It’s been 6 months. SIX months. Seis meses. Wow. I cannot describe the relief I feel for making it to six months. For what seemed like forever, it felt like we’d never live to see that sixth month. I thought we’d be counting in weeks forever. I was terrified that it would never get better. I had no idea how much I was suffering with depression and anxiety. I tell you this because one day, I hope you have a child, and I hope that you and your partner will support each other just as your father has supported you and me throughout this struggle.
I always knew that having a child would be hard. I understood that things would change, but I never realized that things would continue changing on a daily basis. That it wasn’t the singular change of “here’s your baby.” It’s a tumultuous rollercoaster of ongoing change. There was no way to truly fathom the chaos that waking every 2 hours to feed a baby while recovering from surgery and suffering with an undiagnosed gallbladder infection would inflict on our lives. I didn’t realize that breastfeeding would be so difficult, and the entire world of feeding and mommy guilt that comes with it. I thought I understood that my awful childhood would surface someday and that I knew what that meant. I thought I was strong enough to do this, on my own, without help. I was so wrong.
It took 12 long weeks for me to walk into that doctor’s office and say “I think I have post-partum depression.” A full 6 weeks after the lactation consultant referred me. I only said something because I felt so perpetually angry. I had no idea that anxiety could make someone so angry, agitated, and miserable. That’s what it was, anxiety. I was so scared that I was doing everything wrong and ruining you before you even had a chance at life. I was afraid that the supplemental formula and donated milk I was giving you were the wrong choices. I was terrified to take you out in public in fear of you becoming hungry. I couldn’t go to a doctor’s appointment on my own. I was absolutely obsessed with feeding. I couldn’t quit breastfeeding and I couldn’t continue. Mostly, I couldn’t stand how much I felt like a failure.
When you have to do something 8-12 times a day, it becomes all-consuming. When you feel like you’ve failed at something 8-12 times a day, you feel like you’ve failed at everything. That’s how I felt. I felt like I had absolutely and irrefutably failed you. I couldn’t feed you. I tried so many things from pumping to medication only to find that I couldn’t make enough to help you grow. You quickly fell from the 85% in weight to the 2%. I had to supplement with formula. At least 8 times a day, I was reminded exactly how I’d failed you. I tortured myself over it. I felt like the whole world was judging me when you cried after a feeding in public. I could feel every mom staring at me when I fed you a bottle. Everything I did felt like it revolved around feeding and it was all wrong. It was a dark place. I started to question if your father and I had done the right thing in having a baby. I started to wonder if I was so un-maternal that I couldn’t raise you. I feared that I had ruined my life.
I did not tell your father that’s how I felt until after I let it escape my lips in a therapy session. This letter is also the first time I’m truly admitting that I needed therapy to cope with a new baby. I needed an impartial person to hear what I’d been through and just say “damn.” For me, it took a professional to coach me into realizing that I had experienced birth trauma, that I had given so much more of myself than I realized, and that I needed to make time for myself as well. It took professional help for me to really understand that what you and I have done in the past 6 months has truly been incredible. Against all odds, we’re still breastfeeding. Against all odds, we’ve bonded so remarkably well that not one psychiatric professional has questioned my devotion to you. Against all odds, we’re happy together. I’ve given you so much more than I even knew I had to give. You have shown me what it means to be devoted in a way that no other relationship could. I have learned that I’m so much more than I ever fathomed I could be. We have grown together in these last 6 months, and I am eagerly awaiting the next 6 months.
The fog has lifted. The help that I was so afraid to ask for has made a world of difference for me. I now look forward to the next 6 months. I am eager to see you crawl (so much that I get on the floor and crawl in circles around you as an inspiration), love to watch you try new foods, and absolutely melt when you laugh. Your favorite foods are mango and pizza crust (just like daddy), but you just kept picking up the broccoli and asparagus spears to stick them in your mouth like they are familiar to you (these are my favorite vegetables). You are a child that is truly a reflection of both of your parents, and it gives me such great joy to watch you develop your own personality. It gives me such relief that the terror and anxiety of the first 6 months are both unfounded and gone. The anticipation I have for your development has created so much joy in my life. I look forward to tomorrow, and the weeks, months, and years following. I am just so happy that I’m now truly here to enjoy it, and I hope that if you ever have a child that you can enjoy it as well. Just remember, the hardest things in life are the most rewarding. You, sir, are by far the most rewarding and difficult part of my entire life. My heart explodes with love for you, my whole being loves your father for helping me to create you, and my inner voice is now cheering me on for being so good to you.
I can only hope that one day you experience this love and awe with someone you adore. You are my sunshine.