hurricane. I had to start cleaning up what was left after the storm.