A newborn at 43 years-old. It wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Wait; let me back up. After getting past the crippling depression… then it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
You’ve heard it a million times and I’ll say it again. Post-partum depression is real and it is no joke. And as much as other women try to prepare you for it, it doesn’t make it one bit easier. Knowing it will pass does not help when deep in the throes of it.
It helped me when I learned that there are medical and physiological explanations that cause the sudden onset of what used to be called the “baby blues.” [Whoever coined that term should be shot, along with the person who named it a “geriatric pregnancy.”]
Basically, when your body expels the entire amniotic sac, some of the hormones that had been building the previous 40 weeks leave right along with it. All in one fell swoop, they are flushed out in an instant. The body is left to rebuild and regulate the remaining hormone stores. The body’s many hormone interactions are extremely complex and I don’t presume to know enough to teach anyone about it. All I can say is that it is abundantly clear that we rely heavily on hormone balances to regulate our moods. And just when you needed mood stability the most… it was gone in a puff of smoke. And now we have a creature that we are responsible for 24 hours a day. No wonder we are insane. For around 2 weeks. That’s about how long it takes to rebuild the hormones you lose in delivery. Two weeks is also about how long it takes for certain antidepressants and mood stabilizers to kick in. I recommend tapping into the benefits of chemistry during this very delicate period when you’re vacillating between a sobbing lunatic and a walking zombie. I believe that is why the universe brought these pharmaceutical wonders here. Just ask Brooke Shields.
The overwhelming joy of birth I saw women experience in the movies; it wasn’t like that for me. I did not feel like I found the love of my life in an instant. I felt terrified. Of course I was happy to see her, but I was also scared as f***. I remember thinking there is no way I can do this. I’m too old and I’m way too selfish. Oh my god, what have I done.
It took about 3 months (almost to the day) for my little one to sleep through the night. It happened suddenly and wonderfully. At first I thought she must have stopped breathing. Morbid, I know. But that’s really what I thought. After getting up every few hours (realizing that I hadn’t been awakened by crying in a while), my fears were unfounded and she was fine. A few nights in a row and I relaxed. Ever since then, she’s out for 9-10 hours in a row. Overnight. Oh yeah.
The sleeplessness, the zombie-hood, the headaches and dirty diapers accidentally left in the fridge… it was over so quickly. I became sane and actually felt like myself again. It will happen, I promise! A friend of mine told me her kid slept through the night at 7 weeks. Another at 4. Maybe they were just showing off, but I tend to think they were being truthful. Still others told me it took their kids 6 months. And while it really is different for every kid, I think the way the parents facilitate the sleep routine makes a huge difference.
I also discovered that I had clarity regarding the “cry it out” method. It just makes sense. And low and behold, it worked. I attribute this attitude to my age. I really get how a kid needs to learn to self-soothe and that it is my job to prepare this kid for the world. It’s my job to give her tools and skills. I trust my own judgment more than I did when I was younger. I read lots of articles and books on parenting and sleep training, but in the end I went with the method that made the most sense to me and NOT the method that made me FEEL the best. It doesn’t feel good to hear your baby cry. But I have to do what’s right, not what is easiest. She won’t know how she learned to soothe herself back to sleep at night, but dammit she’ll be able to do it.
During the 3 month sleep-deprived state and now 9 months into it, I’ve realized a few things. [This is the part where the “not as hard as I thought it would be” comes in.]
I am not gonna be here forever. One of the nice things about being older is that I have a sense of my own mortality. I want to live every moment and enjoy the hell out of it. In my experience, we mostly regret the things we didn’t do, as opposed to the things we did. I’m not going to let that happen. I am having this baby at the exact right time in my life. I’m old enough to know that there really isn’t anything to fear. Fear is bullshit. We just make it up out of nowhere. It’s pointless and toxic. I don’t want to be that kind of person and I won’t be that kind of mom. So, there.
There is no need to fear the social pressures and freak out about how I’m going to be the only 50-year-old woman showing up to my kid’s second grade orientation. Who really cares anyway? It’s amazing how much we are so concerned about what people think of us, seeing as how we mostly just care about ourselves. Every other mother out there feels the exact same way as me and you. We all just pull out our rulers to see how we measure up to each other in every conceivable way.
I now have an amazing drive to become stronger, smarter, more efficient, more creative, more everything that I never had before. Sure, I was ambitious to some extent. But my motivation comes from a different place now. The female hormones that kick in for pregnancy must have a counterpart that kicks in for motherhood because I am on freakin’ fire now. I’m so focused. I see things more clearly. I know how to get things done and I can see the things that don’t matter and they just slip right off my plate. It’s really awesome, this mommy thing. I recommend it.