For days on end, the new mom looked out of her bedroom window, rocking her baby daughter back and forth on her glider. The maple tree outside waved at her daily as the breeze came through its branches. Gradually, the leaves made their annual change from green to red and orange and yellow. She watched as the leaves transformed, jealous of their seamless change as she struggled to make her own transition to motherhood.
Eventually, the leaves turned brown and one by one fell to the ground, allowing the tree to gather energy from within to make it through the cold winter. The new mom wondered whether she would ever have energy again as night after night her sleep was interrupted by the needs of her baby. On those long nights, the tree would tap the window as if saying, "Hello, you are not alone." Sometimes, though, as the wind blew, the branches let out a deep, slow moan—the same moan the new mother let escape from her lips only in the company of this tree. Her tears fell; tears of fatigue, tears of loneliness, tears of doubt.
She was shaken to the core. This was not what she expected as a new mother. Mostly she dreaded the endless nights trying to nurse, trying to get her baby to sleep, trying to find rest herself. Although she loved her baby fiercely, where was the joy in motherhood? The exhaustion was relentless: soon she didn't even recognize her disheveled self. Baggy, ill-fitted clothes, unbrushed hair, puffy eyes. Normally, she was ready for any adventure; now, she didn't want to leave the house. She had previously prided herself in being a self-sufficient career woman, yet now she struggled to take a shower.
In those long dark nights, she began to wonder if something was wrong with her.
Her sister came to visit, and she cooked; she cleaned; she laughed with the new mom at 3 a.m., lighting up the night, banishing any dark thoughts. A week of reprieve, of building back the new mom's strength, of finding her will to go out into the world. One day she and her sister ventured out to a new market with a beautiful bakery. They stood at the counter tasting every dessert possible, giggling with delight as crumbs on their faces fell to the ground. The new mom's eyes were bright with life again. But the week went by quickly and she found herself sobbing, "How am I going to do this without you?" as she said goodbye to her sister.
The long dark nights returned. The world outside looked bleak; winter barrenness had descended. The world inside looked bleak; a fog of despair and heaviness descended.
One night the moon shone bright behind the tree. From the light of the moon the new mom could see her baby's rounded cheeks, soft hair, and plump thighs. Her heart cracked open. Sobs deep from within came pouring out. Shaking, she reached for her phone.
"I need help," she stammered.
This is a true story. There are many living this story. This is my story.
Dr. Andrea Eisenberg is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Royal Oak William Beaumont Hospital, and her private practice is in Farmington Hills, MI.
Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions in the Frontline Voices initiative reflect experiences of individual ACOG members and do not represent official organizational opinions of ACOG.