The time I wanted to live in the basement

The time I wanted to live in the basement

When I got pregnant with Reid, I had a very clear vision of what my life would be like. After all, I had plenty of baby experience with my sweet nephew, so I knew exactly what to do! Kirk and I decided about halfway through the pregnancy that I would leave my position at the prosecutor’s office (which was a kick ass job, by the way) and stay home with our baby. It’s what I wanted and he was cool with it. The baby and I would lounge around the house together, play at the park, take leisurely strolls around the neighborhood, etc. Spoiler: this is a very unrealistic view of the first few months of having a newborn, especially your first.

About 4 weeks before Reid was born, Kirk’s dad died suddenly. For anyone who knew Dick, he was an absolute force. His mere presence filled the room. I loved being around him- there was something about his self-assuredness that I found incredibly comforting. He was teaching Kirk all about the family business (at which Kirk had been working for a few years) and how it was run. Now, there was a huge, gaping hole in our lives. So with a few weeks until my due date, Kirk unexpectedly took over his family business.

Reid was born (against his will, thanks to an induction) on Monday, May 6. On Tuesday, I had an absolute breakdown in the hospital. I told Kirk that this is where I live now- in the maternity ward- because there are nurses and people to help me here. He said we have to go home eventually. The nurses basically had to kick us out on Wednesday. I figured what I was feeling was pretty normal- just my hormones all out of whack and finding their balance again. Give it time, I thought.

I tried giving it time. For a couple weeks I tried to get myself together. Breastfeeding was so much harder than I thought it would be, and I sighed with relief when the pediatrician suggested we try formula. Reid cried ALL THE TIME. Where was my blissful, sleeping baby? He would scream from 6pm-10pm, every night. Since the weather was nice, Kirk frequently took him outside on a walk to calm him down. It worked like 30% of the time. Sometimes in the morning, I would take Reid outside because the crying wasn’t as loud out there. I hated this new life. This was NOTHING like I had imagined. I resented my baby.

I coped with this by being away from Reid when I could. If someone came over, I handed them the baby and went downstairs to the basement (where the guest room was) to take a nap. Everyone told me to “sleep when you can” so I figured I should sleep all the time. And I was tired. I couldn’t seem to find energy to do anything. I was crying several times a day, but couldn’t figure out why. I thought, “this is my life now. I live in the basement, apart from my family, and I hate it.” Kirk and Reid shared our bedroom, and Kirk did all the middle-of-the-night feedings. Did I mention how much I love him, and what a saint he is?

So basically, I felt almost no emotion. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t exactly sad, I just…was. Frequently I became anxious over small things, like Kirk leaving for work in the morning. Or Reid sleeping too much or not enough, eating too much or not enough, basically standard baby things. I am a total TV junkie (name a show and I’ve probably seen at least one episode) and I wouldn’t even turn it on because I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I think that’s when Kirk more or less forced me to call my OB and reach out to a friend who had trouble after her first baby was born. My OB prescribed some anti-depressants, which could take up to 6 weeks to fully kick in. Awesome. My friend recommended her therapist, Dr. K, and I made an appointment for a few days later.

Dr. K had me fill out a survey indicating whether you seem to have postpartum depression/anxiety or not. I had a pretty high score on the quiz- I mean, I am a good student after all. I cried for almost the whole hour and kept apologizing for being a mess. She was fantastic throughout the whole meeting- and told me that newborn babies are sometimes hard to like. They take without giving, and it’s especially hard to “treasure each moment” when they are purple-faced and screaming constantly. That made me feel so much better and like less of a failure.

I continued to see Dr. K frequently, and we figured out the correct dosage of the medication I had been taking. She helped me with some cognitive therapy as well. Very, very slowly I started to feel better. I felt not exactly confident as a mother, but adequate. Everyone was still alive, including me. I started doing normal things, like taking in the mail each day (yes, this is how bad it had become). One day, I held Reid for his entire nap. I could have put him down in the bassinet, but I wanted to hold my baby. This was a huge turning point for me!

I still take some medication, especially after Sydney was born. It was much better and less intense the second time around- I knew what to look for, how to cope, and we started medication immediately after birth (I went off of it during the pregnancy). I wasn’t ashamed like I was the first time, barely able to tell my friends and family. I even took in the mail and watched TV. I know this is kind of a long story, and this is incredibly difficult for me to share. It’s not the best time in our lives- Kirk and I say that we basically blacked out from May 6 to the 4th of July. But I discovered that so many of my friends had gone through this too, in varying degrees. I had no clue, because people just don’t talk about it. I never thought this would happen to me (see: clear vision of life with baby). But it did, and I got through it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a new baby (beyond the usual crazy newborn stuff), please reach out. Information and help can be found here, or contact your OB. This is NOT the way your life is now. It does get better.

11 thoughts on “The time I wanted to live in the basement

  1. It seems that it’s commonplace that no one ever tells you while you’re pregnant how hard bringing a baby into the world really is. I remember feeling similarly when Zoey was born, feeling this disconnect that surely I shouldn’t be feeling. But like your story suggests, it eventually gets better; it always seems to. I love your bravery for sharing your story and being willing to talk about the things that most people are afraid of. Love your blog! 🙂

  2. I am so proud of you! It’s a bit of a stigma to be honest with PPD and it’s such a normal response to struggle after a huge life change. Learning how to cope is the best thing you can do for your kids, and you are a great mama.

  3. 100% yes! This is exactly why I wanted to live in a long house with just the women of the tribe…except I did not have a tribe. There were no moms, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, or sisters to take over and share the load. The isolation of my house made me feel stranded. We really were not meant to do this all by ourselves or even as a singular nuclear family. I kinda wish the family farm house would make a comeback.

  4. Thank you for sharing! I wish they had something like this site after my first, who is 35 now. You got this girl no doubt in my mind! You were/are an incredible attorney and I’m sure the same applies to being a Mom! It gets better each day and time flies. I also started taking antidepressants after my last was born (25 now) and still take them! Best thing I ever did and feel better for it! I will keep you in my prayers and you keep kicking ass!! Your amazing!
    Love Varcelli

  5. Sarah, I am so proud of you for sharing this. You have become an amazing mom–rising from that basement to kick ass every day. ❤

  6. Thank you, everyone. This was an emotional story to write, but I’m so thankful it’s been well-received. Lots of love.

  7. If I say anything at all it is to wish you’d written this sooner. This insightful expose of life in the basement is all too familiar; and too seldom shared. Your explaining this in such an openhearted way will go a long way to relieve the shame that others go thru needlessly.
    Kuddos to you.

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