[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Laura Birks, a freelance writer in New Jersey and mom to twins. You might identify with her story in the way that she refused to ask for help. Too many of us won’t let go of our pride to do so. Let her story encourage you to go ahead and make the ask. -Jenna]
It’s been four years since I gave birth. I have come to terms with a couple things about those early days (years). I never heard my clock ticking. Not once. Not ever.
So when we found out I was pregnant, I was surprised and scared. Then when we found out (three months later), we were having twins, my head damn near exploded.
I was never really fond of children and honestly, they weren’t very fond of me. I was totally okay with being the cool aunt that left after a few hours. Scared isn’t the right word. I’m not sure there is a word to adequately describe what I was feeling.
Over the next seven months, I came to terms with my new role as a mother. I spoke to them, I sang tasteless rap songs to them, and worried about everything they were doing in there. I wondered what they looked like and wondered if they could hear the terribly violent music I was singing to them. I read everything I could on twins, being a mother, and childbirth. I planned, and then planned some more. We build cribs and dressers, painted walls and decorated their new room.
I still felt terrified. My clock still hadn’t started to tick. I certainly didn’t feel like a mother.
They decided to show up six weeks early. I had an emergency C-section. Everyone saw them before I did. They were whisked away to the NICU, where they were placed in these large incubators with little holes to so you could put your hands in. They were hooked up to no less than four different monitors and Ben needed a c-pap machine to help his lungs for a little while.
The first time I saw them, I was afraid to touch them. My children, the ones I had been telling my deepest darkest secrets to, I was now suddenly petrified of. They looked like aliens and they looked like they were going to break if I touched them.
Finally, I mustered up the courage to let the nurses put one of them in my arms. I felt fear. Fear that I was going to fuck this up. What if I dropped him? What if I didn’t feed him right? Maybe the bath water will be too hot or I won’t hear them in the middle of the night. I figured the best way for me to bond with my two preemie babies would be to breastfeed. Yes, that’s what all three of us needed. True bonding between mother and sons.
Except, I couldn’t breastfeed. My milk wouldn’t come in. I pumped and pumped. I tried nipple shields and ate lactation cookies. I took milk thistle. I pumped some more. While my husband sat in the NICU cuddling our children, I sat in a room, (I affectionately called it the milking station). I finally resolved the fact that I wasn’t going to provide the most basic of all needs for my children. This one thing broke me. I felt like I already failed. They hadn’t even come home yet and I disappointed them.
They spend two weeks in the hospital learning to eat, and getting strong enough to join us in the outside world. The day they came home was the happiest day of my life, until it set in that they were home.
The first few weeks at home were pretty quiet they slept a lot. I didn’t sleep because it took each of them roughly two hours to eat two ounces. As one would finish, the other would wake up and need to eat. This happened around the clock for two months.
As we hit month three, colic set in and they would cry for hours and hours. I was alone at night with them. Sometimes, I would just sit in between them and cry with them. I failed to breastfeed, and now I failed to be able to comfort them when they needed it. I was everything I thought I’d be; a failure as a mother.
The more depressed I got, the less I tried to bond. They cried so hard, for so many hours every night, I was starting to go insane. I felt like I was completely losing myself. I had completely lost myself. I had put myself into survival mode. I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know who these little people were. I just knew that I had to take care of them.
I never asked for help. I should have, but I didn’t. I thought, I am their mother; I should be able to do this.
I took them to doctor after doctor and begged them for answers. I was told I was just overwhelmed being a first time mother to twins. I was told to hire some help and start working out. I will feel better. I knew, at least part of their advice was right, but I felt like they were dismissing me.
I finally called one of the doctors during their colic time and made him listen. He called me every night for a month after that. He set up a gastroenterologist appointment for me and I finally started to feel less crazy. I still wasn’t bonding with them, but at least someone was listening.
As they grew out of the colic and the reflux medication started working, I finally started to bond. I didn’t fully feel like a mother until sometime after their first birthday. After year two, I finally started to not to see their early months and year as a failure. By year three, I felt pretty good about my parenting style and as we enter year four, there is nothing I will not do for them. My heart aches for them.
I finally am starting to understand what being a mother truly is. I feel the love in every inch of my body. I see how they look at me and it melts my once cold heart. I know now that this is what I am supposed to do. This is what I want to do.
For all shortcomings, they still love me. They make me complete as a person. My clock never did start ticking, and I still am not fond of other people’s kids and that’s okay. I just have to love the two I’ve got.
I suffered in silence with postpartum depression. I didn’t know then but looking back, I was alone and scared. What was supposed to be the happiest time of my life—being a new mom with that new baby smell—was the most isolated I had ever felt in my life. I wish I had talked to someone; I wish that I could have set my pride aside and asked for help.
If you need help, you can use our resources to find a specialists who treats postpartum depression and other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders or find a support group near you. You are not alone.