There was something about going from two to three kids that broke me.
Life was manageable when we had our two boys. Two adults, two kids. Man-to-man defense. There was no discussion of having another baby because why mess with something that works? Then one night, after a too much to drink, we got a little sloppy and a little brazen. We thought — what are the odds? And nine months later our third son was born.
Of course, we loved him. We were thrilled to add to our brood of boys. Like all newborns, he was squishy and sweet and smelled like heaven. He rarely cried. And after some brief feeding difficulties, he grew into a round and chubby babe who was quick to give gummy smiles and giggles. He really was perfection. So why did I feel broken?
A little context. My husband had just started his own business right before we learned we were expecting. His hours were long and varied (still are) and it was difficult for him to take extended time off. Our baby was born via repeat C-section; my husband was there for the birth, of course, and for the duration of my hospital stay. But then he returned to work and I was home trying to recover from surgery with a newborn, a toddler, and a 6-year-old. At first, family and friends stopped by and brought food, snuggled the baby, and gave my older two boys some much needed attention. But people also needed to return to their lives so that little bit of help didn’t continue.
I was tired. So so tired. My oldest was in half-day kindergarten and my middle son had preschool two mornings a week. Between the constant feeding, burping, and changing the baby, and making sure my older two were dropped off and picked up on time, there was never any time in the mornings to just be. To drink a cup of coffee, to give myself a mental pep talk for the rest of the day, to just sit and breathe. Afternoons were spent listening to my older boys fight and trying to shush them so they didn’t wake the baby. (Spoiler alert: they woke the baby.)
Evenings were so busy with dinner, baths, practicing sight words, and more feeding, burping, and changing. My husband often needed to respond to service calls in the evening so I was on my own even more. Our new baby was struggling to gain weight, which we later learned was due to a lip and tongue tie, but there was the added stress of making sure he was getting enough nutrition and near daily visits to the pediatrician for weight checks.
There wasn’t enough of me to go around. I was pouring, pouring, pouring from an empty cup. Added to all of this was the unexpected loss of a close family member. And so I broke some more.
At the time, I had no idea I had postpartum depression. I wasn’t crying all the time. I didn’t experience feelings of worthlessness. I didn’t have thoughts of wanting to hurt myself or my new baby. What I felt was anger. Irrational anger. Irritability. Rage. I couldn’t handle it when things went awry, which tend to happen. Because kids. My anger would go from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds and it was like an out of body experience – I couldn’t control it. I never hurt my kids physically. But I’m sure the constant screaming hurt their sweet little psyches.
It wasn’t until I murdered The Elf on the Shelf in front of my kids while in a fit of rage (this story will definitely come later; in retrospect it’s freaking hilarious because that damn elf is a creepo) that I decided to get help. I didn’t want to be broken anymore.
Mamas, it was so, so easy to get help. A quick call to my doctor, an appointment a few days later, and I had a prescription in hand and a new therapist. I do realize that I was fortunate to have medical insurance, my own transportation to get to my appointment, and prescription drug coverage. These things might not be accessible to all people. I don’t take that for granted. But after the fog (rage) lifted and I could see clearly for the first time in months, I wondered why it took me so long to get the help I needed. In many ways I missed out on the first four months of my baby’s life and it didn’t need to be that way.
If you’re experiencing any signs of postpartum mental health issues, call someone. A doctor, your OB/GYN, a mental health professional. If you have a friend or family member who just had a baby, reach out to them. Ask them how they are really doing. Don’t assume anything from social media posts – Facebook and Instagram are highly filtered highlight reels. I know my friends and family weren’t aware that I was struggling because I was never let anyone know.
When I got pregnant with my fourth baby (YES, I KNOW HOW BABIES ARE MADE), I stopped my medication. I thought I had the necessary tools to take care of myself during yet another postpartum period. However, I am starting to recognize old patterns and know I’m at the place of needing help again. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed. I’m just ready to reclaim life and better enjoy these four nutty children I’ve been blessed with. I’m ready to not be mad all.the.time.
If you recognize any piece of yourself in my story, let’s reach out together. You deserve to feel happy. We deserve to feel at peace. And our children deserve it most of all.
P.S. I did resuscitate the elf. He made a complete recovering and continues to merrily haunt our holidays.