No1 turned 4 this week. Among the bittersweet celebration of her newest number floated tiny flashbacks. Bit and pieces of the horror kept snapping me out of my happiness. The 37-week induction for no reason, the 12 hours she spent in ICU because of fluid in her lungs, the second-degree cervical laceration, and the feeling of complete disconnect with my new baby girl. One of my most vivid memories of the day she was born is being wheeled into the ICU and realizing I had absolutely no idea which baby was mine.
Four years ago, early in October, I lost who I knew myself to be. It may be the anniversary of my baby’s birth, but it’s also the anniversary of the onset of my PPD.
Past birthdays haven’t been so hard. But my birth experience with No2 was so beautiful and peaceful and my bond so deep and immediate, that the anger over how bad round one was has resurfaced. It’s almost as if comparing experiences has highlighted how horrid the first one was. I realize it’s water under the bridge. . . that I have an amazing little girl who knows that she is loved and feels it ever day with me. Maybe it shouldn’t matter how I gave birth to her, but it does. Those early days were filled with emotional and physical trauma, both of which I suppose I’m still healing from.
Today, we celebrated with a party. A house full of preschool friends, yellow “happy car convertible” decorations, a Matchbox car race, crafts, and treats. It was joyful and a celebration of everything No1 is in this moment. She had an incredible time. Incredible. I’m choosing to focus on that. Choosing to live in the present.
But in these quiet moments when my heart reaches back to the past and aches for what might have been, or regrets all the time lost to denial and naiveté , I am trying to be kind to myself. I’m staying up late to play video games with my husband, imagining Velma’s face on each villain and alien creature. I’m taking long showers, freshening up the pink in my hair, and wearing my favorite makeup. I’m sleeping in on the weekends and going to bed early to listen to podcasts I know will send me off to dreamland. I’m sipping my coffee slowly and microwaving it as many times as it takes to finish the whole cup hot. I’m soaking in each “I love you,” from my now-four-year-old.
It’s okay to celebrate her four astounding years on this earth and grieve for the joyful birth and postpartum experiences I was deprived of. And spooning chocolate frosting straight from the can into my face? Sure has helped with both.