I Lost Myself in My Babies (Then Came Back)

I rocked my newborn every night before bed, sobbing. I held her, rocked her, fed her a bottle while tears streamed down my face in the dark. In the silence. I was alone with my own sad thoughts.

Sometimes, my bitter tears would hit her little face or be absorbed into her soft baby blanket. And all I wanted to do was keep crying, harder. An uncontrollable, guttural reaction, originating deep in the depths of my newly scarred, c-section tummy.

Why can't I want this?

What is wrong with me?

Why can't I like being a mom?

Sure, I was on a high when I left the hospital. I was running off adrenaline and probably copious amounts of Oxytocin.

Well, both tanked furiously the first week of newborn homecoming.

The lack of sleep stifled my happiness.

The incessant crying killed my will to soothe her.

My inability to breastfeed her made me feel like an utter failure.

Do you know how awful it feels to not be able to feed your baby the best possible food? Scientifically proven to enhance her life medically, developmentally and emotionally?

The ennui of motherhood, or utter constant state of boredom, wrecked my soul. All I did was sit or lay in bed, try to breastfeed, get frustrated, pump, attempt to put the baby on a sleep schedule, pump, try to fit in a bathroom break or gawd forbid a shower in between screams, cries or feedings and PUMP.
In those early days of motherhood I felt like I was either staring into space, completing some mindless domestic task or staring at the clock. My whole life was dictated by incremental feedings, tummy time, nap time and diaper changes.

The house was a wreck. There were boppy pillows, bottles, baby swings, blankets, diapers, wipe and pacifiers strewn all over.

What kind of mother am I, on maternity leave, meaning I have no current professional responsibilities right now, that I can't even friggin' find time to clean a bottle, or whip up a dinner? Am I doing something wrong that I can't get anything done?

I could see it in my husband's eyes when he came home from work everyday. He could see me falling apart. Being obliterated by a baby. An empty shell of my former self, unable to cope. And he didn't know how to fix it.

No one could fix it. I couldn't even smile fully and genuinely for a picture with my baby.

Motherhood jilted me, and consumed me. And nothing about it felt natural or right.

Every single freedom I used to have pre-motherhood was stripped away. The freedom to go to the bathroom alone, to run into a gas station quickly (and alone) to pay for gas, to wear perfume, to run to the gym and fit in a quick exercise, to go grocery shopping without it taking 2 hours, to go out with friends, the freedom to do the simplest task at a moment's notice. It's all gone.

I knew I wasn't suffering from postpartum depression. I never wanted to hurt myself, or my baby. I was grieving my old life, my old self - and unable to embrace a new self. A new self that seemed so boring, devoid of depth and shackled by motherhood's 24 hour, 7 day a week schedule.

I felt lame. I felt like I'd never have professional or personal dreams again. I felt like I'd never have the uninhibited joy of a "girl's night out" again. (A night we women cherish!) I felt like a failure to my kid. I certainly was failing as a wife - I couldn't find love, time or energy for my husband. I was holding on by a thread myself - how could I have these things for him?

I sucked. I bawled when I found out I was pregnant again with our second child. My first baby was only 8-months old when I saw the two lines on the stick. Just as I was starting to see some hope or light at the end of the tunnel - I was banished to darkness again.

I couldn't even be happy about the birth of my second child. I wanted her to stay in my belly as long as possible. Alas, she came early. I couldn't bond. I couldn't love her. I couldn't love myself.

That's when the imprisonment of motherhood felt the most hopeless. As I stood in our condo, listening to both of my babies cry I wished my life were different. I wished to be transported somewhere - anywhere, but where I was.

I wanted to scream when both needed their diapers changed at the exact same time.

I wanted to give up and cry when I couldn't pick up my first child (she wasn't walking when my second child was born), because my recent (and 2nd) c-section incision felt like I was stabbed in the gut.

When the highlight of my day was getting out of the house without any major meltdowns or diaper blowouts - I felt accomplished. But then I also thought - this is my life?  This is accomplishment?

Slowly, it happened. Things got easier. Little morsels of "me time" started happening more frequently. They were slow at first. Like the first sign that things were getting better was the fact that my hair wasn't in a ponytail anymore and I could actually shower for a full five minutes. And, later, large chunks of time were mine. Like 4 hours on  Thursday night my husband would take our daughters to see their grandparents. I looked forward to my Thursdays.

Slowly, I found time to be myself again. I've always been a lover of words and language. I grasped at that love that always teetered on professional and personal joy lines. I wrote in my own voice. Simple, short, almost rants at first. Then, eventually, I wrote myself back together again.

Sure, I'm a completely different woman than I was pre-baby. And I'm fine with that. I've grieved her. I know the metamorphosis to motherhood was an ugly one. But, a beautiful, post-baby mother was eventually born. She's happy. She rocks. And, she's not lost.

Did you experience something similar? Did you lose yourself in motherhood? Have you found your way yet? Or no?

Share in the comments below - you never know - it could be solidarity for someone who really needs to feel they're not alone right now.

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