By Jordan Sapir
The fluorescent lights were short circuiting and the toilet was flowing; it was freezing. If it weren’t for the loud pitched screams of my baby, I might have been able to hear the footsteps in the hallway of the night staff and new moms pacing back and forth with babies. This wasn’t how I imagined. This was supposed to be euphoric. It was dreamlike, alright. It felt like a scene from Being John Malkovich: equipped with low ceilings because I’m quite tall. Everyone was even speaking a different language. The language barrier was my biggest hurdle during my hospital stay. So you think you can speak German? Just try after labor. When the nurses came in to ask if I had gotten my baby to latch on, it sounded harsh and suddenly very foreign to me.
My partner had just started a new job and couldn’t take the following day off. He also wanted to celebrate, the way he often did with German friends who had babies, by going out with friends that evening. I was upset, so he opted to have dinner at our favorite restaurant with his family. I stayed in the hospital. Just me and my little peanut, as we called her. It is tradition in my family to wait seven days to name babies, so I knew she wouldn’t have a name until after our departure from the hospital. The evening I gave birth the nurses were so insistent that I name her because it was making it overly complicated for the staff. The same way me not agreeing to an epidural had complicated my birth. The same way speaking English inconvenienced the nurses. The same way me asking too many questions and having a birth plan and birthing wishes was unnecessary and “needy”. That was the start of what felt like years of isolation. It was just me and my baby, a glaring television in a foreign language and tears—lots and lots of tears.
Everyone told me I should stay in the hospital for as long as possible, because they will care for my baby while I slept. I would receive my meals, so I could rest, and the baby and I would be looked after. No one told me that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying and that I’d feel so alone, even though I was surrounded by staff.
That was the start of misinformation and what I like to call the cover up—the myth of motherhood. What everyone told me was, motherhood is beautiful. I should feel lucky and honored. I will fall in love with my baby immediately and I should get myself in order, to look presentable, as soon as possible. I didn’t feel beautiful or in love. I felt so anxious that I couldn’t sleep, even though I desperately needed to. I felt isolated and abandoned. I felt hopeless and scared. Above all I felt misunderstood. I had lost my social circle of single socialites, my family abroad; I was estranged from my family for 10 yrs and my partner’s family had a big cultural divide. My mother-in-law suggested I take a taxi to the hospital if the baby were to come early, so I wouldn’t disturb my partner at his place of employment. For her, that’s what she did, why would I do any differently?
The pain in my heart was bigger than the love.
I was anxious about leaving the hospital, worried about being at home with the baby alone, stressed about returning to work.
I ran my own business and had very big contracts and a large workload. I had no staff and was the only one to finalize productions.
I tried to get my mind off it all and scheduled productions. “I’ll just put the baby in the carrier on set and continue producing.” The first time she cried uncontrollably everyone looked at me. When they say “quiet on set” they really mean it. I saw my reflection in the studio mirror. I was 25 kilos heavier, with a kid attached to me, unkempt and barely recognizable. When I went home that night I received an email that a documentary I produced about ecologically manufactured leather had be reviewed by the client. They hated it. They called it dull and flat. I had exhausted my 8 month pregnant self traveling, filming and conducting interviews for months to shoot the footage. I had an editor quit, another demanding more money and a client who wanted a reshoot. There was no way that I could reshoot. There was no way that I could travel with my newborn. I was in tears, yet again, relentless tears. It wasn’t the first time in my life that I had been rejected. I spent every day for years being judged and criticized for my looks, body frame and other superficialities. There wasn’t a day that I couldn’t take it anymore. Each and every day I put on my happy face and knocked on every door until I received a yes. I was no stranger to adversity.
Not that night. That night I had the biggest realization to date. For the first time in my life, I didn’t think I could do it all. I felt like I had to give up. I have never given up. Since I was 17 I was on my own financially and emotionally. At 32, living in a foreign country, dependent on savings and my partner’s income, I made the decision to give up. That was the day I gave up on my life; luckily temporarily.
I gave up at least once a day everyday for two years. If something went wrong it ended in a puddle of tears and emotions. The days were blurred and the nights were permeated with literal and metaphoric darkness. The winter days soon followed suit.
I drank coffee with new mom friends, chatted about all things baby, read the obligatory literature, got dressed and made sure to look like I was trying and happy. Yet there wasn’t a day that I woke up and wished the day would end. I wanted them to think that I was perfect and did everything right. I wanted to agree with how they mothered, I wanted to fit in. I cared so much about others’ opinions of me that it hurt. I suddenly, after 32 years, felt like a “people pleaser”. That was on the outside. On the inside, every day I wanted it to all be over and to be back home in my bed with my baby where it was safe. When did I suddenly start giving a fuck? Excuse my French, but who is this woman? My entire life, I have never given a fuck about what anyone said or thought of me. I was a compilation of the cast of The Breakfast Club. I was friends with everyone because no one could put me in a box. Now I was an expat contortionist.
It wasn’t working. Instead of feeling accomplished for my acrobatic artistry, I felt trapped. I had no more fucks to give.
Leaving the house was debilitating. When I got on the train my heart danced in my chest, the sweat dripped to the beat and tears fell down on cue with the sad composer’s aria, “Oh, this is no longer the baby blues.”
That’s the difference, in my opinion, between the baby blues and postpartum depression—an awareness.
I didn’t know it wasn’t normal. I didn’t know that every other new mom wasn’t experiencing the same sadness. I only assumed that the other moms were playing the same game of charades: three words, starts with a P and ends with sadness.
It wasn’t until I started training for my first 10k after birth that it abated a bit. As soon as I went out, nearly a year and a half later, while living in Italy, I looked in front of my feet and didn’t see despair. I was able to feel the wind hitting my face and the beads of sweat roll down my temples. I felt alive again. I felt unstoppable. I felt like the lioness inside had finally won the battle and prevailed. For the first time in nearly two years, I felt like I didn’t want to quit. I felt like I could endure any challenge. Why did I wait so long to run again? Why didn’t I run during my pregnancy? I remember my then best friend telling me that I’d never forgive myself if something happened to my baby because of my vanity. She obviously didn’t understand that I didn’t just run to stay in shape. I ran for strength, a mental escape and to be in a meditative state. That was what grounded me for so many years. Then, at the time I needed it the most, I was afraid of being selfish. Afraid of the cure to all my ailments.
That was my first experience with a mother’s guilt. I was having so many firsts and lasts and new beginnings; it was all so overwhelming.
What I know now that I didn’t know then was that it was probably the first time in my life that I also needed medical intervention. I couldn’t manage on my own, but didn’t have the strength to admit that I couldn’t do it alone. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had disappointed everyone, including my inner warrior. I couldn’t even look at my reflection. That should have been a red flag. I wrote it off as vanity and felt I deserved to feel sad because I could only think of myself and not my baby.
That day that I felt the elements, my heart raced from effort and not anxiety. I knew that I had found my cure. Not everyone is so lucky, I know. I was lucky. I was able to find the elixir to the toxicity which was depression. I needed to regain strength.
After receiving coaching, I realized I was in fact in a dark place and lucky I was able to find my way out unaccompanied.
I used that new found strength and put every ounce of it into training, fitness and my own grassroots movement to empower other women to do the same. That’s how Über Moms has become what it is today. I realized, after the fog of motherhood lifted, two years postpartum, that I just wanted to be healthy and have healthy, happy kids.
Screw Prada and being fancy and put together. I just wanted to be strong again and happy. That’s why I put so much passion into everything I do now. Because I really want to change my odds, be a role model to my kids and possibly help another mom find her way back.
Why the harsh language?
I no longer have to feel robbed of my self-worth. I can speak my mind again and speak out against injustice, and be impassioned by life. I am so grateful for that ability. I know what it’s like to feel like a numb mum. I have seen the light and I no longer have a fuck to give.
I just want to be happy and healthy. I don’t want to talk about diapers and baby food. I want to talk about the realness of motherhood, divorce and other taboo subjects; goals, politics: learn and live.
I want to pave a path so that my girls will be able to see their own strength and resilience. They will need to conjure up that strength when and if they become mothers. I want them to know they are not alone. I went through the same. I want them to know that they don’t have to go at it alone. I will be their taxi. No need to hail a cab. If I can’t answer the call, I will give them the tools they need to fix their mode of transportation and drive themselves to the hospital, all the while not giving a fuck.
Jordan Sapir, mother of two glitter-laden girls, 1 and 3, studied Journalism and International Political Science in NYC, a place she once called home. She can slaughter five languages fluently. She has worked in a newsroom or two, walked a catwalk or three, and is all for an impromptu adventure. Having traded in her Prada for pretzels, the founder of Über Moms lives in Munich, where she is a stay at home mom and studying to become a certified nutritionist. She is a mommy on a mission and wants to help fellow mothers raise healthy happy families, and beat a PR here and there.