I had just dabbed the blood on my upper lip while fighting back tears. My tears weren’t there because of the blood, but because of the frustration. I was so angry and frustrated that I was the ONLY ONE *insert my most dramatic voice here* taking care of anything in our house. My husband didn’t have to feed the baby because I was exclusively breastfeeding, strictly from my breast and never a bottle (this was a sign of my postpartum anxiety going undetected).
I was keeping up with the laundry because he turned everything pink no matter what color it entered the washer, and feeding the dogs because he didn’t remember. Basically I thought that all things could only keep going if I did them because my husband couldn’t do anything right. This is the most wildly false statement/thought/attitude I’ve ever had while married, but it was ruling over me without relent so I cried.
I lost my mind as that blood dabbed my lip while my son ‘soothed’ himself to sleep by clawing my face. I just started screaming like a toddler banshee with a better vocabulary: “WHY AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THE FINGERNAILS IN THIS HOUSE?!” aka to my husband “What are YOU doing to contribute to anything around here?!” Cue the crying because at this point in my postpartum journey it was just continual crying from me or the baby with small intermissions to eat and sleep (and cut fingernails).
On one of my crying breaks I began to explain to my husband that I cut both dog’s nails, our son’s nails, and my own, and that there were four too many nails I had to be responsible to cut. Why couldn’t he just see that as I took care of our son he could be picking up the slack everywhere else because my role had essentially doubled in terms of keeping my son alive as well as myself? Why couldn’t he see that?! Because he is a man, not a mom. A very dear friend gave me this advice and I have repeated it so many times to remind myself of the grace we both need to adjust in our parenting roles.
I’m tired just thinking about that time as I write this now; mostly sad that I was stuck in this warped sense of isolation. Also, my heart is broken because I wanted the newborn stage to go differently. I wanted help and support from my husband, my mom, my friends, my in-laws. I wanted the world to have better prepared me, I wanted to not be the victim. I wanted to be happy. It all came out when the simplest self-care item went unnoticed by everyone, including me. I was a victim of my hormones, not my child or circumstance. My path to this ah-ha moment has been difficult and complicated.
I am nothing if not adaptive and resourceful, so I have learned that all moms are better when our self-care is met. I don’t mean like the yoga babble self-care where you get uninterrupted amounts of meditation or get to go to the bathroom peacefully (a girl can dream), but the real essentials that help your brain take a break from the constant care, worry, stress, and thinking for multiple people. My husband has done bathtime with our son since day one; I seriously have a gem of a man by my side. In the early days, bathtime was rough in many ways and the baby crying through it just intensified my anxiety. I hovered over both my husband + baby at every moment which just perpetuated the crying cycle. This also happened when we introduced bottles and I am sure you can imagine how well that went.
One day he kindly kicked me out of the house to take the dog on a walk during bathtime and that was the beginning of the end of my postpartum depression. That was the ah-ha moment that went off as if giving me the permission I wasn’t able to give myself to accept help in whatever form it comes and realize I am not in isolation but simply need to speak my needs so they can be met.
The next week instead of a walk my husband suggested a class at the gym or time on the phone with a friend. This mama ran to the car and spent the next hour and a half at the nail salon getting pampered and catching up on the phone with my out-of-state best friend.
Shortly after those experiences, I started talking instead of crying and explaining what I was feeling to my doctor and a therapist. My husband suggested a marriage counselor and we have been seeing one ever since. I love my husband for so many reasons, but especially for his willingness to help me in ways I couldn’t help myself. While he wasn’t cutting anyone’s fingernails or getting blood on his lip, he did recognize that I needed help -we needed help- and walked with me through and out of the post-partum depression that clouded so many months in the beginning of our son’s life.