PostpartumMar 15, 2018
After my husband, my aunt and my mother had left the hospital, I sat in bed staring at this beautiful baby sleeping in my arms. I unfurled her blankets a tiny bit to examine her. She was coated in a thin layer of hair. I smiled at her fluffy ears, her tiny spine and a little birth mark on her lower back. She had a red mark on her forehead where she had been wedged during delivery. That mark stayed with her for years and it would get darker when she cried. When I noticed she was awake, I spoke to her. I don’t remember my speech but it had something to do with beginning our journey together and how I would be there for her no matter what. I tried to sing lullabies to her then I realized that I didn’t know any. I knew a few lines from three lullabies and that is what I sang.
I was excited to show her off to my family members the next day. Only two people were allowed in the room at a time so I anticipated a busy day. My husband stopped by in the morning with a Tim Horton’s coffee and an egg salad sandwich. His friend Andy came over to say hello. I was embarrassed to have egg breath and look like crap but I got over it pretty quickly. The nurses had fed the baby a bottle while I slept so she was no longer feeding properly. I was told about nipple confusion and I was angry that they would feed her formula. They said they felt that I should rest and didn’t want to wake me. I was alone most of the day trying to get my daughter to latch properly. It was really frustrating. My mother was at work. My husband had left for his Sommelier class, a ten minute drive away. He had a test and I encouraged him to go and write it. He promised to come back after the test to pick me up. When my family finally arrived to meet the baby, they all came together. I worried that I would get in trouble because there were four of them, double the limit. I felt proud of my baby and loved watching them hold her. She was a beautiful, calm baby.
Once my family had left, I wondered why my husband hadn’t returned. I was stitched up like a baseball glove, front to back. I had lost a great deal of blood so I felt dizzy when I stood up. My daughter was still resisting my breast. She was no longer sucking happily on my nipple. She turned her head and cried in frustration. I wanted to pack my bags but there was nowhere to safely put the baby. My husband texted that he would stay for his class. Then he texted that he was running late. The nurses kept popping their heads in and saying, “Are you still here?”. This brought back memories from my birth. I was taken away from my mother at birth, sent away to an orphanage and she only got to hold me months later. I was feeling abandoned. I didn’t know at the time that my husband had called my mother, asking her to pick up his car and drive me and the baby home. My mother was shocked and told him it was his job as a father to bring his family home.
Something had changed. My husband doesn’t recall much about these early days. He has one memory of driving to school for his course and realizing, as he parked the car, that he couldn’t remember driving there. The nurses fed me supper, “Looks like you’re going to be here for a while, I guess we better feed you supper”. I felt humiliated. I had given them excuses all day, “My husband has a test today, he’ll be right back. He just texted, he needs to stay there for the full course. He’s on his way, there is heavy traffic”. By the time they brought my supper, I didn’t say anything. I just ate. I was grateful for the food. I had been starving.
When my husband arrived, he was in a hurry to get home. He was hungry. He grabbed the baby carrier and some luggage and I attempted to follow him out to the car. There was a policy, I had to leave in a wheelchair for liability purposes. He placed the carrier on me and pushed the chair out into the dark parking. He loaded the carrier into the car and I carefully lifted my sore booty into the truck. Everything felt cold and technical. I looked forward to some bonding time. He had planned to take some time off but, he told me he would be working.
In the following months, I got a breast pump so I could keep feeding my daughter. Her frustration with my nipple made me panic. I worried that my body would stop supplying enough milk. We got into a routine, she and I. I spent months on our bed, watching Ellen DeGeneres, writing in my journal, eating and napping. My husband worked from a space on the ground level of our home so he was never far but he felt very distant. I knew he loved our daughter and he was a proud papa. He would call up, asking me to bring the baby down for a visit. His clients wanted to see the baby and they spoiled us with gifts.
When he wasn’t working, he left the house throughout the day to run errands. He was on his computer or his phone, reading the newspaper or fixing the car, making repairs to the house. He hired a neighbour, a contractor, to make his work space look more professional-updating the lighting, installing a new sink. He would spend hours with this contractor, watching him work, talking, laughing, drinking beer. There were special deliveries on a daily basis. He was buying himself toys from his childhood on e-bay. My husband had a traumatic childhood where he was both neglected and abused. I saw this as his way to heal his wounded inner child.
My mother came for a visit every week. Saturdays were busy for my husband and he liked to go out for supper to celebrate the end of his work week on Saturday nights. I would spend the day with my mother and go out for supper with my husband. I loved Saturdays and looked forward to them. However, even on date nights, I felt a disconnect with my husband. He was physically present but I felt alone. My husband and I have discussed these early days since then. It was hard for him to know how to behave. His own father was absent. Whenever his father was at home, he was abusive. He didn’t want to be like him but he needed another role-model. The experience of becoming a father and the weight of that responsibility, financially and emotionally was overwhelming. Have interviewed many women about their experiences of motherhood and, from the way they describe their husbands during postpartum, I believe many men go through postpartum depression. It doesn’t look the same as it does in women but I’m sure it’s a thing and I plan to look into it.
I don’t think my husband and I ever stopped loving each other. We were both committed to our relationship. We each knew what it’s like to grow up without a father and we wanted our daughter to have a dad in her life. It was just going to be a bit more complicated than we had anticipated. We needed to communicate but we were both too confused and emotional to put our feelings and thoughts into words.