Friday, December 11, 2009

Then and Now

Last year at this time, I had a fourteen week old baby. He had just started sleeping a respectable stretch of time through the night (6 - 7 hours) compared to the every 1 - 2 hour wake ups we had been having. I was just starting to settle into motherhood. Looking back on the early newborn days with Will, I would say that I definitely had some postpartum depression issues. I think they are fairly common and I did not get on any medications, because I thought I was "fine" at the time. And while I was "fine" by definition, in that I wasn't going to hurt myself or the baby, I definitely had a rough time in the first 8 - 10 weeks after he was born and I wasn't really "fine" at all.

I look back on posts from the newborn days and it is really sad how I focused on scheduling Will and getting him to sleep and eat when I thought he should. I know it all came from a desire to do everything right, to start things off perfectly, to be the mom he deserved me to be. I also think it came from the post partum depression. Within a few short weeks, I had stopped working, had a baby via an unexpected c-section, my mom had a nervous breakdown, and I experienced the shift in hormones that every post-partum woman has. Everything seemed out of control and my old life gone forever. Not that I wanted my old life back, but I needed a touchstone of sorts. I have always been a schedule person, your typical type-A.

I figured that if I could just get some semblance of order to my life, just offer Will stability and structure, just. . . Well, looking back on it, it was a lot more about getting stability and structure for both of us.

I was extremely anxious, unable to sleep or settle down, desperate to organize things (I remember folding laundry obsessively, and that is so not me). I was sad, too, but it was more of a desperate feeling of quiet panic. I remember I would cry at night when M came home and was holding the baby, who had finally stopped crying, and I was frustrated because I couldn't get him to stop. Then, when I learned a certain way that he liked to be held, with a firm pat on the back and shhhhhing in his ear, I wouldn't let anyone else hold him if he was crying, even M, because his cries would pierce my heart and my anxiety would rise. Everything made me anxious.

I remember the night that my anxiety really peaked. I was changing Will's diaper and he looked at me with those newborn eyes, so filled with trust, and instead of feeling an "awwwwwww" moment, I felt nothing but pure panic. I had no idea how to really care for this tiny human. I mean, yes, I could address his basic needs such as food and shelter, but I couldn't help him sleep, couldn't stop him from feeling pain, couldn't soothe him when the gas pains made him cry for hours. I think that every new parent feels this way, but through the shroud of post partum issues, it feels like a death sentence. To have this perfect creation and not be able to do right by it. . . well, you feel like crap.

I was in a gray area where medication probably should at least have been a consideration for me. I did get through it without medications, but I also think that it could have been easier for everyone if I had taken some. Like other moms that have described their post-partum depression, I felt guilty and ashamed, especially after all that we had been through. I felt as if my life should be sunshine and roses and that it was my fault that it wasn't. I didn't really talk to anyone about how I was feeling. I am good at faking being okay, so I don't think anyone really knew how anxious I was, how overwhelmed.

At the time, I was proud of myself for "toughing" it out, but looking back on it, I wish I had gone a different route. Now that I am pregnant again, I am planning on behing a lot more honest. And that starts with talking with my OB about it now. Because I know me. I know I will probably try to play "SuperNewMomofTwoUnderTwoAndWhyWouldIBeAnythingButHappy" again. Right now, when I am not in the middle of the post-partum issues is the best time to address it.

Not that I want a situation where I will be "forced" to take medication and not that I am expecting that this will happen again. But I want to be more prepared for these feelings and have a better plan for addressing them, and that might (not necessarily) include medication. Last time, I had tacked up a list of postpartum depression "signs" to watch for. I had almost every single one (this list was specific to postpartum depression, not postpartum psychosis, which is far more serious and can include thoughts of harming or actually attempting to harm your baby or yourself) and yet I didn't reach out for help.

I also am posting this here so that if you notice any symptoms even through my writing, I ask that, as my friends, you send a gentle e-mail or even call me out with a loving comment. I think the problem for so many women is that they think it is just happening to them, so then they feel "weak" or "strange." Admitting you have a problem might be the first step to healing, but talking about it is just as important.


mummydr said...

I went through everything you posted almost exactly with my first son. I can even remember the date it lifted when he was 4 months old. It was obvious to everyone around me that I'd lost it. I did worry abut about it happening again second time, but right from the very early pp days I knew it was all going to be fine. I hope this time will be healing for you too.

Tracy said...

For me I think the hardest thing was admitting that I had a problem that I couldn't "tough out." Like I should be stronger than this medical issue that was plaguing me. Truth is, it IS a medical issue. The chemicals in our brains don't always work the way they're meant to, and this can be compounded by the synthetic hormones that many of us unfertiles use to get and stay pregnant. Surely after years of infertility, losses, and repeated IVF attempts, it stood to reason I might be chemically off, right? So why did I fight it so badly? Anyway, our family's life got a LOT better with some mild antidepressants, and I wish I'd started taking them earlier...
Hindsight is 20/20.


PamalaLauren said...

It's odd what you look back on a realize that you could have gotten help for. I too realize now that I was probably suffering from a bit of PPD and could have used some medication. I'm going to mention it to my doctor as well when I get further along. Especially since I have anxiety issues now (PTSD apparently) so I need to be prepared, and have the doctor ready as well.

kim said...

The first time I had PPD, I remember thinking "Why would I be sad? I have everything I've ever wanted" I was afraid of antidepressants and the stigma. The second time I started on meds at 4 weeks PP, and things felt waay better. I felt emotionally even. With my third at 6 weeks I knew it was time when I was in constant sadness that I hadn't lost all my weight yet. My gut told me I was being unrealistic, but my head was telling me the opposite. I think it's a lot easier to recognize the second time around. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.

Mel said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome post. Thank you so much for taking time to write on such a personal issue. :) I battled with depression before I got pregnant with our now 6 month-old and went off meds during my pregnancy. After giving birth, I wanted to try to "tough it out," but decided it wasn't an option. MY HEALTH directly effected my son's well-being, so I'm back on meds and a much better momma because of them.

Thanks too, for stopping-by my blog via peesticksandstones to comment on my decision to become a SAHM. I think leaving my job was one of the best things I've ever done...even if it didn't seem like it at the time.

peesticksandstones said...

Awww, I could totally relate to so much of this. While part of me gets all dewy-eyed and nostalgic thinking of those first weeks/months, mostly I am kinda relieved to leave that time behind. I was extremely anxious, and terrified the baby would just randomly die or disappear or something. My husband even had a dream he dissolved back into an embryo.

I'm LOVING this time (6 months) in contrast. Way, way, way better than the early part.

You are so on the right track being so conscientious. I am extremely curious what this is all like the second time around -- what's easier/what's harder. Whatever happens, you're not alone!

Anonymous said...

PPD shook me to my core. Please be honest with yourself this time. PPD is the most common complication from childbirth. There is no need to tough anything out when there are so many resources avaliable to you. Good luck.