I promise not to turn this blog into a parenting blog. Goodness, there are more than enough of those. However, there are a couple of topics that I want to write about that just happen to be related to my experience as a new parent. This one’s about the baby blues. The next one is going to be an apology against efficiency. (You’ll just have to read the next one to discover what I mean.)
I was going to title this post “How the iPad saved me from postpartum depression” but decided that was a little strong. I didn’t want to belittle people who have actually experienced postpartum (or in the UK, postnatal) depression by suggesting that an Apple product will cure it. “Gee, just get on Twitter and you’ll snap out of it!” Nope, that would come across as pretty trite, and quite wrong.
However, having just had a baby four months ago, I totally understand how mothers can get depressed. Feelings of inadequacy and like you’ll never get your “old life” back overwhelm you not long after the birth of a baby. For most mothers, this is known as the “baby blues” and is caused by a number of factors, not least that your hormones have gone to another planet and reappeared as micro-aliens. But for 10-15% of mothers, the feelings continue on and lead to depression.
I certainly experienced the baby blues. In fact, I distinctly remember when I felt I’d hit the bottom of the barrel. I’d gotten over the adrenalin rush of the days after the birth. My baby boy was 12 days old, my mom had just come to help out for about 10 days and we’d gone to the countryside to have a little more space for a while and get away from the busy-ness of London. My husband had stayed in London for a night as he had a meeting to attend, so it was just me, my mom and the baby. That night, the washing machine wasn’t working and we were having trouble getting the stovetop to work so we could cook dinner. I needed a break so Mom took the baby out in the Baby Bjorn for a walk while I tried to nap on the couch. England was experiencing a rare warm spell, and the window was wide open, allowing a boisterous fly to come in the house and keep me from my slumber. Frustrated, I shooed it out the window and then tried to close the window, but in the process I somehow maneuvered the window out of its sill. That was it. I called my husband, tears welling up, and asked him to instruct me how to fix the window (we were at his parents’ house while they were away). I had to send him pictures of it before we finally figured it out. By that time my mom had returned, the baby was hungry and the nap was no longer an option. Feelings of frustration, tiredness and thoughts of “this will never end” rushed over me. I remember thinking, if I was going to get depressed, it’s going to start now.
But thankfully, that didn’t happen. I had a lot going for me. My pregnancy, labor and birth went remarkably well. I had a great send-off from work and was showered with gifts. I had almost three weeks of maternity leave before the baby arrived, time which I had to myself to do projects, go on walks, and do lots of reading and napping. In the early weeks, my husband was doing all the shopping, cooking and cleaning and bringing me food and drinks of water. My in-laws had taken us home from the hospital and helped us get groceries. They let us stay in their beautiful house for two weeks by ourselves. My mom had come all the way from New York solely to help me out. I had friends and fellow church members visit, bearing gifts and offerings of food. People sent us cards. I took the advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps” and never refused offers of help. We have an easy baby who never had colic and is generally content between meals and naps.
And yet…nothing can prepare you for what that first month is like. The constant feeding, the broken nights. I often compared it to an endless camping trip, where you never really get enough sleep, and even the sleep you get isn’t very deep. (We also had the windows constantly open to let cool air in at night, which contributed strongly to the camping feeling.) So often I had to just tell myself to “power through” because that was the only option. And hold on to what every parent friend told me, that “it gets easier.” (Which it does, it really, really does.) New parents need to know about this phase so that they are aware of it when it hits them – it’s a topic that needs to be discussed more.
The iPad was my perfect companion during those hour-long feeding sessions in the early days. It sat nestled on my lap while I scrolled through articles from the Atlantic and my favorite New York Times columnists. I kept up with the world through Twitter. I joined in discussions on Facebook. I snapped photos of the baby and posted them on Instagram. I propped the iPad up on a stool to watch programs on BBC iPlayer or to FaceTime with my sisters and parents. I played games that I could manage with one hand. I frantically searched baby websites for answers to my zillions of questions. Anywhere the internet would take me, I was whisked away from the endless cycle of feed, change, sleep and could engage my mind in so many different ways.
This kept me sane at times when I felt like I could go a little crazy. I was continually reminded that there was a world outside my little home (it’s amazing how quickly you can forget this fact). And any time company came, I put the iPad away.
So there you have it. Fathers-to-be, go out and get your wife an iPad. It’s an investment you won’t regret.