It was the coffee and the adrenaline keeping me going.
When I was pregnant, mom friends, our pediatrician, and strangers at the grocery store warned me about the inconsistent sleeping habits of newborn babies. I understood that once I gave birth, I wouldn’t be sleeping much. I thought I could handle it.
I wasn’t handling it.
For the first three months of my baby’s life, my days and nights had no meaning. I was awake all night, and during the day I was at the whim of my newborn’s nonexistent sleep schedule. I was so tired that nothing mattered but making sure my baby and I survived until our next power nap.
I had expected to be sleepy, but I thought I’d experience the equivalent of bad jet lag and still be able to accomplish small tasks like brushing my teeth and eating a full meal. Nope. My morning breath remained until the evening, and I was falling asleep on dinner.
Since my brain wasn’t getting enough downtime to reboot, my thinking lingered on the downer side of life. I berated myself for not being able to power through this phase like other mothers. I saw mom friends sail through this period with enough energy to exercise, meet friends for lunch, and work from home. I could barely locate my breasts to feed my son. What was wrong with me?
Through my sleep-deprived haze, I could feel my truth rising to the surface: I needed help.
That thought kept popping up during my middle-of-the-night feedings, while falling asleep when eating, and while crying alone in my 7.9-second showers. I was floundering, but I couldn’t bring myself to reach out to anyone.
I figured moms from the beginning of time have been doing this mothering stuff on their own. Moms like my brilliant friends, and even my own mother, had secret superpowers that powered them through difficult situations — especially the sleepless ones. Perhaps my superpowers were late to come in, like my breast milk.
Mostly, though, I was afraid if I asked for help this early in the parenting game, I’d be seen as a failure before I’d even started. Plus, I knew that one mom eyeing me in my Mommy and Me class would think I was incapable of caring for my baby. She already wondered why I was the only mom falling asleep during “lullaby time.”
I told myself I could do it.
I couldn’t do it.
After one more week on little to no sleep, I made a phone call. I called the one person who wouldn’t judge me: my mom. Tears flowing, I explained to her I needed help. I needed sleep. I needed support. She was over 2,000 miles away but immediately began looking at flights. I felt a sense of relief I hadn’t felt in weeks.
My mother’s impending visit gave me the confidence boost I needed to have a long overdue talk with my husband. I let him in on my struggle. He hugged me, assuring me he’d be there more, and asked why I hadn’t voiced my need sooner.
My husband’s question rolled around in my brain until my sleepy head formulated an answer: I hadn’t voiced my need because I felt a deep desire to prove to everyone around me that I could do this motherhood thing on my own. I wanted to prove it to myself. As time went on, I recognized that asking for help was my first step toward understanding that raising a child was also about raising up the mother, too.
Finally, I felt like I could do this.