Written by Mandy Meelz
I’m a new mom of a crazy-cute little girl. And the months leading up to her birth were ones filled with a medley of extreme nausea, quite a lot of fights with my husband (we’re a whole other story) and Pinteresting my dream nursery (which I still only use for changing diapers and occasionally quietly crying while packing away clothes she’s already outgrown).
I’m also a fucking mess. I don’t mean that in a cute “beautiful disaster” kind of way. I mean, that if you’ve ever seen a possum on the side of the road that had been run over and some of its pink body parts are protruding outside its weird, thin/fat, hairless (ish) body, but then it somehow magically reanimated itself so that it would be wounded, but also driven, confused, hungry and very pissed off—THAT would be the kind of mess to which I am referring.
If I were to lay out the timeline of the past 11 months (only, because let’s face it, I could sit here for fucking hours lamenting all the ways that someone screwed me up and/or over) I will just hit the key points in free-association style:
• Threw up every day I was pregnant including the day I went into labor.
• Labored at home, as per my doctor’s instructions, waiting for the moment my contractions went to 3-minutes apart (they never did by the way, they went from 5-minutes apart to 1-minute apart and were unceasingly powerful and clustered, so one lasted 3 minutes.) Total fun.
• Quickly decided to toss my loosely-designed birth plan into the nearest garbage can and beg the doctor for an epidural. I used the words “STAT” and “HOLY FUCK THANK YOU.” I am not ashamed for getting that dose of heaven in my spine.
• At some point, getting a catheter and having a nurse struggle to do it, because I wasn’t feeling the whole “sure stick that tube in my pee hole k thanks,” and apparently despite my strongest efforts to override my instinct to fight her, could not for hours. Also total fun.
• I watched my husband sleep while I lay in my labor bed on my cellphone trying to sleep, but couldn’t, only disturbed by the sound of an occasional cool whoosh of medicine down my back, which was really quite relaxing—like laying on the shore of some beach that somehow numbed my spine and washed my pain away.
• Around 3 am, they woke me to break my water. It felt really weird. I fell asleep until 6 am.
• WIth 3 sets of 3 strong pushes, I ushered my daughter into the world with little more than a cry. I was on oxygen. I overdid it. I tore. I almost passed out. The doctor told me that I was TOO strong. I’m an overachiever, what can I say?
• They placed her hot, purply-pink body on my chest and all I said was “Whaaaaa?” Fucking Marge Simpson’d that shit.
• I stared at her for hours.
• I’d cry then smile and ride every ebb and flow, every rise, crest and crash of that hormone torrent up and down. I still do.
• I brought her home and 9 days later, my beautiful dog, suddenly started staggering (she was only 2.5 at the time.) and was left to deal with her while my husband went to work that day. I was sick with worry. She had a distant look in her eye. She kept crossing her back legs and staggering when she walked and I brought her to the vet alone and dizzy (hi, just gave birth).
• The first emergency vet they sent us to insisted that I x-ray her because they didn’t have an MRI. I was high on postpartum hormones and in a sleepless fog and against my better judgement, agreed.
• 4 hours later she was awake, and paraplegic. They had paralyzed her. In retrospect, it was because she was suffering from a mildly herniated disc that ruptured when they knocked her out and x-rayed her. This wouldn’t have happened if I had insisted to just get her an MRI instead.
• I swallowed hard and tattooed my fucking forehead with a type of guilt that is hard to explain.
• I rushed her to the next emergency vet, while my mom stayed in the truck through all this with my newborn baby, sleeping soundly in the car seat.
• I didn’t care about anything but my dog.
• She needed emergency spinal surgery and it would cost close to $12,000+ and did I want to sign the papers?
• Lots of credit card debt.
• After the surgery, countless phone calls and texts between my husband and myself, my family and my dog’s doctor, we came home and just stared at the Christmas tree.
• I stared at the twinkle lights and watched as they grew, began to glow larger and shimmer and quiver through big, hot tears in my eyes.
• I’d nurse my daughter, stare at the lights or the television mindlessly and feel nothing.
• I had no one else in this life. Just my husband, my daughter, my two cats and my beloved dog.
• I had no friends.
• I cried a lot.
• No one came to visit me.
• No one brought me a hot dinner.
• No one offered to bring me a tea or a latte.
• We celebrated Christmas Eve by visiting our dog at the hospital, who wasn’t eating, who was covered in filth, dried blood, and drops of liquid medicine. She couldn’t move her legs. She couldn’t wag her tail. She stared at me the way I stared at the Christmas lights, and I couldn’t make her understand why she was there, what had happened to her, or why she couldn’t walk.
• I brought her a hamburger. She barely wagged her tail and I was filled with a sad hope. I thought I saw her move her back foot ever so slightly. I clung to that for the next week.
• We rang in New Year’s Eve by bringing our battered, paralyzed, and confused dog home, and watched her sleep in a fog of painkillers and antibiotics on our makeshift hospital room bed (which was just a pen, an orthopedic bed and a bunch of wee wee pads for her inevitable accidents), located directly under the new TV blaring Ryan Seacrest and the fucking stupid Swarovski-studded ball. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.
• I dug in. I learned dog physical therapy. I nursed my baby, I remembered to take a few pictures with her. I ate my feelings. I watched my dreams fade away. I watched my free time disappear. I watched my phone stay dark since no one called me or sent me a, “Hey bitch, how ARE youuuu???”
• I bought my own motherfucking lattes.
• Wrapped my knee in wee wee pads, shoved it between my dog’s paralyzed legs to prop her up (as per the PT’s instructions) and used all the strength I had to balance her 75 lb body up with one arm and move her feet, one at a time, to help refire her nerves, reactivate her muscle memory, and help her body remember walking. I massaged her back. I fed her extra treats. And I apologized to her every day for what I let happen to her.
• 9 days into my daughter’s life, I had failed my other, first, fur-daughter. Or so it felt.
• I got a bill from the original doctor for $50 for transporting her to the MRI hospital. I wrote back, “Come get it from my cold, dead hand motherfucker,” licked the envelope, and mailed it back.
• I watched my daughter grow, watched my dog slowly, surely regain much of her motor function.
• I fought a lot with my husband, because I already don’t have a job, I make no money, I don’t know who the fuck I am, so how am I supposed to contribute? Plus, we just had a baby, plus our dog sucked away literally every single penny we ever had or had coming, and still does.
• I was too busy dealing with the crisis and chaos of my life to separate the depression from the anxiety, from the PPD from the PPA, from the typical dysfunction, dark me from the new, even darker bitch I’d become.
• I made goals, and let them rot.
• I sunk deeper.
• We get my dog regular water treadmill therapy now and I found an acupuncturist that comes to the house and that seems to help. But of course, I don’t have enough money to pay for it, so my husband has to pull it out of his ass.
• I live for taco night and get a margarita and then breastfeed my daughter. I don’t ever feel guilty for that.
• I haven’t lost any of the weight I wanted to.
• I think I actually gained a few pounds (because of said “eating my feelings” as mentioned above.)
• I’m planning my daughter’s first birthday and we are having it at an animal farm and I’m excited to watch her light up at all the animals—because she ADORES animals. But, at the same time, I feel immensely guilty that I don’t have any friends. The party we paid for accommodates 15 children. I know 1. I’ve already started off my daughter with no baby friends. I often lay awake at night and pray to whichever god I’m talking to that day that she is cooler than me, that she has friends, that people like her for who she is, that my weird, dark, loud, unlikable personality doesn’t rub off on her. That she gets her father’s affability.
• I still buy my own lattes. And I’m so jealous of the friends that are sitting at the tables, talking, sharing pics, snaps, laughing. They have nice clothes. Mine are stained. I have one nursing bra because they are expensive and we have no money. I sprained the top of my left foot and have to wear sneakers all the time. My sweatshirts aren’t that baggy but many are designed for nursing so I often don’t look very cute anymore.
• It hasn’t been a year yet. I keep myself focused on getting past the 1 year anniversary of this time in my life. I feel like I never got to just enjoy being a new mommy. I worry I cheated my daughter, so I painstakingly make sure to chronicle her little life, her victories, her words, her favorite books and sounds. I don’t take my dog for enough walks now that she can walk. And I tell myself that this isn’t irony, but instead it’s my turn to be metaphorically paralyzed and someone needs to teach me how to walk again. To stand up from the couch, to look in my mirror and find myself. The last time I looked in my rearview mirror, I snarled at my reflection, I yelled at my reflection and screamed, “Who the fuck are you? You don’t even know!” I punched the mirror (and broke my windshield). I have a picture to prove it, because it’s still broken. See? So many kinds of fucked up. How could I possibly know who I am?
• My back still is messed up from CrossFit, then later from sleeping in the living room on the couch so I could be near my dog in case she needed me, next to the baby’s bassinet in case she needed me.
• My daughter recently began taking medicine for a hemangioma she has over her right eye. The medicine is fun because it causes sleep disruption, night terrors, and low blood sugar. I haven’t been able to pump enough to feed her from a bottle so I have to wake up and nurse her repeatedly. I haven’t slept in months. She doesn’t nap. And my mom is sick so I have no one to watch her so I can take a nap, or vacuum or even do my hair.
• I stalk the Baby Tula website for a Wrap Conversion carrier. They are expensive and silly for me to want, but I want one. They are never in stock. This is an added frustration, but I want one because my wrap is stretching out and my back keeps going out from an old CrossFit injury. Wearing her is my life. I NEED to wear her when we go out.
• I wear my daughter in a wrap and sometimes, as I tie her little, warm, sturdy, happy body to my own, I become painfully aware that she’s the only thing keeping me remotely sane. I strap her to my chest to keep myself from floating away. From being blown away by a stiff, cold, unrelenting wind.
There are parts I’ve missed. But at the end of the day, we all have our bullshit. We all have our hard story. We can’t all afford assistants and nannies and friends. I tell myself that it’s just that the first year is hard. I tell myself that things will get better. I hope that just because I say it, it’s true.
(UPDATE: We were so overwhelmed by the honesty and pain of Mandy’s story that we not only bought her the latte she so desperately wished another mom would buy her but we also bought her the baby carried she dreamed of. Because that’s what we do here.)