how i got this baby

The Mom Who Dreaded Nighttime

Because no two paths to parenthood look the same, the Cut’s How I Got This Baby invites parents to share their stories. Want to share yours? Email and tell us a bit about how you became a parent.

Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Allison wasn’t the kind of woman who squealed when she saw a baby. It wasn’t until she met the man who became her husband that she could picture a family. Figuring it might take some time to get pregnant, Allison went off the Pill a year after she got married — and was pregnant in just six weeks. She discusses the procedure to stop premature labor, her postpartum dread of evening, being open with family and friends about depression, and what’s different with her second child.

On being able to imagine a family. I didn’t really want kids, growing up. I remember being in college and post-college, and I had friends who would squeal when they saw a baby. I never really felt that way. After college, I was dating a guy who I thought I was going to marry. I tried to imagine having a kid with him, and I kind of could, but I still wasn’t sure. It wasn’t until I met the man who is my husband that I started to think I really wanted kids.

A big part of it was that he absolutely wanted children. He used to make jokes that we needed to get married and get all that out of the way so we could have kids quickly. That was really attractive to me. Once I started to talk to him about it, having a family was really something I could picture.

On planning for pregnancy. We said that a year after our wedding, I’d go off the Pill and we’d see what happened. A year after our wedding, it still felt like the right time, so I went off the Pill, which I’d been on about ten years. I figured that since my body had been manipulated by hormones for a decade, it’d probably take a while. But after about six weeks, I took a pregnancy test and I was already pregnant — which makes me think it was a very good thing I was on the Pill for ten years. I was dumbstruck. I really didn’t think it would happen that fast.

Telling my husband was kind of a disaster. He’d been out with friends and was a little bit drunk, but I couldn’t wait until the next morning. I decided to record the moment I told him, so I put on that awful song that’s like, “I just heard the news today,” all about having a baby. I said, “I just want to play this song for you because it’s been in my head.” And he was like, “What are you doing, this is awful.” Then I told him I was pregnant, and he put his head in his hands. His reaction was so bad I deleted the recording.

The next morning, he was like, “This is great!” And we were so excited. Now I wish I’d kept the recording — it’d be funny to see.

On a sharp shift in pregnancy. My first trimester was really easy. I was even nervous I didn’t feel sick — so many of the books say that nausea is a sign of a healthy pregnancy. We’d even made plans to go visit our friends who’d just moved to Laos. We were going to go there and Thailand when I’d be about five months pregnant. It was maybe a little risky, and my mom wasn’t super excited. But we felt like it was a good time to go, when I’d be out of the first trimester. We did end up canceling those plans. I think my mom just got to me.

Which was probably for the best: When I was about 23 weeks, I took a trip to visit my sister in D.C. The whole train ride back I didn’t feel good; I just felt weird. I kept feeling that way at home. At work the next day, I called my doctor, who told me to come in. My doctor examined me and said I was dilating, and in labor.

That was when I had an emergency procedure done on my cervix — a cerclage, which is used to prevent further changes in the cervix and premature labor. My doctor really wanted me to make it to 24 weeks, so that’s all I was thinking about: keeping the baby in one more week. I spent one night in the hospital, and then went home. My doctor said I’d be on modified bed rest indefinitely, but that I could maybe go back to work after a month if things looked good.

On the conditions of bed rest. Modified bed rest isn’t very well defined — I was told not to do anything drastic like skip showering, but not to walk too much or lift heavy things. I remember asking one of the doctors what “heavy” was, because my husband had been saying things like, “Don’t lift the milk! Don’t move that chair!” And the doctor just searched the ceiling for a while before saying, “Fifteen pounds?”

I’d just sit on the couch, with a TV-dinner table so I could work on my laptop. My dad came to help out and wrapped the entire table in foil so the radiation from my computer wouldn’t harm the baby. (My dad sounds insane, but he’s an electrical engineer so while maybe a little overboard, he might be onto something.) Every two weeks I’d go get a cervical check, so they could see how much it was shortening. The amount I was allowed to walk around was dependent on my cervical length.

Other than going to the checks, I didn’t really leave the house. I never walked more than I needed to. I didn’t bend down or pick things up. Everything that I did felt like I might be taking a chance with the pregnancy, and that was terrifying. But once a full month went by, my doctor did say I could go into the office to work as much as three days a week, as long as I took a car. I really wanted to feel normal and not so scared all the time. My husband and I would haggle over that third day — he didn’t think I should take the chance. (It’s also really expensive to take an Uber from Brooklyn to Manhattan.)

On staying pregnant. Every week that passed, we felt a little more confident. Knowing that it was temporary was probably the only thing that kept me sane.

I remember getting to 28 weeks, 30 weeks, 32 weeks. I just stayed pregnant. No one had planned us a baby shower; I didn’t want them to. I felt certain that if we asked people to buy tickets to fly in from out of town, I’d go into labor immediately. Finally, my friend at work planned a little party for me around 36 weeks, which was really nice.

At 37 weeks, my doctor took out the cerclage, which was relatively painless. They told me to be ready to go into labor right away, but I didn’t. I didn’t go into labor for ten more days, when my water broke. Five hours later, my son was born. I guess that might be the one upside to having a cervix that wants to eject your baby: When it’s time, it’s maybe a little easier. My second baby was born in about three hours.

On the hardest thing. Physically, my recovery was painful; it took a long time. But I don’t think it was worse than what most moms go through. Mentally, I started to feel depressed and anxious early, even in the hospital. My husband couldn’t stay overnight, and I remember being alone, with my son crying and crying and not knowing what to do, even though the nurses were great. Evening meant anxiety and dread, at the night coming.

My son was not a good sleeper. Probably in part because I would wake up and attend to any kind of noise. I was nursing him around the clock. I remember my in-laws asking, “Is he definitely hungry?” And I was like, “No, I don’t think he’s hungry” — it was just the only thing that seemed to stop the crying.

The crying itself felt like nails on a chalkboard, but for my soul.

I have a history of depression and anxiety, which had been under control for many, many years. But I was worried that having a baby would trigger something, so I had set up a therapist. For a few months, I’d go in and talk to my therapist about what was going on. But it wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse.

Every night, evening would come, and I’d know that my parents were going back to their rental apartment. I used to fantasize about being hospitalized just so I could sleep uninterrupted. My husband is good at sleeping through everything. I just felt like I was completely alone with this baby who wouldn’t sleep, who cried all the time. I totally could’ve and should’ve woken my husband up at night to help, but instead I would work myself up, silently hating him and resenting the baby. It was a black hole of dread and resentment. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.

Eventually, therapy really helped. Now I can talk myself down and ask for what I need instead of ratcheting up the anxiety and frustration. My husband told me later that he asked my family and friends what to do, because he was so worried. I think he felt like he didn’t have anyone to turn to. That’s something we’re still working through — we haven’t really figured out what to do about how it was to be my partner during that period. He handled it very well, but it was a lot for him.

I was very up-front about what was happening with friends. There was a part of me, even through the fog, that thought it might do some good to be open. I remember telling friends that I was getting help, but that I was having a really hard time. I think it made people really uncomfortable, but that’s understandable — what do you do when someone is like, I’m super depressed right now and getting help, but I think about killing myself all the time?

After about three months, I got on medication, which helped a lot, and after four months, I went back to work, which was great because I had a routine again. But I remember dreading coming home and having to put my son to bed. He just cried so, so much, and I was doing bedtime alone because of my husband’s work schedule.

At some point, things got easier. Sleep-training help. He was a lot less fussy. We all started sleeping better. Once he started giving us a bit more, communicating, it got better and better. By the time he was 18 months old, I loved my time with him — playing, cuddling, reading books. It was the highlight of my day, the way I think a lot of people talk about spending time with their kids.

On having another child. Everyone told us the second kid would be easier, and we just hoped that would be true. We just really wanted two children. I think we decided that we did know there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so we would do everything we could to get through the early days. We waited a little longer than some people do, though, because I just wasn’t ready.

Another aspect was my husband’s job: I work hard, but I can keep pretty regular hours. I told my husband that if we were going to have another kid, I’d need him around during the pregnancy, and especially once there were two children to take care of. I kind of thought he’d say, Oh no, I can’t do that because it’s a start-up. Instead, he told me that our family should always be more important than any moment in our jobs.

And once he said that, I knew he was right. If we wanted two kids, there wasn’t really any reason not to try. We thought it might take longer the second time around, but that just wasn’t the case — I was pregnant within about a month. The pregnancy was fairly easy. I got a cerclage preventatively, which was very painful for about a month but then okay.

The first month after my daughter was born was hard, but then it got easy pretty quickly. She’s 3 months now. With her, it’s completely different. I understand why people say they ache when they go back to work — the feeling of missing your baby. I did not miss my son that way.

We were having a really good time together, my son and I, until my daughter was born. He’s been a bit difficult since then. Still, I imagine that the biggest part of having small kids is that everything is temporary. The bad things are temporary, and the good things are too. I have a lot of friends with two kids, who’ve told me that it gets easier, which I try to remember. I just need to be patient with my son, with our whole family.

The Mom Who Dreaded Nighttime