As my sweet boy’s first birthday grows nearer, I am moved to a state of reflection. I’ve contemplated the last year of my life, starting from the day Oliver was born; the day my life changed for the best and worst.
A mere hour after Oliver was born, my postpartum disorder set in. It didn’t take long for me to realize that something was profoundly wrong with me. The derealization and disorientation was hugely apparent, and the panic and paranoia had begun. I spent night after night in a state of complete psychosis. For months it went mistreated, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and completely understated. This led to months of suffering; months of time that I have absolutely no memory of. The derealization led to short-term memory loss, leaving me with almost no memories of my son’s first year. I couldn’t tell you when he accomplished his first anything, and I couldn’t tell you how it felt to hold him for the first time. The better part of an entire year of my life, lost completely to psychosis, mania and depression. It hindered my connection and relationship with my son, which caused me to feel undeniable guilt. I spent months feeling completely isolated and alone, even though I had an army of people behind me. I relied so strongly on my family, but couldn’t help feeling like a burden when I needed to be babysat and tended to at all hours of the many days and nights. I spent the better part of my last year in fucking misery.
If I am asked how I feel as Ollie’s birthday grows nearer, I would have to say that I feel robbed. I feel like I was completely deprived of the experience that I deserved. I didn’t get to feel overwhelming joy and love for my son in the first moments and weeks of his life. I didn’t get to enjoy my partner’s paternity leave and the time we got to spend as a family. I didn’t get to experience the happiness of all of the firsts in Oliver’s life. I didn’t get to celebrate each month as it passed, instead I dreaded each moment and day that passed, longing for improvement but not feeling any. I look back at this year and think with utter certainty, that it was by far the worst year of my life.
On December 11th of 2015 I also gave birth to an incredible, tiny, beautiful human. He was a wee six pounds and nine ounces, with a big enough noggin to leave my hooha wrecked for weeks. From what I remember, he was a sweet newborn who did what typical newborns do. He pooped, peed, ate and slept. He grew at the right pace. He developed on schedule and met each benchmark as he was expected to. His daddy bonded with him instantly, and they fell more in love with each other with each passing day. He got passed around for days (months) by each person in the large village that loves him. Although all the visitors were too much for me to handle, I’m pretty sure he benefited from all the instant love and attention. Ollie did so many amazing things in his first year. He learned to say his first words in sign language and English, he learned to scoot and then crawl, he learned to eat solid foods, and he learned the many “tricks” that mommy and daddy taught him. All on his own, he became the most loving and gentle baby that I’ve ever encountered. He spreads love far beyond his reach with his warm smile and contagious giggles. He gives snuggles and kisses sweetly and unprompted, that light up even the darkest of days. Most importantly, Ollie saved my life. Each day he woke up with me, and loved me in spite of my misery. He gave me a reason each day to go on and not give up. He reminded me that even when I had completely lost myself and my sanity, that I had still gained such a precious gift. He gave me purpose and a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of this boy, this has also been the best and most rewarding year of my life.
I know, this seems completely contradicting. To have a year be the worst and best all at once seems completely impossible. But it’s not. I lost myself almost completely, but gained a new self who I know will grow to be better than the last. I lost my sanity and clean bill of mental health, but I gained strength and resilience. I lost my independence, but I gained the ability to love so selflessly and fully. I lost the old Hannah, but gained the most amazing son who I simply couldn’t live without.
I’m so incredibly ready to put this year behind me, slamming the door with this sentiment: thank you, first year, for showing me what it’s like to experience heaven and hell at the same time. Although you gave me irreplaceable and unfathomable beauty, I hope to never see your darkness again.