26 Reasons I’ve Cried Since Having a Baby

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Baby crying, mother in background

I didn’t always buy into the clichés about women being emotional roller coasters due to pregnancy or postpartum hormones. After all, I was still myself during my pregnancies, albeit with a shorter temper and a fuzzier memory. Really, I thought the stereotype was one more way for people to joke about a woman’s mental state without exploring the real reason for her hurt feelings or emotional outburst. A pregnant woman’s PMS, if you will.

But after my second child was born, I couldn’t deny that I had become what I previously thought was merely a sitcom-created mothering myth: a postpartum crier.

Of course, it’s hard when you’re getting up several times a night with an infant (plus an early-rising preschooler) but really, did I need to cry about everything? Certainly, there were overwhelming, real reasons I cried. But I’m not talking about the “why is no one sleeping,” “have I ruined my life,” “what is the greater meaning of dedicating myself to a child who is only going to hate me in 10 years and never call me in 20″ kind of existential parenting crises. I’m talking about the silly, unnecessary, definitely hormone-related reasons I’ve cried or gotten teary since having a new baby. Here are just a few of those reasons…

1. When my husband told me I needed to throw away the package of hot dogs after I left them out of the refrigerator all day long.

2. Describing the epilogue for Knuffle Bunny Free. (In my defense, the epilogue is beautiful and sad in a Cat’s-In-The-Cradle way and made my husband cry the first time he read it.)

3. Reading an online article about a cat that had run away from home. (Hell, reading pretty much any article about parenting, children or animals.)

4. Watching the Google commercial where the tween overcomes glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. (Hell, watching pretty much any Google commercial. Or any sappy commercial.)

5. When I went to buy an iced coffee and realized the $5 I put in my pocket specifically for that purpose was gone.

6. When the baby laughed while I changed him. (The cuteness was overwhelming.)

7. When my preschooler told me I wasn’t allowed to play with him.

8. Because I missed watching “In The Papers” on NY1 (a segment in which the anchor literally tells you what is in the papers. Before I got addicted to it, I thoroughly made fun of this concept).

9. When I woke up.

10. When the guy at the deli put too much mustard on my sandwich, thus ruining the sandwich. RUINING IT!

11. Watching the video where the baby cries at her mother’s singing. (Hell, watching pretty much any online video about children. Or animals. Or anything sappy, inspiring, or heartwarming. OK, fine, any online video about anything.)

12. No reason at all.

13. Looking at my son’s drawing.

14. Thinking about the song “Landslide.” (In my defense, that is a really good song. And sad. And beautiful. Oh God, here I go again.)

15. When I picked my son up at school.

16. When my son got a bad haircut.

17. When I didn’t like my hair color (which is the exact same color that I have been dyeing my hair for the past 12 years).

18. Because my DVR didn’t record Project Runway: All Stars (which is both terrible and available online).

19. When the cat barfed under the bed.

20. While watching the Mrs. Krabappel dedication on The Simpsons after the voice actress died.

21. Hearing that Amy Robach had breast cancer and that Robin Roberts came out. (Note: while cancer is sad and coming out is laudable, I don’t watch Good Morning America nor do I have any specific love for these particular ladies.)

22. Thinking about my son’s love for his favorite stuffed animal.

23. When I poured salt into my iced tea instead of sugar. (Ok, that legitimately sucked.)

24. When I accidentally deleted an episode of my son’s former favorite TV show, Jack’s Big Music Show, which is no longer aired on Nick Jr. nor is it available online or on DVD so that was THE LAST TIME I WILL EVER SEE IT. (For those curious, it was “Jack’s Super Swell Sing-Along” which is the best episode of the series and even if my son didn’t love it anymore, I still did, dammit.)

25. When I realized I didn’t wash my slipper socks, meaning I had to walk around the cold apartment in regular socks like a HEATHEN.

26. Thinking about how lucky I am.

Rage: The Scariest Symptom of PPD

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It was the rage that frightened me. I had expected to feel down, sad, and grumpy. Which I did, that’s for sure. But rage? That was not something I expected from postpartum depression. And the rage is what drove me to get help.

About five weeks after my second daughter, Grace, was born, my husband could tell I was not doing well. So he decided to surprise me with a half-day at a local spa. I was thrilled. Nails, facial, massage … and no baby or toddler attached to me for a few blissful hours. Heaven.

But when I came home, I could hear Grace’s crying from the basement. My body tensed immediately and the relaxed feeling was gone. Hubs told me that Grace didn’t eat the entire time I was out. She took a little milk from a bottle but then wouldn’t accept the bottle again.

She didn’t accept a bottle EVER again.

And I could feel the rage start to build from that day.

I felt trapped by my colicky, non-sleeping, no-bottle-taking baby. I was frustrated with my toddler, Anne, who was throwing tantrums constantly. And I was really questioning my decision to leave my full-time writing job for the occasional freelance gig.

I felt overwhelmed, sad, anxious, and angry. Every. Single. Day.

Then one night I really lost it on Anne when she was having a tantrum. I couldn’t control the words flying out of my mouth. I wanted to smack her and make her stop (which thankfully, I didn’t). I wanted to be anywhere but there.

The rage coming out of me was other-worldly. Thankfully Hubs was there and was able to intervene. I feel physically ill when I think about how I acted and what could have happened. It was the most terrifying feeling I had ever experienced.

I called both my primary care and OB docs the next day. Working together, they got me on Zoloft and into therapy right away. And I felt better within days. The sadness, the lack of interest in life, the anxiety … it all got better with the Zoloft.

The rage, though, took more work to get under control. The Zoloft helped. But the therapy was what made it much, much better.

Four years later, I am still managing my depression. The PPD got better, but then morphed into another kind of depression when my dad suddenly died. Who knows what it technically is now — but I’m still dealing with it.

And the rage is still there. It’s the most difficult part to manage and from my experience, the least-talked about symptom of depression.

That’s why I’m writing this post. I want all you moms out there to know that if you deal with PPD, depression, and especially the rage that can accompany it, you are not alone. You are not a bad mom. It can and will get better—if you get help.

Being a mom means doing hard things. And sometimes the hardest thing is asking for the help you need. I know that first phone call was incredibly hard for me to make.

But now I understand that depression happens to regular people. These scary feelings do not make me a bad mother. And with medication, therapy, and healthier life choices, I feel more like me again.

Yes, I’m still fighting the depression, sadness, and rage. But now, finally … finally I feel like I’m winning.

Drowning

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As I left the grocery store yesterday I saw a woman loading up her car with groceries while juggling her baby.  Such a normal sight, but it immediately reminded me of my postpartum depression days and I felt that uncomfortable feeling you get in the pit of your stomach.

How overwhelming it was to even think of going to the grocery store with my baby.  I had to carry the impossibly heavy car seat, figure out how to get it into the grocery cart properly (which I’m not quite sure I ever did), make sure to keep my son happy and content, remember to get everything I needed, and dodge any neighbors since I hadn’t showered in days.   It was too much for me.  Why? It didn’t seem too much for other people.  I’m not even sure I realized it was the postpartum depression, in combination with the fact that being a new mom is a major transition for any woman.

And it wasn’t just going out.  It was everything.  What if he was screaming and we were in a public place? How would I make sure he was getting enough to eat? How could I take a shower if he cried when I left him? How was I supposed to clean the house when I was busy taking care of a baby and exhausted to boot?  How on earth would I be able to go back to work? What if it was time to pick him up at daycare and I was in a meeting?  When should I call the pediatrician? Why won’t he stop crying?  Why can’t I get this breastfeeding thing?  Why do I have postpartum depression in the first place? What did I do wrong?

I love the many definitions of overwhelm from the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. To surge over and submerge; engulf

2. To defeat completely and decisively

3. To affect deeply in mind or emotion

4. To be present with an excessive amount

I was all of the above.  I was engulfed, drowning in fear and anxiety.  I felt completely and decisively defeated, as if I could never be the mother that I needed to be and that other mothers were able to be so easily.  I was deeply affected by sadness, numbness and anxiety in alternating waves.  And I felt that I wouldn’t ever be able accomplish everything that was in front of me.

Do you know those feelings? Do you feel overwhelmed? I was there. I know how crushing postpartum depression can be. All I can say is I don’t feel that way anymore. What a difference it is to feel capable. As though you can manage.  That you’re not the perfect parent but that you’re trying and your children are okay and they love you and you can handle lots of different things at once.

I can breathe. I’m not drowning anymore.

Losing Yourself to Motherhood

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Losing yourself seems to be part of becoming a mother, almost like a rite of passage. The problem is, following a rite of passage people often expect you to be wiser and acknowledge your readiness for your new role. You’re given access to knowledge or tools you didn’t have before.

When you become a mother, all you get is coupons for diapers, a free can of formula (whether you intend to formula feed or not), and unsolicited advice from people who are a generation or two out of touch. You might get a bunch of pamphlets pointing you to local resources and telling you things like how to bond with your baby and when you can expect certain milestones to happen.

What they don’t tell you is that feeling like you have NO IDEA what you’re doing is normal. Or that the sleep deprivation might feel like it’s going to kill you, but it probably won’t and will (eventually) end. Or that if you don’t feel overwhelmed with love for your baby, that’s okay too, and if it lasts for a while and you really feel like you can’t cope you might want to ask for some help.

As a matter of fact, none of the pamphlets I skimmed through or the books I read or the prenatal classes I attended told it like it really is. Which is:

You will lose a part of yourself when you become a mother.

You probably won’t be able to do all the things you’re used to doing, at least not at first, and your husband or partner shouldn’t expect to either.

You will likely be transformed by this experience in ways you could never imagine and no one could ever accurately describe to you.

Some of those changes will be great. Wonderful. Magical, even. Some might make you feel like you’ve figured out the meaning of life, even if it’s 3 a.m.

And some of those changes will be hard. Really hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cashier or a cook or a CEO, being a mother will be the hardest job you’ve ever had.

That was certainly the case for me. I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea just how hard it would be. Some of the changes were absolutely not okay with me but it’s difficult, I discovered, to convince a newborn who won’t sleep to see reason.

I realize it’s not this hard for everyone. For me, postpartum depression (unrecognized and undiagnosed for 18 months) made it almost impossibly hard. I absolutely lost myself and have battled for almost three years to find myself again. It turns out the person I was is not coming back, and I’m finally learning to be okay with that. To embrace it, even.

When I started blogging and was trying to choose a name for my blog, I wanted to acknowledge that the crazy, raging, anxiety-ridden person I had become after having a baby was not who I wanted to be. That person was a stranger to me, and to my husband, who took the brunt of a lot of my exhaustion and anger. That stranger was a big part of me for a while, and will always be a part of who I’ve become. But it’s time to say farewell.

As she slowly ceases to be part of who I am, I watch her go. I send her acceptance and gratitude, both for what she’s taught me and for retreating when asked, but I don’t wish to see her again. I’m ready to accept what I’ve lost and embrace what I’ve gained instead.

Farewell, stranger. I wish you well.

The Easy Way Out

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When I had my first baby, I lost my mind. I didn’t know I was depressed, because I didn’t really cry. I didn’t tear up over sappy commercials and I didn’t feel empty and directionless. What I had was better categorized as a fucking amazing and debilitating bout of anxiety. Since I thought depressed meant sad, I didn’t think I was depressed. I just thought I was totally losing my mind.

I was exhausted, of course, but I couldn’t sleep. If I did drift off for a few minutes and my baby made a tiny sound, three rooms away, I would spring out of bed and run to her with my heart racing and my fingers getting all tingly. I’d tuck her in again and go lay back down in the blacker than black bedroom with my senses on fire.

I also spent all of my waking time, (which was all of my time,) picturing terrible things happening to my daughter. I pictured baby snatchers, ceiling fans coming loose and shredding everything in their way. I pictured car accidents, stair accidents, slipping on ice accidents, stepping on a cat and falling down the stairs accidents, slipping on a bar of soap in the shower and breaking my neck, dying and leaving nobody to feed my child accidents. There were many more kinds of accidents to imagine, but I’m sure you get it.

I was a nut case. It seemed like everything, including walking, eating and probably somehow breathing was an exercise fraught with danger, and so I had to be on alert all the time. I had panic attacks where I was sure I was suddenly going to forget how to drive or that I would be pushing the stroller across the road and lose control of my body and well… now we’re just getting back in to all the kinds of accidents there were to picture in the world.

I didn’t sit around on the couch and cry all day, so I didn’t have postpartum depression. But, I so totally did. In hindsight, I so totally, totally, totally did.

So, when I got pregnant with Louisey, I told myself and my husband that, at the first hint of weirdness, I was going to simply call my doctor and get help. I even warned my doctor ahead of time that I would most likely be calling him.

But then, when I came downstairs in the middle of the fifth night after birthing my second baby, and I was trembling and sick to my stomach and couldn’t sleep and I was pacing the cold tile floor in the kitchen… I felt uncomfortable with seeking out help. I curled into a ball at Kurt’s feet and cried because something was wrong and I felt like I was on speed and the edges of the world were too sharp, like somehow the focus got turned too far up.

“Just call your doctor,” Kurt told me.

Call a medical professional, someone who’s been to medical school and who is, no doubt, a pillar of the community, and explain to him that I’m not really sure what’s wrong with me, but that I’m fairly certain that I’ll never sleep or eat or laugh again, because it’s just that terrible? I hated the idea. I think maybe some of it was just that, in my former life, I had never had a terribly easy time being forthcoming with doctors.

Past Medical Professional: Have you ever shared needles or had sex with a male or female who has shared needles or had sex with a giant octopus from outer space who had six sets of genitalia which were all covered in glitter, and who played a magical guitar that made rainbows instead of music?

Past Me: I mean… honestly? God. Probably. Let’s just make this easy on everyone and assume that the answer to all of your questions is going to be probably.

I totally outlived those days, but I still had a wariness about admitting that things weren’t always perfect in my new life. I just pictured respectable citizens glancing at each other out of the corners of their eyes. See? She might appear as though she’s changed, but she’s obviously some sort of unstable criminal under her reasonable mom haircut and spectacular biking calf muscles.

I called my doctor, though and nobody glanced at anybody. (At least not that I could tell from my end of the phone.) He called in a prescription for Zoloft, I started taking it and I felt better almost immediately. I think maybe he asked me how I liked taking it at my 6 week check up and I said, “I like it just fine. I feel fine.” And that was that.

All of those sleepless nights that I went through after birthing Scouty. All of that panicking, worrying, picturing every imaginable scenario in which my baby could have been harmed or stolen from me. It all could have been blinked out of existence by taking a pill for a little while until my hormones leveled out, or whatever it was that made me all kooky after giving birth. That was amazing to me. I feel like such an idiot for not calling my doctor the first time around. Getting help was so easy that it was barely even a task I had to complete. Getting through nine months of pure, adrenaline fueled anxiety-hell was way harder than calling my doctor and saying, “Could I have medicine?”

“Why, yes. Yes, you can.”

People are so uncomfortable with the topic of psychiatric medicine, though. They’ll say things like, “There’s no shame in asking for help,” but then if you talk publicly about how you got help, they flinch like… “I didn’t mean that you should go blabbing it all over the universe that you take crazy pills!”

Why are we embarrassed about taking anti-depressants for postpartum anxiety or depression? I’m not asking in a I have a cause and I’m trying to make a point by asking a thought provoking question kind of way. I actually mean, can you answer that for me?

I suppose the truth can be found in a million different historical, sociological, gender debated parts of the human experience. I suppose the answer is something like… psychology is only a recently understood area of medicine and women are depressed because of their historical position in American society and we’re all removed from our deeper, spiritual selves and we had bad childhoods that we don’t want to talk about so when a problem pops up in our psyches, we’re not able to cope and so we kind of go haywire and can’t treat the subject with openness. Or something.

All I know is that polite society has always had a lot of ideas about somebody like me, and they’ve never affected the ways I’ve conducted myself. If you’re uncomfortable with the topic of my big, scary anxiety and depression, you’ve got something about yourself that’s bugging you. Don’t be embarrassed for me. I told you that within days of starting big, scary Zoloft, I felt totally fine. I feel proud of the fact that I didn’t completely suffer debilitating anxiety for another year, the way I did with my first baby. I feel proud of the fact that this time, when all of my senses and mothering instincts CAME ALIVE and it was too much, too much, too much and they wouldn’t cool down again, I swallowed my pride and my fear and my totally made up ideas about how people would judge me, and I got a prescription for a pill that made me feel totally normal.

And it was so easy.

I have hard days. I have days like today where I have a baby with an ear infection and antibiotic diarrhea and who is teething, and a four year old who only wants to go outside to play but it’s raining and I have PMS and my husband has to stay a little late after work and I accidentally ate a cupcake when I’m supposed to be swearing off sugar and I just have to say, “Everybody stop! Stop moving, stop talking. Just stop, for a minute!” And I’m mean mommy and Scouty rolls her eyes and actually gets it right because we practiced how to roll our eyes in the mirror… but on these kinds of days, there isn’t a single moment where I clutch my baby to my chest with trembling arms and picture all of the millions of ways something could go wrong. When I’m irritable now, I’m just regular old irritable and it feels awful at the time, but it’s really not that bad, because it’s only passing and it goes away.

I’ll sleep tonight, too, and I can’t think of anything I’d be less embarrassed about than that.

Babywearing for Postpartum Depression

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I am a long-time child advocate. I have nannied, day cared, babysat, played with, entertained and loved on hundreds of babies of all ages. Children speak to my heart. And on February 16, 2013, I was given the greatest gift of all.. my own baby. My own little love. But I never expected it to begin the way it did.

When my daughter was born, I was in bad shape from a traumatic birth, and she was in the NICU. We spent the first 16 hours of her life apart. Once we were together, I was ready to feel the love, the joy, the explosion of emotion. I was anticipating it. I’d been dreaming of it.. But then they put my girl in my arms.. and though I was in awe of her.. those feelings never came.

I brushed it off and home we went. After several blank days, the darkness came. There had been many tears, much sadness, but I kept hearing “Its normal. It’s the baby blues. You’ll be fine soon”.

It was a Thursday. I had barely handled my newborn. I couldn’t. Touching her, knowing that my incapable and very, very broken self was in charge of this defenseless thing.. that I had to meet her needs and that I was responsible for her safety… it broke me. I don’t know how, why or where the breakdown happened at that moment. . I still don’t. I pumped, I nursed when I could tolerate it, and I sat in the corner of the room, crying, while my incredible husband cared for our daughter.

That Thursday, I spoke up. I told my husband what I’d been thinking. I didn’t want this life. If this was my only option, I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to die, and I’d figured out how I would do it. I recited, in detail, the way I planned to end my life. I watched the color drain from my husband’s face. He made immediate arrangements for someone to care for our daughter. He took me in to the doctor’s office. My weight. My height. My blood pressure. A survey. I filled out the survey, answered plainly, bluntly, and told them the things I’d considered. No, I didn’t want to hurt my baby. No, I had not hurt my baby. No, I had no hurt myself. Yes, I probably would hurt myself. I laid on the exam table in a ball. My midwife came in and cried with me. She held me, she stroked my hair and she diagnosed me with Postpartum Depression.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of tears, the same feelings for me, and fighting the voice that told me that I didn’t want to live. Medications. Doctors. Tears. Wash, rinse, repeat. After about 2 weeks of this, I was finally mostly in control of myself as far as actually fearing self harm. Those thoughts were still there, but they were only thoughts. I still struggled to be in the same room as my daughter. I would pet her soft hair, or her plump cheeks, kiss her sweet head and be overcome with such failure that it took my breath away There is no fresh hell like being emotionally unavailable to love your own child, so I started googling ways to bond with a child you couldn’t touch.

What a strange thing to Google. But this is what I found: Babywearing.

A centuries old art. Something that is natural and innate to a mother, to want to be close to her young. Women all over the world wear their babies. Different ways, different reasons, but the same beautiful result- a baby who is secure, attached and aware. A baby who experiences life and is taught that they are important and their needs will be met at the same time that they learn that the world happens around and despite them, not only for them. A beautiful thing. A tool to accomplish things, to teach, to love, to nurture. And in some cases, to heal. To save.

I read, read, read. Filled my mind with knowledge. And with my husband close by my side to rescue me when I became overwhelmed, I dug out the Moby I’d been gifted (thank you, Nancy) and practiced using it on my cat.

When my daughter was 3 weeks old, I wrapped her the first time. It was amazingly strange. My entire body was electric at touching this little person, but I still had my hands to feel “free”. And for the first time, as I held this little person without holding her, she snuggled into me and fell asleep. Though I had been regaining control of myself, this was the first sign of progress that *I* felt. Hope. A tiny, tiny, very faint but DEFINTELY THERE shred of hope. A light at the end of my very black tunnel.

As many hours as I could stand it, as many times a day as I could, I would carefully wrap my little girl to me, and go on about my business. When I became overwhelmed, my husband would come to my rescue, he would take her and do the basic care that I still was not able to do. But every day, every time I picked up the wrap, every time my sweet baby sighed and snuggled into me, happy to be close to me, that little shred of hope grew and expanded. The Moby was filling the void. I busied my mind and distracted myself while my body got what it was craving, and let this item facilitate a bridge between my broken mind and my heart. Between my old life and my new. Between my sweet baby, and my very desperate self.

I bought my first woven wrap the first day that I was able to provide care for my daughter. It was a reward for myself. A reward, a reminder. My Kokadi Teo Stars was a beautiful milestone, and to me, may as well have been an Olympic gold medal. It began a new obsession and helped to develop and perfect that bridge.. the bridge between my now less-broken mind, and my heart. The lives that I was now merging into a beautiful harmony. Four weeks had gone by since I first strapped my tiny baby to my chest and didn’t panic. As I was carefully (albeit sloppily) wrapping my baby to me in this new thing, she looked at me and she SMILED.

That smile. The shred of hope blew that tunnel wide open. That wrap, that smile, that moment. My daughter was 7 weeks old the day that I became her mother. All thanks to babywearing. To some, it’s convenience. To some it is sanity. To me, it is a life saver. My wraps may be “expensive pieces of cloth” or “over rated” or “weird contraptions” to some. But the ability to feel my daughter physically close to me while I could safely distract myself.. well, to me, that is priceless.

There is nothing BAD about Postpartum Depression, except for how it makes you feel, and how others make you feel about it. You did not do anything to deserve it, you are not a bad mother. And everyone has their thing. This was mine. This changed me. So to a mother with Postpartum, a mother with weary arms, a mother with an overwhelming need to just scrub the damn floors because it’s NORMAL, and you’ve forgotten what that is.. Wear your babies. However, why-ever, whenever you want. You never know how it may change you.