When you read the title of my post, you’re probably thinking my house, right? Not quite…
This post is somewhat difficult for me to write, but when I started blogging I told myself I would be as open and honest as I could. Here goes…
Motherhood is not what I expected it to be. At all. When I was pregnant, not a day would go by that I wouldn’t think about the growing baby in my belly and how I was so excited to meet him and play with him. I imagined all the fun things we would do from playing on the playground to teaching him how to cook to exploring Disney World together. I imagined rocking him and singing to him and telling him all about the world he lived in.
Not once did I imagine I wouldn’t want to take care of him. But that’s what happened.
The night Jacob was born, I looked over at my baby with the team of nurses and doctors around him and thought, “Well, that was an ordeal.” I didn’t cry, I wasn’t really overcome with any sort of emotion except gratitude that it was over. I just assumed it was normal since I had been in labor for 24 hours and was exhausted and hormonal. (Since I had a pretty strong epidural, it was even harder to push because I couldn’t feel anything, so when he was finally out, I was more than happy.)
In the days following, I was terrified of my newborn, afraid I was going to hurt him by not supporting his head properly, not feeding him enough, or causing diaper rash so bad it would rub his little bottom raw. Again, I assumed these feelings were normal for new parents.
After we got home, it really got bad. I couldn’t eat due to nausea, I could barely drink, and every time Jacob fell asleep I secretly cheered with joy because I didn’t have to take care of him for a little while. In fact, when he was asleep and I thought about him waking up, a fresh wave of nausea would waft over me. I cried all the time. I wanted to sleep constantly. I was a wreck.
I called my mom one day after a particularly hard night in which Jake was up from about 2a until 7a. I was in tears and could barely even put two words together to explain to her what I was feeling. Her first concern, she later told me, was that the baby was OK. Her second concern was that HER baby (me) was OK. I wasn’t.
As the days went on, I got progressively worse. At one point, Jeff looked at me and said, “Something needs to change. You can’t keep going like this.” I just stared blankly at him and told him I was going to go take a bath. In the bathtub, I just sat and thought about a lot of things. I let my brain run wild and tried to figure out why I was feeling these things. I landed on two words: baby blues.
I knew getting postpartum depression was a possibility. Brooke Shields’ interview on Oprah (where she talked about running her car into a wall with the baby in it) kept playing in my head. I thought, “Well, I’m not that bad. I don’t want to hurt little Jacob in any way. I don’t have postpartum depression!” But the more I sat there and thought about it, the more I knew I was suffering from some form of the illness. I kept reminding myself things would get better (everyone said so), but I just couldn’t FEEL better. I wanted to stay in that bathtub all day and just ignore the world outside of the bathroom, but I couldn’t do that to Jeff. Fatherhood is hard too, after all.
I thought long and hard about what I could do to change how I felt about the situation I was in. I couldn’t give Jacob back, obviously. Honestly, I didn’t really want to, I just wanted to feel more like myself. I finally decided I would call my OB and ask them what was the best thing to do. The nurse I talked to was really sweet. I told her I thought maybe I had baby blues and she immediately started reassuring me that it was normal and could be dealt with. Before I knew it, I had an appointment that day to see the nurse practitioner.
A few hours later I was sitting in front of the nurse practitioner trying not to cry as I explained how I was feeling as best I could. I still didn’t understand what emotions I was feeling. She tried to help me understand.
“You’re wondering why you don’t feel a connection, if you made a mistake having a baby, and what you’ve gotten yourself into, right?” She was spot on. She looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “You’re not a bad mother. Tons of new moms feel the exact same. You are normal and you’ll probably feel back to normal within one week.” I lost it. I broke down crying, more from relief than anything. Just hearing someone else that had been through it (and, bonus, she was a medical professional) tell me it was normal helped tremendously.
I was still a little fragile, though, so she wrote me a prescription for some antidepressants. She gave me the script with some precautions: I would have to take the medicine religiously, stay on it for 9 months to a year, and gradually be weaned off of it or else I would get really sick. Yikes. It would also take one week to really feel the effects of the medication (it wasn’t a quick fix).
After talking it over with Jeff, I came to the following conclusions: I was really bad at remembering to take pills every day even with reminders, I didn’t want to be on a medication for nine months or longer, and the possibility of feeling back to normal in a week even without the medication was appealing. I opted to wait it out for one week and see how I felt. If I was still feeling crappy, I would fill the prescription and start the regimen.
The next day I woke up and surveyed my feelings. I was…better! Just simply talking with the nurse (and with friends and family) helped so much! Hearing I was not alone and that others had felt the exact same way as I did helped so much. I can’t even begin to describe the relief I felt when I started recognizing myself again.
Over the next few days, I got better and better. Yes, there were still times I needed a few minutes by myself and even now there are times when I just want someone else to take care of Jake for a few minutes, but gradually the feelings of “was having a baby the right choice for me” went away.
Today, I look at my little boy and see the future. I once again see myself with him in the playground, the kitchen, and (of course) at Disney World. I see my husband and I holding one of Jacob’s hands in ours and playing the “1, 2, 3 SWING” game while we walk. I look into his eyes and see the man he may be. I patiently wait to hear the beautiful giggle that will one day come out of his mouth. Every time I look at him, I feel a little bit closer to him. He is precious and he is a gift. And I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
My mom asked me the other day if there was anything I wish I had known before I was pregnant and I immediately said, “I wish I had known more about postpartum depression and how it might feel.” She suggested I write this blog post to help educate those out there that might be feeling the same way and for pregnant women who have yet to experience motherhood and all the challenges that you don’t expect. As I said above, it is a very private and somewhat embarrassing thing to admit I didn’t fall head over heels in love with my newborn the minute I met him. It is hard to admit I was jealous of Jeff for loving our son more than I did on day one. It is hard to make the decision to as for help. I’m glad I did though.
If you are a new mom struggling with depression, no matter how mild the form, please know there is help out there. Talk to your OB, talk to your friends and family, talk to your religious leader. Get the help you need to feel better. If you need meds, get them! No one wants you to suffer in silence and everyone understands how hard turning into a mom can be. Trust me. One of the phrases I heard the most was “You are not a bad mother.” Someone also said this to me at one point when I was trying to decide between breastfeeding and formula feeding: “Whatever decision you make for your baby is the right one. You are the mom and only you know what is best for you and your baby.” It’s true. YOU make the decisions and no matter what you choose, it is the right choice.
If you are pregnant, please read up on postpartum depression. I wish I had known more about it so I could understand that things were normal and that most signs of depression go away in the first couple weeks. Believe me when I tell you motherhood is no joke. It is HARD making a transition like that, even WITH help. I have had my mom staying with me for the past two weeks and, honestly, when she leaves on Saturday I am going to panic just a little.
I received an email about a week ago from one of the mailing lists I’m on that talked about postpartum depression. It said many women talk about having that immediate and perfect bond with their little one. It also said many other women don’t experience this and need more time to cultivate the relationship as with every other person in their lives. Think about it…most likely the relationships you have with your loved ones didn’t happen overnight. Instead they probably took months or even years to grow to the strong bond you now share. Why is a baby any different? Sure, you have been feeling the baby move and grow for the last several months, but you are both still strangers to each other. You may need time to learn about each other and develop the bond you will cherish in the future. There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make you a bad mom.
I hope this post helps some of you understand the possibilities of the relationship you may have with your newborn. I hope those of you who experienced similar feelings take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Now, with that topic having been discussed, I’m going to go play with my little Jakey Poo. He’s the best gift I could have ever asked for.