I remember the moment I knew it was time to talk to someone.
My colicky daughter, with her dad’s ski-slope nose and a desire to do things she wasn’t remotely capable of doing, was screaming uncontrollably in her swing. I walked upstairs to get her pacifier and found myself fighting a strong urge to crank up the fan, roll myself up in my blanket and forget about the world, and more specifically, the commitment that my daughter represented. It was then I knew I needed to talk to my doctor about the bogeyman of parents everywhere: postpartum depression.
There had been signs before that, of course. I have a history of anxiety and depression. Though the first three weeks of motherhood had been a breeze, a toxic cocktail of colic and hormones eventually hit and brought me to a depth I didn’t know existed. I started fantasizing about locking myself in the garage, turning on the car and just falling asleep. The fantasies began to veer ever-so-slightly into “planning” territory, but until the trudge up the stairs to fetch a pacifier, they didn’t seem like anything worrisome.
One phone call and two days later, I dragged my tired self and my cranky three month-old baby to my obstetrician’s office. I looked around the waiting room at the two or three pregnant ladies; you don’t realize this when you’re pregnant with your first, but to anyone who’s had at least one kid it’s immediately obvious who’s new at this and who is on their second, third, or fourth rodeo. On this day there were a lot of newbies.
I had done the math, the math I’m sure every mom has done: how long do I have before my kid breaks down and this becomes a full-on shit-show.
(I was never good at math.)
My daughter started to fuss and scream, to scream and fuss. I tried a pacifier, I tried rocking her stroller, but she was having none of it. After more than one look in my direction I decided it was time to take her into the hallway. Employing a defense mechanism I’ve used a lot over the course of my life—humor, or a half-hearted attempt at it—I told her, loud enough for the others to hear, “let’s go before we make the pregnant ladies regret their decisions.”
I got a few laughs at least.
We’re almost 19 months in now. It might seem strange to say, and frankly unpopular in this era of “I love everything all the time” social media parenting, but I feel like in the last six months I’m finally starting to like motherhood. I’ve always loved it: from the moment that little girl was placed on my chest I knew I’d love it until my last breath.
But I didn’t like it.
I had to learn to like it.
Somewhere in the day-to-day struggles, with my head down and my eyes focused on surviving the second in front of me, I learned.
The thought hit me tonight when I was cleaning up my daughter’s Megablocks and crayons. It was after a day of typical highs and lows, of snuggles and squirming, of kisses and screams. I put the blocks in the bucket one by one, remembering that in just eight short hours she’d be dumping them out and putting the bucket on her head to make me laugh. I put the crayons back in the plastic tub one by one, remembering that in just eight short hours she’d be tossing them over her tiny table again, some of them falling into the heat register where I’d have to pry them out.
I realized that instead of feeling like what I was doing was totally pointless, I couldn’t wait to watch her do those things. I couldn’t wait to see her excited face as she launched crayons off her table. I couldn’t wait to see that damn bucket on her head. Instead of trudging up those stairs and wishing I could avoid the moment, I was eagerly anticipating it.
Of course I’d felt that same feeling in fleeting moments beforehand, but tonight was the first time that I didn’t feel like an imposter playing a part. I felt comfortable and happy, like I knew what I was doing—at least to the extent that any mom can.
There’ll be times in the coming months and years, I’m sure, where I’ll feel knocked down and unprepared to get back up.
But part of the agonizing beauty of motherhood is that staying down is simply not an option.
Written by Caitlin Abrams. Caitlin is a almost-thirty-something living in New England with her husband, 2 year old daughter, and needy Husky mix. She writes very sporadically about life stuff on her blog Caitlin, etc. When she isn't worrying about screen time or developmental milestones, she enjoys taking pictures, hand lettering and calligraphy, worrying about stuff she can't control, napping alone, being warm, and applying too much chapstick.
Photo by Sandra Kordazakis.
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, don’t miss our podcast episode on postpartum depression