Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Mom has Postpartum Depression

I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a mother.  As a child, my toy chest was packed to the brim with baby dolls and their accessories.  I boss(ed) my younger sister around as if she were my own- a trait she openly admits to hating about me.  From the time I could dream, I dreamed of holding a baby of mine in my arms and loving them.  I dreamed of all of the magical, wonderful, beautiful adventures we would go on.  I pictured the perfect family, and me, the perfect mother, running the show.
I'm pretty sure I will never forget the random morning in November of 2011 I found out I was pregnant.  Back in those days I was a compulsive pregnancy test taker.  I legit thought I was pregnant every other day. I am pretty sure I've spent somewhere in the range of $230929872387 on pregnancy tests.  We had to budget for them because I just openly admitted to this crazy being a permanent part of our life.  It wasn't until I was actually pregnant that I found out the dollar store had them.  You guys.  I thought Dearest was going to murder me.  But, too bad, I was carrying his child at that point, and unless he wanted a double homicide on his hands he was just gonna have to let that go.  
ANYWAY, I took a test, on a day I actually didn't think I was pregnant, and that thing lit up.  Those two lines were loud and proud declaring the extra hcG content floating around inside of me.  I silently freaked out a bit, and then took to telling Dearest he was about to be a father.
I came out of the bathroom with the pregnancy test in hand and said, "I'm pregnant." He side-eyed me and said, "What?" in a flat, disbelieving tone.
"I'm pregnant!" I exclaimed. He then demanded to see the test for himself, because, you know, I was am was crazy.  After spotting both of the solid pink lines for himself he said, "Well, you are. Congratulations!"
Oh, Dearest.  Bless it all to heaven.
My pregnancy went off without a hitch.  Things ticked off according to plan.  Everything went just like it was supposed to. 
It was a good thing too. 
I was induced with Eldest, and labored for hours and hours.  I pushed for a straight two hours.  It was horrible.  By the time he was born, I collapsed back on my pillow, and closed my eyes in exhaustion as they were holding him up for me to see.  They put him on my chest as he was crying.   I roused myself enough to see a room full of nurses staring at me.  The pressure to be perfect had already started.
 "Hey, Eldest." I said.  He immediately stopped crying and looked straight at me.  There it was; that moment I had always dreamed of. The moment when I saw my baby for the first time.  The moment that was supposed to make me complete, and usher in a new love I had never known.
I felt nothing
I wanted to feel something, but I just didn't. I couldn't.  "It's the exhaustion." I told myself, "You just gave birth.  It will get better."  Except it didn't.  I felt the apathy on me like a weighted blanket.  I felt the nurses stares boring into me.  "He's so beautiful!" I said to them, "And gross."  They laughed as they picked him up to clean him.  What they didn't know is that I only meant, "And gross." 
Suddenly, I had feeling, but it was only disgust.  This stranger had just come into the world, my world, and changed everything.  I knew it right then and there.  I wasn't ready.  I needed a minute, but I didn't have any more minutes left.  Time was up, and the enormity of this tiny person's world laid at my feet.
Due to job obligations and insurance confinements we had to have Eldest and then move a mere four days later.  It was dreadful.  And gruesome.  What was even more shocking was that Eldest was not an easy baby. Basically, he was a great baby to be pregnant with, but he was not a great baby to have on the outside. He was colicky.  He had reflux.  He never slept. He was needy and not all independent and the definition of a newborn.
I snapped.
Something broke inside of me as all of my expectations of motherhood shattered around me.  I was trapped with this child, and he wouldn't let me go, not even to brush my teeth.  I couldn't even see a shadow of my former self.  Everything went dark.  Everything went serious.  Everything felt worthless and worthwhile all at the same time.  The bouncy seats.  The tiny clothes.  The diaper cream.  They all mattered because Eldest mattered.  I knew that much, but the future, the hope of my future, was gone.  It all belonged to Eldest, and I loved and hated him and myself for it. 
That's when the visions started.
Somewhere around week two or three of Eldest's life I started having visions of drowning him every time I turned on water.  The sink.  The bath.  Water, water everywhere, and not a drop was safe.
I was terror-stricken.
Not just because I had visions so vividly horrific, but because part of me desired these unspeakable dreams to come true.  Part of me just wanted the trauma of new motherhood to be over, and a piece of me truly felt that would be the easiest way out.
I told a few people all of this ugly.  It pretty much just scared most of them.  Their wide eyes and silent mouths drew back from me.  They certainly did not want to catch whatever it was I had.  After all, what I had was postpartum depression, and that was a curse to anyone who dared admit it.
I stopped talking, and spiraled deeper and deeper down into the abyss that threatened to swallow me.  I felt ashamed.  I felt like an imposter.  I felt like an alien inside of my own self.  It's like my live was a weird version of, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."  I seriously thought about moving to Australia.

Then, in a twist of fate and family intervention, a woman of light walked in to provide hope.  You know, the way all of us have the ability to do.  My woman of light's name was Katey.  I sobbed on the phone as I told Katey all of the unusual and foreign thoughts I was having.  I told her all of the dirty.  I told her all of the ugly.  I told her the shameful.  I told her that I really didn't want to be a mother if it meant all of this.
She listened, and then she said, "Me too."
Oh, you guys.  I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it was to be able to finally tell the truth and for someone to validate me.  Katey told me her story.  She told me her truth.  She told me her version of postpartum depression, and how she survived.  She told me that I was not alone.  She told me that even though it didn't feel like it, that pieces of myself would slowly start to come back.  She said, "Before you know it, you will wake up and realize it got a little better, and you won't even know why, and you won't know how.  It just will."
She was right.
I would love to say that after that conversation everything got better.  It didn't.  Things kept on the same for quite a while.  I got on meds, and that helped.  I went back to work, and, for me, that helped.  I kept Katey's words on repeat in my head, and that helped.  But there were lots and lots of things that did not help.
It did not help that Brooke Shields, the truth warrior for postpartum depression herself, was so brutially attacked by the media.  It did not help that celebrities kept coming out stating that they had the, "baby blues," but not postpartum depression.  Not exactly.  It did not help that all the "New Baby" cards out there validated only the precious side of my newborn creature.    It did not help that most people have not been taught how to deal with the really hard and the really ugly of new motherhood.  And what did not help most of wall was that my expectations of myself in motherhood were so outstandingly unrealistic that I had no where to go but down.
And so, in countless ways, I felt alone.
I know of so many new moms feel alone.  I can't stand by and watch anymore.  Not to my fellow mama.
I know not everyone experiences their novice role as a mother in the same way I did.  I know that for some people having a new baby is only the good things.  And to those people, I have to say, I am so, so happy for you!  Really.  Truly.  The fact that you and your child are so in sync brings my heart so much joy for you.  You are finding your harmony in the most magical way, and I am overjoyed for you!
  But those of you who sing a little off key to the tune of, "My New Baby Makes the World Go Round," please know that you're not alone.  If you're doing well to squeak out a single note of love for your little one, while you question why you had them in the first place, know that I have been there.  If you wonder if there will ever come a day when you can breathe without the terror of yourself, know that I have known that devil, and I know, I know, I know, sister, that you are rightfully terrified, but stronger than the demons inside let on.
Because, sister, you can do this.
You are able.
You are not weak.
This does not make you weak.
This does not make you bad.
This does not make you unholy or unworthy.
This, the postpartum depression, this does not make you.
You make you.
So, take the meds if you gotta.
Go to therapy if you need to.
Take a walk without your baby.
Talk to someone, anyone, who will listen.
But take care of you.  That baby will be all the better for it.
Shame has no place with you, sweet, new mama. 
Not today.  Not anymore.

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