The days would go by, and there was a countdown. Inevitably, my husband would have to return to work. We were only half way through his paternity leave, but I was still terrified. I knew that in a matter of time, my son and I would be alone.
I had convinced myself that I was not capable of being a parent. Our one month old would suffer in my care and anyone would be a better caretaker. I frequently had anxiety when these thoughts would come up and would always hand my son over to my mother in law and husband when given the chance. I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t mom material.
A few weeks later, someone close needed some critical assistance. Since no one could free up their schedule, my husband offered to help. I burst into tears. I knew that at such short notice, no one could come over to take his place. No one would be there to help me take care of my son. No one would save him from my lack of parenting skills. I panicked.
When the time came, I tried to convince myself that things would be fine. I tried to remind myself that it was only half a day. I tried so very hard.
Slowly, the thoughts crept in. Worries of insatiable hunger, bouts of crying, and overall discomfort flooded my brain. My body became tense and hot. I could feel the fear taking over my body.
I set my son down for his morning nap, hoping that the silence would give me a reprieve. I was very much in need of rest. I wanted to sleep as peacefully as he did.
You better not sleep. How could you? What if he needed you and you didn’t wake up? You’re supposed to be taking care of him! Stop making this worse and try to be a mom for once.
My son slowly awoke and more panic ensued. He had woken up too early. He was cranky, hungry and wet. Or so I thought. I tried so hard to figure it out. Nothing worked. He continued to cry…and cry.
What kind of mother am I? A seriously crappy one. I just want him to stop. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I can’t even figure it out. Everyone else can do this. I can’t. I’m making it so much worse. What can I do? What am I supposed to do? I’m so scared. So very scared. So very alone. I need help.
The clock continued to move slowly. I tried to feed him once again. The stress and anxiety had taken its toll and my son didn’t want to latch. I tried desperately to get him to nurse. He cried harder. I felt isolated and helpless. I felt like a stranger in my own home.
20 minutes into the struggle, the door opened. My husband came home to a wailing newborn, clinging desperately to his mother. My hair was a matted mess, half up and down. I was not wearing anything from the top up and I sweated from the anxiety. Tears flowed down my cheeks and I sobbed incessantly, mumbling over and over again.
I keep trying but I can’t. Nothing works. I can’t do this. I can’t. What’s wrong with me? When will it stop?
My husband quietly took my son and fed him pumped milk. I secluded myself to the shower, feeling more worthless as ever. My first chance to rock it solo as a mom, and I failed. Horribly. The water fell on my face, washing away salty tears and any hope that I had at succeeding at motherhood. Failure was all I had.
Author’s Note: In the coming weeks, I did what I could to address these feelings. Slowly and surely, I overcame them. I had an amazing support system and mental health professionals to see me through. I am on the other side and those feelings are nothing but memories of the past. If you are a mom who is suffering, you’re not alone and there is support for you too.