When my husband and I started trying to have our first child, I had dreams of being the best mom in the entire world to our imaginary little bundle of joy. I’d take him or her on play dates, the baby would never cry, and we would just be one big happy family. Or so I thought.
Then, after two-and-a-half years of trying for our highly anticipated, much wanted firstborn baby, I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy I’d ever laid eyes on. He was perfect—six pounds, 15 ounces; 20 inches long; a head full of dark hair with his daddy’s eyes and my nose. I had to have a C-section because he’d stayed breech the entire time, so I only got to see him for a brief moment before he was whisked away to the nursery with his daddy in tow.
From the moment I was wheeled into the room where I’d spend the next few days, things went downhill fast. My nurses weren’t right on top of my pain meds so I felt like a train had hit me because of the debilitating pain from my procedure. I wasn’t able to hold my son very much that first day. Between being sick from the meds, being exhausted, in horrible pain, and visitors coming and going I felt robbed of those first moments with him.
That first night my husband and I got a taste of what our life would be like for the foreseeable future. Our precious, sweet little baby boy started crying and he literally didn’t stop for the next four hours. It continued when we got home and all of the elders in our family diagnosed him with colic. That’s when the crying started. Not from him, but from me. I’d cry for no reason. Sure, my life had changed but this was what I had wanted for so long—to be a mom. The weeks following were filled with no sleep, fights with my husband and a little baby who cried all of the time. All of the time. Only parents who have had a baby with colic, real colic, will understand the hell I am talking about.
I felt hopeless, lost and like a failure as a mom. On top of trying to find a way to calm my ever-crying baby, I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression like I had never known before. It happened gradually and suddenly at the same time. Within two weeks of my son’s birth I lost 25 pounds. All of my baby weight, 9 months of weight gain to grow that tiny human—gone! Sure, it sounds good to some, but it is not healthy to lose that much weight in that amount of time.
It didn’t take long for those closest to me to realize I was dealing with postpartum depression and a bad case of it.
I struggled to bond with my new son. I didn’t have awful thoughts of harming him that sometimes accompanies postpartum depression, but I honestly wanted nothing to do with him. I knew deep down that I loved him, but my mind and heart could not come together. I had thoughts of suicide or running away and never coming back. It was horrible. It was only compounded by the fact that my son continued to suffer from colic. His pediatrician offered little help other than, “Sometimes these things happen and we aren’t sure why.” My husband’s depression matched mine and our marriage was circling the toilet bowl in what should have been our happiest of times. We were constantly at each other’s throats because of the depression, the colic, the exhaustion and the back seat our marriage had taken since our baby arrived.
That’s when an unlikely angel save my life.
Seeing how much we were struggling with life as new parents, my husband’s mother came to the rescue. She came to stay with us. She got up early every morning to relieve me of the night shift, and sent me up to bed. She did the laundry, made us dinner, fed the baby, and sent my husband and me out for dinner and a movie. It was Valentine’s Day, I remember having no appetite while trying to eat my burger at the restaurant. But, I did appreciate the time out of the house with my husband.
My husband was a full-time college student at the time, so when he left for his classes in the morning I was left at home with the baby and his mom kept me company most days. She and I hadn’t had the best relationship in the past. We were friendly with each other, but had very different views on life and what was best for her son. But, maybe because I had provided her with her highly desired first grandchild, things shifted between us. We bonded over him. She talked to me. She just listened as I vented and told her how I felt. She relayed her own struggles with depression after her own son was born. She understood. She made me feel better about it. But, most of all, she showed me it was OK to ask for help. She showed me patience and grace. She took care of all three of us when we needed it most.
Having her there gave me the time I needed to conquer my postpartum depression and adjust to my new life as a mom. She took some of the burden off of our shoulders. She seemed to know when we wanted her to step in and when we needed the time with the just the three of us. She was rooting for us and helping us.
I know some will say that I was weak and what kind of mother was I to have another woman take care of my baby? But, I was taking care of my baby. I was there, every day, doing everything I could to help him and when he wasn’t with me, he was being taken care of by his daddy or his grandma, who both loved him more than anything else. Unless you’ve suffered the emotional and physical rollercoaster that is PPD or you’ve had to live the nightmare that is a colicky baby I ask you to please understand why I accepted the help.
Eventually, with the help of those around me and my doctor, I came out of the fog that was my depression and became the mom I always knew I would be. My son continued to struggle with colic right up until nine months and was eventually diagnosed with autism. The two may have been linked but there’s no real way of knowing. But, to this day, even when she drives me bonkers by giving my boys too much sugar and giving unsolicited advice, I will say until my dying day that my mother-in-law saved my life. I’m not 100 percent sure if I mean that metaphorically or literally. Probably a bit of both.
It just goes to show you never know where help might come from. You never know when you will need it or really how to ask for it. You may have a hard time accepting it at first, but take that extended hand. When you are drowning, grab hold of that life preserver and hang on for dear life until you are back in safe waters. Mine came from someone I hardly expected, but boy, I’m sure glad it did.