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“This is so hard. I don’t know if I can do it.”
“It’s okay, you can. Just breathe.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. I have hardly slept, I’m so tired, and I I feel so alone, help me.”
That is the gist of most of the online conversations I had with my sister, back in January 2010, my first week of new motherhood.
I had never been more terrified, more alone, more vulnerable.
I was far away from home, from my family. We had traveled to my husband’s home country to have our baby, so that he could have citizenship there.
I never thought it would challenge me as much as it did.
When my son was four days old, I broke down and sobbed when a kindly midwife asked me how I was. I told her I had no idea why I was crying. Postpartum blues, she said. Perfectly normal, you’ve been through a lot. It’s not called “labor” for nothing, she joked gently.
When my son was six days old, I was having the first of those “help me” conversations with my sister.
When my son was one week old, my husband held me as I sobbed, and told him, “I want to go home. Please. I can’t wait another 10 days.”
When my son was two weeks old, we flew home.
When my son was 15 days old, my marriage strained. From my inexplicable possessiveness of my firstborn. From my irrational first-time motherhood paranoia. From my husband’s inability (and mine) to understand why and how I had turned into a first-class bitch.
When my son was 15 days, 12 hours old, my husband and I sat down for a heart-to-heart.
I told him I had no idea why I was falling apart. I just knew I desperately loved my child and him and our marriage. He nodded, I sobbed.
We then promised each other to stick it out together. For our son’s sake. For our sake.
When my son was a month old and wouldn’t stop crying, I had a fleeting thought of doing harm. To myself, to him – I am not sure. I can’t even think about it or type it out now, without the fear of being judged. I know I would never, could never, ever hurt him. But that I thought it scared me.
As weeks and months passed, I got better at the motherhood gig. There were still moments where I felt desperately inept. Like I was thrust into a movie with no script. But I learned to ad lib. To make it up as I go along. To follow my instincts.
I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression or any other mental illness. Now that I have more knowledge of what PPD is, I don’t believe I had it.
I do believe that I was a new mother flailing, with very little support when I needed it most. I didn’t ask for help. I resisted thinking I even needed it.
I needed it.
As I approach being a mother the second time round, I believe I am more prepared.
No, I know I am.
I’m going to be alright.
New mothers, you will be too.
“Strength isn’t about how much you can handle before you break, it’s about how much you can handle after you break.” – Unknown
I am truly okay, friends.
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