How Is My Baby Boy?

Two months after my son was born, I went back to work full-time. We could only afford six weeks of leave but we stretched and made it to eight weeks. While it was always my hope and dream to be a work-at-home mom, that just was not and cannot be a reality for us right now. I’ve been lucky in that Elliott has been in the care of my husband, my mom, and a GREAT preschool and most of his days he’s at home.

The first few weeks and months that I returned to work were the hardest. I cried on my way to work and I cried on my lunch breaks. Because I chose to breastfeed my son for a full year, I was also pumping three times a day at work. They don’t tell you how your hormones can mess with your mind when you are pumping. The very act of pumping makes a mothers arms ache to hold her baby instead of a yellow Medela breast pump.  

I miss a lot of firsts as a working mom. I remember seeing Elliott do something new and getting so excited only to be told “oh, he’s been doing that for days.” No one says it to hurt me but it hurts. I scroll through the thousands of pictures of my son in our camera roll and realize many of them catalog the growing up he did during those 9 hours a day I was absent. They were pictures sent to ease my worry or make me feel included.

Postpartum anxiety is also a big jerk. Like a really big jerk. My sister and I can at least be empathetic with each other on this one. It starts with “will my baby wake up,” “is he eating enough,” and “what if we never get tummy time right?” But eventually is progresses to wild uncontrollable thoughts flying through your head at night while everyone sleeps. You mentally stumble over worst case scenarios: sickness, injury, home invasion, kidnapping. Your body can’t separate what you’re thinking from what you’re feeling and so you panic and grieve on loop until something yanks you back to reality.

For me those moments were like scuba diving in the dark and only realizing how deep you’ve gone when your tank runs out of oxygen. I would feel the adrenaline rush and my breath quicken and I would claw my way back through the anxious thoughts until my mind was free. This makes postpartum anxiety a terrible reality.

But I said postpartum anxiety was a big jerk. Here’s why. Imagine all of that happening as you sit at your desk trying to work the job you know you need. Imagine it happening again and again. Imagine that you can’t read a news story about a child being hurt, missing, or dead without the panic rising again. Only a jerk hits you while you’re down. 

I promise to write more about postpartum anxiety because I think it’s important. We don’t talk about these things enough. It would have helped so much in the early years to have had someone on the inside of my world to reach out to when I felt the panic seeping in. 

So how have I found made it this far? How have I not only gone to work each day but excelled, advanced, and been successful? How have I managed to keep the panic in check and shout down the doubts I have?

“How is my baby boy?” 

It’s a text message I send daily, sometimes twice a day to whoever is watching my son that day. It’s expected and it’s typically answered quickly. 

“He’s had a good morning. No complaints. We had Sonic and he ate 10 tater tots and half of a burger and apply juice.”

“Driving home E told me his left ear was hurting and he wanted me to kiss it. Continued to rub it with a sad face all the way home. But he has eaten great and had a good morning. Watching Thomas right now.”

And my husband shares dozens of pictures and videos throughout the day so I don’t miss it all. He also knows how quickly the anxiety and panic sinks in so if I text “Saw (insert something horrible) on the news. Please send me a picture of my boy,” he will. Sometimes just knowing he is safe can shout down a thousand worries. 

It’s hard to write about this. I know I sound crazy and maybe I am, but if there is one more person out there as crazy as me, I want her to know she isn’t alone.  

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