It gets easier. It truly does. For the most part. If you’re a mom and your kids are very small, it gets “easier”. Sure the problems might become larger. The conversations. The situations. As your kids grow, things get more complicated, but in my humble opinion, they do in fact get easier. I’m going to paint an after birth picture for you. Not a picture of afterbirth…a picture of life after the birth of a new baby:
You had your bouncing beautiful bundle of joy. It was traumatic on your body, but you are so blinded by love you don’t even care or take the time to notice. People come to visit in the hospital. Your spouse (if you had one) takes a week or two off work. People hold the baby and tell you how beautiful he/she is. Sometimes people even bring you a meal! They offer to hold the baby while you finally catch a shower.
This lasts 5 days…tops. Suddenly everyone is gone. Suddenly you live on an island. It’s the living room rug. You are trapped on the floor between the couch, the TV, the wall to the south, and the loveseat. You have baby furniture on your island. You have a changing blanket where you change the baby on the floor. You have a boppy pillow. You leave the island to go to the bathroom and to wash bottles or breast pump parts. No one comes to the island. NO ONE. And at some point you are so ashamed of the island, you are glad people are not dropping by. There are probably a few diapers that haven’t made it to the pail. You have forgotten to bathe on the island. You have forgotten to care enough to change your clothes. You have a cellphone and it’s used primarily for texting your partner to see when they will be home and asking them to pick something up, ordering food that delivers, and for googling images of baby poop to make sure your baby poop is normal baby poop.
Does it sound familiar or was that just me? Praying that wasn’t just me…
My first baby, Renna, was a dream baby. She’s the kind of baby that makes you think you could have 100 babies and they would all sit with you in restaurants for 3 hours and play with a spoon and smile at strangers and that is normal. I now know that Renna was not normal. Sure we had moments where the crying never stopped or where you couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I was tired from getting up all night, but all in all, she was a doll.
When Renna was 21 months old, along came Sam… Sam came screaming into the world. He was intense. He cried for unknown reasons constantly and whenever we left the house I had to swing this man-child of a baby (10lbs at birth- 18lbs by 4 months) in a 30lb baby carrier like a swing to get him to sleep or calm down. As he grew, Sam hit me. Sam didn’t like anyone else but me, but he took every opportunity to hit me or bite me that came across his upset little path. Sam didn’t speak until he was almost 3. He called every adult mama. He screamed when he wanted something and threw things. He didn’t point. He didn’t gesture. He didn’t understand. Sam was a difficult baby and toddler, but I survived and I FEEL like I did it with grace…and a little help from our local ISD.
When Sam was 2 3/4 😉 Along came the TWINS! Elliott & Lorelei. And this is truly a story about what happened after the twins. Right after they were born, I was HIGH. I was the world’s best super mom. I had Sam on a visual schedule on the wall so we could communicate. I had Renna in preschool 4 mornings a week. We played sensory games together whenever the twins were happy on the floor or in some baby furniture or sleeping. We cooked together and read books and sang songs. If you were on the outside looking in, I’m sure you thought I had it all together. I would put Renna on the bus in the morning and pack up 3 tiny people from the time the twins were 2 weeks old and take them to the ISD for Sam’s speech classes. I would feed two babies at once on the floor while Sam was playing speech games and sensory games with his group. Our house was messy but not a disaster zone (yet). From the outside looking in I was a super hero.
When I was pregnant with the twins, I had all these help offers. “Oh we will come over and just hold babies for you! It will be fun. We want to help!” Before this goes any further, I did live in this fantasy, but in reality I don’t blame any friends or family for having their own lives and this not really being a thing that can happen. The intentions are pure…but real life gets in the way. But after the first two weeks or so, I could count on one hand how many times people actually came over just to help and hold a baby. Being proud, as we all are, I did not ask for help. I had this. I am their mother and it was on me and I hope I’m not screwing them up.
Lewis was working 5 days a week 40+ hours. In the middle of the night when the twins screamed, sometimes at the same time, sometimes at different times, all night long, I felt like it was my JOB to do that alone. I felt like it was my role. I would shake two bottles and sit on the floor and prop them on boppy pillows and feed them both at the same time whenever I could, but DON’T WAKE A SLEEPING BABY! And if one twin was sleeping I was so reluctant to wake them and make them eat that sometimes I didn’t and I would find myself up all night. The next morning, all activities in place on our wonderful visual schedule, classes attended, I moved to the island. They kicked around on the island. They slept on the island. They ate on the island. I played with Sam and Renna on the Island. The island was getting smaller and smaller by the day.
The first 4 months with four children were, dare I say, EASIER than what followed from 4-6 months. They needed more. Elliott and Lorelei were no longer sleepy little premature lumps. They wanted eye contact and stimulation and to be held for no reason. They did not care about my schedule. They did not care that I just worked a double shift, they were still up at night. And I still worked less than Lewis and later in the day, so I still thought it was MY job.
I spent every single day questioning every decision I made. I was certain I was going to raise serial killers or Renna would be in therapy someday with some smug psychiatrist telling her about how every issue she has in life is somehow related to her mother. I thought Sam was on the spectrum, he is not, but he did/does have sensory processing disorder. I worked with him as much as I could but progress was slow and I always felt like when he had a melt down I was some how failing him in the biggest way. How much more could we fit on the island?
When the twins were 6 months old, we had a morning that I will never forget and that changed me forever. We were trying to get ready to go somewhere. Renna and Sam (now 5 and 3) were supposed to be brushing their teeth. The twins were both crying on the floor on the island. Renna and Sam were not brushing. Renna and Sam were messing around in the bathroom and fighting and pushing. I stormed into the bathroom, I looked at these tiny cherub faced, adorable little people, and I LOST MY SHIT. I started screaming incomprehensible things at them. I was throwing things around the bathroom. They stared at me in complete and utter disbelief as I let out an inhuman scream and turned and put my foot through the dry wall in the bathroom. Time froze. Everything went black. I sat on the bathroom floor and I cried. And they cried. And the twins were still crying and I had no idea what had just happened to me.
I called Lewis at work. I could not speak. I could not make a single word. I can only imagine what he must have thought happened. He couldn’t decipher a thing I was trying to tell him in my silence and sobs. He left work and rushed home. He found us on the island and I tried to explain but I couldn’t even comprehend it so I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t put into words what my heart had finally let my brain feel. This went on for over a week. Me crying. Me calling Lewis and him coming home. Eventually he couldn’t any more and it turned into me calling my mom and telling her nothing with silent sobs and her leaving work. When someone was there, I was ok. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew when they were there it was ok. My babies were 6 months old. That is too late for some sort of post-partum right? WRONG.
After about two weeks of constant tears and the inability to speak, I looked at that hole in the wall and I took myself to the doctor. I laughed nervously when I told her about how I put my foot through the wall and how I was sure it wasn’t a big deal but I really wasn’t feeling like myself. She was kind. She nodded. She listened. She wrote me a prescription. At first I didn’t want to take it. It’s like asking for help. It’s like saying you can’t do it. It’s like saying you failed. WRONG.
I started on medication and I did start to feel “better”. It took the edge off so I could put my feelings in check before they overcame me. I would spend the next 3 years on this medication.
So why did this happen? Is it just biology? Is it mom’s just trying to do too much? Is it mom’s feeling like we can’t ask for help? Is it being trapped on the damn Island? 4 walls closing in every single day. Alone, but never alone. Needing an adult, but being the only adult there to care for people who need you constantly and trying to be everything to everyone. We can talk a good game, but what happens when we let ourselves finally feel? We lose our shit. We are the mom that yells. The mom who breaks a plate. The mom who throws a chair (yes I’ve done that too). In our efforts to be a super hero, we lose our ability to be honest. We needed more sleep. We needed more hands. We needed more company and we were too proud to ask. (*disclaimer – I know there are many different, emotional, hormonal, genetic, and environmental reasons for PPD, and everyone’s story and “reasons” are different, but these were mine and I am certain I’m not the only one.)
So I have some advice for moms:
- It does get easier.
- You do not have to be perfect, your children just need love.
- It’s ok to ask for help.
- It’s ok to take a nap when everyone is in a safe place.
- You are not alone.
If you’re expecting and this scared you at all, I first apologize 😉 and then I have some amazing things to say and advice for you too:
- Don’t wish it away. It is all fleeting. Waking up in the night, diapers, teething…it will all be gone someday and you don’t want to miss it.
- Being a mom is the hardest and the most rewarding job on the planet.
- When you’re up feeding your baby in the middle of the night, change your perspective on the world. This is your time. This is you and them, alone in the world. No one else in it. Just the two (or three or four or heaven forbid more) of you. In the silence you can truly see in their eyes the love and adoration.
- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ASK FOR HELP. It does not make you weak. It makes you smart. And people will help. But if they don’t know and you look like a super hero, they won’t be there because they don’t know.
I am not certain I have ever actually regained my sanity, but if not I feel like I manage it well now. I think. And having polled other moms, it’s easy to see that this could very well be any one of us. After some deep facebook chats, I know at least 88% of us hide where our kids can’t find us and eat treats we don’t want them to know exist in the house. At least 48% of us pretend we have to go to the bathroom so we can sit alone for a while. And at least 37% of us lie to our kids about things we don’t want to explain. And yet, we love them…and we do our best every single day.