Recently, I returned to work from a year’s maternity leave. This time I took the whole year to spend time with my little children, to enjoy them while they’re young. When I left my job last February, there were about 9 people working in the office. Upon my return, our office staff in Toronto had grown to about 30 people or so. The positions and offices are mostly filled with people handpicked by my boss, which made the notion of returning to work intimidating. The folks he selected are star players! These people are the stand outs in the crowds with which he has shared his working life. And here I was, some lady he’d been stuck with, re-emerging on the scene. And this lady questioned her relevance and her capacity to live up to the tasks and mandate set before her.
That first week, we’d been to the doctor and/or hospital multiple times, where Alice was eventually diagnosed with a particularly disgusting and nasty bout of impetigo on both hands, after having some weird mouth virus and four days of fever. Impetigo is gross and it looks really really painful. It’s super contagious to other children and basically you have to keep it covered so it doesn’t spread. Have you ever tried to bandage a baby’s hands? I learned from this ordeal that babies think band-aids are some tasty shit. Our solution? Socks on the hands. And we got some antibiotics, which are an adventure all themselves when trying to administer them orally to a 11 month old.
At around the same time, I became painfully aware of how sharp Alice’s little teeth had become via an awfully wounded nipple, that still hasn’t quite healed after nearly two months. I’m convinced it will never ever heal, but there is a little glimmer of hope inside me that thinks that maybe one day in the near future, I might be able to nurse her on the left side without recoiling in pain. Maybe.
So my first week back was a literal hell, between the boobie wound, impetigo, and some shaky days with my husband’s job security (though luckily our concerns were quickly elayed). The stress of a new childcare arrangement, the TTC commute, and all the on the job learning required to get back up to speed were so much that I was literally collapsing in tears at the end of every day. I’m stressed just writing about it!
If you’d really like to keep track, you could add in a dash of serious sleep deprivation for the last 6 months and a healthy dose of mummy guilt. You know, the kind of guilt the eats away at you for not “being there’ for your family who needs you so desperately. I’d failed at meal planning, and doing the grocery shopping to stock our fridge and pantry with the things we’d need to keep us going. I was behind on laundry, and every room in our apartment had seen much better days. With all the things I had failed to do, I had no time to make up for it. No time to run the errands, do the preparations necessary to make this transition slightly smoother for all everyone in our little family.
But then the second week came, and then the third, and the fourth week. And now I feel as though I am rocking along at a fairly respectable and steady pace. And the pieces? They’re all falling into place. I’m learning a lot, I’m quickly getting back up to speed, and I remembered finally that I LOVE WORKING! I love my job and the people I work with are all really really awesome. More awesome than I ever could’ve anticipated. I’m starting to hit my stride and I just love everyone and everything that I’m doing. Then the end of the day rolls around, and though I have to fight my way on to a streetcar, I’m excited. I’m excited to come home to the perfect little faces that shine so bright with smiles when they hear mummy come up the stairs. I’m excited to kiss my handsome husband, who has already started dinner, folded laundry and worked a full day, and is waiting to greet me with a smile just as bright.
This new year, I set my motto as I always do. I knew it was going to be a challenging year with lots of ups and downs and that I would need to stretch to make it all work. That I’d need to put it all out there on the line to be successful in 2015. And so I remind myself regularly that this year, I’m going “All In”. How could I not, my friends……I’ve been dealt the royal flush.
You’ll have to excuse me. I haven’t quite been myself for the last little while.
I’ve done things, said things, not done things, not said things–all amounting to a compilation of actions or non actions that are not part of my true character, things that do not reflect who I truly am. So, I’m sorry for the emails I never sent, the texts I didn’t respond to, the thank you notes I never wrote, the phone calls I never answered, the plans I blew off, the mean things I said, the hurtful way that I acted, and even the secret angry feelings that I had that no one knew about.
I think/hope it’s behind me now. The postpartum depression, that is. More than five months have passed since I gave birth, and I should be on the other side of it by now. At least it feels like I am.
At the times when I felt my most low, I wanted to write about it. I wanted to work through it with words and I wanted to share it but I never knew if it was really real. Mostly, I really and truly desperately wanted to look at the bright side, find the silver lining, but there were some days where I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t allow myself to feel the sunshine in my life. And some days I was much more successful than others–feeling good, looking good and setting all the bad feelings aside so that I could enjoy this extraordinary life of mine.
I didn’t talk to my doctor about it, no one confirmed it for me. I’m pretty sure, though, it was the good ole baby blues. The part after giving birth that no one tells you about because they simply can’t explain it to you in a way that will help you understand what you’re about to go through, should it happen to you. I wouldn’t typically recommend the “wait and see” approach when it comes to mental health matters. If you’re feeling sad, anxious and might be suffering from any sort of depression, talk to your doctor. She can help. But in this case I felt strongly that if I waited long enough, I could see it through.
It probably wasn’t that bad, looking at the bigger picture, and comparative to other women who suffer much much worse than I ever did, but it was very real, and I felt very, very inexplicably sad.
Martin would lovingly ask questions that I couldn’t really answer, and make suggestions that I really didn’t want to hear. I was just sad, and I was so sad that I just didn’t want to do anything about it other than move far away from everyone and everything. And the guilt–guilt for being sad when in my head I knew how fortunate I was to have such an amazing, loving and supportive husband, two of the most beautiful and hilarious children ever to grace the earth, an awesome job, and great friends, and food to eat, and a charming apartment in a city that I love. How could I possibly be sad when I have all those things and there are so many people that have so much less? But I WAS sad. Those feelings were real.
I turned to Google for advice, naturally. I then felt strongly that the people who had written these articles for the internet about what to do when you have postpartum never actually had postpartum depression, because I certainly did NOT want to
- Talk to someone
- Get exercise
- Eat healthy
I wanted to
- lay on the couch
- eat copious amounts of potato chips and chocolate bars, and drink gallons of Jones Cream Soda
- never see or talk to anyone I knew ever again, aside from the people that lived in my house
I felt so alone, and I was the least amount of physically alone that I’ve ever been for my entire life. And I wanted to shine, I wanted to be me, I wanted things to be normal but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it all around. I did, however, keep telling myself that it won’t last, it’s only temporary, and that it isn’t me. And then it went away. Mostly.
The loneliness is still here. But motherhood, in general, has been rather lonely for me. It feels so strange to admit that. I feel like an outsider in the realm of motherhood, which is a feeling that is so foreign to me. Usually, I’m right in the middle of things–I’m the one making the plans, organizing, keeping shit together and getting the party going. This is a whole different playing field. I’m shy, and self conscious and feel like the other mums are judging me. Judging me because somehow they know that I let my kid eat food that’s fallen of the floor sometimes, that the amount of hair on my bathroom floor is disgusting, and that I put brown sugar on my daughter’s Shreddies and sometimes I let her pee in the park . I feel as though my attempts at forging friendships haven’t really been that well received. Maybe I’m simply not as congenial on the playground as I typically am in a bar after a few tequila sodas, But I’m working on it.
A lot of the loneliness probably stems from missing my friends, my crew. My life changed…our lives have changed. The scene changed, we’re doing different things. And I’m ok with that, but I miss it. And I think it’s ok to miss it. isn’t it? But missing it does makes me lonely.
I remember on a particularly sad day walking along Queen, by the park, listening to LCD Soundsystem’s All my Friends. I was walking along and people were smiling at me and my beautiful baby. I was wearing sunglasses and tears were streaming down my face. I don’t think anyone noticed I was crying. But James Murphy was blasting in my ear, singing “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to get with your friends”. I couldn’t NOT cry. And later he sings, repeatedly, “If I could see all my friends tonight”. And honestly I thought, if I could see all my friends tonight! It would make me feel better. Because I miss them. And I’m thinking it again now! But now I’m excited, because I’m feeling better and I’m looking forward to seeing them all again. Yo dudes, what’s up? I miss you guys. Let’s hang. August 6th? Yeah!
So there it is. It’s out there. The last 5 months haven’t been the absolutely most best and amazing and shiny times in my life. I don’t write this because I want your sympathy, or your pity or because I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m writing because this is what I do. I write to remember it all. I want to remember that I felt bad for a little while after my little baby was born, it’s part of me and it will serve as a reminder to be additionally grateful on brighter days in the future. And now, I’ll pick up and return from this little detour and re-focus on living an extraordinary life. It’s time to polish it up–don’t just live, Peatts–SHINE!