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November 21, 2019

The Time I Didn’t Cry: My Baby Blues Story

When you become a mother, you are not entitled to complain, lest people will call you ungrateful and they will judge you.

by Indah Hapsari Pratiwi

I didn’t cry the first time I saw my baby. My husband did cry though.

Twelve long hours in labor induction with constant contractions. I was too tired to be sentimental.

“She’s so beautiful. Thank you, baby. I love you,” he whispered in my ear and kissed me.

I glanced at my new born baby. The nurse wrapped her in a yellow blanket and put her on my chest. Damped hair, pinkish face, long thin fingers like a scarecrow. Lips were red as blood. She was the most beautiful little human I’d ever seen.

Yet I still didn’t cry. Even when I held her for the first time.

Here is why:

My mind was fully occupied by the fact that my OB-GYN had just performed episiotomy on me and tried to repair the cut by stitching it together. And I could still feel just about everything the doctor was doing down there.

“Don’t you need to drug me first?” I asked – almost begging.

“it’s just a small procedure. What name do you call your baby?” he replied nonchalantly as if my question was about dinner.

Vaginal delivery is inhuman. I blame Hollywood movies for how they romanticize the labor and delivery into a joyful happy moment.

I did cry later though. A lot.

I cried when they put a catheter into my bladder because I was too scared to urinate.

I cried when they told me my baby needed to be taken into the NICU.

I cried when I tried to express my milk and there was not a single drop coming out.

I cried when they took blood samples and put a needle into my 2-day old baby.

I cried when I finally signed the acknowledgement letter to give my baby formula.

I cried at 2 a.m. failing to soothe my crying baby when she was going to sleep.

“Why are you crying?” my husband asked, looking confused. He stroked my head and gently took the baby from me.

“it’s okay you can sleep,” he said.

I cried even harder. I felt like a failure.

During my pregnancy, I was a very ambitious mother-to-be. I thought I knew what I was doing. I read every article about motherhood during my pregnancy. I followed every motherhood and parenting account on Instagram. My Pinterest was full with the how-to-survive, what-to-expect and the things every parent should know about. I thought I knew it all.

I became upset when I didn’t meet the expectation from one of the articles. I shouted at my mom when she told me the opposite.

I hated mirrors. I didn’t recognize the girl in my reflection. Scrappy hair. Raccoon eyes. Flabby tummy. Tiger scratch all over my thighs. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I would take a hundred pictures of my baby, but not a single picture of mine. I wasn’t happy. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy?

I cried and I cried and I cried.

How can you raise a happy baby if you’re not happy with yourself?

Also read: Peace in Words: How Writing Helps Me Survive the Darkest Days

One night after I put my baby to sleep, I scrolled down my Instagram feed and found an old friend of mine re-posting a quote from motherhood account that says “Children don’t need a perfect mom-they need a happy one.” I stopped for a moment. I wanted to slide into her DMs but hesitated. What if she’s judging me? What if she thinks that I’m crazy?

I text her the morning after. I started with a simple “hello” and “how are you?” but ended up with a forty-minute long phone conversation. It surprised me to find that she’d agree to almost everything I said. In fact, she went through the same phase as I did. And she cried too, a lot. We both were in tears as we said goodbye.

A wave of relief washed me. The new fact has made me feel normal. But I was also confused. Why didn’t she tell me earlier? And my question echoed back to me.

When you become a mother, you are not entitled to complain. If you do people will tell that you were ungrateful. They will judge you. And they judge harshly.

“If you want to have some rest, then don’t have kids then,” that came from my mom.

Motherhood can be a lonely place. If you don’t have the support to take on the journey with you, you will get lost. My biggest mistake was that I was too embarrassed to acknowledge my feelings and didn’t express it soon enough. It took me a while to understand that it is my personal responsibility to be happy.

As a new mom, I was too focused on my baby until I lost my self. I forgot the last time I took care of myself. I forgot the last time I got my hair pampered. I forgot the last time I could read a book in peace. I forgot the last time I could take a nap for two hours straight. I forgot that putting myself first was not a crime. I thought self-care was selfish.

Finally, I went to the beauty parlor for the first time in forever. I got a new haircut and a pedicure. The feeling of getting my hair done was empowering. I felt a little bit like my old self.

I started to make time for myself and not letting the feeling of guilt take over me. I signed up for a writing course. For six consecutive weeks, every Saturday, I had to leave my baby for five hours to pursue my dream, to fulfill my passion. The class has been my safe place to pour all my thoughts and feelings. And this essay is my final assignment.

Motherhood is a role of a lifetime. With that in time it doesn’t necessarily get easier. The challenge will always escalate. And it is okay to take a break.

I still cry . A lot.

I cry when I come home late from work and find my baby is already asleep.

I still cry. But I am happier.

Indah Hapsari Pratiwi is a banker, a new mom and es kopi susu enthusiast. There are three things she most proud of: if she can put her baby to sleep before 8 PM, if she manage to finish one book a month and if she can memorize the lyrics of the new Taylor Swift’s song in one day.