This is a difficult blog post to write because it requires admitting that I have felt emotions that don’t go with the advertised new-baby-bliss. My sweet little Dayenu entered the world on March 2. He was greeted peacefully and lovingly at home by his big brother, daddy, midwives, doula, grandparents, dogs, and me. It was beautiful. And the euphoria didn’t last long.
That night, B came down with the flu. Within a week, my mom had an accident with the car and was bruised pretty badly. Pud was a sleep-deprived nightmare who refused to sleep but couldn’t handle NOT sleeping, with behaviors bordering on the manic and hyperactive. He demanded to be nursed as much and as often as his brother. Dayenu had to learn to suck more gently and in the meantime, my nipples cracked and I developed thrush inside my breasts. It only took 4 weeks to work out the pain I was experiencing and the solution. Pud threw nightly tantrums in the middle of the night because he was having such a difficult time adjusting to sharing me. And B went back to work the week after Dayenu arrived, instead of the planned 4 weeks after, because he is being transferred from one department to another and learning a new job while winding down big projects for the old one.
It’s 7 weeks later. Two- no- three weeks ago, I moved in with my parents to get some extra help because I needed the help. I have not hurt my children, but before I agreed to move in with my parents, I was definitely having a hard time being patient and understanding with my Pud and his strong emotions and neediness during a huge transition.
Feelings of nearly losing control and wanting to smack my child (we don’t spank), wanting to run away and never come home again, and huge guilt for all those feelings have swirled through me over and over and over again. Even my sweet little Dayenu has stirred up extreme feelings of parenting inadequacy, guilt, and frustration. But my children, even my toddler who is going through a phase of challenging behaviors and emotions, are not the problem. Nor is the broken sleep that comes with parenthood, or the fact that I am tandem nursing, or that B is going through a huge change at work, or any other number of reasons or excuses that can be cited.
The problem is inside me.
This, I understand now, is the evil called Postpartum Depression. I am seeking help, as I can’t seem to “fix myself” on my own.
I am writing this with a heavy heart and feelings of utter shame because my children are my joy and all I ever wanted to be was a mommy, but even I was close to hurting my precious boys because of these strong emotions that come in powerful waves. I am writing this to speak out, because there are other mamas out there who are facing the same struggle. I have to constantly remind myself that the depression lies. My husband, my parents, and my boys show and tell me constantly that I am a better mom than my head wants me to believe these days. And even though the extreme clinging my older son is doing drives this already-irritable mom up the wall, I still can’t help but melt when he says “Mama, I need to hold you!” That is my light in this darkness, and the reassurance that this, too, shall pass. But not without help and reconnecting with my fellow moms.
This morning, Pud made it clear that staying home and being with Mama all day was exactly what he wanted. He has had a lot of fun playing with his friends everyday this week- two of those days without me around- and I think he was just feeling disconnected. So we called off plans for the day and settled in for a day at home together.
It happens that there was a small amount of snow this morning, but not enough to play in by any means. Plus, going out in it would require putting on warm clothes and he was happy to stay in his pajamas. That might have been his subtle way of ensuring we actually stayed home; I wouldn’t put it past him.
While browsing Pinterest a week or so ago, I found a fun recipe for fake snow and had stocked up on the ingredients (ahem- 2 boxes of baking soda and cheap hair conditioner- that’s it. Really!). Today was the perfect day to play, so I got out our new floor splat mat from SugarBooger that we won from The Mommy Nest, the lasagna pan, measuring cups, a couple of beans for snowman face parts, a couple of toys, and the snow ingredients. Pud helped measure out the 3 cups of baking soda and the 1/2 cup of conditioner and poured them into the pan. We used his play dough spatula to help mix it (during play, it became a snow shovel), though we ended up just mixing it with our hands.
This stuff is magic! Cold like snow, but not cold enough to cause frostbite. Powdery like snow, but packs just well enough to manage a few small snow balls and to be moldable. It must have felt good to him, because I left the room for just a minute and returned to find him in the lasagna pan with “snow” all over him.
He had a lot of fun and we have a cheap (less than $3) sensory idea to pull out again another time. Just so you know, we read Sadie and the Snowman and The Snowy Day, so if you want to tie in this activity to literature, there’s 2 recommendations. I’d also have read Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day, too, but we don’t own it and haven’t been to the library to check it out lately. It’s definitely on our to-do list.
Thanks to Momma’s Fun World for the snow recipe and idea!