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Rebecca on how her friends’ help and support saved her life

mom and dad beside a baby in a high chair celebrating his first birthday - essay on supportive friends

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

I’ll never forget the fear that overtook my body when they were wheeling us out to the car. I had heard women joke about being nervous for the actual act of driving home with their newborn for the first time, but this was different. It was completely overwhelming. It was paralyzing. I was beyond terrified. I couldn’t understand why any of these medical professionals thought it was a safe idea for me to be in charge of this small human’s life.

Couldn’t they see I wasn’t good enough?

It was hour 48, and it had already started. 

Related: How to prepare your firstborn for bringing home baby #2

The first night home from the hospital was quite possibly the worst night of my life. It gives me such sadness to look back on that night and say that, but it is the truth. Now, I would give anything in my world to get that night back, to redo, to appreciate what it was and to relive every moment.

My sweet boy cried all night. He didn’t sleep for what seemed like more than 10 minutes. He constantly fed. I was exhausted. Physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I began to grieve my old life. I began to regret the decision of making this perfect child.

I remember lying awake for the 10 minutes he had fallen asleep and pondering which family member I was going to have to leave him with, because clearly I was not made for this. I couldn’t be his mother. I wasn’t good or strong enough to be so. The days and weeks to follow were harder. Each night without sleep and each day of denial made my soul die a little. Each text and call to request meeting the baby gave me incredible anxiety.

Related: 5 steps to stop an anxiety spiral, according to a therapist

I knew as soon as anyone walked into our world they would spot me. They would see me for who I truly was, a sham of a mother. They would realize I was not meant to do this and that this precious little man deserved something so much more.

I couldn’t sleep, even when the baby started sleeping for a couple of hours here and there. I was awake. Wide awake. Worrying. Thinking. Crying. Grieving. I would allow my sister to come over and hold the baby so I could shower just so I could cry. I would lay with the water hitting my curled up naked body and I would cry for as long as I could get away with until she would start to worry.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of incredible girlfriends who wouldn’t take no for an answer. They started showing up. They were sniffing me out. They had children of their own. They knew the battle had begun. They answered my constant texts of questions about breast pumps and pacifiers. They started showing up every day. Every. Single. Day.

Related: To my mom friends: Thank you for letting me lean on you through motherhood

They brought us food and let me take walks. They yelled at my husband because he wasn’t being supportive enough. One of them, Samantha, came to hold the baby for four hours in the middle of the night, so I could sleep in my own bed at night with my husband, like my old self. It was life-changing.

I remember her waking me up at 2 am because she was leaving and the baby was hungry. I was out of pumped milk. I grabbed her hand and told her I was scared for her to leave. I didn’t even have the confidence to be alone with my own child. She left. He ate. And then he went back to sleep. I woke up realizing my mental state had become out of my control.

And that morning when I talked to Samatha to thank her for what she had done, she confirmed to me she agreed. It had. Our pediatrician who happens to be a good friend as well had been receiving calls, texts and emails with question after question at all hours of the day and night. I couldn’t make a decision. I didn’t have an inch of confidence in myself to care for this baby. After four weeks of continued questions it came to a head.

Related: The need for postpartum support doesn’t end after the fourth trimester

I texted him at 4 am. I told him I couldn’t do it and I needed a friend. A few hours later he was at my door. He talked me down off the ledge. He held the baby. He told my husband we’d be ok. And then he handed me a pill. When I told him my plan was to fix this without medications and how I was worried about the side effects, he grabbed my hands and looked me in the eye, “It’s beyond that Beck. It’s a chemical imbalance now.”

He made me feel safe to swallow the tablets I had filled but were too scared to take for over a week. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I didn’t want the baby to feel any side effects. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do this on my own. In the 14 days to follow, I struggled even more as my body worked to find its new balance. I couldn’t sleep again, even worse than before the meds.

I questioned if they were the right decision. And on day 13, I broke. I couldn’t get out of bed. I begged my husband to take me to the ER to be sedated. I felt as though I didn’t want to be on the planet any more. That leaving for good would be the only way to insure my son’s life be positive and happy.

Related: Suicide is the leading cause of death in new moms

So, like any good village the people around me rallied. They held the baby. They allowed me to cry and break down. They kept him safe all night while I got more than three hours of sleep in a row in over eight weeks. I remember waking up and for the first time since Noah was born, feeling slightly normal. I remember looking at him and wondering where this perfect child had come from.

I remember not feeling anxiety when he cried. I remember feeling like I knew what to do. For the first time, I felt like a mom. And for the first time, I enjoyed it. From there on out, the days got easier, happier even. I fell deeply in love with my little man. We bonded. Connected. Formed a routine. I quickly realized how lucky I was to have such a team of wonderful beings surrounding us.

I wouldn’t have survived those early days without them. They saved my life. They saved Noah’s life. They gave me the gift of being able to live in the present. To enjoy and hold dear the most important title I will ever be known for, Noah’s Mom.

Related: Postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than you may think—here are the resources you need

It almost doesn’t feel right to write something so short about a time that was so all-encompassing, a time that should be special and sacred and healing which instead turned out to be terrifying and spastic. Each day was a battle. Each day was a decision to keep moving forward. If it weren’t for these people, this village of mine, I’m not sure where we would all be. I owe these people my life. I owe them my happiness. They supported me and lifted me up at a time when I assumed nobody would. They understood me even though my emotions were not understandable. They loved me unconditionally and more importantly, they saw the love that would develop between my boy and me and they went to battle for me to enjoy it.

Between meds and therapy and friends and tears, we’ve survived to month 15 and because of these people and their support, I have been able to enjoy every single day since day 14. I haven’t missed a smile or a tear or a tooth or a cold or a milestone because even though I go to therapy, and even though I take a pill, and even though I still cry at times, I am present. I am strong. I am capable and most importantly. I am Noah’s mother.

In the midst of the postpartum fog, try to remember you are not alone. It is totally normal to feel how you are feeling. And, if you reach out and ask for help, it does get better.