When The Baby Blues Don’t Go Away
You hear the stories, read the articles, and think, “I feel so bad for them, but that just won’t happen to me”
While I was pregnant, I participated in a Centering Pregnancy group, where we met twice a month, then weekly as our due dates neared. I credit this group, led by an amazing midwife, for being incredibly knowledgeable and prepared going into delivery and motherhood. We discussed all aspects of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and what to expect once baby arrives. During one of our sessions, we discussed the various forms of Postpartum Depression. I knew the risk factors, and unfortunately I could check the box on several of them. First time mother? Check. Live far from family? Check. Stress? Check.
I had even discussed with my husband the potential for this happening to me, and that I might not notice it in myself. I asked him to force me to talk things out if he could tell that I was acting differently.
The day my daughter was born was one of the hardest and best days of my life. Three days past her due date, after 22 1/2 hours of really hard labor, we finally got to see her beautiful face. However, that precious bonding time was cut short. Due to complications during labor, she was born with an infection. They took her directly out of me and across the room to begin checking all the vitals, suctioning, etc. I did get to hold her for a short time after that, but then she was taken to the nursery so they could assess and treat her. All my visions of holding my sweet baby girl on my chest for hours, letting her nurse for the first time, taking all the first family pictures, and mostly just savoring in the moments that I had waited so long for, just didn’t happen. I remember laying in the bed, staring at the ceiling for so long. I also had developed an infection, and was instructed that I needed to rest while I had the chance, but that was the last thing I wanted to do.
A few hours later, I was moved to a regular room, and eventually got to see my sweet girl again. Those first couple days were up and down. First, there was an issue with her lungs. Then, when they fixed that, she was having trouble holding body temperature. When the pediatrician did rounds the 2nd morning, she said her white count just wasn’t where they wanted, so she would have to stay and antibiotics be continued for the full week. I broke down crying. She assured me everything would be fine, but they just needed to keep treating her to make sure everything was taken care of. Thankfully, the hospital let me keep the same room all week so I was there with her the whole time.
The rest of the week was kind of surreal. It’s a strange feeling when you don’t immediately go home with your baby like everyone else. The hospital almost began to feel like home, and it felt odd when I did actually run home to take a shower. My days were entirely run by the alarms on my phone. Every 3 hours, the alarm would go off to alert me that it was feeding time. Sometimes, she would be in the room with me, others I would load up my Boppy, big Tervis of water, and roll my IV pole down the hall to the nursery to feed my baby. That’s just not how this was supposed to go. Eventually, 7 days after I was wheeled up to labor and delivery, we finally got to go home! Looking back, I know that, although it didn’t all go according to the plan, everything happened in order to send a HEALTHY baby home. She has been perfectly healthy since then. I also know that so many mothers have had situations much worse than this, but that doesn’t lessen how much this affected me.
Once home, like most new mothers, my day revolved around my baby. The nights were long, and the sleep was practically nonexistent. However, I didn’t resent a second of it. I knew this time would fade, and things would eventually get easier. For awhile, I was so incredibly sensitive. Just about anything would trigger tears. I was told this is normal. Everyone gets the “baby blues,” and surely I would soon begin to feel like myself again. Except I didn’t.
It was a rough first year. My husband and I had decided that I would resign from my job, and stay at home with our daughter. I was thrilled with this decision, because I wanted to be with her every second, and it gave me so much anxiety thinking of leaving her with anyone but myself. I even struggled with leaving her with my husband, so I could run to the store. It’s not that he couldn’t handle it, he is a wonderful father! I just couldn’t let go. Nobody knew her like I did. Nobody could take care of her like me.
When she was 6 months old, my husband had 2 major surgeries, and was unable to walk for 2 1/2 months. I loved being the one to take care of him as he healed, but the stress of that coupled with caring for a young baby began to take its toll.
I started to realize that maybe I needed to talk to someone when my daughter was about 8-9 months old. I was incredibly stressed, and everything brought me to tears. Literally. If my husband looked at me a certain way, I’d cry. If I felt someone had a different tone in their voice, I’d cry. Sometimes, I’d go take a long, hot shower just so I could cry it out alone. Heck, even the big reveal on Fixer Upper made me tear up!
I also lost all my motivation. My husband would get understandably irritated when he would come home from work, and the house was a mess, the laundry still piled up, and I was still in the yoga pants from the night before. I completely understood where he was coming from. If I was going to be home all day, I could at least get some housework done. But I just couldn’t get up to do it. It was like a weight was holding me down.
The one thing I was doing well was taking care of my daughter. I felt I was great at this new mom job, but I was seriously sucking at everything else. I knew something needed to be done, but I refused to admit it out loud. I was determined to nurse my daughter for at least a year, and anything a doctor gave me would prevent that. So, I did nothing.
Eventually, I scheduled my yearly OBGYN visit, and decided I would say something. I told my husband, through tears of course, that I was going to ask for help. Maybe some medication would get me over the hump. So, I finally did it. That was one of the hardest things. First, to admit to my husband that I needed help, and second, to actually ask for it. I was prescribed a low dose medication, and it has helped. I still have bad days, but they are fewer, and I actually have the motivation to get out and do things now. I still haven’t been away from my daughter for more than a couple hours at a time, but I’m getting less anxious about that. However, I’m super anxious about leaving her with a babysitter, and since we have no family nearby, our only date nights consist of hanging out on the back patio, or a Netflix binge-a-thon. After baby’s bedtime, of course. I very much envy those who have a Grandma around the corner and get weekly date nights and weekend getaways alone with hubby. One of these days…
I have been incredibly self conscious about this, and prior to writing this post, nobody knew but my husband. There is still such a stigma around Postpartum Depression. We are encouraged to seek help if something is wrong, but then looked down upon if we actually do that. This doesn’t define me, and I will get past this. If this sounds like you, please don’t wait as long as I did to ask for help. Something as easy as talking to a therapist could help get you out of the fog. We don’t have to suffer. Motherhood is challenging, yes, but it is such a magical time that should be fully enjoyed!
If you or someone you know needs help, please call your doctor or visit Postpartum Support International for more information.
If this helps just one of you to reach out, then I feel it was worth telling my story. I’m now to the point where talking (writing) about it is kind of therapeutic. Thank you for listening. <3