This is a hard entry for me to write. All day yesterday I was contemplating whether or not I would write it, and I realized that it is fantastic for me to have this nice funny jokey blog that is just about my forced foray into the world of grown ups, but that it would also be nice if, occasionally, I said something on here that might help someone.
So that’s why I decided to go ahead and put it out there: about two weeks ago, my doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I started on anti-depressants that same day.
And yes, postpartum is just as bad as they say. And if Tom Cruise wants to come and pick a fight with me about it, he will effing lose.
The first few days after I had Maren were very gray days for me, and kind of a blur. I had anticipated that, my mom had even warned me that Day 2 seems to be the worst day for all new Moms. And it was. I stayed up all night crying and the next day I didn’t even want to hold Maren because I was convinced that she hated me. But that passed, and the next few days were fine.
The thing about postpartum depression is that its in all the literature; all the baby books, Lamaze pamphlets, they talk to you about it at the hospital, even. But, at least in my case, they didn’t seem to cover it very well.
They kept saying– if you think you are going to harm your Baby.
Or, if, after a few weeks, you find that you are not loving your Baby.
Or even, if you are finding that you are sad all the time because of the Baby.
If the Baby makes things seem impossible. Etc.
Well…. and this is so sad for me to admit…. I wasn’t having a hard time loving the Baby. I wasn’t having a hard time taking care of her, her existence wasn’t stressing me out, I never once thought I was going to harm her.
I should clarify– my depression didn’t focus around negative thoughts about the Baby. My depression focused on negative thoughts about my Husband.
The first indicators that something was wrong are pretty clear, in hindsight. Even though he’d given me no reason to doubt him, and even though I’m just as new and inexperienced about this as he is, I was terrified to leave Maren with Mitch. When he would get up at night with her, I would be right behind him, my hands flailing all over the place making sure that she was wrapped okay, that he was holding her right, that he was burping her enough.
The next indication was that I became super clingy. SUPER clingy. When Mitch had to go to work, I would burst into tears. A couple times, he had to call his boss and say he’d be late because something was wrong. And I couldn’t put my finger on WHAT was wrong, just that SOMETHING was wrong. Mitch would beg me to call a friend to come over and sit with me, or to sit with Maren so I could nap, and I refused. Mitch would call me from work two or three times a day to check on me, and I would cry at him then, pleading with him to come home. We both just thought I was over-tired.
Then– suddenly– and this is the big one– I just fell out of love with him.
That feeling should have just rocked my world and let me know right away that something was clearly, clearly wrong. But it didn’t. I started thinking about leaving him, about how I would never take Maren away from him but that I needed my own space. We started having awful fights– extremely one-sided fights– because I would be yelling at him and he would just be asking me what he could do to fix it, how he could be better, and asking me to give him another chance.
Mitch and I have fought before. We’ve had some really bad fights, actually. I can always tell when we’re about to fight because we both start crying– I’m serious. We both start crying because we have something really important to tell the other person and we’re just so afraid that it’s going to hurt their feelings that we cry right away. We kind of suck at being mad at each other.
But in these fights? Mitch would be begging me not to leave, not to take his daughter away, to give him one more chance (PLUS he didn’t even know what he did wrong), and I just felt totally cold and empty. At one point, I suggested that I just move into my own apartment somewhere else in the building, so that Maren would stay close to both of us but I wouldn’t have to stay with Mitch. And it occurred to me that at some point, Mitch would probably bring a girl home– and how would I deal with that? And I SHRUGGED IT OFF. I said, “I’d get over it.” And that cold, empty feeling was still there.
Mitch was totally beside himself, scared to do anything. He felt like I was telling him that everything he did was wrong, but also that he wasn’t doing enough. He was completely panicked that he would come home one day and I’d be gone. He offered to change jobs or quit his job if I needed him too. He offered to go to counseling. He asked if we could take a parenting class together. He was willing to do anything.
When I went to see my doctor for my routine check up, she said that she always likes to talk to people about baby blues. “Oh.” I said, “Well I don’t think I’m having baby blues anymore. I had them for like a week, but now I feel fine.”
“Okay.” She said, not even fooled. “So you’re pretty much back to normal? Enjoying the things you used to enjoy?”
“Well,” I started, “I guess I’m not really enjoying spending time with Mitch anymore.”
“Okay….” She said, leaning forward. “That’s pretty big, don’t you think? I mean, I saw you guys before and during the birth and you seemed pretty happy.” When I didn’t reply, she went on. “How’s your appetite?”
I stopped for a second and realized– “I can’t remember the last time I was hungry. I can’t remember the last time I ate. I mean, I’m eating… but I don’t even remember….”
“What’d you have for dinner last night?” She asked, and I stared at my hands. The night before I had sat on the couch and eaten an entire quart of ice cream.
She sat back in her chair and asked me a few more questions– how was I sleeping? I laughed– no one sleeps with an infant.
“Okay, well when the baby is sleeping and you lie down to rest, do you drift off right away?” I thought about it.
“No…. I guess I lie there for awhile.”
“Half an hour? More than that?”
Yes, more than that. Sometimes up to two hours, while I got more and more angry at Mitch, who was snoring away pleasantly, while I waited on pins and needles for Maren to wake up.
After this talk, she shifted topics to different kinds of anti-depressants.
“This doesn’t make you crazy, and this isn’t a lifelong thing.” She explained. “Your body has been through a LOT– you went from being pregnant, to having major surgery, to not being pregnant, to breastfeeding, to not breastfeeding– you had to recover from all that AND keep a new baby alive in the meantime. And a new baby with sleeping issues and stomach issues to boot.”
I asked her if she thought I was just overtired. She said it was possible, but that she didn’t think so.
“Here’s the thing,” She said, “If you are ready to end your marriage over the feelings you are having right now, why not just give the medicine a try? If you still feel like you want to leave Mitch, then at least you know that it wasn’t just depression.”
I don’t really have anything against anti-depressants. There are several people I know that I think SHOULD be medicated. But I guess… I guess there is a stigma about them in my generation, or maybe its just me. I felt like taking medicine to make me happy was just the most roll-your-eyes dumb thing ever. Just BE happy, just make your mind up to BE happy– that’s how I’ve felt about depression my entire adult life.
But she was right. It wasn’t fair to Mitch, to me, or to Maren to just give up on my marriage without at least admitting the possibility that I might be depressed.
I filled my prescription and went home. Mitch was bouncing the baby on the couch, so I offered to start dinner.
I put two potatoes in the microwave and pressed the button for baked potatoes. Which I’ve done probably a hundred times. A few minutes later, I pulled them out— still cold. Okay, I thought, It’s an old microwave. Try again.
So I put only one back in, and tried again. Waited the five minutes, and pulled it out. Still not done.
So I tried again, right? I rolled my eyes and laughed, maybe cussed a little, and then put them back in, right?
Nope. I turned around and threw the potato across the kitchen. It hit the side of the counter and broke in half, falling on the floor. Mitch jumped up from the couch and asked if I was okay.
“I’m going to bed.” I announced and ran to the bedroom, slamming the door.
Mitch finished up dinner and brought me a plate. He didn’t clean up the potato, which made me laugh later, but he sat down next to me in the bed with the baby and they played their quietly while I ate dinner.
I went and took my first pill a few minutes later.
Within DAYS of taking that first pill, the Cold Empties started to draw away from my body. I started watching Maren and laughing when she did something cute, rather than just taking note of it and looking away. I started to feel like washing the dishes, or taking a shower, or going outside. Going to the grocery store didn’t seem like an epic uphill battle.
Within just a few days, I started to miss my husband. He was terrified to be around me, and terrified to be around Maren, for fear that he would do something wrong and I would divorce him– seriously. That’s how much hell I put us through. But I started to want to be with him, and we’ve started to rebuild our family.
It’s not all perfect yet– I’m not mad anymore, but I am a little freaked… where did all that resentment come from? Why did I lash out on him like that? And he’s not mad at all, but he’s still scared. WILL THE MONSTER RE-EMERGE???
Even with all the recent press about postpartum depression, I feel like it’s still a little bit of a taboo subject, and I think the proof is the fact that Mitch and I didn’t even think about depression. I work with women every day– I see all kinds of new moms. I’m trained to spot depression in parents. And it never crossed my mind that it could have happened to me.
I don’t really want to go out of this sounding all Brooke Shields or anything– but I really do want to urge you that if you aren’t adjusting in ANY way to a new baby, to talk to your doctor about it. Now that things are back on track, I’m so pissed that I spent the first few weeks of my maternity leave in such a haze. I hate it that Mitch and I have to spend this time relearning how to love each other, when we could have not even missed a beat if I’d been proactive right away.
This morning Maren woke up at around 430, which is during my shift. I got up and went and got her out of her crib, and changed her diaper, then went to the kitchen– and Mitch was all ready there making a bottle, getting ready for his 5 AM shift– his ACTUAL shift at his job.
We took Maren into our room and I fed her in our bed and put her on her boppy to sleep and snuggled back into my pillows. Mitch kissed us both on the head and said, “Bye, ladies. Daddy will be home later.”
Not every day will start out this sweetly. But I’m confident now that a lot more will.