Postpartum and the Return to Life

Hi. I’m still here. We are all still alive, (I think.) What I did was go back to work. All my intentions of writing a few great pieces about the last days of maternity leave went out the window with my baby who used to sleep through the night. Man, I thought I had it all figured out. It’s like she knew her entire world was about to change, and 3.5 weeks ago she stopped sleeping… like, ever. Unless she’s at daycare. Then she’ll sock away 2 to 3 hours at a time, some days.

Anyways, I wanted to talk about life on the other side. Going back to work was a surprising mix of dread and excitement. I knew I would dread leaving my girl. I never expected to miss the “career” part of myself: the part that enjoys daily adult interaction and contribution to something larger than myself. Any kind of income was also sorely missed, so making the return a necessary step. The first two weeks back were really wonderful. I am lucky to work with a group who welcomed me with open arms, made me laugh, distracted me, fawned over pictures of my child, and kept me busy. I couldn’t imagine having to return to work anywhere else. The hardest part during those first weeks was taking Lily to daycare on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. It was actually physically painful for me, and of course, tears ensued. Yet, I felt really proud of what we were doing. I was back to providing for my family, back on a routine, exposing my daughter to experiences outside of the house, with different kinds of people and new babies to play with. I thought we had it mostly figured out, and I spewed some gratitude for a while. I was tired, but well-rounded and happy. And, at least we had time on nights and weekends to enjoy together, right? Heh.

I soon found out evenings were less about fun and making up for lost snuggles and more about the overwhelming time-tick of making sure we were all ready for the next day. From the moment we walked in the door it was a constant barrage of bathing, sterilizing bottles, packing lunches, making and packing bottles, oh shit we didn’t eat dinner, rocking and singing, attempting a relationship with my husband, and taking turns running upstairs to continue rocking and singing. By the time we’d exhaustedly climb into bed at 11:30, Lily was starting to cry for the 16th time since we put her down. It was too much. It is too much. This is our current reality.

I started to feel buried alive this week as we entered our fourth week of this nonstop new schedule, with a side of 4th month sleep regression (Lily is 3.5 months old.) That means, we put her down anywhere from 7-9 and it doesn’t matter. She is up every hour. Or every 25 minutes. Or if we’re really lucky, every 2 hours. What wakes her? It could be her reflux, her inability to poop ever since I went back to work, her gas pains, potential early teething, or she’s hungry. Is she having another growth spurt? Is she eating enough? Is she going to bed too early? Too late? Is our bed time routine sufficient? There are so many questions and not enough answers. I reached out to mom friends to pick their brains, but for the most part, it only made me feel less competent. Everything feels like a mess. Any wins we’ve had seem like they’ve been tossed out the door. Any progress we’ve made seems for naught. For the digestion problems we’ve tried pear juice, prunes, suppositories, and most recently- I’ve cut dairy from my diet. For the reflux we were put on Zantac. My mom strongly believes it’s this that caused the other problems. She knows I am not sure I agree, but I’m also unsure about everything, so we’ve since weaned her off the meds. For the sleepless nights, we’ve tried to hold and rock her, leave her in her crib and caress her, feed her, and let her cry. Of all these solutions, none of them seem to work for their respective problems. I’m left wondering when it will get better. Three months is the light at the end of the tunnel, they said. Sleep regressions usually last 2 weeks, they said.

Do I sound like a crazy person? Lately, I feel like one. It causes me to wonder if I am among the many women who end up with postpartum depression. I thought I was in the clear, but who knows? I definitely am postpartum overwhelmed. And you know what? I am fine with sharing all of this. In our society, there is a kind of stigma associated with admitting that parenting is hard. Newborns? Adorable but also a real bitch to deal with. I said it! I don’t want to hear how everything is great with you, new moms. I want to hear that you haven’t slept in weeks and also that you are NOT okay with it. I am not okay with it, and don’t want anyone else to be cool about it, either.

Sometimes, you just have to get your thoughts down and get them out of your head. Sometimes, you need to hear that you’re not alone. Sometimes, you need to dive head first into a pity party. Sometimes, you need the Universe to cut you a few favors. We are waving the white flag down here.

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