I’ve had this post sitting as a draft for awhile now. I don’t know what it is that kept me from clicking “publish”, but for some reason it’s just been sitting there, waiting. Am I afraid to share my story? Do I think people will look at me differently when they see what happened to me? I don’t know what has been holding me back.
Last week, a friend of mine who recently gave birth to her third baby revealed she was going through a hard time. It wasn’t like the last two, and she just didn’t feel “right”. And just like that it hit me. I remembered the feelings of loneliness, of thinking that it was never going to get better, that no one would understand, and that I was doing it all wrong. I remember thinking that I was probably the worst mother ever because I didn’t fall in love right away, I didn’t have those sudden, overwhelming feelings of emotional attachment with my baby. And what the hell was wrong with me?!
Little did I know, there are many women who have experienced the exact same thing, and I was not alone at all. That’s why I decided to write this post. Because if I can help even one other mom feel less alone, then it’s worth it. Whether it’s your first time giving birth or your 5th, post partum can affect you, and if you don’t know the signs, you can easily end up feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
This is the stuff you don’t hear about at the baby shower, while everyone oohs and ahhs over the cute clothes and eats cake. It’s the part that doesn’t get shared because it’s not pretty. Nobody wants to worry a pregnant woman when there’s already so much to be worried about. I want to reach out and tell you that while it doesn’t do any good to worry, knowing the signs and being aware of how you are feeling after birth are important. It could save you weeks or even months of needless pain. And so I am sharing my story with you, so that maybe some good can come out of what I experienced.
I was a complete mess. I was on the couch and hadn’t showered in days. I couldn’t remember when I had eaten last. All I knew was the pain, and the desperate craziness I felt that was eating me alive. Everything was harder. It felt like I was walking around with a wet, heavy blanket and weights tied to my feet.
And then the crying would start. And I didn’t know what to do.
I would hurry and take care of whatever need the baby had, and promptly fall back asleep, or try to. I would get lost in sleep, and it seemed like there was never enough of it. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, not that I looked at myself very often. I could barely remember to brush my teeth.
At the hospital, we had had nonstop visitors. Everything was a blur. The only time I was ever alone with my son was at night, when I desperately needed sleep but couldn’t get it. Every 4 hours nurses came in to help with feedings. During the day it was constant people in and out of our room. The baby would be sleeping or being held by another visitor and I would be desperately trying to stay awake. And then feed him, which also seemed nonstop. Then there was the testing and nurses coming in and out. Hearing tests, vaccinations, giving him baths. Then I had an allergic reaction to my pain medication and had to have it switched. Paperwork was thrust into our faces for his birth certificate, social security information, feeding schedule, pain meds schedule, don’t shake your baby pamphlet, sign here, sign there, more papers.
My head was swimming.
I wanted to go home, but the severity of my birthing injuries and something about his circumcision (I can’t remember what it was) kept us there for 4 days. We finally got to go home, and with the whirlwind hospital stay behind us, I was looking forward to having some quiet and alone time. I stared at my baby. He was perfect. He was also a complete stranger. I felt like I was supposed to know him already, but I didn’t know anything about him. It was such an odd, detached feeling. Here is this person I’m supposed to love, to feel so happy and overwhelmed with joy that it completes me. But all I felt was confusion. I mean, of course I loved him. But I felt like I was missing that instinctual, warm, all-consuming I am so in love right now feeling, and I felt like a failure already.
I felt like a walking zombie. I felt numb. And I was sure that no other mother had ever been this awful.
This is what everyone was talking about. The sleepless nights. How hard it would be. And I am screwing this up so bad.
But the baby was sleeping fine. Great, in fact. He would nap during the day, cried very little unless he was hungry or tired, and was pretty calm and happy. Everywhere we went people commented on what a good baby he was.
But I’m not okay. I’m dying inside. I’m a horrible mother. Why would they give him to me? Why would they let me take him home?
The thoughts were never-ending, and unwanted. They filled my mind constantly, drowning out even my most basic needs like eating and drinking water. My husband didn’t seem to notice, and I felt invisible.
I couldn’t really blame him. He wasn’t home long enough to even have time to pay attention. The fact that he was gone for 6-8 days at a time and then home for 1 or 2 was killing me. He was at a point in his career that we never expected. We had just purchased our first home when the economy tanked and oil prices went through the roof, causing airlines to lay off employees left and right. Although Scott didn’t get laid off, he got placed on a smaller aircraft, which meant a smaller paycheck. About half of what he was making before. It was bad.
And then he got displaced across the country. We were Phoenix based, and now he was being sent to Chicago.
We couldn’t move, we had just bought a house. And so he commuted. To the other side of the country. He would start his trip a day early, praying he could get on a flight. Once he was there he would start his trip, and at the end he would try and get home again. A lot of times he couldn’t make it. He had to get a crash pad for those times, which is usually a shitty little apartment shared by about 20 crew members for the sole purpose of having a place to sleep when they can’t make it home. So he would get home, and still be on East Coast time, exhausted from the long days. But he would still let me sleep whenever he was home, because he knew I needed it.
He was enthralled with our son, his love for him was palpable. And I was jealous. I was jealous because why couldn’t I just be in love that easily? Why was this so hard for me but so easy for my husband? Why couldn’t I just feel something?! The guilt would creep in, and perpetuate the cycle.
Because you weren’t cut out for this. You are an awful person. What kind of mother doesn’t fall in love instantly with their baby? There’s something wrong with you.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to be happy. Fulfilled. Rocking my baby to sleep and enjoying every minute. Instead, I felt like I was barely surviving. And those thoughts persisted constantly. They would flood my mind with images of car accidents, crib accidents, any type of accident my twisted brain could come up with.
I’m going to walk into his room and he’s going to be dead, I know it. Don’t be surprised if you walk in there and he’s not breathing. You’re a horrible mother. You are seriously so bad at this. Why would anyone let you have a baby?
It was a nightmare. Being awake was a nightmare. So I would sleep and try to escape, any chance I got.
But then, out of the blue and in the middle of the day, I had the most terrifying thought I have ever had. And it shook me.
We should have given him up for adoption. I am not a good mother. He should be taken away.
And with that thought, I knew.
I knew that I was not right, that I needed help. But I was so lost and afraid that I had no idea how. I remember going to my 6 week follow-up appointment and the nurse practitioner looked at me, and then said very gently, “How are you feeling? Kind of sad?” and I just looked at her and nodded, then looked away. “Do you cry a lot?” she asked. I just nodded again. I had lost the ability to cry, and I am not by nature a crier. But I felt like if I could have cried, I would have been crying every damn day.
I felt empty, like I couldn’t even think straight. “I’m going to get you something that I think could help. Would that be ok?” I nodded. I got a prescription that day, and I can’t even remember if I filled it or my husband did.
It was for an antidepressant, and I still thank God that that nurse paid attention and cared enough to help me when I couldn’t even help myself. I came out of the fog, although not completely, and started to feel better. The bad thoughts went away, which was the biggest relief. I could finally stop writing myself the to-do lists that had been necessary to include going to the bathroom and eating, because without them I wouldn’t do it. I started to feel like myself again.
It was one of the roughest times in our marriage, those blurry newborn days. But once I got help, things started to get better. I could handle more, and we got our rhythm. Things weren’t so overwhelmingly difficult. I only wish I could have gotten help sooner. It made me sad to think that those weeks were wasted on feeling so awful when in hindsight it was such an easy fix. Pretending I was ok didn’t help anything.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from PPD – which lasts longer than the typical baby blues – please seek help. You NEED to take care of yourself. You deserve it, and your baby deserves it. Don’t wait another minute. Call your doctor, or your nurse, or your friend. ANYONE. No one deserves to suffer needlessly and feel alone. Get help, as soon as you can. I wish I hadn’t missed out on so much with my son those first few months.
I’m happy to say that after I got help, I started to enjoy being a mom more, and finally fell in love with him. That’s what no one tells you, that sometimes you don’t automatically fall in love with the wailing little person they hand you in the hospital. Sometimes it takes some time to form that bond. And that’s ok.
It took us a while to find our way, but we did. I can’t imagine not having him in our lives, and I finally got that overwhelming, fierce love for him that I so craved. But I would be lying if I told you that it had come easily, because it didn’t.
Now he is a thriving 5 year old and he brings us so much joy. Sometimes I look at him and I can’t believe we went through that. It would be easy for me to try and just forget about it, or not to tell anyone since now everything is great. But I would be doing so many women a disservice who have also gone through it, or who are going through it right now.
I wish someone would have told me.
Did you experience PPD with any of your babies? How did you handle it? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
The Flight Wife