My baby is creeping up on a year, and that makes me sad, but also a little relieved. This last year has been hard on me and my family. I have been battling with what I believe is a case of postpartum depression and anxiety, that started with my pregnancy loss and was only compounded by the pregnancy and birth of Felix, and the decision to tie my tubes. Looking back both me and my husband really wish I would have sought help when I was at my worst right after he was born. Now that I am slowly coming out of the cloud, I realize how bad I really was. But because I had my days where all was fine, I always just wrote it off as exhaustion and hormones.
I think PPD can be so hard to admit to because we think of it in such extreme ways. We think it means we want to hurt our babies, or that we can’t get out of bed. We think it must mean you are miserable and unhappy all the time, or not truly bonded to baby. But in reality the symptoms can be much different than that. When I look at this list, it is truly alarming how many of these things have described me in the last 11 months –http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english . I want to share a little bit of what it what the struggle meant for me.
It meant that living with me was a bit dark and dismal at times. My husband told me once a couple of months ago that living with me those first few months, was like living with a dark, grey storm cloud. I just couldn’t help but point out the negative in things.
It means that I have never felt less capable of dealing with life than I have over some points in the last year. Somedays it feels like if one more person needs one more thing, I might just implode. My husband would say my life motto is, “I.Can’t.Even”. Somedays I wake up and start the countdown til bed time. Sometimes I just drive aimlessly so my kids are contained and I can zone out. I know there is always a million things I should accomplish: cleaning, shopping, getting things in order for our house. But so many days it is all I can do to make sure we are all alive and fed.
It meant that even though I married a saint, sometimes I just didn’t care. For a few really bad months there I didn’t seem to have any motivation to romance him, serve him or connect with him. I just felt shut down. It was scary and really sad, because he was doing so much for me and the kids and I knew I owed him so much more.
It meant that I didn’t have the energy to fake it. So many days I just couldn’t go out and put a smile on my face and small talk. I couldn’t talk about my struggles because I worried so much that someone would say the wrong thing. I felt like people would think I was ungrateful and selfish, if I admitted to being less than happy. So sometimes I just stayed home. I ignored texts and calls, skipped parties and events.
It meant that I rarely left my kids. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust other people with them. It was just that I had this all-consuming need to be able to look at them and see that they were alive and well. I needed to put my hand on my baby’s chest and feel him breath. I needed to make sure they were all fed and safe. And I think as much as I somedays resented it, I desperately needed to be needed. I needed to know that I was doing something, contributing something to this family. That even if I was doing a crappy job most days, my family needed me.
I meant that I made crazy decisions like putting my house on the market, and moving into a tiny apartment while we build a house on our own, when I can hardly manage to get dinner on the table
It meant that I consumed a disgusting amount of sugar and caffeine to get me thru each day. IF I had not been breastfeeding I am sure I would have gained 100 pounds. I ate my stress, I ate my irritation, I ate my bleakness. I ate my exhaustion. The doctor told me I was prediabetic, I went through Krispy Kreme on the way home.
It means waking up with knots in my stomach, and every nerve on high alert. It means pictures of crashing down the stairs while holding my baby, or losing my husband in kids in a fiery crash, just pop into my mind uninvited. My heart races, I can think of nothing else until we are safely down the stairs, or safely home with the kids tucked in bed.
It means my fear of controversy is to ridiculous levels. I can’t handle the thought of people being unhappy with me, or each other. I just want everyone to love each other all the time, and go to great lengths to ensure this.
So maybe this is PPD and maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is sleep deprivation or delayed grief over my loss. Maybe it is just my body reeling from the last 5 1/2 years of extreme hormonal fluctuations. But whatever it is, it sucks. If you can relate to this please reach out to somebody, a doctor, a friend, a family member. THere is no reason to wade through it alone.
And if you know a new mom, please extend her some grace. Forgive her if she snaps at you, call and text her even when she doesn’t respond. Encourage her, pray for her, help her. That first year is beautiful, but it is also hard. It is baby snuggles and new baby smell. It is first smiles and wobbly baby steps. But it is also sleepless nights and family changes. It is leaking boobs and hormonal shifts. IT is exhaustion and joy in head spinning levels. Be that hand for a mom to hold on to, the voice for her to call (when she finally gets around to it), the reassurance that she can do it, and that she is doing just fine. Tell her that yes it is hard, and no she is not the first mom to feel that way. Love her and support her, even when she doesn’t seem to notice. Someday when that fog begins to lift, she will remember those that lit the way.