My husband was often gone for 12 hours at a time, working and commuting two hours back and forth from his job while I was at home, quietly losing my mind. I had been prepped that this would be hard work, that babies don’t care if you haven’t slept in weeks or had a conversation with a grown up in longer. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how ill-equipped I was to deal with the relentlessness of life with a baby- a beautiful, yet nonstop crying one, at that.
Mom arguments aside, when you make the choice to stay home all day with your baby, you really take one for the team. You’re the one who changes every diaper, gives every bath, does every feeding and internalizes every cry. You rarely have the opportunity to eat and if you have a fussy infant, you are pretty used to the mom shower: Pits. Crotch. Done.
Taking a pee (or, let’s be real, a poop) without a baby on your lap is pretty much the greatest luxury you can imagine. Even though you’re the one that’s home all day, you’ve got the boobs so you’re probably going to be the one that’s up all night, too. You can read about sleep techniques, swaddle til you drop, nurse on-demand and do everything “right.” But none of that helps the one person who really needs help- you.
About eight weeks into stay-at-home motherhood and my heartbeat was erratic. A trip to the ER with no answer resulted in several trips to the doctor. A diagnosis of stress and a prescription for Xanax was not the answer I was looking for and I spent the next several months convinced I was not anxious, but just had some rare heart defect and was dying. Then my daughter got sick with a rare infectious disease and we spent two weeks in the PICU while she regained her strength. Anxiety- 2. Me- 0.
When we got home from the hospital, I started taking the Xanax. Just a low dose at night so I could sleep but pretty soon, I was taking them every night. The day ahead was too daunting to do it alone and to do it on no sleep just seemed insane.
I realized that I could be a miserable, anxiety-ridden woman from now until infinity, refilling my prescription every month just to function, or not. To me, it sounded like an awful existence. But I knew that letting go of this new fear that had taken hold of me would be work and I had absolutely no idea how to do it.
When I got the go-ahead, I got back to working out. Having a short jog or weight lifting session at the end of the day helped me to have more energy, which I desperately needed. My daughter needed to nurse several times a night which left me seriously groggy each morning, Xanax or not. Though I was back to my post-baby body, and then some, very quickly (a result of never having time to eat and walking miles around the farm where we lived out of pure boredom), I wasn’t emotionally where I needed to be.
It was time to find the missing piece.