Starting over in the middle: the duality of my postpartum experience. I can’t be the only mom who finds herself saying things like, “We probably won’t try for another baby,” and later on that week think of baby names. Chance is at the top of our list right now – a list that may never be used, because this year after our daughter gave us life, there’s been a passing as well.
As a child, I remember watching VH1 hearing about the “27 Club,” a list of talented artists and musicians who died in some violent or drug-related fashion at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jean-Micheal Basquiat, Robert Johnson, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and this list goes on. As a creative spirit, this myth intrigued and frightened me, but I have always known I have been here before, I’ll experience this life for a long time, and there’s more after. So by the time 27 came for me, I was in love, thriving in my career, and 3 months pregnant.
Similar to the 27 Club, I know the power of creating a perception of connection in the disconnected, making art of pain, appreciating the balance of life and passing on to the beyond. There was a part of me that did pass on after having our daughter. While some women rightfully grieve “the old me,” I just had this desire to get to know who she really was, what made her who she was, why she was so bold and brave to have this baby with no experience, no husband, no plan. The questioning seemed to never stop. Who was I before? Who am I now? Answers were limited. For over a year after giving birth to Langston, I struggled with connecting to any version of myself, new or old.
So I didn’t know myself.
Stage 1: Denial
Nothing is wrong, I love my baby more than air. It’s my baby, so tread lightly. It’s normal to be obsessed with her breathing, sleeping and eating. I don’t need anything but the love I have for her! Nothing is wrong.
Stage 2: The Cover-Up
I am supermom, I can do it all! I can prepare to go back to work, bond with my baby, keep the house spotless, bend here, stretch there, breastfeed, and look sexy doing it. It’s natural. It’s easy (anxious laughter).
Stage 3: Complete Meltdown
Blames partner’s sheer existence as the sole source of my implosion. Ends up having a 3 a.m. crying session on the phone with my mom in a parked car in my driveway. Goes ghost on social media – nothing to see here!
Stage 4: 7-9 Months
Baby is scaling, enjoying new foods, and saying, “Momma.” Baby is less boring, and I am connecting in a different way more and more! Beyond loving baby, because I made baby, but loving her for who I can see she is developing into. The early months were especially hard for me because it was boring in some ways, some women fully connect on all levels but I wasn’t in love with my new, much slower lifestyle right away. My love came in flood stages and is still evolving.
Stage 5: The Big One
As the first birthday approaches, I started to question how time could possibly move so fast, and praised myself like, “Damn, I’m amazing. I might actually be clown-shit crazy, but I did it!” In one year I’ve been proud and sad, curious and numb, protective like winter is coming, and gentle like coconut oil absorbing into baby skin all at once.
Now, I am healing from my postpartum depression and anxiety with the grace of The Most High, the love of my adoring partner, a village of trusted sisters, yoga, and a therapist.
If you’re pregnant, just had the baby, having baby fever, lost a baby, trying for a baby, or don’t want kids, I encourage you to create a space to share your story with other women (The way Lamya has given me. Thank you, Soror). Those spaces are healing spaces, and we need them. If you feel like you’ve started over in the middle of life and you aren’t sure where you are, look for the light inside of you. You’ll find your way, but you also needed to be lost. The duality of motherhood is allowing yourself to be while encouraging yourself to become. May you find that balance, Sis.