In the last ten months, my little guy has hit all of his milestones on time, and even early–like walking. Yay.
He has been cuddled, kissed, held, and loved on be everyone in his life ranging from family members to my students.
He is a happy, healthy, alert, lovable and loving baby boy with a weird obsession with the vacuum.
He’s beautiful. Parental bias aside, he really is. He has big blue eyes, auburn hair that’s starting to curl on top. Deliciously thick thighs and cheeks for days.
And sometimes, I look at him, and am so overwhelmed with guilt.
Today, as he was sitting on my lap, giving me kisses, and rubbing his forehead against mine. It really hit me, again–because to be real, it happens quite often, though less frequently as the time has gone on. The guilt of the bonding that didn’t happen. The fact that I was so checked out for the first months of his life. The fact that I wished both of us away in the early hours of the early months.
I used to worry we wouldn’t bond ever: that our bond would be affected by my postpartum depression and all that came with it. I worried he would somehow know what I had thought in those dark moments and resent me, hate me for it. Hate me like I hated me.
I know now that that’s not the case. I mean, he’s a friendly baby and pretty much goes to anyone, but he does love his mama. I get all the sloppy, drooly kisses, and the forehead mind melds that count for infant affection.
I worried that somehow he wouldn’t develop the same. That those formative moments were essential to his milestones and how he would cope with things in the world. I can tell you now, he’s fine. He’s stubborn and resilient and the quintessential second child: fighting for attention, doing what his brother does, pushing to keep up. Which led to him taking his first steps at under ten months old.
I couldn’t have another baby. And we don’t plan on having another. We made that choice based on many circumstances and I’m at peace with it. And, we feel complete. But, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t soak in the infanthood of my baby. I was so lost in my own struggle I didn’t really think about all his firsts, and our lasts. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. But I do know that with our oldest, I was constantly memorializing the moments. There are so many pictures of little moments, things, days, faces. I’m not saying there aren’t pictures of the second one, but it’s different. The pictures, to me, feel forced. Probably because I knew that I was putting on a show for people.
Someday, if he asks, or maybe even if he doesn’t, I want to tell R about what happened after he was born. About how love for him and his brother brought me out of a dark place. About the first moment I looked at him and realized I was so in love with the little person we created.
I want people to know that postpartum depression is scary. And dark. And fucking hard. And stigmatized, because mothers are supposed to enjoy every sleepless night and dirty diaper. Because social media culture has made it impossible to say, my kids are hard some days. And postpartum depression is saying that. It’s also not showering and not brushing your teeth. It’s waiting forever to change the baby’s diaper because it’s just. too. much. It’s having your spouse take over everything when they get home from work, because you can’t function anymore. It’s crying, yeah. But it’s also scary thoughts, loneliness, isolation, and so much more.
It’s the hardest thing I’ve gone through. And just when I think I’m free of it–and back to my regular family history/hormonal depression, thank you very much–the leftovers of it hit me again. The guilt I feel for how I struggled. The worries. The fears.
Knowing I’m not alone is one of the biggest factors in feeling better, along with medication, time, and counseling.
But realizing that many of my fears and worries were pointless does help too. When the guilties or the bad moments hit, I look at my kid, his sweet face and feisty personality, and I realize we made it through. That I made it through. That he loves me in spite of it all. And that’s what’s going to keep me going a lot longer than the fears or worries ever would have.