A NEW NORMAL
Little girl, 16 weeks old, light skin, likes to feed all day and fight sleep, enjoys bath time. Can be trained. Comes with toys. Call me. Price on request. Serious buyers only.
That was me about two weeks ago. Gong was into week two of yet another growth spurt, she was being clingy and fussy, and I was at my wits’ end. I was exhausted from being around her every waking minute, I missed my life before the baby, and all I wanted was to get a break from her. Nothing dramatic, I just felt like being away from her for longer than a two-minute pee break would be nice. Though in hindsight maybe coming up with an ad for the classifieds might have been a bit much, but at the time all I wanted was to not be a mom, even if just for a few hours.
That was until I read a post on Facebook, encouraging moms to share their stories of postpartum depression (PPD). I was shook. There’s a lady who spoke about slapping her newborn because he wouldn’t stop crying; another who wanted to kill herself because she thought her family would be better off without her, and yet another who would shake her baby in desperation. I read of women who spent hours crying with their babies; women who’d survived periods so dark that they couldn’t believe they had once wanted to drive into oncoming traffic just to end it all.
Being a mom is not easy, and being a woman doesn’t mean that motherhood comes naturally to you. At least it hasn’t been for me. Throughout my pregnancy I’d see photos of glowing Insta-moms with their perfectly round bellies, fashionable outfits and little broods, and I’d be like, I can do that, how hard can it be? Until I started piling on the weight and got too tired to keep trying so hard, then I told myself to calm down and just let things be. Also known as eat your heart out and just be a fat, happy girl.
Then I got the baby and I’d still see these Insta-moms who made it seem like everything was so easy. Like breastfeeding was a breeze and came with instant weight loss, while I’d curse in pain each time Gong latched, and I’m yet to lose the baby weight despite breastfeeding and pumping all the damn time.
I remember during the first weeks, and even now during this long growth spurt (we’re on week 5 now), I’d look at My Lover coming back from work and wonder why we couldn’t trade places. At first I’d be excited about hearing all about his day, wanting to know how things were outside these black walls. But then I’d listen to him talk about it and watch him respond to emails and feel a little resentment rising; I also wanted to come back from work with my nice work clothes and my laptop and have urgent things to respond to, instead of spending most of my days in leggings and vests, nursing, changing and coaxing Gong to sleep, on repeat.
I wanted to have the option of getting up and leaving the house without having to think through a million things first, just like he did. To meet up with my people for a loose drink after work, just like he did. I wanted my old life back, to be the career woman again, not just the caregiver; the mom.
Some days I still feel like that. I want to wear my tight skirts and high heels and have emails to respond to and deadlines to moan about; to have a better answer when asked how my day was, beyond things like “she’s back to pooping mustard now” and “we took a nap”.
Some days I still want to take a break from my baby, go away by myself and just do something really adult; like order lunch that requires you to use a fork and knife (my baby specifically waits for me to start eating before she demands attention, so I’ve been forced to learn to eat with one hand while I nurse her). I’d like to have said lunch with a high content alcoholic beverage (I can only take the occasional dilute shandy now), and read a good book, without wondering how long I can go without having to milk myself.
But after reading those women’s stories, I’ve stopped whining. I love my Gong, but do I love being a mom every day? No. But woe is not me. Now I give thanks. I know that even when my baby has really tried me (kwanza on Sundays), I’m pretty damn lucky to have her and not have to deal with a debilitating mental situation at the same time. Now, I find pleasure in the most mundane of tasks, like making my bed while she smiles and coos. And I am grateful that I have a Lover who will look at me and tell me that I have the most important job; that gets me through the day, and it reminds me to spare a thought for all those new moms out there battling PPD and the baby blues. This is my new normal, and I pray that theirs gets better.