N8tr0n and I watched a video at the doctor's office about PPD. Yes a VHS from the early 80s. It talked about what may happen in a typical case of the "baby blues" verses a more pathological depression. Believe it or not, I still have no idea what the difference was. One was supposed to last longer? You maybe felt more, hopeless? or something? One suggestion that the video made to "mothers who felt overwhelmed and unable to accomplish anything during the day" was to keep a written log of just how many times they fed the baby, changed the baby, and whatever-ed the baby. The video suggested that such a log may help the mother see how much she really was accomplishing during her days. Even never having had a baby I guessed that a piece of paper filled with tick marks representing poopy diapers wouldn't provide the same reassurance the dude on the video said it would (aaaaaand I was right). Anyway, it didn't matter that the video sucked...I KNEW what depression felt like. I WOULD KNOW if that feeling ever hit me again.
OH BUT GUESS WHAT I MIGHT NOT HAVE NOTICED WHEN ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS KEEPING THE BABY ALIVE AND FED AND QUIET.
I might not notice how I WAS doing. Despite the numerous people that will walk in my door and say "and how are YOU doing?" I said something like “oh I’m just fine" and then filled in with something about the baby.
I don’t know exactly when I started feeling depressed. I don’t think it happened right away. Although my hospital stay was not ideal (I was recovering from a C-Section after a long labor in a tiny room) I think being surrounded by my family kept me centered. Besides that, nobody is expected to feel like themselves after having a baby…so for the first couple of weeks I figured things were going well. Whew…no PPD for me!
And then I was sick with mastitis. And then I was sick again. And then Z-cakes had reflux. And then all the family was gone. And then N8tr0n needed to go back to school. And then I wished that I’d never had that baby. That baby had ruined everything. Sure she was cute…but I certainly didn’t want her.
Here's what I remember thinking during my postpartum depression:
"Why did I think that I needed to have a baby so bad? N8tr0n and I had a wonderful thing going...we could have had a fulfilling life just the two of us. Now we've had a baby and things will never be the same ever again. They'll always be HORRIBLE. Things will be horrible from NOW ON."
"Why won't you just go to sleep? Please please stop crying and just go to sleep so that I don't have to deal with you or hold you or be around you. Why won't somebody take her? Why do I have to hold her all the time?"
“Why does N8tr0n get so mad when Z-cakes won’t stop crying? Doesn’t he understand she’s just a baby? I’m going to be the only one who can take care of her. She’s going to be entirely my responsibility. I don’t even want her and now I’m going to have to do this all by myself.”
"I love her right? Because...you have to love your baby right? I'm sure that I love her. Do I like her? You can't not love your baby. I love her I love her I love her."
The anxiety came back too. This time it made my skin crawl over whatever was happening at the moment. People would come to visit and all I could think about was getting them out of the house. As soon as they left I was terrified that I was all alone in the house with that baby. People would offer to hold her and I couldn't wait to hand her over...but after just a moment I was filled with rage that they wouldn't just give my baby back to me JUST GIVE HER TO ME.
(in my head) "Please just go home, why did you come over here you weren’t invited? Don't help me clean up I just want you to leave. Why don’t I let people help me more? How am I going to take care of this mess? I can’t put her down she’ll start crying. Please just hold the baby...hold her all day and I'm going to go out okay? I'm going to go to the store and maybe I'll come back tonight when I feel better. I wish you would offer to give her back because I need to be holding her because I'm her mom and only I should hold her. Please make her stop crying...why won't somebody take her and make her stop crying?"
At my two-week check up I asked my doctor how long this "baby blues" thing usually lasted. He said that "only I knew myself best" but to remember that I'd just taken on huge responsibilities that would take a while to adjust to. I'd also had "major abdominal surgery" (which seems to be their favorite phrase for C-section even though it takes all of 20 minutes) and that my recovery would be difficult and may contribute to my mood. I should have told him then and there that I wasn't okay. That I needed some help. But instead I decided to wait it out. I decided to wait for a MONTH.
And I don’t want to vilify my doctor at all. He didn’t even know me really. He just happened to be the surgeon on call when I had my C-section. There was no way for him to know what I was like BEFORE I had the baby. No way to know that the light in my eyes had gone out. That’s the thing that to me is so confusing about PPD. OF COURSE everyone who has a new baby is overwhelmed. OF COURSE your emotions are haywire when you’re not sleeping, or eating, or showering, or leaving the house. So HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO KNOW when enough is enough.
Here’s how I knew:
My dear sweet friend April would come over all the time to help me (bless you April, I didn’t thank you enough because I was sad). She would hold my little baby in her arms and coo and sing and smile and laugh. You know…like people tend to do with babies. One day I was watching her do that very thing and I realized that I. NEVER. DO. THAT. With my own baby. Me. The one who loves babies. The one who seeks out babies to NOM. I wasn’t talking or playing with my own baby.
And that is not who I am.
I knew I was depressed because I was no longer able to function as myself. That’s how I knew something was seriously wrong. I wasn’t just really tired…I wasn’t just having trouble adapting to change. I was a completely different person; and that person did not want the baby that she had waited so long for.
It’s crazy that as soon as I realized that the depression was back, I could feel that icy cold grip on my heart again. It had been somehow masked by all the other “baby” thoughts I was fighting with. I had the same anxiety over telling N8tr0n what was going on. AGAIN! (Are we seeing how logic is not a character in this story?) As soon as I got past “yes I am depressed,” and “yes I am calling the doctor” I asked N8tr0n to call his mom to come help us. Clearly I was not functioning well, and we all needed some help. GrammaG arrived the next day.
I eventually made it to the doctor and started taking Lexapro from my anxiety and depression. It was wonderful having my MIL there during this time because, as many of you who have taken anti-depressants before know, they don’t start working with the first pill. It can take up to two weeks for you to start seeing through the haze. During that time…I still had that little bundle of joy to take care of. GrammaG was great about helping me do some shopping, meet with friends, and basically just get out of the house. Of course I didn’t WANT to do any of those things. What I WANTED to do was have GrammaG take care of Z-cakes while I slept. I WANTED to tell her that NO I DID NOT WANT TO GO TO THE MALL THIS WAS SUCH A BAD IDEA CAN WE GO HOME NOW. But you can’t be snotty to your MIL the way you can to your mother. So I was stuck…being polite…getting fresh air…GETTING BETTER. See how much I love my baby now? (I NOM on her pretty much all the live long day) See the light in my eyes?
I stayed on my medication for about a year; after which I began a very slow weaning. I am currently not taking anything for anxiety or depression and feel like I am doing pretty well. There are moments when I feel “not myself.” Like my emotions are too raw. And I wonder if I would be better off taking a pill everyday. I wonder if I wouldn’t have to work so hard to be optimistic and happy. But for now, I think I’m doing pretty great. I hardly ever pass up a chance to tell someone that I had postpartum. N8tr0n calls me a “champion for depression awareness” and I truly wish I could tell more people. I’m always amazed at how many people tell me their experience with depression when I open up to them. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma wrapped around it. I wish…I don’t know what I wish. I wish it didn’t exist but it does. And being a happy person has nothing to do with it. That’s why I tell my story to people all of the time. To break down a tiny wall and let people know.
Thank you so much for all of your kind comments. It makes me so happy to have written about this experience. It took longer than I thought it would because every few paragraphs I had to stop, cry, and recollect. The feelings are still raw inside me and they come bubbling up to the surface sometimes. I wish that the beginning of Z-cakes’ life wasn’t peppered with memories of feeling horrible. I do my best to remember the sweet moments that WERE there. Moments where the three of us were becoming a little family. Because they WERE there. I hope someday, those moments are the ones that I remember the most.