It was a couple of weeks after my daughter was born before we were finally able to be at home together. Those who have been reading my blog for a while know why. Those who are new can catch up here and here. My husband had been doing the parenting thing on his own for the second week of our daughter’s life, the week she came home from the NICU and I was in the hospital due to a botched c-section. So when I came home, it took a bit of time for the mom-ing to feel natural. The husband and the child had a little system going, and he had to teach me my baby’s
routines and habits, what her different cries and noises meant. And we had lots and lots of helpers in and out of the house those first few months — helpers who made things manageable, who fed us and cleaned for us and stayed up at night with our fussy baby when Josh and I were desperate for a couple of hours of sleep. We couldn’t have survived without the moms, sisters and friends who marched through our home with the efficiency of shift workers.
I was deeply thankful for the outpouring of love from families and friends. I felt so blessed that when doctors told my husband he would have to change my wound dressing twice a day for two months, he didn’t hesitate for a moment before he said, “I’ll do anything for her,” even though he was an overwhelmed new dad in the throes of sleep apnea. And I prayed a prayer of thanks every night that our daughter was alive and healthy and home in our arms. I was grateful. I was happy to be home with my beautiful child and my doting husband. But I was not happy. I did not have that new mom joy. I was depressed. Maybe it was postpartum baby blues linked to hormonal surges. Or, maybe it was just good, old fashioned depression — brought on by our birth experience, by the swirling chaos around me, by not knowing my baby’s needs instinctively, by the wound in my belly and the resulting lack of mobility, and from losing my beloved aunt tragically and unexpectedly just weeks after our baby was born.
One night I was sitting in a rocking chair in our bedroom with my baby in my arms. She got colic at three weeks and rocking and pacing soothed her. I could only go downstairs to go to the car for doctor’s appointments so our second floor bedroom had become our living quarters. It was around midnight and the hubs and I were watching a recorded episode of “The Voice.” One of the contestants sang “Fix You” by Coldplay.
It started off slow:
When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
I held my breath, each word piercing the quiet summer night as if the contestant were singing to me. I wasn’t a Coldplay fan and barely knew the song, but I started to cry.
The husband jumped up. He was on high alert already. When you have a NICU baby, you’re assigned a social worker in the hospital and they quickly learn everything about your family. Our social worker knew I had bouts of depression in the previous decade, and she handed him a pamphlet on postpartum depression when we left the hospital. Moms with a history of depression are more at risk for postpartum, she explained. He ran over to the rocking chair with pamphlet in hand, opened to a questionnaire. “Do you feel overwhelmed?” “Do you feel uncontrollable sadness?” “Do you want to hurt yourself or others?” Well, I wanted to punch my husband in the nose if he asked me one more stupid question. Did that count?
“What?! No! It’s the song!” I scolded.
The song reached it’s conclusion:
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
I lost it. The hubs, I guess realizing I wasn’t a danger to anything or anyone, put his pamphlet away and just patted my shoulder while I blubbered like an idiot.
Four years later, that song still makes me tear up every single time. I still sing along and think of that night in the rocking chair, trying to pinpoint exactly why those lyrics spoke to me at that particular time. Perhaps it was just timing or coincidence. Hormones? Would “Bust a Move” have made me cry at that moment? I wondered if, at the time, I felt stuck like the person in the song, literally stuck in my bed, in my bedroom, our family missing out on the new parent celebratory period and me feeling lost in my new mom role.
It wasn’t until my husband said something yesterday that I finally realized what the song meant to me. I was complaining about the house being messy and he said:
“I think we have perfection in the midst of all our imperfections. We have a messy house and we’re flawed but this family is all love, and it is perfect. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” (Yeah, he’s pretty great.)
When I heard that song on that June night four years ago I was moved by the singer’s promise to try to “fix you,” a common refrain in my own life. When I was single and childless I thought the perfect relationship or dream job would fix everything. Losing 20 pounds, buying new clothes or working my ass off to earn the praise of a boss whose opinion I didn’t care about anyway would fix everything. Getting married would fix everything. When I held my child in my arms, I knew she would fix everything. What an unfair amount of pressure to put on a tiny new baby. But it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that I am not fixed. You are not fixed. We all live in a constant state of imperfection; of needing tune-ups; of being flawed, and shitty, and damaged, and sometimes terrible, and having messy houses, and getting fired from jobs, and saying things we wish we could take back. We are imperfect. And in those imperfections we find our truest selves. And we can wait around for someone or something to fix those imperfections and try to fix other people’s flaws, or we can embrace the imperfections as what they are: the qualities that in fact make up our very perfect, very real lives that we are living at this moment.
**If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, anxiety or postpartum depression, please seek help.