Bet you didn’t see that coming.
This post doesn’t have anything to do with my mom, but I felt it needed to be written. We have all heard the stories of the famous people, like Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond, who had PPD. But I had never heard of anyone I know being anything less than elated from the moment their child was born.
Granted, I had a rough start. After a difficult birth, I was unable to even pick up my baby for the first week and a half of her life (other than the first 2 days while I still had traces of the epidural in my system). I couldn’t be left alone with her; the pain was so severe, and mostly shooting pains (not unlike contractions), that I was afraid I would drop her. The day after we were released from the hospital, I went to the ER and had to get shots just to be able to lie down and sleep a bit. 2 days later, I needed another shot.
Definitely not the best start.
As I physically healed (fairly quickly, though it didn’t feel like it at the time), The Boy went back to work, as did our family members who were a great help when we needed them, and I was left alone with the baby.
I don’t know when exactly it started. They say it’s natural to be depressed for the first 2 weeks, but then it’s PPD if it doesn’t pass. Well, I wasn’t depressed the first 2 weeks, other than being incredibly sad that I couldn’t take care of my baby. That was probably the beginning of the feelings of inadequacy that fueled what became a really difficult bout with postpartum depression.
If there is anyone you would never think had PPD – it would be me. I was uploading pictures of my gorgeous daughter on almost a daily basis. I am a very happy and smiley person by nature, and usually very optimistic (as long as I don’t have to take any standardized tests).
For me, PPD wasn’t depression at all. It was inadequacy. Feeling I wasn’t good enough. That Sophie was better off not having a mother than having me. The The Boy was better off raising her alone because I would break her. I would ruin her. I couldn’t give her the love she needed so she was going to be like those abandoned orphans in Romania. I wasn’t smiling at her enough – how was she going to learn how to smile? Research shows that there are tribes where babies don’t smile at all – their parents don’t do it, so it’s never learned as an expression of happiness.
I cried on a daily basis, often more than once. I had no energy to take her outside (once I was able to physically do so). I was sure my friends didn’t care about me anymore. I couldn’t wait to go back to work, except no one at work noticed or cared that I was gone, not even my close friends. I so feared her crying that when I would hear her stir as she began to wake up, I would start crying myself at the thought that she would be waking up and the whole process was going to start again.
I was, of course, feeling the absence of my mother, but at the same time I know that it wasn’t the trigger or reason for it, just another layer of sadness.
Although it was a fairly huge layer. Sophie looks so much like my mother (and me, since I look like my mom). When I would take the bottle out of Sophie’s mouth, she made a facial expression that my mother made at the end, when we fed her. So every time Sophie ate, I feared the moment that she would remind me that my mother is dead.
Newborns eat 8 times a day.
I knew I had made a mistake. I shouldn’t have had a baby. I wasn’t cut out for it. The Boy made a mistake in choosing me. I told him so, too.
I was completely able to understand how mothers walk out on their children. And although I had never reached that point myself, I could even understand how easily a baby could be shaken or injured by their caretaker.
I wanted to leave.
For 5 weeks, multiple times a day, I had to consciously make the decision not to abandon my family.
And then people started to slowly call. “Isn’t motherhood the best?” “Are you loving every second of it?” “You’re the best mom ever, for sure.”
Each statement was a dagger that further fueled my never-ending feelings of inadequacy. The more people, including The Boy, told me that I was a great mother, the worse I felt. And The Boy even said it’s hormones and that I am fine (he’s an angel), but I wouldn’t listen. This wasn’t hormones. I didn’t feel hormonal. I wasn’t crying for no apparent reason; It was painfully apparent than I sucked at motherhood.
On Passover Eve, the baby started to cry at 4 pm and didn’t stop until 11 or so; I couldn’t stop crying during the Seder. That evening was the first time I had ever heard from someone I know that they also cried when their kids were newborns.
This was news to me. In my head, you either had PPD or you didn’t. There was no in-between. Why hadn’t anyone told me that they, too, cried? That they, too, felt inadequate? Obviously there’s a stigma to it, and for some reason it’s shameful to admit, so everyone keeps it to themselves instead of making it known so others don’t feel so alone.
So I posted a question on a secret Facebook group that I am a member of (if you aren’t a member, you can’t see the posts), and I asked the girls how to know if what you are experiencing is normal or PPD.
And then the stories starting pouring in. Dozens of women saying that they experienced similar symptoms. Crying, not wanting to get out of bed, feelings of inadequacy. Some are women I know in real life, but I had never heard anything negative from them before.
Over the next couple of days, so many women shared their story. Women who know each other in real life were surprised to hear their friends experienced what they did. Most of us went through the same feelings in varying degrees. The women are incredibly supportive of each other, and offered me (and each other) advice, most of which could be summed up as “Get to the doctor now.” I had an appointment already anyway, so I spoke to my doctor, who put me back on birth control, and in a moment it was all gone.
I didn’t want to leave anymore. I didn’t feel like Sophie was better off without a mother at all. I didn’t feel like I made a mistake anymore. I didn’t cry whenever she woke up in anticipation of her own crying. Feeding her wasn’t a chore anymore.
And then Sophie smiled and laughed and my heard skipped a beat.
As it has been doing on a daily basis since my hormones got sorted out.
I’m not going to pretend that it’s all easy now; it isn’t. But I know that what I feel now is completely normal, and completely OK.
This is one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, if not the hardest. But I wanted all of my friends who are pregnant – and who will one day be pregnant – to know what I went through, so that if it happens to them, too, they know that it happened to their friend, and not “just” a celebrity.