The birth of our son was everything I had wished and planned. Our intimate bedroom home birth that welcomed him into the world left us just as peaceful as it did exhausted. Shortly after he belted his first cries and the midwives hugged us goodbye, the three of us sunk into the bed for our first family nap. I woke hours later with a new person buried in my chest and, as I smelled his hair and counted his toes, waited for the beautiful tears of joy to set in as my first crowning of motherhood. But they didn’t—and I felt peculiarly empty. This was day one of the fourth trimester.
As much thought and time as I had put into my study of the 40 weeks leading up to this climatic moment, I was stumped as to how little I knew about what to expect upon Baby Myel’s arrival. In all practicality I was fully prepared. But of all the blogs, books and videos I’d been referred to, not one—ner one—had given me the frankness needed to help me face what would be one of the hardest few months.
What followed: After the wave of congratulatory visits from family and friends, we were left to feign for ourselves in our new roles as parents. Clueless, anxious and sleep deprived, coupled with raging hormones that were at war with my body, made for a disruptive spectrum of insecurities. I wasn’t enough. I was disappointed in my lack of maternal instincts and impatient to get it right just once. I felt unstable, selfish and inadequate. And guilty. Guilty that the hormones morphed me into this needy, unappreciative person that neither I nor my partner recognized. Guilty for not enjoying every moment of this precious time. I quickly felt like I was loosing my sense of self. What I knew myself to be—dynamic, passionate, sensible—had boiled down to an existence as a caretaker. A boobie manager. And though I have the blessing of a patient partner and loving family and friends, few people asked how I was doing. How I was reeaaalllly doing. Or would have understood. I felt let down. As the first of my close friends to have a baby, the fourth trimester was on its best days lonely and worst days depressing.
With each passing week, the gray skies finally parted. I left the house more. Myel found his smile. The family traveled. I reclaimed my personal projects. Our new normal didn’t feel so crazy and irrational and blossomed into a life of infectious baby giggles and sheer happiness. In retrospect, those 2-3 months post birth—in all their shock value—brought out the rawest, realest bits of myself in ways only that experience could. LEVELS. I’m grateful for the lows and for having emerged from them more vibrant and more in love than ever before. Yet, I’m still bothered that the lack of candor and awareness about the fourth trimester experience does a disservice to women. It keeps us in isolation and hinders us from growing in solidarity. It conjures self-doubt and encourages comparison. It hurts our sisterhoods. The saving grace is knowing that it too shall pass. And it does. And it’s all so worthwhile.
This story also appeared in HANNAH Magazine inaugural issue Fall 2016.