Thursday, April 2, 2009

Living in a Swamp

Thank god for Zoloft. Now that I have some distance and perspective from the swamp that is post-partum depression, I can look on it and perhaps appreciate my family a little bit more, find joy in even small silly moments. And be so very terrified of where I just emerged from.

I had expected trouble when my daughter was born. I knew from early in the pregnancy that I would be a single mother, but had thought for a few months at least that I might have a co-parent in her biological father. When it became evident that was not going to be the case, and the feces hit the fan, I was put on meds prophalacticaly. I had mulitiple risk factors - incredible situational stressors, a history of depressive episodes, and an erratic, useless ex. And I did get blue after Isabella was born, but I functioned. I worked two part-time jobs, took care of her, and managed to have the where-with-all to have a safety plan. The stress took it's toll - no woman 6 months post-partum should weigh 20 pounds less than when she conceived said child (not when she started out slim, anyway). I ultimately decided that it was best for us both to move back home, close to my family, where I would have more support.

This time around I thought it would be smooth sailing. I was in an entirely different life situation; married, with both my parents and my in-laws close by and totally supportive. The father of this baby wanted him. My labor was much shorter, and not in the presence of a) the nastiest l&d nurse ever, and b) my estranged ex's parents. My son's birth was everything I had ever hoped for, and then some. We were home that night. He was healthy and beautiful and I thought everything would be fine. God damn brain chemistry...

At around 4 weeks I though it was funny that I felt, kind of detached from the baby. In retrospect I think I was afraid to really let myself love him, it felt a little like betraying my older child. And I felt wholly incompetent as a mother of two kids. I could not possibly make them both happy at the same time, and by noon each day, I had been unable to feed them, myself, and get dressed. There was a big learning curve. At the same time, Rob was swamped at work. There was a 4 week stretch that he worked 80 hours each week. And of course that meant that with B cluster feeding all night, and Isa needing me all day, I started sinking. But I kept limping along, thinking I could will myself into being ok. Even though all I could manage to do was nurse B, and change his butt. Anything else was so overwhelming it made my head spin. I cried constantly. It was horrible. I felt like a complete failure. And at some level I felt like I didn't have a right to be depressed. There were days where I would sit clutching B, sobbing, and read the loss forums at MDC. Those women had a reason to cry, and there I was with a healthy baby, needing to read their stories to give my tears a reason to fall. I started on meds in early november, which gave me a glimmer of hope, but it would be several weeks before they would take full effect.

And then Rob lost his job - and with it, our benefits, with no warning. Isa got an ear infection that night (thanks, Murphy!). A friend called it the Wiley Coyote moment - you're running along, when you look down, there's nothing there, and BOOM! down you fall. That weekend was awful. And I had the most frightening thought of my life - 'I want to die. I can't die, my kids need me. Ok then, I'll just take them with me.' Even now I find it hard to put that out in the ether. It took a week to say it out loud. Good mothers don't think those thoughts. Bad brain chemistry however makes good mothers think those thoughts. Needless to say at that point I knew that was very unhealthy thinking (understatement of the year). So for the next two months I made sure I wasn't alone with either kid, or by myself, while we got the meds right. Thank god for my doctor - she was always kind, supportive, and non-judgemental.

I think that's what I needed most, the lack of judgement. As I've slugged through the mud of this dark place, that is what has kept me quiet - it's not ok to admit to having trouble to adjusting to motherhood. My doc likened ppd to surgery, or any other illness - nothing to be ashamed of, just something that needs treatment. But I am in truth scared to go to Nationals this year, and explain why it took 6 months to return to work. I'm scared to take on too much, for fear that I might slide back to where I came from. I know that I never want to be pregnant again, because I cannot risk being that close to the edge again. I love both of those kids with a fierceness that I didn't know was possible, and I am so grateful that I finally feel like I can BE with them, and enjoy even the gritty of our life. And maybe when this is all a distant memory, I can recount this story without shame, and give some other mother permission to cry for no reason. I want to tell her that being in the swamp doesn't make her a bad mother, and it doesn't mean she doesn't love her kids. I want to give her the courage to ask for help before she thinks she needs it.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks for your honesty. I know how hard just talking about that time can be. I'm sure you have helped many women by being courageous enough to be so honest. I thank you sincerely. -Gena