When my son was born, it was so easy: I had energy, he slept a lot, and breastfeeding happened naturally. I used to bring him everywhere and, when he went to bed at night, my husband and I still had our evenings together. Growing up, he was an obedient little boy, always following the rules. We thought we were such great parents, with impeccable discipline! When I got pregnant the second time, I expected to have another boy. I was so certain that when we learned it was a girl, I cried. I really cried. No one understood – 'the little couple', you know. I felt pressured to be happy and content, so I didn’t talk about it to anyone. But it took a while to come to peace with the fact that I was going to have a daughter. Maybe it explains why when she came, there was no real bonding. I felt it the moment they put her on me. She arrived very quickly and I didn’t 'labor her out' of my body. Like if my head didn’t follow what my body had just gone through. I wasn’t ready for her. It took me days, if not weeks, to be fully aware she wasn’t inside of me anymore. She birthed herself without my consent, like if we didn’t do it together. She didn’t wait for me and it feels like we’ve never really caught up.
I had endometritis and ended up going to the ER. I had gone beyond the time to return to the maternity ward and my family doctor didn’t want to treat birth-related issues. I waited there for 13 hours with my 10-day-old baby who was exclusively breastfed, because she didn’t want to take the bottle and refused to be put down. The antibiotics they gave me turned me upside down. In addition to the exhaustion, my daughter was waking up every hour to cluster feed. Then we realized she had caught a bronchiolitis while waiting at the ER and she had to be hospitalized. I was still vulnerable because of the medicine, so I caught the c-diff. It was just after Christmas and I spent eight days in hell, in the bathroom with her on my breasts. I didn’t have any strength left: I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink, breastfeeding sucked the life out of me. She was so dependent of me that it felt like I didn’t even exist. I was not a wife or my son’s mother anymore, I was only her mother. She was not a happy baby. She cried a lot and was full of eczema. It was only when she started eating solids that we realized she was allergic to eggs and it passed through my milk. On top of everything, my mom got sick and I had to take care of her too. She died a couple of months after my daughter was born. I wish I could make that up.
My partner had gone back to work. When he came back every night, I was throwing her in his arms because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was crying all the time and was daydreaming about getting the hell out of there. It was a recurrent thought: to leave my daughter in her pack-n-play, grab my suitcases and, when he’d come back from work, I wouldn’t say anything to anyone and I’d check-in the nearest hotel, not coming back home for at least two days. I didn’t do it. I would never have done it. It was a legitimate request, had I asked or planned it, but I knew she wouldn’t eat anything if I were gone. She wouldn’t co-sleep with her dad either. He’s not the one who slept with her for eight months, motionless all night on the small edge of the bed. I don’t believe he ever understood what was really going on. Maybe it would have been different if we hadn’t been both so sick or if my mother didn’t die. Perhaps. It’s hard to trace the limit between exhaustion and normal fatigue. You have a child and you expect to have less energy. People keep telling you that it’s normal and that it’ll pass. So then you think to yourself “Ok, I’m not going to complain, everyone must go through this.” But after a while, I thought, "I knew this was supposed to hurt, but is there a time when it’s not normal anymore to be in such pain?"
My kids are now three and six and I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me during that first year. My sisters didn’t know, nor did my friends or my mother, when she was still alive. They knew I was tired, and I’m sure they would have been willing to help, but they didn’t know just how exhausted I was. It was so heavy that if I had given myself the right to talk about it, this small breach would have been ripped apart and everything would have exploded. I would give to anyone the right to collapse, but I never gave it to myself. I still don’t. I was too… ashamed. Never I would have openly lived with how difficult it was to bond with my daughter. It has gotten easier as she grows older. She talks, she tells stories, and we end up finding each other. But I’ll never relive what I experienced with my first-born and as long as I will compare both experiences, it’s going to appall me. So many things went wrong during her first year and for the longest time, till this day, I think I unintentionally blame her for that. We know about postpartum depression, but no one ever told me this is what I was going through. You, know, if my doctor would have taken me aside and said ‘Girl, you’re going through depression’, maybe I would have given myself the right to be treated and cared for. But I didn’t even have words to describe what was happening to me except ‘I’ve had enough.’ It sounded whiny. I wish somebody had told me then. Maybe I would have accepted the help. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so hard to talk about it. But I did it today. I talked to you. And I hope it'll help other moms to put words on their pain.