I wish more people would decline to give parenting advice. The stigma around the very presence of children is so telling! We see the annoyed looks on your faces and that twisted smile. There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘I can’t say because I’m not sure myself’. Saying, ‘my situation is a bit different’ is acceptable too. It’s perfectly fine to just keep quiet as well. It just gnaws at me when people who do not celebrate their children tell others not to have any. It physically pains me when people say ‘they ruin your life’. No, you ruined your own life with your choices and is now inflicting this irresponsibility on an innocent being. Do not tell people to not have kids because you don’t want any. Don’t speak against children knowing you want them but just haven’t found the right ‘situation’. I completely understand times where children are born into situations that end up changing. As a product of a single parent home, I know it’s extremely hard. Hats off to all of you! I’m referring to those who were told their partner doesn’t want children, lays bare to procreate then find themselves in a ‘rut’. I’m speaking to those who birthed a child out of a convenient relationship and is miserable with being grounded. Do not fix your mouth to tell people children are a nightmare, when you couldn’t control yourself long enough to use protection. I’m also referring to those who have multiple children, inflict all sorts of abuse on them and have the nerve to say they ‘messed up’.When I was pregnant and about to go off on mat leave, I had lunch with my manager and he blatantly told me he has no advice for me. I made a face naturally and he laughed and said seriously, ‘I’ have no advice for ‘YOU’. Of course, I called out his unfairness because he had recently become a father and could have imparted so much knowledge on me knowing what ‘this thing’ is going to be like. He was quite bemused with my pressing, as his statement was simple. Simple, but weighted. The only other thing he said was that I should do what’s best for my child and don’t listen to anyone. I shot him another side eye as his mother was a prominent figure in his child’s life. I let him have that one, as much as I wanted to know more.
When we had our son and came to grips with PARENTING a child, not babysitting or tolerating one, I got it. When I went back to work, we had lunch again. He was smiling from ear to ear and so was I this time. We talked about the antiquated ways of child-rearing and all that I had escaped by doing things our way. I trusted him and would have listened to his advice; this stranger to MY child. We learned about our child and we cared for and led him with our choices. Everyone was happy. When I told my cousin I hadn’t read any books she was in a rage and sent me title after title of all the popular stuff; we politely declined. Months later when I attempted to find a solution with a popular site I felt like the one thing I was looking for wasn’t there. The one word to connect my issues to a solution wasn’t there. Why? Nothing in parenting is cookie cut; it’s ever-changing. Every time I had posted my issues on mommy boards on Facebook, I was rewarded with comments filled with nuggets of gold. All ending with ‘THAT’S what worked for US’, MAYBE it will for you. A small side-eye there as I thought if it worked it worked, what’s the deal? The more we dealt with and overcame, the more I got it. How can someone else tell you what will work for you or your child when they have never met the child? When they are born, you the parent don’t know their ways and cannot bend them to follow someone else’s routine. In a room with 10 people, 10 of them will be different; kids are exactly the same. Here’s another thought, in a room with 10 people, 10 of them will be from a different situation. Same. There are no super parents and it is perfectly ok to hate being a parent. Be honest about your experience though. Decline to offer advice when you know your ‘situation’ comes with circumstances! Don’t tell people to not have kids when you have 4 with 4 partners and consider time with any of your children as babysitting. Do not have children with someone who does not want any and blame them for a failed relationship. For the love of God kids will not save your relationship, but pit you against each other and teach your children horrible relationships are acceptable. Finally, a single parent experience may seem to be 10 times worse than a 2 parent household, but unless both parents are involved, its one and the same!
I like to write about the things no one tells you about when you’re about to enter ‘baby world’. Yesterday I had a conversation with my cousin and we spoke about dealing with family issues when you’ve just had a child and how you have to ‘mind’ yourself. It was so refreshing to hear this come from someone I didn’t quite expect. I always thought my cousin was a bit weird, so to hear her speak about connecting to yourself and seeing about caring for yourself and a child in the midst of contention between family; it really pleased me. I am not close to my mother and have not spoken to her in over 5 years. My cousin became the black sheep when she got pregnant out of wedlock because she had an extremely devoted religious mother. I purposely set that precedence because we can all connect with the characteristics of religious people. Now, having a child is a very traumatic experience and in some cases a tragedy. Having no one to lean on when going through this event will harden you for life. You will be scarred and left empty. You will be resentful and dubious about everything you’re doing with your life. I can tell you that all you need to do for the sake of that innocent child is to mind your mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. Every second of your day should be given to your child and you. You will need to concede and decide that this is your time and nothing or no one deserves to plaster my child’s life with any negativity. I cannot begin to even explain how much help is needed when you become a parent. There are no words to describe the cluster fuck of emotions and moments that you will go through in a very short time and you cannot ever not deal. There are no vacations or days off, this is a 24 hour ongoing job that you must do yourself, completely. Every second that you ‘donate’ to dealing with bullshit in your life, is a second your child has lost. This is a very expensive charge and you cannot lose a dime or else you will miss out on so much with your child. You cannot give anyone not being positive and contributing to your life a single second. Entertaining drama, arguments and fights with someone who has nothing but discord in their heart for you is so toxic. Hold on to your mental health, free mind and clarity with a tight grip. I had my own squabbles with other members of my family when my son was born, absolutely no one came around. This was however my decision but it was not hers; we both had the same approach. This just goes to show that there is no other way. We became a solid rock of 3, no one else and we loved how close knit we are all growing to be. Plus, I could afford to never once make a fit about it because we knew our child was worth so much more. We were already so deadbeat, every time we had, had to be his. We became hermits; we became secluded and closed off and cold to some. People looking in never saw anything but a smiling happy baby. We taught our child happiness, joy, laughter and love before he was ever exposed to any kind of sadness. Some aren’t that lucky, and even entertain ideas that they made a mistake keeping and having their child. This is very easy to say and should be banished from all thought. A child is never a mistake, or an unfortunate event. Look at your child and promise them all of you, build a circle of positive ongoing support and eliminate all pressures. Do nothing more than savor, enjoy and revel as much as you can about being the best honest mother you can be. ‘Mind yourself’
Eventually my husband made his way into the washroom where we argued through tears. He was very successful in quelling my delirium and managed to convince me to shower and take a Benadryl for the hives, then take a nap. We had a worse scare when the Benadryl had the worse effect on me physically and mentally. My stretch marks were raised and black, I got a hard stomach and I was passing the most painful clots ever. In addition, I was hardly saying anything that made sense, neither of us could understand what I kept saying whenever I opened my mouth and we could do nothing but let it pass. This was a very scary moment for us and the Telehealth nurse said Benadryl wouldn’t do that to me but somehow I beg to differ as coupled with the day I had, it may have.
Another battle was having so many people in my space. By nature I am a hermit, I stay inside, hardly have visitors over and whenever we do go out, it’s with the same people all the time. I was known to not care much for people and their opinions. Still, I understand newborns do things to people and that they will want to be around the baby, I just could not handle the volume that people that wanted to visit; their words and their demands. So we decided to have just a handful of visitors which offended others, but they couldn’t be my priority. Everything people said about me or my child affected me. The most incessant comments about who my child looked like to people asking about and making jokes about my estranged mother and passing on their advice about our relationship just rocked me to the core. I found none of it funny and was literally very upset at how people were handling themselves when it came to wanting to visit to asking a million questions about my labor and delivery or baby. Every time I saw that I had to reply to a message, text or email or take another phone call I died a little bit inside. I lashed out on social media when my estranged grandmother sent my aunt to message my husband for my number. I just had enough of people and their selfishness during this time and my hubby had enough of me being miserable. I just thought they wanted to insert themselves in my life too much and too fast and though I tried to remain respectful there were so many days when it felt like the world was closing in, squeezing my head. Eventually I learned to lean on my husband again and let most of the calls/texts/messages go through him. The visits I ensured I had the final say so that I could ensure myself and baby was in a good place. This was a weight lifted off my shoulders and eventually I got back to a place where people’s comments once again meant absolutely nothing to me.
Post-partum depression has many faces and I don’t believe anyone can claim to be worse than the other because you never know what you can do to yourself or your baby whether over a long period of time or a short period of time. Recognizing the signs and seeking ways to deal is utmost important and addressing the issues will be one of the most important things you can do for you and your family. Be honest, direct and get help.
On the 29th of April 2015 at abut 12pm, 4 days after birth, my hubby left me at home alone with the baby for the first time. While baby napped, I cleaned the washroom, something I hadn’t done in awhile. I felt useful and ecstatic to be able to take care of home. We joked about how I was going hard at the cleaning and that I should actually be laid down, feet up; but is unable to sit still. About an hour after he left to run errands, the baby was up. It was a change/feed cycle that we were just getting used to, in addition to learning baby’s cues. I changed my son and had a bottle on hand to start a feeding. He was erratic, screaming in the worse way and continuously stiffening his body. He was turning more and more reddish orange with every wail and I had no idea what the hell was going on. He wouldn’t eat and then he started foaming at the mouth and hitting himself while turning his head left to right. I thought I was in the twilight zone; alone. He then gave himself a big hit to the nose and a ton of mucus flew out. I was in disarray. I lost it and pretty soon I was wailing far more and harder than he was. I immediately called my husband to come home and as much as I tried he sensed the panic in my voice and kept asking me what was wrong. Unfortunately I did not know. All I thought was that I hurt the child and was now pleading with the gods to not let my child die.
Daddy decided we would go to the doctors right away just to ensure all was well. We packed son, his pooed in diaper, the bulb syringe I used to try to pull some of the mucus out and a heavy heart. I was a mess. I had passed a point of no return and physically could not stop crying. Tear after tear kept falling and I could not hold my hurt and shock in, no matter how much I tried. As time passed I got worse, in the waiting room I was a mess but tried my best to contain myself. As the doctor checked our son, I tried so hard to hold it together but I believed he sensed something. I was constantly asked if there was anything he could do for me, if I needed his help with anything and if I had any issues I needed to talk to him about. I of course said no to all of the above and made son the center of focus for our visit. I had even broken out in hives due to an allergic reaction to penicillin I received in the hospital but was so caught up I hadn’t mentioned it. When he said we were doing a good job and that baby was a-ok, the tears began to flow again. This time, I’m not sure if this was due to feeling stupid. Every baby has mucus on their chest and will be trying to bring it up as they get older. We did not know that or knew what we should be looking for in new newborns. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t handle myself and my husband was getting pretty annoyed with my disposition.
After the visit, we went to Wal-Mart where I got into a fit with my husband and when he snapped at me, asking why everything has to be a problem, I lost it again. This time I demanded the keys and bawled the entire way to the car where I stayed until he was done shopping. Again, another round of tears and wailing, this time in a hot untinted car, stationed in a busy parking lot. This time I felt alone, like I couldn’t depend on even my husband to understand what I was going through and respect that I needed some time. We went home at once when he came back to the car and when we got home I locked myself in the washroom where I spent a good hour or more just crying uncontrollably. I hadn’t touched my son since my husband came to our rescue and I felt no way about leaving him in the car seat when we walked through our apartment doors. I love my son and will do anything for him, but I had so much anxiety I felt disconnected. I never wanted to touch him for fear of hurting him and disappointing myself more.
A dear friend asked me recently how having a child has changed my life. I heaved a heavy sigh as people don’t usually want the nitty gritty but I know she would be up for the conversation, plus this will be her reality soon. This is a fusion of our conversation; I would say a very honest conversation.
Question: How did your lives change after having the baby?
U become a zombie. Especially in the first 6-8 weeks.
You are on someone else’s schedule and this is someone that sleeps and eat and poops every 2hrs. So basically you’re working round the clock. Then God forbid something out of the norm happens and you have to figure out what’s wrong. The baby can’t talk so you have to study him. Study his cries, facial expressions, cycle. You have to be a keen observer. All while accepting that his cycle changes often as he grows. U basically have to learn someone new who keeps changing. On top of that, they have all these things they go through, like wonder weeks, sleep regression, growth spurts and that bitch teething!
In my case, I didn’t know shit about babies, so it was even harder for me. There’s nothing I’ve been through that I could compare it to; no familiarity. Plus, I am so used to being on the move and babies slow u right the fuck down. I think that’s one of the hardest parts for me because I was like the road runner. I found the business of staying home hard as I’m used to being on the go. Every day I was somewhere. I worked a full-time and a part-time job, plus a side job and went to school full-time. I even walked superfast lol. Prior to being off due to the baby, I couldn’t tell u the last time I stayed home all day. In my bones it feels like I should be on the move, to work or school. Instead, I have this sweet little baby watching my every move; depending on me. All I can do now is crash in the couch or bed all day with him.
There’s also those moments where you feel like you’re losing grip and you just want to snap. Since that isn’t my personality, I have learned to hold it in. People will mess with your head no matter how simple it is and a lot of times you feel under pressure and want to just snap! You would snap on your spouse, people, yourself, your kid, you just want to snap. Especially when people are stating the obvious or you’re trying to multi-task and barely making it. You honestly have all the patience in the world but you have to work very hard to have patience with other people. You have to try your hardest not to attack people.
You know what too, for the first month of his life hubby was home and it was nice. He knows a lot about babies, we had a system and we were good. The not knowing much about taking care of babies leave you very vulnerable as well, especially when people say do this or do that and you’re unsure. Or when things happen and it weakens your soul because you don’t know what the fuck is happening! You just become threadbare. We’ve had so many moments when he’s crying, you’re crying and the doctor tells you everything is fine and what’s happening with him is normal! Our last visit was because he cried ALL night, the doctor made a big sigh and said guys…’this is what they do, you have on bad night. Deal with it.’ We went home so ashamed, we haven’t been back since.
I just appreciate the support I get from my friends though. Not having a mother or grandmother around was my choice and when my friends came around and made us feel like adults again it felt good. You will go crazy without adult interaction. Honestly, help with the baby is ok, it’s not necessary but adult interaction away from the baby is very important. This is one of the things that can lead to post-partum depression, especially if you have a fussy baby or a super attached baby.
I must say though, through it all, you have a sense of gratefulness. Not even love. You’re just so grateful. He’s happy and healthy, you and your partner are happy and healthy. All things considered, you develop a very deep sense of being grateful and you learn how to appreciate people more. No matter how people judge your parenting and try to tell you what to do, your bottom line is that he is alright either way. It’s kind of therapeutic saying these things out loud. Every one act like a baby is all smiles and giggles when they take a lot of hard work. If you have someone around you that knows the ropes, of course it’s easier. Opinions and beliefs may clash but you find a common ground and carry on.
I’d never change my experience though; from during pregnancy I learned to be very grateful for health and strength. When you see rich women, poor women, black, white, yellow women go through so many struggles and you and your family is ok, you just have to be grateful and humbled by your journey.