Postpartum Depression: a transparent view
When you’re pregnant your Doctor may speak of Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. Baby Blues affect 70% of women following birth. Most women will admit to being weepy after having baby, or being more emotional. Postpartum depression affects 10-15% of women after birth. Strangely, you don’t hear much from those 10%. Oh sure, you hear it referenced when you’re pregnant, usually by your doctor, or there have been some celebrities that have shed some light on it, but more often than not it gets dismissed as it will never happen to me.
Exactly my words; it will never happen to me. I had always wanted to be a mommy. When I was 10 I got my first babysitting job. I then spent the next 14 years in childcare in some fashion; babysitter, daycare, nanny. I was pretty darn good; I usually had a waiting list for Friday nights, and had families offer to pay more just to ensure I would remain theirs. I knew how to hold, clothe, bathe, rock, burp, sing to, and cuddle babies. I had been on trips with families as a nanny and I had stayed days at a time with families as a nanny. Calm a screaming baby? You got it. Change the nastiest of all nasties? Done. So, you can see why I thought I would I would be a natural pro at motherhood and handle it with ease and grace.
I was not prepared for the sledge hammer that hit me over the head after my first son was born.
I understand why not very many people talk about it. No one wants to admit wanting nothing to do with their brand new baby. No one wants to admit they were filled with regret. No one wants to admit spending days crying, laying on a bed in complete exhaustion wondering if they made a mistake. A.terrible.mistake. Having a brand new baby at home is supposed to be incredible. You’re supposed to be filling out birth announcements, swooning over your baby, and taking picture after picture (I think I took 2 pictures in the first 5 weeks.)
Leading up to and immediately following the birth of our son we were in the middle of chaos. As is my style, I had taken on too much. My husband was remodeling our house so we were living with my parents and brother; 5 adults, 4 dogs, and a brand new baby all in their house (not having a place to nest was hard but figuring out nursing with my step dad and brother over my shoulder was harder). My sister-in-law was getting married 4 days later and I was devastated that I couldn’t appropriately be a part of her wedding (We missed the rehearsal because we were back at the pediatrician’s office getting our son’s infection looked at. I wasn’t able to help with any of the setup or other matron of honory things. I was so exhausted after the ceremony that I had to duck out of the reception early.). Christmas was a week after his birth. I didn’t have a network of mommy friends; I knew very few moms my age and wasn’t very close with the ones I did know. And, I went from having a lot of attention when I was pregnant to feeling very alone, very isolated afterwards.
In addition to all the events that were going on, I was afraid to ask for help. I thought I should be able to handle it all myself; I thought I should be able to cook, clean, take care of our son, be a great wife, and nurse every 2 hours for an hour (yes, that is really how long it would take him and if I didn’t oblige, he would be screaming 20 minutes later), be a great sister in law, and hand make all our Christmas gifts. Boy was I wrong. I was frustrated that I wasn’t doing it all. My mom was cooking the meals and cleaning while we lived there, I was hardly taking care of our son, I was trying my hardest to please everyone, and I felt like I was failing…miserably.
The tears flowed about as often as my milk. I felt like I was being weighed down by a boulder; like I was being crushed. I longed for a connection with our son and was upset with myself that I didn’t feel one. And to top it all off, our son didn’t sleep. I would always get
angry extremely pissed when someone would say sleep when your baby sleeps. Well, that’s great for someone that easily takes naps and has a baby that sleeps for more than 30 minutes at a time. You could literally set the timer for 30 minutes and my son would be up. Nothing, no amount of nannying or childcare, could have prepared me for that level of exhaustion.
Luckily, my depression only lasted for about 6 weeks. The. Longest. Six. Weeks. Of. My. Life. However, for some moms this lasts months. Luckily, I never wanted to hurt my child. Some moms with severe postpartum depression do. Others want to hurt themselves thinking their baby and family would be better without them. Everyone’s experience with PPD can be different. Some more extreme and severe than others. I thought what I was experiencing was just the baby blues; I didn’t realize how depressed I was though until I got out of it.
I don’t know what happened but one day I just woke up and felt better. Was he sleeping better? No. Was I sleeping better? Not really. Could it have been that we were finally settled in to our own place? Maybe. Could it have been that the chaos had subsided? Maybe. Whatever it was, the cloud lifted. I immediately felt the connection with my son that I so longed for…like he and I were meant to be. Did I cry still? Sure. I still do. But for entirely different reasons. And that’s okay. I’m a mom.
And for the record, I may have known how to take care of a baby based off of all my experience nannying and I may have felt like I loved those kids I nannied for like they were my own, but nothing prepared me for the love of being a parent (after the postpartum depression lifted).
In another post I will be sharing how to help someone that is affected with Postpartum Depression.