"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, July 12, 2012

postpartum realities

I remember the follow-up phone call I received from the hospital "Ask a Nurse" hot line after the birth of my first baby.

"We're just calling to see how you are feeling?"

"Any mood swings?"


"History of depression?"

I was confused by the questions, having found myself in la-la land with a new little one to smell and kiss and hold sweet softness to my chest.

And then a night later, sat in the bathtub crying senselessly over the fact that the relationship that Newel and I had previously enjoyed together would never be the same.

It was a small worry made grandiose by all the swirling whirling around me. Thankfully, I had a husband who didn't ask much but wrapped me and baby together with him in our favorite couch blanket with our favorite movie and my favorite movie treat, inadvertently letting me know that things had not changed, only expanded.

It wasn't the last time either.  With each subsequent baby, I found myself in my "bath tub" moment, different string of irrational fears with each, and perplexed husband waiting outside the door to put me back together again.

Still, it didn't seem right ... or normal ... with the precious gift of a newborn waiting to be cuddled, so I allowed myself only one night of it and forced myself to moved on.

I typically find myself anxious to get back into motion following each birth, because I feel so much better with a baby in my arms rather than wrapped around my middle.  To those around me, I'm a gale full force.  It seems to help me move on from my "lows" if only on the surface.  But once, in a group of friends, one asked, "Don't you get any postpartum??" and at first I think I stared blankly because I'd figured those feelings in the wake of such a joyous occasion were not conversation worthy.

How could I tell them that twice I'd cried for a boy who'd so desperately wanted a brother and was saddled yet again with a pink, squishy new sister.  Who would understand that I'd boo hoo'ed alone over the perceived final infant and a stage I never wanted to end?

We are women of strength, after all. Don't be silly.

But, the discussion that followed took me by surprise, regarding postpartum. Is that what you would call it? Was it real? Was it normal? Was it okay? Was it .... common??? They all admitted similarities and in some instances more.

And yes, I realized then that big or small, whether a full on depression or baby blues, the "let down" at the end of such a roller coaster ride is a tangible thing and the spectrum is huge and varying. The key is to recognize and acknowledge those feelings — in whatever form they come --- and ensure that appropriate support is at hand.

The other night following a lot of this ...

I was tired from the sleepless night before.  Packing children to bed, an unhappy Eliza needed extra care and I heard a sibling breathe, "How come I have to give her a piggy back to bed every night" completely void of the pre-baby excitement to do so with a happy heart.

Eliza began to cry.

Someone spoke harsher to her than they previously would have.

Feeling like I was hovering above the scene, I saw a baby who was baby no more. I saw a girl struggling to find her new position in a family that had just increased by one.

I ran the bath.

Celia approached me and said, "Mom, if you're tired in the night, you can always come and get me to hold the baby for awhile so you can get some sleep."

I hugged her goodnight and took to my tub.

And sat for my cry.

To hold everything just like it was.  To keep babies as babies and big kids as kids.  For all the times I'd focused on beginnings.  For all the times I'd forgotten to watch for endings.  For middles I'd not soaked in as deeply as I should.  For years that came in three's.  Three moments ago, Eliza as that baby. Three years later, a displaced three year old. Three more would send the one I'd just hugged far from my nest.  New baby, three in the blink of an eye.  Would first and lasts know each other at all? Couldn't I freeze it all right now? Don't let things change. Let it all be as before.

I stepped from the bathroom red eyed and wrapped for bed to my support group waiting outside the door.

"What is it?" he asked ready to listen and wanting to be a part, "Talk to me."

Tears starting afresh and eager this time to spill my emotions, to face postpartum full in the face, I opened, "It's because right here in this moment, we are all here and I need things never to change, not for me, not for Celia, not for Eliza or Charlotte or anyone in between.  And the natural order of things takes that beyond my abilities."

And everything poured over as he listened.

And he wrapped me and baby in a blanket with him and our favorite movie and my favorite treat to show me that some things would always be the same.

And I knew it would all be okay.


  1. Your writing always has a way of striking a cord in me and leaving me with tears :) You have expressed so accurately how I feel, even if it's just postpartum for a moment! Your words are beautiful Marlowe and I love the way you write!!!! xo

    ps) And Celia's offer to help - so so lovely!!!!

  2. First of all, I've never seen a baby with that much blonde hair! So sweet. And also, I hear you! I've had several moments this time around where I've had to say to myself, "You know what this is. You know it won't last forever. Keep breathing and it will pass..."

  3. Sigh......I love you, your kids, and your husband! I have so been there....even using the bathtub as "my place". Just focus on the fact that you are so loved!!! Oh, yeah....and get some sleep!

  4. Charlotte is beautiful. I can't wait to meet her. I wish y'all were coming to the family reunion!

  5. I'm crying right now. Poor Mary is starting to face some of these realities too. It makes me sad. I'm in the throw of things right now and hoping I won't have as many hard days ahead. Thanks for your words.

  6. Oh Marlowe, I'm holding back the tears right now. This is so beautifully written. And what Celia said is just SO nice and kind and helpful. You are blessed. And I get it about things changing.

  7. Thank you, every one for the kind comments! I want you to know, though I haven't been great at responding to each individual one right now .... I appreciate your love and support. It's been a great time to celebrate :)