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It's taken me a long long time to realize I should have gone to a counselor after my first baby was born.
I didn't exhibit any of the classic signs of postpartum depression – the ones they warn you about. I didn't want to hurt anyone, including myself. Sure, there were a few bouts of uncontrollable crying here and there, but I chalked it up to hormones and a lack of sleep and...I was fine.
But there was a lot going on in my head and no one to talk it out with. I was the first of my friends to have a baby, and I opted to stay home. So all of my friends were still working all day. I didn't have any mom friends yet. I didn't know where to go during the day with my baby. It was all I could do to shower.
It was also the first time since I was 12 years old that I wasn't earning my own income. I've always had a job. I had a full-time job lined up before I graduated college. It was exciting and often fast-paced and going from that to staying home with a newborn was a HUGE shift.
I started freaking out because now my husband was the sole provider for all three of us and I worried about what would happen if he decided to leave or died. My head played an endless loop of things I should probably do to make him happy so he'd be sure to stick around. Let me be clear – he never once gave any indication he was leaving. He would have been mortified to know that I was thinking all this. And I didn't dare say any of it out loud in case he thought I was being unreasonable...and decided to leave me. It was an endless cycle in my head and it was exhausting. It was also ;not at all like the independent woman I'd been until then.
How could I dare be unhappy with someone this cute around?
Even if I'd had other mom friends, I probably wouldn't have talked about any of this with them. I'd just had a beautiful baby. I was #blessed. I knew there were other parents who would love to be able to stay home with their children and couldn't...so who was I to complain about being bored or unsure of what I was doing? Obviously, I was being ridiculous.
I also didn't know if therapy was covered by our insurance. Now that we were down to one income, there's no way we were paying out of pocket. The thought of trying to navigate our health insurance to see if they covered therapy for someone who didn't really need it was daunting.
Things got much better after that first year. I made friends who had young children. As he grew, my son and I filled our days more and more, getting out and exploring together, running errands, communicating with each other, and getting more involved in the community. By the time his sister came along, a lot of those early worries were gone (replaced by other worries, of course, because that's what we parents do.)
I keep thinking about what I would have done differently. It would have been nice to have some mom friends lined up ahead of time (can you do that? Mom-date before your baby is born?) I would have talked honestly with my husband about this weird power shift that occurred when he became the sole provider.
I did eventually take over our budget, which helped me feel like I had some control. And I would have looked into counseling. I still have no idea if it's covered by our insurance, but I would have checked. We wouldn't have hesitated to get our son any help he needed. I wouldn't have hesitated to get my husband or any of our other children that help. It's taken me years to realize it would have been okay to get help for me if I needed it, too.
How was your first year as a parent?
Photos courtesy of iStock and Laura Falin
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.