When we were expecting our first, I had these perfect images of how things would go. Home birth… water birth… quick labor and birth because “I was in shape”… breastfeeding, obviously… a child that grew as he or she should… milestones met early… back to normal ‘down under’ quickly… baby weight melted off, because I was breastfeeding, by 6 months postpartum… cloth diapering… babywearing… etc etc etc.
But, that’s not how it went. Is that how it went for you? If so, I’m very happy for you. But that’s not usually the case. Four days of prodromal labor. F.O.U.R. days. Not a contraction here or there. My husband kept staying home from work to provide lumbar support. Yes, we did a home birth, but it wasn’t in the water.
Then breastfeeding… He wouldn’t eat. We used an eye dropper the first 3 days with milk I pumped. Finally at 4 days old, I took someones advice and just ‘SHOVED IT IN’. He figured it out… but it was never easy. At one month old, he FINALLY regained his birthweight. At 2.5 months we worriedly approached a pediatrician for a second opinion. Marvelous lady! She watched him more than 30 minutes and ultimately said we’d have to duct tape him to get him to gain weight… he was just that active. Yes, those are her words… not mine!
Then the bedroom. 6 weeks they said. Wait 6 weeks, then you can try. I didn’t tear. Not a stitch. And yet, at 4 months, I finally had to just grit my teeth and bare it because seriously, it. had. been. too. long.
Oh, and the weight… that didn’t just melt off for me either. In fact, I’ve still got about 15 to go 4 years later ;).
But what no one talks about… no one mentions, and on a first baby, I suspect very few mothers consider, is Postpartum Depression. What does it look like? Who can I talk to? What do I do about it? Does it go away?
Let’s talk about that elephant in the room. No one else does. By day 3 postpartum, I was eliciting ‘Baby Blues’ signs. But I chalked it up to breastfeeding not going well. Looking back, there were so many other things. I didn’t want anyone to touch my son. It wasn’t a germ thing. It was a whole other level of fierce. But, you’re supposed to let others hold him, so I did. I remember the second night after people had finally left and it was just my husband and I, I broke down crying. I said, “Can I hold my baby now?” I understand protective. But this truly was other worldly.
Then, I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was too worried about his nap schedule because he would sleep in a vehicle. But then he didn’t get enough sleep and he was over tired later and and and and and and and and…..
I took offense very easily to common adages like “Stop pinching that baby.” Oh wait, no, still don’t like that one! If you’ve ever been a mother (especially), don’t joke with a NEW mom that she’s pinching her baby! The baby is probably exhausted… which means she’s probably exhausted and has little humor left in her body. I didn’t have any grace in the matter. I just glared.
Then 3 months postpartum when it was time to go back to work, it was like I ripped my heart out each morning when I left him. Truly. By the time I got back, my chest ached. I would clutch him to me. Maybe after 2-3 minutes like that I could relax a bit and look at him. And pumping at work! Oh, what a stress. Am I going to pump what he ate today…? What if I don’t…?
But, all of this was normal right? People struggle with breastfeeding all the time. Some just give up sooner than others (that’s my then thought, not now.). He was born in October… the beginning of flu season. Being concerned about taking a baby in public is normal, not anxiety. Him not gaining weight properly made sense because of the nursing trouble we had. Normal or at least explainable. Not wanting to be separated from him for an instant… Mother’s instinct. Tired… normal. Everything was normal. Just not the butterflies and rainbows normal I had expected.
Then 4.5 months postpartum hit. That’s probably the closest my husband and I have ever been to divorce. I honestly cannot even remember what the original upset was over. I just remember him going out for his snow plowing shift (4am, I think) on a Sunday. We hadn’t been to church in weeks because, germs. And he expected me to go that morning. Alone. When the dust settled, I remember him holding me in his arms and saying he hadn’t expected me to be there when he got home. I told him the thought had crossed my mind. And had I had somewhere to go that didn’t make my anxiety (wouldn’t consent to calling it that then) sky rocket, I would have been gone. Things for me didn’t get better after that, but he had more compassion.
I still didn’t know what was going on. But dang it, if this was what it was like 5 MONTHS after having a baby, I didn’t want any more! I started writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. If I was upset, Cody took the blunt in my notebook whether it was his fault or not. A lot of “I hate myself” showed up in that book. A lot of anger. And still, I thought it was normal… Because nobody talks about it!! I probably had a couple fleeting thoughts of “Is this postpartum depression?” But by saying it, I would allow it to be, so I refused to say it aloud.
What’s worse, is no one really knew anything was going on. I certainly couldn’t talk to family about it because they all had happy beautiful postpartums. They hadn’t experienced what I was going through. Our families didn’t know our relationship had become as rocky as it had at that bad point. Nothing. Silence. Keep the facade of ‘normal’.
Things got better around 9 months. I was put together enough to take a trip! Still worried tons over baby’s sleep schedule, but we took a long weekend and went to see family. By 11 months postpartum, I was doing fairly well! Then we got pregnant in October.
Had a relatively good pregnancy. Some dehydration contractions at 32 weeks that put me on the couch for a weekend, but nothing major. My goals for this baby were looser but relatively the same. Home birth, water this time! Breastfeeding, but get it right this time. MORE SKIN TO SKIN because that was obviously why nursing hadn’t gone so well the first time. Longer delayed cord clamping even though we did that last time. More enjoyable down time that first week instead of acting like wonder woman. NURSE WITHOUT A COVER!! because who cares? It’s easier! Go in public! Move him around while he sleeps so the house doesn’t have to be silent and he can sleep in more places than his crib and the carseat.
Really, it all went well. Again, had 3 days of prodromal labor. Intense back labor (was hoping that was a fluke the first time). No water birth again. Just didn’t feel comfortable. He latched before I even got off the living room floor! Perfect. He ate like a champ and had gained beyond his birth weight by 1 week old! WOOHOO! That was a bad hurdle from last time OVERCOME! And I was keeping him skin to skin most of the night, I moved him around to different places to sleep during the day. I held him to sleep. It was great!
Then at 2 weeks he started crying… and crying… and crying. Nothing would calm him. He’d cry 8 hours, my husband would come home, I’d pass him off and go outside for some quiet. It was awful.
Colic. What? I don’t believe in colic. If a baby is crying, they have a reason. No, what is the reason? I won’t just accept colic. No, I won’t give my baby reflux meds either. There’s something else going on.
We had him adjusted. I researched tongue and lip ties. I used oils which would help long enough for everyone to have some relief, but it didn’t get to the root cause. At 3 weeks, I eliminated dairy from my diet which is a common thing. But it was the chiropractor who did a kinesiology test that confirmed dairy, as well as a grain intolerance. Once those 2 cleared out of my system, I had a happy baby again. However by the time all of this washed out, we were 8 weeks postpartum. And by 10, I was digging out that old notebook to start writing in again. Anger. Self hate. Little to no self worth.
I had my husband read what I’d written 18 months before in it. And I told him that was verbatim how I was feeling again. And for the first time I said those words… “I think this might be Postpartum Depression.”.
My midwife recommended I up my Omegas and I did. I also had my placenta pill which I had already been using (and had the first time too). And, I added a couple oils to the regimen because this time, I knew some about what and how to use those.
2 months later, we were pregnant again (which ended in loss). And the following year and a half are another story. Bits of it you can already find on this site. I learned a lot after our second son. That postpartum depression has many names. Obvious ones like sad, depressed, and ‘baby blues’. But less acknowledged are: Anxiety, Overwhelmed, Anger, Bitter, Hate, Little to No Self Esteem, Self Harm Thoughts, Blame, Fear (irrational), and ‘Just Not You’. Please don’t ignore these. I really didn’t see it for what it was that first time. And no one around me did, or at least didn’t mention it.
Having postpartum depression and asking for help is ok! It is good! It isn’t bad. It isn’t failing. Failing is when you quit… and postpartum depression dangles your over the cliff of ‘quit’ every single day. There are things that help immensely. (Oils and supplements specifically) I never did take a prescription. Some people do. The bottom line is that you take care of you. New mama, you’re not alone. There are a ton of us! It’s time we start telling our stories. It’s time we remove the elephant!