This Thanksgiving was a whirlwind of low-level drama. It started with the terrible weather on Wednesday and a slow, slick drive up to my parents’ place. Thursday my daughter woke up in super-crank mode. She was crying at nothing and everything, alternately refusing and demanding food, and wanting constantly to be held – but only by one of the two cooks, her Mama and Grammy. There were lots of tears, followed by vomit at the dinner table, followed by a fever… Don’t get me wrong, it was still a joyful (and delicious!) Thanksgiving, but it was also an event that screamed, “HI YOU’RE A PARENT NOW,” as though I’d forgotten.
Still, this was a vast improvement over last year.
On Thanksgiving 2013 I had a four-week-old baby. When I was pregnant, I had so looked forward to the holidays with a little one. I’m not naive enough to have imagined it being like a cheesy Hallmark commercial or something, but I figured, cute baby, lots of people to hold her, a chance to get dressed up, eat good food, and drink good wine. In reality, it’s not that anything particularly horrible happened, but I was deep in the throws of new-mom-ness. I was exhausted, so unsure of myself, pumping every 2-3 hours, and still a few pounds too large to fit into pants.
There is this photo that one of our guests took of my family:
It’s a really lovely family photo, but it makes me a little sad to look at it. To say that I’m not exactly “smizing” (smiling with my eyes, for all you America’s Next Top Model non-followers) in this photo is an understatement. On the contrary, my eyes are saying, “WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP ME.”
Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday, and my experience last year was like a huge slap in the face. The annual Thanksgiving Eve sibling gathering and food prep event was cancelled. There would be no Thanksgiving evening movie theater outing. I barely got to visit with anyone the way I wanted to. Hell, I spent half the day napping (AKA lying in the guest bed listening to my baby cry downstairs). All those little changes added up to one big disaster for me mentally. It had never been more crystal clear: life would never be the same. Even Thanksgiving would never be the same. I was close to tears the entire day, and on the way home in the car I started researching postpartum depression groups online. Four weeks (with no relief in sight) seemed like too long to feel as miserable and helpless as I was.
I wish I could have looked into the future and seen how much better everything would be eventually. Had I known how much fun it would become, how I would grow into the role of mom and start trusting myself to handle the hard stuff, it might have given me hope that life would be normal and good again. So much of the bad parts of parenting for me thus far have been fear-based – fear that something bad is going to happen or that something that is currently bad is going to stay that way forever. The more parenting experiences I have, the more I am able to reassure myself that things will be ok – that other thing worked itself out, and this will too.
For the record, I didn’t have postpartum depression. Though I probably white-knuckled the new mom rollercoaster on my own for much too long, my emotions and outlook evened out on their own. Big picture, I actually really love being a mom now, and I don’t think I would have believed that a year ago. And I’m happy to report that, dinner table vomit and all, Thanksgiving is back to being my favorite holiday.