Do NOT call it the “Baby Blues.” I've swiftly come to hate that wretched phrase, particularly as someone who's been battling clinical depression for over a decade now. That phrase just makes it sound like someone's getting a bit mopy and teary the way you might after watching some hideous Hollywood film cynically designed to tug at your heartstrings as a way to get you to empty out the contents of your wallet.
The closest thing I can liken this emotional turmoil to is a change of heavy duty medication. Imagine, if you will, the feeling of having all your mental circuits torn down and rebuilt from the scratch. Suddenly everything is overwhelming. The logic filters that are in place to help you sift through each experience and then determine a suitable emotional reaction are gone, possibly to be refurbished although I suspect it's more like the old ones have just been tossed onto the scrap heap while new ones are tailor made to fit into the void they've left behind.
In the meantime your default reaction is to cry over every damned thing. I ordered new lampshades for my revamped hallway and promptly burst into tears having discovered that The Impending Husband had installed them while AJ and I were napping. I go downstairs and find that my mother has cooked dinner for us and burst into tears. I look at my son and realise he's never going to be this small again and guess what? Yep. More tears.
Worse still is the fear. Or should I say, The Fear. Those same filters do a fine job stopping your mind from wandering down the darker avenues of your brain and conjuring up horrific and oh-so-vivid images of the worst things happening. Stumbling and dropping your baby on his head. Something falling and crushing him. A bomb going off while you're out in town and shrapnel tearing him to ribbons. Cot death. Traffic accident. Aggressive dog off the leash. Choking. It would be bad enough if it was some fleeting notion, but it's not. It's horrifically vivid, and it goes far beyond your child to your other loved ones.
Suddenly I'm seeing The Impending Husband falling off a ladder or getting into a car accident and never coming home again. Attacked by a gang of thugs while walking back from the shops. Stabbed by a mugger. Getting knocked off a train platform onto the rails at a crowded station. I want to curl up into a ball and hold him and AJ close and never let them out of my sight again. I see every mundane thing as a potential threat, enemies on all sides and I know I'm helpless to stop any of these things from happening; war, disease, sudden gruesome accidents. The universe is a cold and harsh place with no reason to it. I'm no stranger to facing up to my fears and standing my ground and fighting tooth and nail if it comes to it. Yet this... I wouldn't know where to even begin to try and land the first punch.
Bad things happen all the time to deserving and undeserving alike and nobody is more undeserving to my mind than my two boys and the others in this crazy international network of people who make up my family – both the ones I have a genetic link to and love and the ones I love for who they are and being the friends that they are.
So don't fucking call it the “Baby Blues.” It cuts far deeper and reaches into a far darker place than that trite little name lets on.
And yet... it's not all bad. With the tears comes this feeling of some kind of purge taking place. Old hormones shifting to make way for the new. The understanding that this is just part of the process towards becoming more who I was before I got pregnant. As my Impending Mother-in-Law says, “tears cleanse the soul.” Could be. Could also be the endorphins surging when they stop. Either way, you do feel lighter and less weighed down by all the mental turmoil for a little while at least.
It is the same with The Fear. You pass through it and then you're on the other side, no longer crippled and wiser for the experience. You reconstruct a little bit more of those rational filters. You might not be able to protect your baby from everything, but you also know that a few preventative steps can go a long way. The perceived threats around you become a little more manageable and the protective maternal urges start to take hold and surge through you. You would meet any threat to your child head on and kill or be killed to ensure their survival. It is savage, it is primal, and it's so very right.
This is my brain rewiring itself to deal with parenthood. It's a vicious and crude process, but I've survived worse, and billions of other women have managed to work through it as well. However, I reserve the right to affix any patronizing twunt who writes it off as “merely the baby blues” to a pair of meathooks, dangle them from my living room ceiling and use them as a punching bag to hone that savage protective maternal instinct.