The Bathroom Sink
It’s been almost two years since I entered the 4th trimester. Where my focus switched from self-care to caring for this tiny little being that now depends on me for literally everything.
Two years and I feel like a fog has lifted. The fog of postpartum anxiety and depression. I had spent the three years while we were trying to conceive researching everything pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding, etc. you name it, I had done extensive reading on the topic. Obviously nothing can prepare you for the moment you’re responsible for another little life.
From our first breastfeeding session up until her 23rd month of life I was anxious. The main part of my anxiety came from our breastfeeding journey, but that’s another story for another time. What started as a feeling of inadequacy lead to fear of how I’ve failed her and set her up for failure for the rest of her life. I’ve opened her up to have lower immunity than if she’d been exclusively breastfed.
Due to our situation of low supply and her cosleeping, it wasn’t until she was 18 months and 1-week old that I slept longer than a 4-hour stretch. I’m not exaggerating, or being dramatic. 4 HOURS. I loved cosleeping and it gave me so much more peace having her so close to me (I still sleep with pillows tucked where she would be sleeping against me because I miss having her so close) but I did not realize until being on this side how much my lack of sleep contributed to my anxiety and depression.
I could not calm my thoughts. My mind would bunny trail in many different directions - I’m not talking about “mommy's brain” I’m talking my blood pressure rising and trying to reason every little decision that we made.
I gained 60lbs while pregnant but I feel like (and pictures will agree) that I gained a few additional pounds postpartum. Despite what I was eating (70-80% paleo / whole30) my clothes fit me the same if not tighter some days (I have since been diagnosed with Hashimoto's which would explain the weight gain).
My weight made it so I avoided the mirror at all costs. I purposefully got rid of the scale before I got pregnant so I can’t say that I avoided that but you know I would have been on it every day making myself feel even worse for the lack of “progress”.
Since I avoided the mirror I spent as little time as possible in the bathroom. That included a lot of days that I didn’t brush my teeth, forget about hair and makeup. I had my hair up and I’m not talking about the “mom-bun”. My hair got so long that regular hair ties would put such a strain on my hair/head that my hair would break and I would spend the majority of the day readjusting or being uncomfortable, so I bought hair-pins to just have it smashed down to the back of my head.
Part of my postpartum anxiety came in the form of anything that wasn’t “clean”. Natural deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, no-poo, dishwashing & laundry detergent. Foods that I allowed in the house. (*I still stand behind these decisions!) Because of this all the “natural” shampoos I used mixed with the well-water we have at our home left my hair CONSTANTLY oily/greasy/ and with a thick film on it - to the point that my hairbrush had a tacky residue on it after every brush. Needless to say, my physical appearance was the last thing I put effort into because “it is what it is” mentality was so my mantra - when it came to ME.
A few months after experiencing a miscarriage (and Evie has been sleeping in her own bed for a couple of months) I felt this urge to do something for me. Being a stay at home mom had always been my dream, but I know that I have more to offer than raising little ones. I decided to pursue a new career path. It required a workshop so I took the opportunity to get my hair cut and colored back to my “old me”.
The few days leading up to this I noticed my bathroom sink. We have dual sinks in our bathroom so this pertains to only my sink.
Filthy wouldn’t begin to describe it. Raw and complete transparency- it was disgusting to the point of embarrassment. We’ve had guests come to stay with us almost every month from Nov. - April and every time I would spend hours cleaning the house top to bottom... except my sink. I’d clean the shower, toilet, the mirror, Zach’s sink, everything in our bathroom except my sink. I feel like I kept it dirty to continue to keep me out of the bathroom and away from the mirror. I intentionally skipped over cleaning it for a number of reasons, “you don’t have time”, “it’s not that big of a deal”, “you’re only in here for 2 mins anyway so what does it matter” which all eventually translated to “You’re not worth it.”
I was subconsciously and even mentally saying to myself that I wasn’t worth living in a clean environment. I wasn’t worth the two minutes it would take me to clean my sink so I wouldn’t be looking at scum on a daily basis.
Everyone says “you can’t pour from an empty glass”. I disagree. I poured, and poured, and poured. For almost 2 years I poured everything I had and then some. I can’t say that what I poured was the best I could have, but I still poured.
“Oh just get a sitter, you need to go out / have a break”. With both of our families out of state and we still hadn’t really made friends in the area, we didn’t have a tribe or a village of support. Part of the anxiety was something would happen to Evie and the thought of that kept us to one afternoon out with a babysitter and it ended miserably because Evie wouldn’t stop crying.
The 3-day trip we took for my birthday to Orlando was the first we were away from her at 3 months (she stayed with my parents). The mom guilt was real and I was pumping the whole trip (still up every 2-4 hours including throughout the night), because of how low my supply was. Due to the pumping schedule, it made it nearly impossible to really enjoy anything more than 40% for me.
My point to this story is that I didn’t know what I was going through until I was through it. I had an out of hospital birth because I thought I would get a more personal experience than just being “a number in the system”. I had also been put at ease due to the fact that I would have 2-3 follow up visits with my midwifery team.
They went through and did the postpartum depression questions and all I have to say is - I’ve been in sales. My whole life. If I don’t want you to know I’m having a bad day, you won’t. I didn’t want to be put on postpartum meds, and because of the anxiety, I didn’t want to hear for the 15th time to join a mommy and me group. The very act of putting Evie in a car seat was enough to make her miserable for the rest of the day which often leads to not only her screaming in the car, but me sobbing after a 5 min. drive home from the grocery store.
Postpartum care is so important, and the care needs to be established before it’s needed. Had we known about this service (I was only aware of a childbirth doula at the time) I honestly can’t say that I would have justified it. Most likely I would have continued with my wonder-woman mentality of "I don’t need help”.
We made it through postpartum anxiety. But at what cost? How many nights did we waste fighting due to my husband having an hour commute home (on top of working late hours) and I had been with Evie all day screaming due to colic, the witching hour, just because I took her out of her baby carrier for a split second?
I wish I could have experienced her first two years with more energy, more trust in myself and my husband to be doing the best we could. I wish I would have experienced it to the point of being able to look forward to my next 4th trimester because I had a great experience - instead I’m looking forward to my next postpartum experience because I know what safety nets to have established now.