Thursday, April 2, 2015

Postpartum Depression and Me

Hannah Mink Photography
From the time their babies are born, new mothers start posting their most precious moments on Instagram. It looks like they have perfect babies and perfect, happy feelings all the time. It’s sunshine and rainbows. And that might really be their truth. Who am I to say it’s not? But sometimes the truth isn’t that pretty and this was mine:

I don’t think I ever got the simple “baby blues”. The sad feeling that happens a few days after birth and ends shortly thereafter. I didn’t really have time to get them. The first couple of weeks were spent learning how to keep my new bundle alive, physically recovering, trying to figure out this thing they call breast feeding, and sleeping whenever possible. It was such a surreal time.

A few weeks in I started to feel…off.

I noticed that I was crying very easily. I cried over everything. I cried over every commercial or song that had anything to do with babies. I cried when Kaylen left to go back to school on Mondays even knowing she would come back on Fridays. I cried thinking about crying. I wasn’t eating. I was never hungry. It would be two or three o’clock when I’d realize that I hadn’t ate anything all day. And it wasn’t because I was worried about what I ate or worried about losing the baby weight. That wasn’t it at all. I just didn’t ever think about eating. We had stopped breastfeeding around the one month mark when we realized he was responding better to formula than me (which hurt my heart) and I developed mastitis. I was crushed. It was something I had always thought we would do long term.

I started to feel like I was barely making through each day and wondering where my all-consuming, euphoric, want to hold my baby every second of the day, I was born for this, how did I ever live without him feelings were. I knew I loved Cooper. I loved him the second I saw him. But I felt like my feelings for him weren’t as deep as they should be because I got so frustrated sometimes my hands would shake with anger when I tried to put his pacifier in his mouth to make him stop crying.

When I started to scare myself was one Saturday when Mom was keeping him to give me a break, and even though I didn’t say it out loud, I didn’t want her to bring him back. The guilt was overwhelming.

Nothing will make you feel more like a monster than admitting to yourself that you really don’t want your own baby in the house. Even typing that makes me want to punch myself. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER THINKS THAT?! What kind of mother thinks she might really be ok if someone else took care of her baby for a week, a month, forever?? These feelings and questions were all I thought about. What if I never fell naturally into motherhood? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a mom? Was this actual regret I was feeling? That was probably the worst question of all. Of course I couldn’t actually verbalize this to anyone. I mean, good heavens. What would Chris think of me? Would it scare him to death? Would he be afraid I was going to hurt Cooper? Would he hate me or think he picked the wrong woman to marry and have kids with? It felt like things would never get better and I would feel this way forever. I had wanted Cooper. I PRAYED for this. And now he was here and I should be happy but I was falling apart. I was so ashamed.

The only words I could form about it were to my mother through tears: “What is wrong with me?”

I finally hit critical mass Sunday night of week six. My parents had Cooper at their house and I was sitting on the couch drowning in my thoughts, holding back tears and Chris asked what was wrong. I lost it. I ended up curled up in a ball in his lap sobbing. I had my postpartum checkup scheduled for Thursday but at Chris's insistence I called the next morning and asked to be seen immediately. Talking to my doctor, a woman with three kids, made me feel better. She said with her first she was so severely depressed her mother moved in for six weeks because she physically couldn’t care for her son. She said when she was awake with him in the middle of the night she would make a list in her head of people she might could give her baby to. What?? You mean I’m NOT the only woman in the world that feels this way?? This might even be semi-normal?

She prescribed me some medicine and I swear I felt like a new person within a few days. Tom Cruise was off his rocker when he said postpartum depression isn’t real and there’s no need for anti-depressants. It’s VERY real. It’s just not something I ever thought I would have to deal with. That’s a side of birth that no one prepares you for. You hear that it’s the best thing ever. That you’ll forget the pain because you’ll be so overwhelmed with love. You’ll wonder how you ever lived a day without your baby. No one tells you that you might actually be depressed after your little love makes his or her entrance into the world. And they definitely don’t tell you how debilitating it can be.

I feel that since going on medicine I’ve been a better mother to Cooper. I think they were just what I needed. I’m not so quick to get stressed out. I hate to drop him off at daycare in the morning and I look forward to picking him up when I leave work. I love spending time just he and I and I'm captivated by every little move and noise he makes. I’m enjoying him. My doctor said even though now, eleven years later, she thinks her oldest son is the most fabulous thing on earth, it took her six months to like her baby and a year to grow to love him. She also said her son will NEVER know she at one point had any of these feelings toward him, and I don’t think I want Cooper to know either. So if in a few years when Cooper starts to read this post magically disappears you’ll know why.

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  1. Wow. I don't have children, so I can't pretend to sympathize, but I'm proud of you for confronting your feelings and I hope you are feeling much, much better. Your baby boy is beautiful and so are you!

  2. My heart breaks for you Alyssa! I don't have kids so I can't even pretend to know what this like, but I'm sure it's horribly overwhelming even without the "blues". I'm glad Chris and your doctor are helping you find a solution so you will feel better! There's no shame in admitting you need help. I'm sure there are some women who Superwoman through it all but I think they are the rarities, honestly. Most moms I know admit to being swamped at first and only really enjoying time with the baby a little later on. It doesn't make you a bad mom or wife, it makes you human.

    (And also, Tom Cruise can go fly a kite. Men shouldn't open their mouths about women's issues, IMO.)

  3. Oh Alyssa... First off, Tom Cruise is flipping crazy. He needs meds, but that's another subject for another day. Obviously, I can't truly, truly understand what you are going through. I can't imagine what it's like to hold your baby, and not feel that all-encompassing love the Super Mama's say they feel 24/7 (which is a crock of shit if you ask me). The nurse in me can tell you that those quick drop in hormones are NO joke. They take a huge toll on your emotions, and I gather with all those emotions, plus trying not to kill your baby, it's just completely overwhelming. But, it happens. And it does NOT make you a bad mother because of it. You came to point where you realized you needed help, and I'm so happy you have Chris, and that you were able to talk with your doctor sooner. I bet hearing from an "expert" that she too, went through the same thing was comforting. It sounds like you're doing better with each day, and I don't doubt it will get easier. You got this, sweetie. Cooper is VERY lucky to have you as his Mama <3

  4. I am a new reader of your blog and already a fan. It takes such courage to confront this. I don't have kids but, we are talking about it. One of my biggest worries is post partum. Both my husband and I had depression as young adults and I worry about how I will react. I am learning, it's a very real thing and I'm not alone in my fears. You baby is so cute that I am going to have another baby talk with the husband now ha.


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