When I was seven months pregnant with my oldest son, my husband and I moved to a new town. I was one hour away from anyone I knew and three hours away from my family. My doctor placed me on restricted activity, so I was not working and my husband left for work every morning at six and didn’t get home until seven pm. I was alone. All the time.
When I was pregnant, it wasn’t so bad. I ate food, napped, watched a lot of TV, spent a ton of time online googling “what do contractions feel like” and “how will I know when I’m in labor” and “what does a mucus plug look like”. My time was spent and I was ok.
Of course, soon I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Soon, I had a newborn. And I was still all alone.
I was not ok.
Every new mother will tell you how overwhelming those first weeks and months are; how the new responsibilities are daunting and sleep is in short supply, how breastfeeding is hard and just going to the grocery store is intimidating and terrifying. I thought the things I was feeling were normal, post-partum, hormonal, exhaustion-related feelings, typical new mom stuff. Run of the mill. No big deal.
I couldn’t ask anyone though, because I was all alone. From our third day home from the hospital, still healing from my c-section, I cooked every meal, changed every diaper, did every load of laundry, washed every dish. My husband did what he could, but he was working 11 hours a day with over an hour commute one way. I was left to wade through the miasma of first-time-mom craziness completely on my own.
And I was crazy. Off the rails. Completely spun out.
I cried and yelled, I paced and rocked and stayed up late and got up early and never really slept because I was afraid he would die. I panicked about SIDS. I panicked about nursing. I obsessed over his sleep. I knew, deep down in my soul, that I was breaking him, I was doing it wrong, I was unfit. I was convinced someone was going to call social services and have him removed. I knew, KNEW, that his crying, his not sleeping, his intensity, his fussiness was because I was doing something wrong.
That was just the first six weeks. After that, I went really outer limits. I was a classic case of ppd. It was a dark and scary time in my life and I feel like I missed out on the most special times, the sweetest memories, because I was so lost in my depression. I didn’t have a support system. I didn’t have a tribe. I didn’t have a village. I had me. If I’d had someone, anyone, to call, “please come over and hold my baby so I can shower” “Please come over and hold my baby so I can rest” “Please come help me fold the laundry” “Please, come help.” Please. Help.
If I looked back of my Google search history, I would’ve seen hundreds of searches; things like “how long should babies sleep”, “how long should babies stay awake” “how long should babies nurse” “why isn’t my baby sleeping” “how to get babies to sleep” “four week milestones” “early autism signs” “my baby cries all the time” “how to meet mom friends” “is my baby’s poop normal” “my baby spit up” “is it ok to nurse baby to sleep” “what does cradle cap look like”...and on and on and on. All questions I would’ve asked other women in my support network if I’d had one.
Many women have the luxury to be able to take their support system for granted, they never think twice about the fact that their mom lives next door or that their sister lives a few miles away or that they have a best friend who can come over and have a cup of coffee or watch the baby while mom showers. They don’t realize how lucky they are, how truly lucky they are, that they aren’t alone.