Years ago I was ignorant enough to think that those two words were a label translated as: “Bad Mom.” Simply because I thought depression as a whole was a sign of weakness and depression directly after birthing forth a little amazing wonderful miracle just made a person selfish. How could you be anything but not happy after having a child?
Then again, I also thought Postpartum Depression meant you hated your own child and wanted to harm it.
Ignorance at it’s finest.
Because in 2001 I had my first son and he was a preemie and the medley of interventions through the labor process and his subsequent NICU-stay triggered a case of PPD. I just didn’t realize it at the time. For certain. That weight of fear and worry weighed me down. I didnt want to go anywhere without him, woke up a million times a night to check if he was still breathing, had zero sexual relationship with my husband, quit laughing, dropped friends. I was stressed and exhausted loving this baby. Eventually, about a year after he was born, the fog began to clear and it started to get easier. But that year was hell. It began the slow destruction of my marriage. It gave me memories of an awful lot of worry and not enough joy.
It wasn’t until 2003 when my second son was born and I read “Down Came The Rain” by Brooke Shields that I realized what I had dealt with back in 2001 had in actuality been PPD and was nothing to be ashamed of. That so many women dealt with it than I had even realized.
I had the same obsessive fears and worries with Aidan. One time I was holding him and had a vision of throwing him violently at a wall. It terrified me, to have those thoughts. Because I had absolutely NO desire to harm him. Ever. I was just so paranoid I WOULD hurt him. That some horrible accident would happen and I would lose him. I was on hyper-proective mode 24-7. I never slept. I never put him down. There was no time to enjoy his infant months, I was far too busy carrying the heavy dark clouds around with me.
Eventually, I got on prescription medicine to help. And it did. It took some experimenting to find one that didn’t give me weight gain or no sex drive or make my hands shake non stop or make my brain do this weird buzzing sensation periodically. I have never been a fan of western medicine so after awhile I weaned myself off. And i was okay. For a good decade. Funny thing is, I hit some pretty rough patches in between. Birthed two babies while in an abusive relationship. You’d think THAT would make me depressed. But that just goes to show you that PPD, though possibly triggered by such things as a birth plan going awry or a baby needing to stay in the NICU, really has not much to do with circumstances and all the world to do with hormones, low vitamins and nutrients, lack of sleep, etc….
Because less than 2 months ago I gave birth to my first daughter. After 6 sons that alone should be reason enough to be nothing but happy.
And I was. Am.
But…..I had planed a home birth. And labored for over 24 hours on no sleep for 48 hours. Didn’t eat for 12 hours. Transition lasted HOURS. I grew exhausted and worried. So, we transported to the hospital. I broke down in weary exhaustion and pain and got an epidural. After all of the research I do and knowledge I have about the risks of an epi I GET ONE. And then mentally beat myself up about it for weeks after. (I still regret it. I feel like I wussed out, basically.) Lucy ended up with a fever at birth and had to stay in the NICU. I stood up on feet and legs still numb from the epi and almost fell over in my stubborn determination to go see and hold my daugher who was upstairs alone in the NICU. I spent more time in the NICU than in my own room. Never slept. No. Literally. Never slept. I got 2 hours of sleep in the first 3 days of her life. And it didn’t get much better after that. I would be sitting in a chair holding her amidst all of the wires in the NICU and would fall asleep sitting straight up, and then abruptly jerk away in a panic thinking I might drop her. I was exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep.
Going home without her…leaving her in that hospital. It tore my heart out. And then when we were finally able to take her home. Suddenly I was so overwhelmed. Like a brand new mom. Like I had never done this parenting gig before. Her cries flustered me. Nursing hurt. Sh had a lip tie that caused her to struggle with nursing and me to have pretty severe pain that made me cry. I had blood blisters on both of my nipples. I loved her so much. She was beautiful and perfect. I knew this because her Daddy said so. Because people on Face Book said so. I just was having a really tough time wrapping my own brain around the fact she was mine. I felt like some sort of wall was between us. I had every single reason in the world to be happy.A beautiful daughter. An amazing man. A wonderful new house. Financial security. My other children all healthy. I was so blessed. But I still felt like everything was all foggy and gray tinted.
There were days that were easier. Days I would feel a wave of love for her and be so grateful. Days I loved the smell of her milk-breath. Days I laughed a little or played with the kids and actually enjoyed it. Not many but those days were there.
Just as much as there were hard days. Days like the time Lucy was screaming in her bassinet to be changed and the boys were all yelling and the tv was blaring and I actually yelled “SHUT UP!” at my newborn daughter and slammed the bedroom door shut and Justin went in to take care of her while I sat on the back porch and cried. Or the times she wants to nurse and nurse and nurse all day long and I feel “touched-out” and give her a bottle just to get her off of me for a few minutes and I feel this huge wave of major mom guilt because how DARE I behave that way or feel that way when I am so blessed to HAVE this precious child. And then I resent her for causing me to feel that guilt and then I feel guilty for resenting her….a cycle of depression.
A few days ago I took the kids to the beach. I sat in the sand nursing my sweet baby girl who was dressed in her flamingo “beach outfit”. The boys were building elaborate sand castles and splashing each other in the salty, foamy waves. It was the first time in weeks that I had felt a moment to be able to just sit and BE. Not fel tuggd in twenty different directions. Just let the sea air cleanse my spirit and BE.
And I was.
I sat and watched and listened. To what childhood joy sounds like and looks like. I took mental snap shots and tucked them away in my soul. I cradled that tiny girl against my heartbeat and almost wept at the realization that I was missing it. Missing precious moments with her because i was getting caught up in the shadows.
I can’t have that.
She very well could be my last child. I want to soak in each moment for what it is and BE, live it, experience it, laugh, love…….
I don’t want to miss any of it. Because some day…someday she will be a gangly awkward 11 year old…..a 17 year old poised on the brink of discovering life……a young lady on her wedding day….and I want so badly to look at her in those moments in that time and see in my minds eye the sweet pink baby girl she once was, and recall the loveliness of it all, and not have a bit of it tainted by shadows.
So, I am back on my herbal/vitamin supplements. Eating better. Forcing myself to sleep even when my brain doesn’t want to. Working out. Getting fresh air and sunshine even when my depression says “Ugh. Sun BAD” like a disgruntled caveman. I’m paying better attention to my own needs so I can meet Lucys needs better. (and those of my other children as well.) I force myself to eat when I don’t want to. I force myself to SIT DOWN and just hold her in my arms from time to time. Just to breathe in the wonder of her and worship this womanchild with my beating heart and awe and reverence.
PPD is a bitch. It’s a tough demon to battle. I’m in the midst of that battle right now. And I’m fighting like crazy to win. Because life is too precious and fleeting. It really is. And Lulu won’t be so little for long. Someday my arms will be empty and I want to look back and be grateful for a clear mind, an open heart, healthy emotions, and the capability to be stronger than the shadows.
I do want to add that if my natural supplements don’t work or help to my satisfaction, as much as I HATE western medicine, I would not pause to take a prescription drug if it meant my mental health and well being were set so I could properly care for and love my daughter. I add this point just to be sure no one reading this feels they are doing something wrong if they choose to take meds. This is no time for judgment. This is a time to do whatever it takes to get healthy for the sake of your child. Whatever it takes. Ask for help from family or friends. Be honest about how you are feeling. take care of yourself. Be aware of triggers. eat well. Get sleep as much as is possible. And know there is nothing to be ashamed of. You are a good mom. A strong mom. A kickass mom. It is no measure of your love for your child, it is simply a measure of the fact we as a culture tend to idolize women who stand alone and do it all alone. We were never meant to. Find your village. Reach out. Ask for help. Accept it. Even if it is just on line. Don’t just tread water. Climb up onto your boat and start paddling for shore.
When you get there, look for the lady in the rainbow bikini flaunting her chubby postpartum body in all it’s glory while holding a pretty baby girl. That’s me. Hi. How are you? My name is Tonia and I suffer from PPD. And it sucks but it’s getting better and I’m still a badass mama. And so are you.