Yesterday I googled: “Normal amount of times a day to cry with a six-month-old.”
I then had to retype my Google entry to clarify who I was asking for: “Normal amount of times a day for a mother to cry with a six month old.”
There are some days that I feel like I’m an incredible mother. Like, I look at my children and think, “Goddamn, you’re doing something right, because these kids are unbelievable.”
Then there are most days when I feel like I’m completely fucking inept. Like, who allowed me to be responsible for these precious lives? I haven’t had the energy to wash my hair in six days and I’m supposed to be trusted to keep a toddler and a baby thriving?
In my experience, I’d say that going from no kids to one kid is a complete shock to your system. Your entire existence gets turned completely upside down over night. It’s a really freaking hard adjustment. And going from one child to two is just chaotic. It presents a whole new world of challenges that no one can really prepare themselves for until they’re knee deep in it. I can’t imagine more than two. Parents of three or more children are absolute soldiers. I bow down to your bravery and strength.
The first time around when I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, I sat and held my daughter for hours at a time. I cried. I watched movies. I stared off into space. I was in my own world of sadness, anger, confusion and guilt. I was free to completely give into it all and process it without anyone seeing me other than my husband.
I thought for sure this time around was going to be much easier on my psyche. I kept saying how I couldn’t believe how clear headed I felt. I had a newborn baby who only cried when he was hungry or needed changed. Ozzy was the most chill newborn I had ever seen.
Mickey was colicky. She cried 24 hours a day and didn’t sleep. I had a traumatic experience having her and almost losing her. No wonder I fell so deep into depression.
And then about a month after delivering Ozzy, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I tried to ignore how I was feeling, but before I knew it, I was buried so deep under the weight of sadness, I didn’t even know where to begin to make my way out. Unlike the anxiety and rage I felt with Mickey, this was a feeling of emptiness. I couldn’t even put my finger on exactly how I was feeling other than I just wanted it to end.
I kept trying to talk myself out of it. Ozzy was a literal dream baby. Mickey adored him. My life was complete. Why on earth would I ever have any reason to feel so despondent? I blamed it on the fact that I had retained placenta for the second time. I had placenta in my body for six weeks causing me to hemorrhage; of course, I was a mess.
After the D&C, I was sure I’d feel better. Wrong. I fell deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole of depression. I literally couldn’t smile or laugh. I was exhausted. All. Of. The. Time.
I would put on the TV and just stare at it, not absorbing anything at all. Picking up my phone physically hurt my body. I avoided seeing anyone other than my husband. And then I began not wanting to hold Ozzy. I just felt completely destroyed.
One afternoon I was crying on the couch when Mickey came up to me, hugged me, and said, ‘‘It’s okay, Mommy.”
I looked down at my three-year-old and realized how upset and worried she was. I was so preoccupied with avoiding the severity of how shitty I was feeling that it didn’t even occur to me that this was affecting my daughter. This wasn’t something I could run from anymore. It was time to ask for help.
I called my PCP and asked her to increase my dosage of Zoloft and made an appointment with my therapist. Just by setting up those appointments, I could begin to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.
After some intense therapy sessions along with getting my Zoloft dosage right, six months out, I am feeling better. I don’t feel incredible. But, I don’t feel hopeless. I have good days and bad days … more good than bad.
I was so preoccupied with avoiding the severity of how shitty I was feeling that it didn’t even occur to me that this was affecting my daughter.
On Monday, I watched my children laughing together and it felt like my heart was going to fall out of my butt. It was the most rewarding thing I had ever experienced. I enjoyed almost every moment the entire day; I was even able to laugh at Mickey’s tantrums. I sneaked into their rooms at night just to watch them sleep, because I simply could not get enough of them.
On Tuesday, I screamed into a pillow, then overhand threw a Jeep baby walker down the stairs, shattering it into pieces. I then walked down the stairs, collected the parts that had flown off, walked back up the stairs, and proceeded to re-throw every single piece back down the steps again. And then I cried hysterically and cut myself thick bangs.
(PSA: Never cut your hair when you’re in crisis.)
It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’ve only cried once. (Insert victory dance.) Both of my kids are in daycare for the first time, and as much as I’ve enjoyed a day of freedom, I’m going to pick them up a little early because I miss them so much.
I tried to ignore how I was feeling, but before I knew it, I was buried so deep under the weight of sadness, I didn’t even know where to begin to make my way out.
What I’m finally learning to accept is that each and every day is like a new excursion. You’re more than likely going to have to power through some rough terrain. It’s going to get muddy and bumpy. And undoubtedly there will be a lot of shit, pee, and tears.
Some days we navigate through it like champs. We throw it in four-wheel-drive and we conquer each hill like we get a thrill from off-roading. Nothing can slow us down. And then some days we get stuck in the mud and no matter how hard we hit the gas, we’re stuck. And we just break down.
When a vehicle breaks down, we have to get it towed. And once it’s towed, it’s worked on by professionals to make sure that it can be repaired back to the safe condition it was in prior to it falling apart. It takes more than just the owner of the vehicle to fix it.
We as mothers want to repair everything ourselves. We want to fix every problem to make sure everyone is taken care of, but sometimes we just have to make the call for help. It doesn’t make us any less of successful parents to admit that we’ve completely broken down in postpartum hell, or are in desperation for a break and simply need a tow. Our family, friends, and professionals are here to haul our asses out of the mud and help us get safely back out on the road.