It’s hard to admit that you have fault of any kind, and even more so if you’re ashamed of that particular fault. The year after I had my daughter was one of the most difficult years of my life. I struggled with an array of emotions and hormonal changes after giving birth, and I suffered silently for months. Little did I know that my biggest supporter was also silently suffering. This is my story.
Throwback to January of 2017. January in itself is a depressing month. The daylight hours are limited. It’s freezing cold. There’s nothing to do unless you want to window shop or spend a lot of money. Having a baby in January is HARD. The most you can do is cuddle up with baby and stare silently at the flakes falling from the sky, knowing that the illness ridden world out there needs to stay far away. I kept my daughter indoors and away from public areas those first few months of life because I was afraid she would catch something. She’s this vulnerable little creature with barely any protection so how could I subject her to something so preventable?
My husband stayed home for the first week. My daughter hated him. She didn’t want him to hold her. She didn’t want him to be near her. If he spoke she began to cry and I think he silently resented her a wee bit (they’re best friends now!). My daughter is very clingy, and it was evident right from birth that she needed things done her way.
When my husband returned to work, suddenly it was just me, her and Netflix. I watched a lot of series during those few months we spent together cooped up at home. My daughter preferred to breastfeed and snuggle, and it kept her quiet and happy so I obliged. I visited my parents and my in laws rarely, but between the after birth, sleep deprivation and her personality, it seemed easier just to stay home.
I grew irritated and resentful. I wasn’t enjoying motherhood as much as I felt I should’ve been. I wanted so badly to be this mother that my daughter could look up to, this pillar of strength, but truth was there was only so much I could take. The cold air outside made me resent where I lived, the noisy old windows made me resent the house, and I could only irrational blame one person.
My husband began working longer hours. He took any job he could on the side to “make extra money” so he said. I bet the money was a nice perk but I knew the real reason he was so eager to work – he couldn’t stand the home environment. This made me resent him. This vicious cycle continued for a few more months. My daughter wouldn’t sleep. My husband moved out into the spare room so I could bed share with her. I was so sleep deprived and angry and he was distant. I was never worried that he would stray in that sense, but I did feel betrayed. We brought this human into the world together, and you just left me alone?
My hormones were making me even more irrational and instead of talking to him, I chose to ignore him. He worked even longer hours, found any excuse to be out of the house. We were polite roommates to one another when we saw each other, but when I went to bed every night with my daughter and left him alone on the couch, I finally saw that he was lonely too.
It was spring before either of us knew it, and suddenly he snapped out of his mood. He was happier being outside, I was happier being outside and being able to take my daughter out to do things. She was happier too, experiencing something new. My husband and I sat down and had a conversation. He told me all about the past few months and we talked like old times and I finally said it.
“Are you avoiding me?”
He stared at me, like he was a deer in the headlights. One false move and I was going to run him down with this semi filled with complex emotions. He sat silently for a minute before meeting my eyes. I knew. I already knew months ago when he wouldn’t come home. I knew when he purposely let me be. He told me he was upset and felt alone. He was sad that my daughter didn’t want to bond with him, and he was sad that our priorities had shifted. He also felt alone because of the seasonal depression, and this added to him spending night after night by himself with no human interaction. He felt I chose her over him, but I didn’t see it that way. Her needs in my eyes were greater than his. I was neglecting my husband.
I explained to him how I felt. I felt abandoned. I felt that in those months of humongous change, being physically sore and mentally exhausted, I was abandoned and left to fend for myself with this new life I was completely responsible for. He helped me bring her into the world, and he should’ve been there to support me. We suffered post partum depression together and didn’t know it.
After that night, we worked hard to build our relationship back up. We spent more time together, watching Netflix together or going for walks. We visited our families and went grocery shopping. We still parted ways early in the night, but at least now we were beginning to reconnect and enjoy the little life we were blessed with.
My battle with depression still took its tolls in other ways even after we reconnected. I still felt like I wasn’t a good mother or that I wasn’t doing enough. I felt guilty for every little thing that I was doing. I found solace in being at my parent’s house, and having them be around to talk to me when my husband wasn’t there. I began walking frequently with my mother and my dog, lost all the baby weight and this made me feel so much better mentally. I was grateful that I had that support in those moments from them.
Motherhood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. Raising a family is one of the most physically and mentally taxing things you will ever do. There are so many pressures we put on ourselves, and we sometimes fail to see what we really need, even if it’s waving a flag right in front of us.
I’m about to do it again. I’m seven months pregnant with my son, and I’m a bit scared of what this will mean. One thing is for sure – I won’t have time to lay in bed and feel alone, my daughter will be there to push me to keep going. My husband and I will be better prepared this time around, and have constructed a plan. We will be there to support one another, because the first few months are an adjustment and they are hard work. We’re committed, and we love each other, and everything will be okay.