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.


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.