So, I don’t usually start my posts with an introduction, but I feel like this one needs it. This is a post that I’ve been sitting on for more than a year, because I’ve felt too ashamed to write it. Reading the post again makes me feel like the ultimate failure as a mother. It is raw, honest, and painful. Today I am deciding to share it because I am in such a different place mentally and emotionally, and I’m hoping that looking back at that devastating moment with a newborn might help another mother feel like she’s not alone. Maybe she will feel like there’s hope for tomorrow. Maybe it will get her through another day, and then another. Because the truth is it does get easier. The newborn phase has been the hardest experience I’ve ever had to endure, compounded by my postpartum depression and anxiety. So, without further delay, here is my most shameful moment yet….
It happened this morning: The three little words I never thought I’d say as a mother
It happened this morning. I said those three words I never fathomed that I, or any other mother, would ever say about their offspring. “I hate him.”
I was standing at the side of the bed, having just pulled myself out of it, rolling him off my arm where I had been trying to get him to go back to sleep. My husband groggily looked up at me from his side of the bed. “Want me to take him?” “No” I dutifully replied. I immediately changed my mind. “Yes,” I had said, “I need a minute.”
As I left the room I could feel hot tears threatening to cross my lid brim into reality. He’d been up most of the night since 6:30 the evening before. He woke every 30-90 minutes. Sometimes he was starving, sometimes he was just seeking out comfort. Maybe typical for a newborn, but not for a 5-month-old.
I went downstairs into another room and flopped down on the guest bed like a ragdoll. I guardedly let the tears fall, not allowing myself to succumb to an actual crying fit. My husband woke me what felt like a minute later, informing me that he had to get ready for work; I hadn’t realized I fell asleep.
I was stuck again with the sleepless monster. A monster that on any other day had the ability to make my heart melt with this toothless grin. On any other day his crying sound of “maaaa maaaaa” made me a love-gooey puddle. But not today. Today in the still twilight I hated my son.
Stuffing away the feelings I strapped him into his high chair to continue our usual routine. I ate my cereal. We started at each other in silence. He looked as tired as I felt. I knew we were at our breaking point. We wouldn’t be ourselves today.
I called his doctor’s office, hope dangling by a thread that she could help me. “What is the appointment for?” the receptionist asked. My answer gushed out in hasty breath, and ended with “We really need some help.” My voice sounded broken, even to me.
After an unusually short and ungratifying nap for both of us, I relegated him to his prop-up chair and turned on cartoons. After moments of indecision, I settled on a shower. It didn’t help. After pulling out clothes that would fit my post-partum body from the laundry pile that never seemed to make it back to the dresser drawers, I was rewarded for my personal time with crying.
I returned to see tears streaming down his face. I didn’t feel anger anymore; I didn’t feel anything. Maybe this was what giving up feels like. I decide to strap on the elaborate baby carrier, clicking buckles and tightening straps that pull my son closer and tighter against me—a last ditch effort of peace and an attempt to finally feed myself.
We stare at each other without exchanging a sound. I wonder what he’s thinking. I wonder if he wonders the same thing. He finally gives up, puts his head down on my chest, and falls asleep. I feel relief pour over me like the hot water of my shower had in what seems like an eternity ago. Where do we go from here?
I pray that the words I had spoken in the early hours were out of frustration, and not my heart. I pray that my son never knows how I felt towards him at that moment, fearing an eternal scar upon his tiny mind.
Where do we go from here? I continue on my path of motherhood, holding his small hand along the way. Perhaps tomorrow will bring me that toothless grin I so cherish, bringing us back in sync within the most sacred bond of nature between mother and child. I’ll hold on until then.