I never thought I was going to raise a family in NYC. I moved there eleven years ago, from the DC area, and always thought I would move back after we had our first son. It’s been four years... He came during a winter storm, nine inches of snow that shutdown all of Manhattan and all mass transit. The birth went fine but – and I don’t know of any other words – it was traumatizing. I’ve been a rather healthy person, never had to go to the hospital or had major surgery. I’ve never been in a situation where I am the main focus or ten people would rush into the room while I sleep to move me because the heartrate of my baby had dropped. It’s scary. Stressful. It’s traumatizing. I remember holding him and feeling happy, but not having that immediate unconditional love and connection that I was anticipating. You know, the one feeling that everyone tells you you’re going to feel or what you see in movies. I was there, setting my eyes on him, and I didn’t feel that. We all have our perspective on what postpartum is, but for me, it was self-inflicted shame. It was something that I – and the few other moms that I know – just didn’t want to talk about, at least when we were going through it. I’m not even talking about depression here, but the initial first weeks of hormones levels going all over the place. You take these labor and delivery classes, a tour of the hospital, you do all these things in preparation for the baby’s arrival, but there are no classes for what to do when you bring baby home. I knew I was supposed to love this guy, but I just didn’t feel it.
I came home in a cab and my mom and husband walked our son home in a stroller. We don’t have a car – because NYC – but the hospital still has this strange rule where you can’t leave without a car seat, despite the law that allows you to ride cabs with a baby on your lap. Anyway, my sister had come to visit and she went home with me and helped me get up the stairs. Six…Flights…Of…Stairs. It was awful. I tore so I was definitely sore, I’ve got a diaper on, my body is exhausted, and here I am, climbing stairs. Traumatizing, there’s that word again. We get in out teeny tiny 400sqft apartment and there’s now way too many people plus our dog. But we need the help. We also had read up before on how to introduce a baby to a dog. My husband had brought home a blanket to let her smell it. Instead, we all arrive and our son is screaming. Inconsolable. Bloody murder screaming. Our dog is also crying, I’m about to cry too, and I’m trying to feed my son and I just can’t. He’s starving but my milk didn’t come in right away. Of course, I was like "No formula, breastfeeding is better, everybody tells you this…" But it felt like needles going through my nipples. And not just one. Thousands. At the hospital, there was always somebody coming in and telling you, "It shouldn’t hurt if you’re doing it right," so of course you think you’re doing it wrong! I was like, "Look at me! Tell me what I’m doing wrong!" but every time the consultant would be "Oh well, he seems to be latched on well!" By the second day, my mom took over and suggested the bottle. She was forceful, and I think I needed it at the time. Sure enough, he drinks it, passes out. I thought she had just drugged him. But no, he was just hungry. Chill out, new mom, but I still felt horrible.
For the first few weeks, I didn’t say anything. I just remember holding this child, nursing this child, and having zero connection to this child. To the point where I kept thinking, "My baby got swapped in the nursery." I felt so lonely. Yet everybody congratulates you or ask you how you’re feeling and all you can say is "Feeling great! Super! So happy!" Not true. It’s a shit show. We got to the point where I finally just broke out to my husband one night. My mom was there and we went for a walk with the dog just the two of us, and I just go, "Is it bad that I actually love our dog more than our baby?" And he goes, "I feel the same way! It’s just so hard!" We thought we were failing as first-time parents until we admitted that we both had the same feeling. He was key in this. He asked what I needed to make sure I could take care of myself and feel better. I started going out by myself for coffee with a friend. There was a turning point at some point, around the three-month mark. Maybe because I went back to work and had space to miss him, but I also had start exercising after getting the green light from my doctor. Two weeks after I had our son, the NYC marathon lottery announced you could put your name into it. Only 9 to 12% people get selected. Completely random, but I put my name, not even telling my husband. I mean, what’s the likelihood anyway of me getting in? I had already run half-marathon before, but never a full. Then a couple of days later I checked my credit card statement and I saw a pending charge for NY Roadrunners. I was like, "Oh shit. I’m in. I’m going to run the New York City Marathon. And it’s in eight months."
Running this marathon was probably one of the most important milestone in my life. I would put it up there next to giving birth and getting married. My body was screaming at me, but for the most of that run, I was smiling: the streets are lined with people cheering you up and you’re feeling like a freaking rock star. I think I teared up once I finished. I was like, "My body just did something I never thought it would be capable of." Not only this, but there were two major things I didn’t realize my body was capable of doing and I did them in the last twelve months: having a baby and running a marathon. What else am I capable of doing? It changed my perception – maybe even my life – on what you can do and what’s important. So, when I had my second, I knew exactly what to do. He came and it was not as traumatizing this time. We had this beautiful view of all downtown from our hospital room. I knew what to expect and it allowed me not to be scared and to love him more. I definitely had those feelings again the first two or three weeks, but I had built a community of moms. We took walked during the day and they set up a meal plan for us. We didn’t have to cook for a month! I also knew with this pregnancy that I was going to run the NYC marathon again six months after. I was very proactive about combatting those feelings. I had something to work towards. And this time my husband ran with me. It was his first marathon and after we finished he was like, "Why did you do it twice? This is so painful,’ and I was like ‘Clearly, you never had a child coming out of your body!"