There are very few moments in this world that can completely alter your life perspective and priority list in one swift move. When my OB put my son, Levi Mitchell, on my chest for the first time, my life was never the same. We’re all moms here so you know the exact moment that I’m talking about. The moment when you’re staring into the face of the child that you’ve grown inside of you for the past ten months for the very first time and the thought flies fiercely into your brain:
“I will never love a living thing more than I love this tiny human with my nose.”
I had that moment with my son. He was everything I dreamed of during those long nights where I laid awake due to pregnancy insomnia or indigestion.
He was the light of my life … for about a week.
A week: that’s how long it took for the bottom to drop out. I didn’t even realize that it was happening. I was slowly pulling away from my newborn, the baby that I couldn’t get enough of to the point that I would wake him up to snuggle just days prior. Suddenly, the sound of him crying was enough to cause my nerves to stand on end and make me grit my teeth. I was beyond irritable and complained constantly. My husband was understandably concerned and tentatively checked on my feelings daily. I brushed it off. “Of course, I’m grumpy. I haven’t slept in days and my baby is colicky. I’m exhausted. Anyone would be.” But it went beyond that …
You know the people who good-naturedly pat your hand and promise a light at the end of the tunnel? Well, as the months went by, that light at the end of the tunnel felt like a freight train barreling toward me at full force. The scariest part about that is that I couldn’t find it within myself to step off the train tracks.
I smiled when friends and family asked if I was loving being a mom, but the smile never reached my eyes.
In private, I was withdrawing even more. My husband would try to brush past me when we passed in the hallway, desperate for physical touch, but I’d cringe away. I didn’t want to be touched. I came up with every excuse to pass off parenting duties to him. It was unbearable to even touch my son. The closet became my hideaway. At least once a day, I would sink to the floor on my knees underneath my husband’s polo shirts and sob my eyes out. Then I would wipe my eyes and rejoin our life before someone had the chance to come looking for me.
The breaking point came around the time my son turned one. I was laying on the floor of our bathroom in complete darkness with the door locked and I was crying again. Not noisy, cathartic crying; big, hot silent tears were making a puddle on the rug under my face.
My husband immediately knew that this time the pain was different and he couldn’t ignore it.
He knocked on the door, quietly at first. When I wouldn’t answer, he threatened to break the door down. I crawled to unlock the door and he sat next to me on the floor. Then my sweet husband looked at me with his sad blue eyes and said something that I knew gutted him: “This is too much. Baby, you have to get help. You have to get help or I’m leaving.” After a quick visit to my doctor, I had a prescription for antidepressants in my hand within the hour. Within days, I felt better. The fog thinned out and everything was sunshine again. All it took was the one tear sliding down my cheek when my OB/GYN asked, “So how are we feeling, sis?”
I still struggle with the guilt over wasting that much of my son’s life being the sad mom that I see in all those pictures, the mom who didn’t brush her hair for weeks because she couldn’t summon the “want” to pick up a hairbrush. But, ultimately, what I would say to that mom (and any mom who desperately needs to hear this) is:
You are needed. You are valuable.
You will beat this.
And if you ever need someone to give you a boost out of the darkness, I will be there. Because we have got to stick together.
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