Chris and I had planned to spend a week alone at home with the baby, just the three of us, before having our families come for a visit. We had wanted uninterrupted time to bond as a family. We chose not to have a baby nurse, either, because not only did we not want a stranger in our home, but we figured we could handle it ourselves until our relatives came to stay. We couldn't have been more wrong. We were anything but peaceful, and because we were alone, we were overwhelmed.
As I hobbled to our bed, Rowan began crying. Her diaper needed changing, and because she was continuing to eliminate meconium, it looked like it was filled with licorice. I was still experiencing severe carpal tunnel syndrome, and my hands were unbelievably numb. They looked like they belonged to an old prizefighter, and since I had hardly any feeling in them, I couldn't manipulate Rowan's harness or diaper effectively. Chris had to come to the rescue, and I labored back to bed, frustrated and in pain. As Chris adeptly navigated the industrial-strength Velcro attachments of the baby's contraption and wrestled with her harness, she screamed. Her screams echoed through the whole apartment. Though spacious, the place started to feel very small. I stayed on the bed and stared at an empty wall in front of me.
At first I thought what I was feeling was just exhaustion, but with it came an overriding sense of panic that I had never felt before. Rowan kept crying, and I began to dread the moment when Chris would bring her back to me. I started to experience a sick sensation in my stomach; it was as if a vise were tightening around my chest. Instead of the nervous anxiety that often accompanies panic, a feeling of devastation overcame me. I hardly moved. Sitting on my bed, I let out a deep, slow, guttural wail. I wasn't simply emotional or weepy, like I had been told I might be. This was something quite different. In the past, if I got depressed or if I felt sad or down, I knew I could counteract it with exercise, a good night's sleep, or a nice dinner with a friend. If PMS made me introspective or melancholy, or if the pressures of life made me gloomy, I knew these feelings wouldn't last forever. But this was sadness of a shockingly different magnitude. It felt as if it would never go away.