Can time go by any faster? It was 5 weeks ago that we welcomed our little girl to the world in the wee hours on February 14. As expected, life is much busier for us, but definitely manageable. Little Leina is as sweet as can be, making silly baby faces and staring intently at anyone who gives her the time of day. Her older brother steals most of the attention though with his crazy interpretive dances and random tantrums. Her usual routine is to eat, be awake for twenty minutes, fuss because she is tired and sleep (2-3 hours). This gets repeated seven or eight times throughout the day. I forgot how much babies sleep!
I must admit, I had my concerns about being a mother to a newborn again. Everyone told me that although life would be busier, handling the baby would be much easier. But most new mothers didn’t have the experience I did with my first baby. Looking back two and half years ago, motherhood was nothing as I imagined it would be. I was unprepared for the way my drop in hormones would make me feel. For the first week after giving birth, I would cry in the shower and couldn’t understand why I was feeling such sadness. “Shouldn’t I be happy? Why am I crying?” were thoughts that I often had. I was happy to have had a healthy baby and I loved him so much, but for some reason I just felt sad.
Over the next few weeks, I became increasingly anxious, especially when the weather started to become more dreary. I was determined to do everything I had done prior to having a baby. This involved vacuuming, doing the laundry, cleaning, shopping for groceries, cooking, working out, tending to the dogs, socializing and caring for my new baby. My friend would tell me, “You need to nap when your baby naps.” I knew this, and I was so tired, yet I couldn’t relax enough to lay down and catch up on sleep. At the same time, I had no idea how to calm Laird nor did I realize that babies sleep so much and scream their brains out when they are overtired. So the less sleep Laird got, the more tired he became, resulting in a baby that seemed to cry All. THE. TIME.
But, silly new mom, didn’t realize that this is what was happening. I was sure it was colic or my milk supply, as Laird would often be fussy when I nursed him. “He’s hungry. I don’t think I’m producing enough milk for him,” was my logical conclusion. And as I became more stressed about my milk supply, everytime I was to nurse him, my anxiety just got worse. I was prescribed a drug, Reglan, to help with my milk supply without knowing anything about the serious side effects of anxiety, depression and suicide.
Eventually, two months after Laird was born, I had a panic attack in the middle of a sunday night. I would never wish one on anyone, especially one of this length. For what seemed like hours, I laid trembling in my bed, sweating, not being able to slow my breath while tingles raced up my neck and down my arms. I thought I was going to die. Over the course of the week, the tingles in my arms and neck and the feeling that my skin was crawling did not stop. The anxiety continued. My stomach churned constantly, I couldn’t fall asleep and I lost five pounds as I had no desire to eat. Losing hope that my body would never feel the same again and fearing another panic attack, I quickly became depressed. I began to fear the night, as I knew that despite wanting to sleep so badly and being exhausted, I would lay in my bed all night, fearful of another panic attack. As each night passed and I lay restless, thoughts of ending my life started entering my mind and becoming more real.
By friday, I had no desire to do anything. It took every ounce of energy and will for me to get out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth and eat. All I wanted to do was lay in bed. I would pray, “God, please make the tingles stop, make my stomach stop churning, please help me to sleep. Please make me feel normal again.” On Saturday, I went to the ER on my doctor’s recommendation because I was now having suicidal thoughts. They gave me anti-anxiety meds which slowly calmed me and advised against staying at the hospital. The feeling of my skin crawling subsided, but I was very depressed.
The next day, I decided to fly to Hawaii to be with my family and in the sun. For five weeks, I slowly got better. I wasn’t sad anymore, yet neither was I happy. But, I was finally able to enjoy being a mother. And over a few months, I started to feel like myself again.
During my second pregnancy, friends close to me expressed their concern about anxiety and depression following Leina’s birth. I was a little worried too, not knowing how I would handle the fluctuation in my hormones and the change in seasons. But, more than anything, I regretted my first few months with Laird and wanted the chance to truly enjoy motherhood, to relish this precious time with my new baby.
And so far, I’ve done just that. Although there are days that the weather gets me down and I am stressed caring for Laird and tending to Leina’s baby needs, I am just so thankful that I have been given the second chance to be the mommy I’ve always wanted to be.