It’s 8 o’clock and my baby has been sleeping soundly since I nursed him a little past 6. In a couple of hours, he will squirm and cry in his sleep and I will be running and panting my way up the stairs to comfort him.
The rest of the night will be a blur. Wait, no. All my life now is pretty much a blur.
It has been months of postpartum bliss. If postpartum bliss means one: being in love with my baby, two: feeling lucky that I have a healthy baby and an amazing husband, and three: not being diagnosed with postpartum anxiety or depression, then this must be postpartum bliss, right?
Then why does my heart always want to beat out of my chest even as I sit still? Why am I physically, mentally, and emotionally unable to relax, to take a deep long breath, and to smile with my eyes?
What can explain this nagging sense of panic that I feel in my throat—-suffocating me? Why am I always feeling jittery and short of breath and lost, as if I am never getting anything done?
What is this anguish that engulfs me when I have to leave for work? And yet this anguish remains when I don’t? Work or not work, I end up feeling guilty, lonely, and torn.
There is this ugly paranoia that I can’t seem to push aside: a heightened sense of mortality where I fear death and loss like I never have before. I try to make sense of why this is so; now, I am a mother and every bit of finality seems to break my heart. Does that justify it?
I have sunken eyes, inflamed ligaments on my wrists, a hunched back, a messy mop on top of my head, and months-long body pains that I have been trying to forget are there. How could I fall so low from my old standards of acceptable upkeep and fitness and look like the mother I never said I would? I look down at my shabby nursing top and avoid a response.
Perhaps, as many sage moms will say, it is just my lack of sleep. I am well aware of the dangerous hormonal imbalance of sleep deprivation. And yet this knowledge will not make me choose the path of sleep training which previously made a lot of sense to me before I gave birth.
Oh, should I even say that? I will be judged for being that mom who co-sleeps, breastfeeds, contact naps, and comforts my baby because I want to. I will be that mom who doesn’t let my baby self-soothe and practice independence at 9 months old because turning my back to my wailing baby even for a minute is for me, plainly counterintuitive. I am not capable of doing it. Oh yes, I am that mom.
Why do I have this obsessive need to be a hands-on mom? How come I seesaw in my trust for our nanny or any caregiver for my baby?
What is this brand of jealousy and resentment that creeps up when my husband’s life and career seem unfazed and I am running a circus of being wife, mom, graduate student, etcetera…disguising my failure in all aspects between playing with my baby and reading academic journals?
I wake up to my baby’s soft shuffling movements at 6 or 7 am. I sing a silly good morning song as I kiss the silky tendrils on his head. I change him, feed him, give him vitamins, play with him, nurse him for his nap, crawl and do yoga with him, and take his pictures and videos. For my “me” time, I scramble to read and do schoolwork on a mission to be on top of my master’s cohort, to not seem as dumb as I feel, to sharpen an un-sharp saw, to keep my productivity level high, to have a semblance of the old me.
But I am never my old me. I am this crazed person who is in love, thankful, special, and also panicked, conflicted, and helplessly afloat. Goodness. What am I, a teenager? I tell my husband everything is good and then I break down in tears maybe once in two months.
None of this makes sense except that there is truth in both anguish and bliss. I find that one does not have to be exclusive of the other.
The birds sing, the skies light up, and all the stars indeed align in these inexplicably joyous moments that are too precious for words. Motherhood is more than what everyone said it would be. I glory in my baby’s breath on my chest, in his eyes lighting up to my voice, in his easy smiles and laughter, and in his soft arms wrapping my shoulder when I hold him close. I will never ever want to stop being a mother even if it becomes the death of me. It is magic, this kind of love.
How am I doing? How is the baby doing? He is wonderful. I am doing great, except for the fact that I am this close to fainting from exhaustion, I feel fat and ugly, and I miss my career and also don’t. I won’t say that but I am doing great, thank you very much.
Being crazy tired does not mean I’m not grateful. Motherhood tends to make me heroic and psychotic all at once.
But for now, I will have to bury my exhaustion beneath more playtime, schoolwork, large spoonfuls of Nutella, stacks of New York Times bestselling parenting books, and Netflix rom-coms. No “Good job, Mama!,” “You should do this, Mama,” or “Don’t do this, Mama” voices in my head.
Tonight while I nurse my sweet baby in my arms, or tomorrow when we crawl around the house, I will honestly “do me” with all the myriad of emotions I can name. Crazy, vulnerable, hopeful, blissful, anguished. And more.