I was supposed to go back to work today. But it's 9:30am and I'm still in my pajamas, and that's not because I overslept on my first day back (although that's totally something I would have anxiety about, and then not sleep because I was worried about oversleeping, and then be so tired that I didn't even hear the alarm in the morning). I'm not going back. I informed my office of this decision a few weeks ago, and now the day is here. The day I was supposed to go back, but did not. The day I guess it becomes really official: I'm a stay-at-home-mom now.
I've always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. It's what I saw myself doing when I was a kid and I thought about the great, unknowable future. It's something Joel and I talked about and agreed on long before we were even engaged. It was the plan from the moment that we decided to try to get pregnant.
But then Hannah was born. And those first few weeks... they were awful. Really, truly awful. I feel terrible saying that, but it's the truth. I don't ever want to go through that again. Except, we want more kids, so I guess I will just hope the adjustment period is hardest with the first one. Don't tell me if that's not true. I don't want to know.
I don't know why it was so bad, exactly. Part of it is hormones. Oh, the hormones. You can know that you're feeling like shit because of hormones, but that doesn't make you feel any less shitty in the moment. And then there's the lack of sleep. As a veteran insomniac, I thought I knew a thing or two about lack of sleep. I knew nothing. I can totally understand why sleep deprivation is a method of torture. Despair sets in pretty quickly when you haven't slept for more than two hours in a row for two weeks. And then there's the permanence of it all. Well-wishers kept telling us to "treasure these moments!" and "enjoy every minute!" and all I could think was that we'd made a terrible mistake. And oh, I felt guilty for feeling like that. Raging hormones, intense sleep deprivation, and a crushing sense of guilt and despair. Plus, the crying. The endless crying. And the fact that you spend your entire day feeling like you have absolutely no idea what you're doing. Because you don't. Yeah, I don't think "baby blues" is a strong enough term. It's right up there with "moodiness" on my list of things that need a better name.
In the midst of those brutal weeks, I also had myself a nice little life crisis. Because all my life I'd thought I wanted to stay at home with my kids and Joel and I had worked really hard for a really long time to put ourselves in a financial position where that would be possible and all of a sudden it turned out maybe I had changed my mind. In fact, I found myself fantasizing about going in to the office, where I wouldn't need to feed anyone but myself, for a few hours. Where no one would be crying for five hours straight every single day.
They were dark days, is what I'm saying. One night I was awake at 4am scrolling through my reader on my phone while Hannah was feeding and I came across this post by Sundry. I started crying (and then quickly stopped myself because I realized that I couldn't get out of bed to blow my nose with a baby attached to my boob). People had been telling us that it was going to get better, but no one had come right out and said that this infant thing just kind of sucked. Conversely, people seemed to actually MISS the newborn stage. Why? I could not figure out what there was to miss and I was terrified that something was wrong with me and I didn't love my baby enough. It was so good to read someone else say what I'd been feeling: that this whole stage kind of blew.
Spoiler alert: it got better. Gradually, but perceptibly. One afternoon about four weeks in, Joel and I took Hannah for a walk in the stroller and I told him I felt like things were getting better every day. "Don't you think things are getting better?" I asked him. "They're getting better because you're feeling better," he answered. He was exhausted and tired and worn out, but he didn't suffer like I did those first few weeks. I don't know if that's because I was the one saddled with breastfeeding, or if it was because I saw an eternity of being home alone with the baby stretching in front of me while he went back to work after a week. Maybe I had mild postpartum depression. I don't know. All I know is it got better, and I am very thankful for that.
Still, quitting my job was harder than I thought. I'd wistfully fantasized about getting pregnant so I could quit my job on a daily basis, back when I hated my job. But I didn't hate this job. I actually liked it quite a bit. I was good at it and it paid fairly well and in the current economy it felt a little bit like madness to walk away from such a good situation.
Maybe it was madness. I never said I wasn't crazy.
I didn't expect it to be such a hard decision, not when it wasn't really a decision at all. We'd made up our minds about this a long time ago, and maybe that's why it was difficult. I looove to second guess myself, especially under the influence of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation. But this is what's right for our family -- and truly, that's what we are now, a family -- and trust me, I know how lucky I am to have this as an option.
And I do feel lucky. Two months ago I did not. But those of you who said it would get better were so, so right. It got better. It keeps getting better. And I can't wait.