When I got pregnant, I decided that I wanted to stay home for at least the first year of my son’s life. I imagined being a stay-at home mom as a domestic paradise. I saw myself baking cookies, doing yoga during his naps, writing adorable blog posts about how much I love being a mom and cooking my husband dinner every night. I envisioned snuggles with my baby and a sense of fulfillment and happiness that I had never known.
Well, if you’re a seasoned mother reading this, I am sure you're LOL-ing at my naiveté. I would be too, if I wasn’t currently crying into a pile of laundry while I type this post with my thumb. I wasn’t prepared for how isolated I would feel. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer exhaustion that comes with the arrival of a newborn baby. I wasn’t prepared to question my choice to have a baby (albeit through the foggy distorted lens of postpartum depression) and I certainly didn’t expect to resent my husband to the point of wondering if I should have married him in the first place.
There was no way I could have foreseen my mother being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when I was 12 weeks pregnant. She was undergoing chemo and surgeries throughout my pregnancy on the other side of the country. We flew to New York as soon as our son had his first round of vaccines at two months. I took him again when he was 8 months old. She died three weeks later. She fought her battle with cancer for as long as she could but I never imagined planning my son’s first birthday party so soon after her funeral. This is life and we have to muddle through—except I can’t muddle anymore, I’ve reached my limit.
After my mother passed, I suddenly became exhausted to the point where I could barely get out of bed. The thought of spending the entire day chasing my extremely fast crawling baby around and changing 10 diapers a day because he had diarrhea, plus three baths a day to soak his poor raw bottom, was beyond overwhelming.
I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t.
The amount of guilt I felt at hiring someone to do my job when I don’t work outside of the home has been intense. And yet, I have been having some very good days.
That first day of having help was so nice that I started arranging to have someone come to my house almost every day for three or four hours a day. The amount of guilt I felt at hiring someone to do my job when I don’t work outside of the home has been intense. And yet, I have been having some very good days. I’ve started jogging. I’ve lost 15 pounds and have been able to prepare tasty dinners for my husband and son. I fold laundry, write and clean up the kitchen. Sometimes I use the time to lie in my bed and cry. I miss my mother so much.
Grieving and caring for an infant are two very exhausting activities and I know I'm lucky to have the luxury of being able to hire someone to help me through this difficult time. I know not everyone is able to afford a babysitter. We aren’t poor, but we do feel the strain of paying for extra childcare without the extra income that usually comes along with it. However, if I didn’t have someone to help me, I honestly am not sure I could take care of my son, let alone myself.
These babysitters have been saving my life. It’s hard to find people and I would be lying if I said that I don’t get nervous when I leave him with strangers. It can be terrifying. I have a friend that didn’t ever leave her daughter with a babysitter until she was three, and truth be told, I find that thought far more terrifying. I check their references, I watch them interact with my son, I go in and out of the house to run errands and do chores. If I’m not comfortable with someone, I don’t have them back.
I must admit, having different people caring for my baby and not always being able to find a sitter has also been stressful but in the end, I think the results are worth it. I’m making it through the day. When I come back from the grocery store and my son comes at me crawling and grinning like a maniac, I finally feel some of that joy I was expecting when I was pregnant. When my husband says, “Oh that’s a cute dress,” I’m glad I had the time to pop into the shop (even if that shop was Ross and the dress was only $7.99).
At the end of the day, I’m no longer too exhausted to make dinner and have a cuddle with my husband. I love that I've started running and have signed up for my first 5K. Now I just have to work on not feeling bad about outsourcing my motherhood for a few hours a day. Becoming a new mom after losing my own mom has been hard enough, I don’t need to be so hard on myself. My son deserves a mom that is happy and healthy and if having help at home is getting me there, well then we’ll just have to spend less money on wine.