Postpartum depression sneaks up on you and strangles your grip on the present. Instead of feeling excited for the future, you’re overwhelmed by dread… counting down the minutes until your baby moves out. At least, that’s how it was for me.
I’m telling this story in parts since it’s pretty long. If you feel like you’re struggling, I hope it makes you feel less alone and nudges you towards getting help.
Lying in the hospital with my brand new 3 day old daughter on my chest, I felt euphoric.
Yes, I thought, I can handle this mom thing.
This is awesome.
Bleary eyed from lack of sleep and sore from the incision that cut across my lower abdomen, I didn’t feel any pain. Just so happy that my baby was healthy and for the most part, pretty good tempered.
My husband and I counted ourselves lucky.
He or my mom had been with me in the hospital the whole time. That Thursday morning, he asked if I would be OK by myself for a couple hours so he could grab a quick shower at home.
“Of course,” I replied, “I got this.”
I lay there in blissful silence with my daughter. That’s when it started.
Going from blissful to terrified
First a little short of breath. Then, a twist in my stomach.
In less than 10 minutes, I went from serene new mom into full scale panic.
My mind started racing through every single scary scenario.
Times where my daughter would stop breathing.
Times where I would she would run a high fever that turned into untreatable cancer.
It just built and built and built and built.
When my husband returned, I hid my panic. I told I’m was hungry. That everything was fine.
The next day we went home and became solely responsible for keeping this little being alive.
And that’s when I stopped sleeping.
As a new parent, you hear that the lack of sleep is major. Well-meaning people tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps.
However, every time I laid my daughter down in her blue bassinet right next to our bed, I immediately fixated on the next time I would need to wake up to feed her.
I put her down at 11 after her first feeding, laid my head back on the pillow, closed my eyes and tried to relax.
Wait… what if her swaddle was covering her face?
I got up and checked on her. No, she was fine. Laid down again.
Oh my gosh, I just heard her move. Now what if her swaddle came loose and is blocking her airway.
I swung my legs over the side of bed and peered over into the bassinet.
No.. everything is fine.
On and on this would go until she awoke 3 hours later and it was time to nurse again.
I couldn’t sleep. No way.
The last straw
At her one week check up, we sat in the Pediatrician’s office. My body ached. My breasts hurt from nursing.
I thought I was doing everything right. The first week of parenting was just rough.
But then, the Dr. told me that my daughter had not yet regained her birth weight and it may be time to start supplementing with formula.
So, wait… I tried to rationalize this.
I’ve been killing myself trying to feed this child. And nursing was no cake walk.
Every single time my daughter latched on, I muffled a scream of pain and stamped my foot hard on the ground for the first 10 seconds of let down.
I was putting myself through all this and it wasn’t working?!? I’m failing to nourish my child. I’m deficient for not being able to provide for her basic needs.
I refused to give up on it.
Not because of dogged determination, no.
Mainly, because I read somewhere that breastfed infants are less likely to die from SIDS than formula-fed infants (If you are in this same place now, this is completely and utterly false).
Even though I hated nursing and I dreaded every session, out of fear, I pushed on. The one concession I made is to let my husband feed my daughter one formula bottle at night so I could sleep a touch longer.
I wept through every afternoon as we got closer and closer to the evening. It’s just baby blues, I thought.
I missed everything about being childless
…the ability to go wherever I want without having to worry about who would watch my child.
…eating what I wanted.
…wearing what I wanted and not being concerned about putting on a top with easy breastfeeding access.
All I could think was… 18 more years and then I’m free.
I was mad at my husband for talking me into having a kid.
I was mad at my daughter for wanting to eat so often.
I was mad at my childless friends who didn’t call to check on me.
I cried thinking about it. How would I ever survive this for that long?
At my 2 week postpartum appointment, I trudged into my OB’s office – gray baby carrier on my hip. My incision still ached but physically I knew I was healing.
When he asked how I was doing emotionally, I told him about the crying, the anger and how I dreaded making it through each day.
He suggested I go on an anti-depressant and start seeing a counselor.
I’ve never seen a counselor before…