Saturday, December 01, 2007

At yoga on Friday there were two new moms--one had a six-week-old baby, and the other was the mother to a three-week-old. I had my normal reaction to seeing little newborns--basically a longing for the days when Adriana was that wee and squooshy. Because, you know, what I really need around here is another baby.

But I was surprised by what hit me next: a very intense series of memories of how crazy I felt those first few weeks.

I remembered being in the hospital room alone with her the day we were going to go home. I carefully dressed her in the sleeper that was to be her going home outfit. Then, studying her as she lay in the bassinet, I panicked, afraid that she wasn't my baby. I quickly undressed her again, checking the name tags on her wrist, both her ankles, and her umbilical stump. And then I held her and cried because there was surely something wrong with me if I didn't recognize my own baby.

I remembered standing by myself in a dark room, looking out the window at dusk, while Brian held the baby in our bedroom. It was only a few days after we'd brought Adriana home from the hospital--she must have been a week old at the most--and I felt helpless and scared. I cried, wondering if I loved the baby enough, if I loved her too much, if I would be able to be her mother. I felt that Brian was handling being a new parent better than I was.

I remembered cradling her in my arms in the middle of the night and, seeing her eyes shining in the dark, having a sudden fear that she was possessed by demons. I bit my tongue and made a conscious effort to keep holding her, knowing that I wasn't being rational, and telling myself that the fact that I knew I wasn't being rational was a good sign. But I didn't tell anyone--not Brian, not my midwife, not my closest friends--about that moment for fear that someone would try to keep me from Adriana.

I remembered an intense fear that there was somebody in the house. I knew I was not being rational, but to reassure myself I checked closets and under the bed, the baby clutched tightly to me. For a couple of days I wouldn't leave the baby alone in a room by herself even for a moment because I was afraid that whoever was in the house would steal her away if given the chance. I clung once again to my knowledge that my fear was irrational, telling myself that reading Outside Over There as a child had somehow scarred my psyche.

I remembered my first day home alone with Adriana. I nursed her and changed her diaper and set her down in her little chair. I sat in front of her and looked at her wondering what to do next. She wasn't hungry, wet, or fussing--just awake and looking at me. Surely there was something else I was supposed to be doing. But I didn't know what it was, so I sat and cried.

Adriana was nursing as class ended on Friday, and then she needed her diaper changed, so we were the last to leave. As I was rolling up my yoga mat, the instructor and I talked about those early days and how sweet they are, and then I tentatively confessed a couple of my moments of postpartum panic, forcing myself to laugh them off. It felt good to finally say them out loud.

2 comments:

clara said...

Thank you for being honest about the (un)reality of the early days! I think most new mamas have very weird thoughts in the beginning. I also think it gets better with subsequent kids. I remember feeling euphoric around my first baby one minute & then absolutely terrified of my responsibility. In the middle of the night I would get some crazy images in my head too. It was never that bad with the next ones though.

Jay said...

When Sky was teeny-tiny, I dreamed a couple of times that I went to some sort of get-together, then left without the baby, forgetting that I had him. A variation was that I forgot about him at home and went off somewhere without him. Always at the end of the dream came the realization of what I had done, the horror of it, and then waking up basically in a cold sweat over it. And wondering if I might ever actually do such a thing.