May 30, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I don’t have postpartum depression. I have the pamphlet in my hand from my doctor’s office and I only have one symptom – worry about harming my baby. Nothing else fits. Yesterday I asked my doctor for help and he said, “you’re just a stressed out new Mum.” So not helpful. Then he said, “little people, little problems,” when I told him that Aras* cries all the time and I can’t handle it.
When he left the room I stayed sitting there, feeling stupid for bringing it up. I found the pamphlet in the waiting room on one of the empty seats, grabbed it and stuffed it in my pocket so no one could see. Now I sit at our kitchen table looking at Aras in his bouncy seat and reading and re-reading the pamphlet. I should just call the number. No. I won’t be humiliated again. I should be paying attention to Aras. Plus, I need to clean the house and make dinner before Mark* gets home.
I force myself to stare into his big green eyes.
“Never break eye contact with your baby,” the book says, “always let your baby be the one to look away.” I force myself to stare into his big green eyes. Am I allowed to blink? Oh never mind, I can’t do it right anyway. Can’t I just start the day over? Fuuuuuck, it’s only 8:30. I move Aras to the floor and go into the kitchen. For the next 45 minutes I scrub the counter tops, the sink, the window. I rearrange the cupboards. Then I sit down to plan meals for the month and…Aras starts crying. Oh right, crap, I have a baby. I feed him because that’s the only thing I know how to do, and then I put him down in his cradle. I should shower. I’m so gross. But I’m not done planning the meals. Work first, then shower. Don’t be selfish.
Aras wakes up 17 minutes later. He hates me. I sit down on the floor with my back towards him and I bury my head in my knees, grinding my teeth. I’m not done planning the meals and I still haven’t showered. I put my hand on the cradle and start rocking it harder and harder. I want him to be tossed out of it and go crashing into the wall over and over again. Maybe I could pick up the cradle and throw it. No, it’s too heavy. Just shut up! Shut up and go away. Why won’t you stop crying? I want to throw him so badly that my arms are vibrating, so I walk out of the room and slam the door, making him cry harder.
I hate you! I yell into my knees as tears soak through my t-shirt. I gasp through my sobs and bang my head against my kneecaps. Why are you torturing me? I hate this I hate him I hate me I hate everything. I bang my head back against the wall as my body shakes. Aras starts screaming louder. That awful pain-filled scream. He feels alone and rejected. Take a number. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t go in or I’ll hurt him. So I sit here sobbing until I’m out of tears. Now Aras has stopped crying. Silence. He’s given up. Fail. I don’t deserve this life. My baby hates me. I get up and go into the shower and just stand there until I stop shaking, and stop hating. Now I need to finish planning the meals, swearing that as soon as Aras wakes up I’ll be a perfect mother. I’ll start over and this time I’ll get it right. I’ll maintain eye contact and play and he won’t cry anymore.
All the time I can never get back, lost to my own stigma
Many years later I wonder how different our lives might have been if I had persevered in getting help when Aras was a baby. Maybe he wouldn’t have spent so much of his childhood in anger. Maybe he wouldn’t struggle so much with anxiety now. I think of all those years lost in anger, all those firsts I don’t remember. All the time I can never get back, lost to my own stigma in thinking that getting help equaled weakness.
*Name have been changed