(A continuation of my journey to motherhood. Read previous posts by clicking “Mommy Monday” on the right menu)
I’d like to say that after seeing the magazine ad life got better. I’d like to say that I sought out a doctor and talked to a counselor. I’d like to say that I got my life back on track. But the sad fact is that I didn’t. I was the only one who had seen the ad. No one else had, and although they knew something was wrong, I honestly don’t think they considered Post-Partum Depression (PPD). My dear husband probably thought I was anti-baby, after all, I had never been starry-eyed about having babies, and now I was verbalizing my hate for the task at hand. [update: after reading this, he said he knew I was going through PPD, and he was praying fervently for me figuring that I would get mad at him if he suggested I was depressed. He also said he and my mom had talked about me and were pretty certain I had PPD]. He, too, doesn’t remember much from this period. One thing he does remember is us having an argument about future children. He didn’t mind having as many as just so happened to come along. I did not share his view. And even after pounding my fist on the kitchen island and saying a few choice words, we still did not agree.
It was not good. Is depression ever a good place to be? Many people overlook PPD as the possible culprit for their feelings and just think they have the baby blues. However, according to Mayo Clinic, “Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks [my emphasis] . Postpartum depression symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite (I was wearing sizes I wore in high school)
- Insomnia (I can’t remember not sleeping because I was too tired!)
- Intense irritability and anger (You don’t even want to know.)
- Overwhelming fatigue (By noon I was wiped out.)
- Loss of interest in sex (Um, yeah, no thanks.)
- Lack of joy in life (There weren’t many smiles that I remember.)
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy (I didn’t feel cut out for motherhood.)
- Severe mood swing (Remember the Ad? I had my own vine, and I was swinging away!)
- Difficulty bonding with the baby (She didn’t feel like mine.)
- Withdrawal from family and friends (Family? Friends? What friends?)
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby (Let’s just say I understand the mothers that make the news.)
Oh, if only I’d known! I’d like to think that if I had known these symptoms backwards and forwards I would have recognized the pit of PPD in which I found myself. But I didn’t, and who knows if I would have. I just thought I was crazy. I thought I was a bad mother. I got mad about it. I was mad at the hubs. I was mad at God. I was just mad. And then I was sad. I was lonely. I was overwhelmed.
So life continued to drag on. Somehow I survived each day (God’s grace). But it was a battle in which I was fighting many enemies, and certain ones added to the intensity of the war. One of those enemies was stress.
1) My attempt to breast feed my little girl turned into a nightmare when she was 4 months old. She began crying at night—every night—all night. I had read about some babies actually developing colic around this age, so after a trip to the doctor, who agreed with our colic diagnosis, we tried our best to live with this sweet little girl who was obviously having problems. But night after night, it continued. We got little sleep. My husband stayed up many nights and allowed me to sleep. After 4 weeks of this, we decided to give her some formula. Previously, she had always refused a bottle since I nursed her, but I guess she and I were both desperate. She took the bottle without hesitation and eagerly downed several ounces. My little baby had been hungry this whole time! It turns out that by the end of the day, my milk was totally gone. I had nothing left to give. She knew this; I did not. Many “lactation consultants” will tell you that stress can’t and won’t affect your milk supply, but I am here to tell you it will! I experienced a total loss in my supply due to the stress I was under (newborn + depression + insanely high maintenance toddler). After switching to formula, my little girl gained four pounds in two weeks, and I gained an infinitely greater amount of mom guilt.
2) Also lurking in the shadows of my life, was the beginning of hypothyroidism. According to the Mayo Clinic, Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) “is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones.” The tricky thing about Hypothyroidism is that it can creep up on you. The symptoms usually take time to surface, and oftentimes they go unnoticed. You may at first just feel sluggish. But I firmly believe that during the time after my 2nd baby, the symptoms started surfacing; I just didn’t know it yet. Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms may include the following:
- Fatigue (Aren’t all moms tired?)
- Sluggishness (see above)
- Increased sensitivity to cold (This was and still is my biggest problem. My hands were/are always cold; I freeze in the winter.)
- Constipation (We won’t go there.)
- Pale, dry skin (Yep. That’s me. Pale and dry.)
- A puffy face (My face was a mess—dry,etc.)
- Hoarse voice (I was always clearing my throat; turns out I had a goiter.)
- An elevated blood cholesterol level (Not sure about this one)
- Unexplained weight gain (10 pounds out of the blue)
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness (My hips, knees, lower back ached often—I attributed it to 2 pregnancies so close together.)
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints (Yep.)
- Muscle weakness (I became a wimp.)
- Heavier than normal menstrual periods (I’ll spare the details.)
- Brittle fingernails and hair (Breakage, Breakage, Breakage)
- Depression (Well, uh, yeah.)
I should be on a poster somewhere. I had every single symptoms listed here. Over time, they just got worse (even after the PPD subsided). In addition to all the lovely symptoms listed above, there is a bonus: “you may become more forgetful, your thought processes may slow, or you may feel depressed.” Great. As if Mom Brain wasn’t bad enough!
So not only was I overwhelmed, depressed, mad and lonely, I now had a big pile of guilt for starving my 4 month old, and I had a mind that was increasingly forgetful and slow!
(Check back next week as I continue my motherhood story. Please share this with others by clicking a button below.)