She cried for 6 hours straight. I think she's possessed.
Also, is pie a good dinner?
The messages come in rapid succession from my friend and fellow mama, Amy, who has 20 month old and a four week old baby. I am incredulous that she is functional enough to text; I survived seven weeks postpartum with my now six month old baby girl, Melby, before I realized I was deep in the most debilitating postpartum depression. I seemed high-functioning. Nursing was easy, my body healed quickly. I showered, I cooked and cleaned, I moved, I rested, but throughout it all, between my intently smile-filled visits with friends and family, I cried, blankly, endlessly, desperately clutching at some nameless thing no one could give me, until another day began.
I kept saying I was lonely. It was the only word that made sense to me, but in retrospect, I understand that what I felt was a chasm between my identity and what I perceived to be my new identity as a mother. I felt untethered. I had no concept of who or why I was, and this unfamiliar infant that alternately screamed inconsolably for hours on end and then slept so many consecutive daytime hours that I was sure she was dead left me totally reeling.
Every time someone would ask, with hope and reverence in their eyes, how much I loved being a mother, I'd muster a diplomatic response about how "we're figuring each other out," because it was true, but felt much milder than the Please send help/ what have i done?/ I'm not sure I even like her that was screaming throughout my entire mushy body.
I knew I needed something. For a while it felt like it might be a steady stream of IPAs and the candy disguised as protein bars on my nightstand, but at some point I realized even alcohol and sugar couldn't rescue me. I needed friends. Not just friends, but "mom friends--" as I said again and again, specifically other moms with fresh-off-the-press babies. Moms, who were also maybe reeling and crying and struggling to find their way, because, while empathizing with someone's experience is certainly powerful, inhabiting it with them is something else entirely.
As it turns out, making friends when you're trying to make friends is about as casual as wishing you weren't the only single person at a wedding. I felt crazed and desperate as I talked to people at a postpartum group offered at a local natural foods store. I heard some girls I loosely knew planning a walk together, which sent me into a spiral of self-deprecating thoughts, as I wondered what so mortally wrong with me that I wouldn't be invited (please see again: postpartum depression). When another woman introduced herself as "Ann," I heard "And," and then offered, "A conjunction! That's an interesting name!" and then started stress sweating when I realized I was wrong/ potentially insane and cried the whole way home for being so awkward. I felt zero percent my sociable, bubbly self and so much like a ninth grader at some horrific intersection of puberty and an identity crisis.
And then, a miracle. Pretty much exactly one year prior, my mom had sent me a Christmas gift-- a lusciously fuzzy blanket from Pottery Barn-- in the mail, except instead of sending it to our actual address at 1512, she sent it up the street to 1412. Through some convergence of small world connections and social media, the accidental recipient of my Christmas blanket learned I was the rightful owner and delivered it to my door. One year later, having still never actually met, we had become friends on Instagram and began slowly connecting over one another's baby-related posts. She had a then 15 month old with a hilarious disposition and a penchant for over-accessorizing and another little girl on the way. I had a newborn and a partner, who was a pilot and on the road at least sixty percent of the time. We were both stay at home moms.
So we sent messages on Instagram. And then we texted. And then we liked all of each other's post on Facebook. It escalated quickly; we now consumed one another's attention on all the most popular e-platforms-- a regular modern day romance. When I took Melby for walks, I'd strut by her house, sure to exude an extra bit of confidence and ease, thinking maybe she'd peer out and see me and think "I definitely want to go on walks with that girl and won't worry if she accidentally thinks my name is a conjunction." We took a ridiculously long time to meet in person. I felt anxious about it, because I really, really wanted this person to be my friend. It felt too good to be true.
It turns out it wasn't. One random Wednesday, we went for hamburgers. I drank a beer. She didn't judge me. She would have had a beer at 11:30 am too if she weren't cooking up a baby. She laughed when I made stupid attempts to be funny. Suddenly, we were not only real friends, but mom friends.
Fast forward four months, we talk every day. We talk about sleep, poop, baby food, adult food, clothes, and most importantly, we identify with each other's feeling that staying home is the most important thing we could possibly do, that it is filled with joy and intimacy and growth and is all concurrently sometimes the most mind-numbing, exhausting thing in the world. We have decided on what I now believe to some essential rules of mom friendship:
1. Leggings are pants. Whoever tried to convince us, when leggings first came on the scene in a big way, that leggings are illegitimate outside the fitness world is just wrong. As a postpartum woman with a weird, unfamiliar body, leggings are an appropriate choice anytime, anywhere. No gym membership required.
2. Texting at any hour is okay. We text at 5 am. We text at midnight. It is okay to seem overeager and text back immediately. It is okay to not text back for hours on end, because your baby is crying and you're losing your mind or you temporarily forgot how to create words.
3. Drinking at any hour is okay. I know the "moms + wine" paradigm is a little played out. I don't need a t-shirt that says how much mommy needs a nap and some wine (No judgement if you do. Chances are I love your shirt.) but that being said, when you haven't left the house past 5 pm in six months, it's cool to drink a beer at 11 am. I was awake in the middle of the night for four hours; what's time anyway? It makes what otherwise can feel like an endless cycle of drudgery seem a little bit more like a party.
4. We don't judge each other. Amy co-slept. When we decided to sleep train our baby girl, she supported me wholeheartedly. Her daughter loves cheese. I have sworn mine will not have dairy for years (check in when I'm more than a month into solid foods...). We are different in so many ways, but we rally for each other no matter what. We remind each other that we are total badasses, just doing the best we can. A friend once told me the part she was least prepared for in motherhood was all the judgement and comparison. It can be intense, but it turns out that if you lay it all out there and just say, I'm doing the best I can and I'm not sure it's enough, your girlfriends can be pretty darn supportive.
That's pretty much it really: leggings, phones, alcohol, total acceptance.
Motherhood can be really lonely. For me, it wasn't lack of support, visitors, or resources. I just really needed someone to know exactly how I felt, because she was feeling it too, and say, I feel you. I'm with you.
My mom lives cross country and wasn't able to be here when my daughter was born, but little did she know, she inadvertently delivered just exactly what I needed through a blanket sent to a then stranger's door. I take it as proof that, even though we might feel like we don't know what we're doing, a mother always knows, somehow. I believe it, fundamentally, but thankfully, when I forget, I have my mom friend to remind me.