This piece is a follow up to Tamara’s previous story about her experience with postpartum anxiety.
I have always been high strung, a classic type A personality. I set goals for myself, reach them and instead of patting myself on the back–I examine what I could have done better and set a new goal. Most of my anxiety about things is fear-based, specifically a fear of failure or not being good enough. Motherhood is the perfect petri dish to cultivate this sort of self loathing. All of this resulted in my crash-and-burn frame of mind and a little back patting was in order.
In therapy, I worked on building confidence in my abilities to parent. After all, I was succeeding. My son was gaining weight. He was happy and healthy… and perfect. I just needed to recognize it and trust in my abilities as a mother. Each week I set small goals for myself –goals that either I could think about accomplishing, make some step to accomplish in the near future or actually accomplish.
And this is how I gradually got better.
I worked on “positive self talk.” I know it sounds kooky, but every time I would fret about SIDS, I would tell myself my fears were irrational and my baby was fine. My husband bought me a video monitor and gradually my trips back to check on a sleeping babe were fewer and fewer.
I wanted to go to the public library for baby story time, but I always had an excuse. I didn’t shower, he was hungry, it was nap time, maybe next week. Finally, one day I was done with the excuses. My baby was tired and even a little bit hungry but I fumbled with the Moby, the diaper bag, the house keys and left the house.
I was late. I was walking in LATE with a tired, hungry 3 month old. WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I DOING? I walked the three blocks to the library the entire way repeating to myself, “You suck at this. Man, you’re a shitty Mom.” It was packed, there were probably 30 moms and babies sitting in a circle. I sat close the door so not to disturb anyone and watched my son’s eyes light up for what was left of baby story time. After it was over, the girl next to me leaned over and asked if I was new. I said we had just relocated for my husband’s job. She said, “Oh yeah? Us, too.” the girl next to her said, “We just moved here, too. Welcome.”
Then something crazy happened. The woman to my right said,”Is that wrap hard to tie? I always wanted to try one but it looked way too complicated for me. Did you walk here?”
My baby was hungry so I took him out of the wrap, put on my nursing cover and nursed him right there amongst women I had just met. Another woman looked at me and said:
“Wow, you are good at that! I still can’t figure out how to use that damn cover. I’m always fumbling around with it worrying that my side flab is going to hang out — I don’t even care if someone sees my boob – it’s my gut that I want to cover!”
Before we left they told me they had a playgroup on Tuesday mornings and asked if I wanted to come. I wanted to come, more than they will ever know. I wanted to come.
I walked home, those same three blocks that I walked less than a hour before, this time, celebrating. I did it. I made it to the library, albeit 15 minutes late, and someone said I’m good at something! I wear my baby and I nurse him in public! He likes to go to story time!
We go to playgroup on Tuesdays.
We go to Le Leche League meetings once a month.
We walk to the library for storytime.
I joined a young Jewish mothers group.
I slowly started to gain confidence and I began to walk with my head held higher. Being around other moms showed me that I wasn’t the only one who worried about ruining my child before his first birthday. I wasn’t the only one who was self conscious about my changed body and new role.
I remember that walk home like it was yesterday – the day that I started to see in myself the Mama I wanted to be. After almost three months of weekly therapy sessions my therapist released me from her care. She told me that the woman sitting before her was miles ahead of the broken Mama who entered her office months ago and that if I had any bumps in the road I could always call. My husband’s new job is brutal and for all intents and purposes, I am a single Mama. It’s definitely hard and I have days where my “positive self talk” voice just isn’t loud enough to drown out the teething cries, laundry, and dwindling bank account. But those days are few and thankfully, my husband is here to pick me up when I need it most.
And I’m better now. I cherish every moment with my family and I breath. I have a therapist on retainer.
I am a work in progress. I wake up in the morning with a desire to do my best and go to bed each night with a promise to do better tomorrow. Just like every other Mama I know.