I recently started reading this amazing book by Sandra Poulin called The Mother to Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book; an entire book filled with real stories from women who experienced this disease first hand. I wish I had something like this 8 months ago when P was born so know that I wasn't alone. Reading these womens' stories brought me back to the day that P joined our world, because through recovery, PPD just feels like a distant memory. It does not feel like something I went through. Being sad, being broken, is not who I am. I am strong. I am tough. I am independent. PPD caught me off guard. And while I read these women's stories I found myself crying. Their stories are sad, they are scary and they are honest. I wasn't crying because I was sad, but because I was so happy that I recovered. I know I am not alone in what I went through, I run an online PPD support group, but somehow seeing that someone else was able to put down on paper how I felt and the things I thought in the midst of my PPD, shook me to my core. And it made me realize that I did not want to lose those memories. They are scary, they are sad, some are horrible, but I am so proud of the progress P and I have made together that I can only thank PPD for shaping me into the loving mommy I am today. And so these stories inspired me. I think I have been sugar coating this too much throughout my blog. So hang on, let's get real for a minute.
Let's start from the beginning. I knew with a new baby I wouldn't sleep. Babies are up at all hours, crying, needing, clinging, flailing...I expected no sleep. What I didn't expect was that while my baby slept the night away in her bassinet in the hospital, that I would be sitting up in bed staring at her making sure she was still breathing. I was terrified she would die of SIDS right there in the hospital. I watched her sleep all the time. I couldn't let her out of my sight, because if she stopped breathing and I wasn't looking then I wouldn't be able to save her. (This continued at home, too. I slept about 6 inches away from her face and would often lay there making sure I could hear her breathing and resting my hand on her chest to ensure it was still moving up and down).
Then we took her home. Right after we got home we were set to go to my parents house to introduce P to some family members. Right when we got home P spit up on her outfit so we had to change her. Then she spit up on me. I hadn't been home for days. The laundry wasn't done, and now we had just gone through half the clean clothes left in the house and we were running late. I was so frustrated that I was already yelling at everyone in sight. This baby, this life, was already an inconvenience.
The next week we were back at my parents visiting. P was crying and nothing was settling her. She was just out of control. To this day, I can still remember saying to Hubs 'Can you just help out for once?" while I tried to calm our screaming child. I still feel bad about that. Hubs was nothing but helpful when P was born. And I still haven't apologized. Hubs, sensing my frustration, took P from my arms and walked around the house with her. I sat down on the couch trying to hide my tears. I wanted to break down. This baby that I didn't even want anymore was tearing me apart. My mom sat on the couch next to me and told me everything would be okay. I remember fighting back tears as hard as I could and thinking 'No it wont. I am so miserable. How could this ever get better? I hate being a mom and I don't want this baby anymore.' But instead I nodded and said 'I know.' I didn't know!!!! Everything was an unknown at this point. Everything was new, everything was scary....I had just changed my very first diaper ever the week before....how am I suppose to know that it will all be okay?!
Clearly from the beginning I struggled. From the beginning I was ashamed of how I felt and didn't feel like I had anyone I could turn to. No one could understand. I was too afraid of how everyone else felt that I didn't care one ounce about myself. Everyone loved this baby so much more than I did that I didn't want to hurt their feelings to reveal that I, her own mother, did not. I didn't want to stir up bad memories someone might have, like death or infertility or miscarriage, or make anyone feel uncomfortable, yet I was uncomfortable everyday.
I tried. I really did. I googled things to do with P even though she was only a few weeks old. I would lay her on her changing pad and make sounds and faces at her because the internet said she would like that, but as she laid there staring up at me I would burst into tears and bawl uncontrollably for an hour. After awhile, I was crying because I was crying, and I was crying because I couldn't figure out why I was crying in the first place. It would just happen and I couldn't get it to stop and I never felt better. (The first time P ever napped in her crib, I was sitting on the floor next to it crying so hard I could barely breathe....for two hours straight). I would kiss her and hold her little hand, I would show her toys and play her music, but none of it made me feel better. It was emotionally painful to be near her. I was afraid to leave the house with her. I was too afraid to go more than a mile or two from the house if I ever did muster up the courage to leave. I was a prisoner in my own home. I couldn't eat. Eating was painful. I would go a week without changing out of my pajamas because I just didn't care. I rarely showered. I just didn't have the energy. And when I did muster up the energy to shower I usually threw up from the stress. I lost 20 pounds in the first 2 weeks after P was born. I tried pumping, but I just couldn't. I did it three times before completely throwing in the towel. Mentally I was unable to function, yet physically I was on auto-pilot, going through the motions without really having control over them. There were times I would leave P in her crib or her rock and play and sit in the bathroom with the door closed, because I knew if I had to look at her any longer I might do something I might regret. I didn't want to hurt her; I had to protect her from myself. This self that wasn't really me, but the new self that took over when she was born. I was nervous driving so I didn't want to do it. I felt like I was doing it wrong when she was in the car with me, like I wasn't remembering correctly how to signal or how the wipers work; I'm pretty sure I didn't drive over 23 mph the first few months of her life.
But relief. Relief came when I realized I wasn't alone. Relief came when I stumbled upon my online support group that I ended up becoming so active in I was asked to help run it. Relief came when I met more women, in person, that had been where I had been. Relief came when I discovered a local mom group and networked with other young moms. Relief came when I stopped feeling ashamed. Relief came when I read this book.
Relief comes when you stop being afraid of how everyone else will feel and put your own health first. Recovery happens in those moments. And recovery is beautiful.