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For My Newborn As I Battle Postpartum Mood Disorder

A letter from a mother to her infant son

Published on: March 01, 2018


Dear Oscar,

You are 3.5 months old and the most smiley baby I know. You love to play with your Skwish on the wooden play gym Grandpa Dan made just for you, you love when I sing the Tigger song really really fast while you bounce up and down on my lap and you love to be worn close to me in the Moby wrap and listen to my heartbeat.

You also love to drive me crazy.

I say this figuratively but also quite literally. You are the baby that took Mommy and Daddy from just being in a relationship to being in a family — our firstborn. I never knew what emotional toll you would have on me until I first heard the words "postpartum anxiety" and realized that they pertained to me.

I'm not ashamed and I don't blame you for a single thing. I love you, Oscar, more deeply than you can possibly know, and this is why you affect me so. When you cry and it seems I can't help you, every single part of me hurts. My self divides and I find one half in a crumpled pile on the floor just outside your door screaming into her shirt until her throat rips in two while the other half stands above her, looking down on her as an embarrassment, childish and weak.

You are crying because you need me to hold you or some part of you hurts and you need me to make it feel better or you're too hot or cold or any number of reasons that you don't even have the ability to understand yet, let alone communicate.

And I don't understand you.

I can't.

I repeat that to myself over and over — "I can't, honey, I can't, I cant" —until the words are just heavy croaks in my throat. I'm supposed to be your mother and we are supposed to have that connection like a pair of twins that can feel each other's feelings and know each other's thoughts, but I'm no mind reader. I can care for you but sometimes I can't help you.

I can't. I can't.

And then that thin but strong tether between us — that tendril of hope I'd been holding onto that I might miraculously stumble upon the one thing that calms you down into a peaceful sleep — snaps.

Those two halves of self are smashed into a thousand pieces and anger is all that's left. My muscles tighten, my fists and jaw clench, I scream through gritted teeth because a small shard of me still remains that realizes who you are and what you mean to me, but the rest is about to overtake.

I never knew what emotional toll you would have on me until I first heard the words 'postpartum anxiety' and realized that they pertained to me.

I quickly take you out of the wrap and lay you back down gently but quickly in your crib, swaddle you snuggly while trying to breathe through my own intensifying emotions while you continue to scream at me to help and I still can't.

I can't, honey, I can't.

I have to leave you because if you stay close to me, I don't know what I'm going to do, just to make you stop crying. So many scenarios whip through my mind, each one graphic and horrific and terrifying. I half consider them and then I burst into heavier tears as I realize what I've just done. I'm so ashamed and suddenly afraid of myself.

I walk away and call or text your dad. He may not answer right away but I need to say my feelings out loud or write them down. They need to come out somehow and this is the safest way I know.

I'm still very ashamed but I know there are options available to help me feel better so I can help you feel better. I want to be here for you, my little buddy, but not at all like this. You do this to me but it's not on purpose. It's just the only way you have to connect with me. And boy, you connect like a stiff punch to the face.

I'm sure this isn't the last time but Oscar, I want you to know that when this happens for the first time and you realize it. please know that I'm still in there.

I'm working through my own issues but all the while, I'm still in there and I love you. I may have to leave for a bit and I may not want to talk about it when I come back but that's because I needed time to dig myself out. And when I come back, I promise I'll help you, because I know I can.

I can, honey, I can.

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