As I mentioned last week, after the birth of my daughter, I sank much further than the usual baby blues. I had a newborn who naturally needed my full attention, and I had a very high maintenance toddler who was just a year and half old. It was hard. It was ugly. It took all I had and more just to get through each day. I remember crying. A lot.
But unlike baby #1, the baby blues this time grew deeper. It was terrible in the worst way. The early days of having a baby should be lovely and memorable, but for me and baby #2, it is sadly all black. I have few, almost no, memories of life with my new baby girl. A majority of the memories I do have are not good ones. You see, there was something going on that I didn’t understand. I was depressed. I was smack in the middle of full blown post-partum depression. And I didn’t even know it.
Never in my life have I experienced depression. Yeah, I’ve had my down days and times where I thought nothing would ever turn out right and days where I felt like I was responsible for carrying the weight of the world. But nothing could compare to what I experienced. Nothing had been this bad.
I hated taking care of my baby. I remember little joy during the first months of her little life. One of the few memories I do have is of me leaning over her bassinet, picking her up to nurse and saying “I hate this”. It was not a one-time thought. I felt so disconnected from her—as if she was just a baby I was taking care of. This went on for 8 months.
I lost weight. I lost so much weight I could fit into sizes I wore in high school (this after 2 babies!). I looked gaunt. I had little interest in things and felt far away from family members. Thankfully, my dear mother came over almost daily to help me, and she knew something was wrong. But I know that if you had told me then that I was depressed, I would have thought you were crazy.
However, deep inside I thought I was going insane. I had a couple of panic/anxiety attacks—my chest feeling like it was going to cave in on me, my mind not able to hold on to the tiniest detail of what I needed to do. I had never, ever felt like this. I thought I had lost my mind. I wanted to pull my hair out.
And then one day, I got a magazine in the mail. I remember standing at my kitchen island and flipping through the pages when an advertisement caught my eye. It was a 2 page spread that was comprised of multiple snapshots. In each snapshot was the same woman, but in each she was expressing an obviously different emotion. In one she was laughing heartily. In another, she sat quietly. In another she was enraged. Another, crying. Another, confused. You name it, she showed it. I connected with her. I thought, “that’s me.” It was an ad for prescription medicine, and my initial guess was that she was manic depressive. That ad showed every range of emotion. But when I flipped the page, there in bold letters was the word DEPRESSION.
I was startled. Seriously? That was depression? I thought depression was sitting on the couch all day long with a little gray shadow hanging over me. I thought depression was crying all the time. But this was me. All of those snapshots were a picture of my life. My daily life. It was an exhausting roller coaster. It was bad. It was ugly. I hated it.
(Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of my PPD experience, so if you know a new mother who may be experiencing this, please share this post with her.)
Next week= more discussion about PPD and how to recognize the symptoms.