This is going to be an extremely hard blog entry to write. It may take me quite a few crying breaks to get through my entire story. The reason I want to share is twofold: I think it will be therapeutic for me, but most of all I want to hopefully be an encouragement to other moms who are going through or will go through the same things I did. So, here it is…
Postpartum depression was absolutely nothing I expected it to be. I didn’t even know I had it until I came through it. I always thought only horrible mothers who shake their babies have PPD. Really, there is a whole spectrum of symptoms a mom with PPD can experience.
I had a fairly easy pregnancy and delivery. I was sick a lot when pregnant, but delivery went very well. Afterwards, however, Zane and I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding. I didn’t know what I was doing and he didn’t know what he was doing. I finally gave in and fed him a few bottles, which I now know is a big no-no. That led to nipple confusion and an almost impossible time latching on.
I seriously considered switching to formula, which was very upsetting. On top of me being upset, Jeremy said some sleep-deprived, stress-induced, not very nice things. The nurses also give you the dirtiest looks when you ask for some formula, they say they support you…but really they don’t.
I felt useless. The most important job as a mother to such a small newborn is to feed it, I could not feed my baby. I had to rely on “chemicals” (as my hubby said in his state of disorientation) from a plastic bottle with a definitely non-woman-like nipple attached to it. This definitely triggered and/or enhanced my PPD. I felt very distant from Zane.
We decided to try pumping. A $100 single pump was bought shortly after arriving home. Thankfully the few times I did nurse Zane was enough to get my milk in. I knew, and still know, this was a much better way to feed Zane, but it didn’t help with the distance issue already created with my wonderful, beautiful son. I was mourning the loss of nursing my son.
Picture on the right: me trying to justify somehow in my head that giving him formula is okay. Smile = fake.
Pumping was so hard on me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. With the single pump, I spent hours upon hours sitting in our living room chair. It has little back support, so the entire time I pumped (about 8 months) my back felt like it was constantly broken. Emotionally I had no bonding experiences with my son. The special breast-feeding bond I should have received with him was being made with a machine with plastic cups and a hose. Finally mentally, pumping caused me to go a little crazy. I was literally paranoid about drying up (remember, chemicals?) and would allow Zane to cry in his crib for 20-30 minutes so I could “finish pumping”.
Ok, crying is about to begin…
For the duration of my pumping career, the PPD stayed. I felt very distant from Zane, I’d even go so far as to say I didn’t like him. I loved him of course, but not like a mother should love her son. Whenever someone else was available, I’d have them hold and care for Zane.
This was both emotional and physical, from the hours and hours of sitting in that chair. (I’ve only sat in it a brief few times since March 2011). I wasn’t too concerned about SIDS. Other moms with PPD are paranoid and will sit up to watch their baby sleep to be sure they are still alive, I was on the opposite end. Oddly enough though, I would stress a lot about leaving him somewhere and leaving. If I left him at a grandparents’ house, I wouldn’t fully enjoy myself while out because I wanted to get back to Zane. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
I remember at one point (I’ve heard other moms with PPD share this as well) someone from church made a comment to me along the lines of “you’re loving this, aren’t you?” I put on my most realistic fake smile and responded “oh yeah”. It was a lie.
The first 8 months of Zane’s life is a blur of no sleep, pumping, bottling. I don’t remember much, just that it wasn’t a very happy time in my life. Which is such a shame.
Speaking of shame, I felt so very ashamed for how I felt. I still do to a degree and worry about what people will think when they read this. I didn’t know why I was feeling the way I was. God had blessed me with this healthy, perfect baby boy and I didn’t even want him. I felt I had made a huge mistake in having a baby, a mistake I would be stuck with for life. The hormones of PPD didn’t allow me to see how wonderful he was, or that this feeling of falling over from exhaustion would pass. They didn’t allow me to figure out that I was not alone, there are literally hundreds of thousands of mothers who feel the exact same things I did. They didn’t allow me to seek help. They convinced me to be afraid. Afraid of being called a horrible mother, afraid of having Zane taken away from me. The hormones of postpartum depression are terrible things.
I regret this time in my life, but then, I’m not really sure it is something I can regret. I didn’t want postpartum depression, I didn’t invite it into my life. From a series of circumstances it just happened. I guess I regret not being able to get out of the fog so I could seek help and perhaps have enjoyed the first year of my precious baby’s life. That’s what I regret, missing out on Zane’s first year on this earth.
Around 6 months I started to dry up, not a lot, I still produced enough for Zane to eat and had plenty of breast milk in the freezer. When he was 7 1/2 months I caught that nasty 24-hour stomach bug. I knew I could still pump, but who wants to try to do that when they’re hanging over the side of the toilet? Not me! Thankfully, I was finally okay with drying up. At 8 months, my milk was gone. I was so proud of myself for making it that far! (The grand total of milk pumped was 6,609.25 oz, which is 51.6 gallons! Moo!) And because Zane received 8 months worth of breast milk, I figured a few months of formula before switching to cow’s milk would be just fine.
My PPD lingered until a year, maybe slightly over, but gradually got better and better since that 8 month mark. I don’t know when it exactly left, all I know is I do not have it now and never want to go through that again!
Finally a happy picture! We’re at the zoo in October 2011. Jeremy is carrying Zane only because he is physically stronger and doesn’t have long hair to pull. 😉
I was never officially diagnosed, I never spoke to anyone about this until I mentioned it to Jeremy when Zane was just over a year old. I didn’t elaborate, just said I think I had PPD when Zane was younger. I was afraid Jeremy wouldn’t understand and/or would be mad with me and/or wouldn’t want any more children for fear I’d get it again. Just recently I wanted to tell him more details, and I did. He wasn’t mad, tried to understand, and well…we’re pregnant again. 🙂
Since I was never properly diagnosed I have to go off my own non-educated opinions and experiences. I believe I had a moderate to severe case of PPD, but then I have nothing to compare it to. I never hurt Zane, nor had any desire to. I didn’t neglect him, at least not physically. Emotionally perhaps I did. I wish I would have known I could seek help. If you ever go through these “baby blues”, please know, you are not alone and there are lots of women who want to help you!
I have a theory, that perhaps moms who go through a more severe level of postpartum depression make happier moms when they finally come out of it. We know we missed out on our baby’s life and being their mother, so we cherish every single second we get with them! We realize just how precious and important they are to us, and because we didn’t see it for so long, we want to make up for lost time! Of course I realize moms who have mild or no PPD can be happy moms too. 😉 It would take extensive research and poll taking, something I am not interested in doing at the moment! The important thing is, I am a very happy mama now. Very happy, I can hardly believe I ever regretting becoming a mama or wished I wasn’t one. I can enjoy a day off here and there to spend time with Jeremy, but enjoy spending time with Zane even more the day after because I missed him! 🙂
There is my story. It’s not a pretty one or an easy one to tell, but it’s made me into the not perfect, yet happy and loving mother I am today.
I was telling Zane to say “hooray!” for being 2! (Please excuse my closed eyes.)