Fighting Postpartum Depression (and the Tiny Dictators it Comes With)
"Michael, I'm pregnant."
That was it. That was the conversation that changed my life forever and sent us into a 9 month whirlwind to becoming parents. Growing up I just assumed I would be part of the typical American family. Get married right out of college, have some fabulous career that required me to dress in designer clothes every day, have a baby boy then a girl, and be a stay at home mom that welcomed everyone in our home with fresh baked cookies.
Things didn't go exactly as planned, but I did have a little girl. It was a sunny day in late April and after being induced, taking all day to progress with talk of an emergency c section, and finally pushing out the most amazing little person I've ever seen, I was finally done with the "hard part" of having kids...or so I thought. Go ahead and laugh now mamas, but I was one of the girls growing up thinking pushing a baby out of your body had to be the worst thing that could possibly happen to anyone. Yes it's a miracle and sweet, but my God it sounded like torture. I had zero interest in knowing how it happened, I just wanted it over so I could start dressing my baby girl in Ralph Lauren and be on my way. Our little Kendyl was here and we were surrounded by family and friends welcoming our new addition.
After a couple days in the hospital,
the nurse walked us to Michael's truck with our hospital bags, Kendyl, and oh yeah, my vagina dragging on the ground behind me. Labor and delivery were painful and draining, and I now had the battle scars to prove it! We stood there waiting for Michael to figure out how to install the car seat, (parents of the year right?), and a sinking feeling hit me "This is it! We're parents now...Wait, we're parents. I can't believe this nurse is just going to let us take our baby home. Shouldn't there be a parent test or something?" No. There's no test. We were on our own.
The first couple of days took some adjustment, but I must have hit the jack pot with Michael. He was up for every feeding, changed diapers (even the smelly ones), and brought me food since I was practically stuck in our bat cave of a room holding Kendyl 20 hours out of the 24 we get in a day. Ok so maybe physically having the baby isn't quite as bad as I thought. I already forgot how bad it hurt because breast feeding was so painful, Kendyl screamed constantly with acid reflux, and Michael had to go back to work. How do women do this? "They do this every day Melissa, you can do it." Cue Kendyl's screams again, "No, no I can't." I couldn't and I didn't want to. Maybe I should tell someone how hard this is? "Seriously?! You're being selfish and never would have passed the parent test! You don't deserve this little one that God blessed you with." My solution was to stay at home in my bat cave and become a recluse. I was so embarrassed and feared I would be shamed for not being the cookie baking, Ralph Lauren wearing mommy every other mommy seemed to be. It was easier to stay home with my crying child and only come out into the light squinting when it was absolutely necessary. I was resigned to a life alone with Kendyl until Michael would come home from work. I became resentful and constantly thought, "sure it's easy being a dad when you get to spend your day with adult conversation and quiet time while sitting in traffic!" Did I just get jealous of him sitting in traffic? Let's be honest, I would've gladly sat in hours of traffic just for some time alone. The only alone time I got was the 10 short minutes I would spend in the shower basically standing there contemplating if it was possible to sleep for a few minutes without drowning in a half inch of water.
I started falling into a sleep deprived depression that seemed to become a way of life. There wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel and every day Michael would get ready for work, and every day I would sit on our bed and cry. I knew I would be left with a gorgeous but screaming baby girl that I couldn't understand. How does she work and where's the baby manual? I knew I loved her, but why couldn't I stand being alone with her? Was she wonderful? Yes. Was she a tiny dictator determined to ruin my life? Absolutely. That's not how parents should feel, at least from what I've seen on TV. Her dr is constantly saying how perfect she is, so does that mean something's wrong with me? Duh, I was a poop/vomit stained mom that only peed once a day until daddy got home. Clearly, I was doing it wrong, and where the heck was the love affair I was supposed to be having with my new baby?
At my 6 week check up with my OB/GYN I talked to her about how I was feeling. Apparently I suffered from Postpartum Depression/Anxiety. Why didn't she just take the knife and stab me right in the heart because at that moment I died a little. I was a failure. I was too young to think I could do this. I was a miserable parent, and Kendyl would never forgive me. She deserved a better mommy... back to the bat cave.
After some tears and a chocolate milkshake (I deserved it!), I went home to start my research. I checked out several mommy forums and websites that showed I wasn't alone. These ladies were so positive, and my saving grace. I wasn't losing it and felt the courage to reach out for help for the first time. Literally squinting at the laptop that was my light at the end of the tunnel I opened up to women who were going through the same issues I was. They gave me strength and encouraged me to open up to my family, even to accept help with my daughter.
After a long, serious talk with some family and friends, I found they experienced the same thing. Finally, relief. I could breath and why was my face hurting? Oh, because I hadn't smiled in a month and my face muscles were unsure of what was happening. Postpartum was normal and not something to go into hiding over!
Michael, my family, and my friends rallied around me. They prayed with me, babysat so I could go to the bathroom in peace, and checked up on me through out the day. I didn't need to be ashamed or stay locked up. I accepted my condition and when I felt like I was sinking, I finally felt like I could ask for a life line. Turns out my family and friends are pretty amazing and couldn't wait to come help out with Kendyl and keep me company, they were waiting for the invitation. What a difference it made in my life and my little one's. Everyone that came over could relate in some way to what I was going through, and encouraged me through prayer and love.
Postpartum is real but it's not the end, and nothing to be ashamed of. Having babies is hard. Your parents know that, your friends know that, and I now know it too. It's being up all hours of the night, it's endless questioning every move you make, constant worrying if they're ok, and maybe even some depression. It's also late night cuddles and early morning giggles, it's when their little hands curl around your finger, the "I lub yew mama"'s and tears of joy at every milestone they accomplish.
Our children are life's miracle and such a blessing. Postpartum unfortunately can be a part of it, but don't be scared to ask for help. Stand together ladies and be there for each other. Let new moms and even second or third time mamas know that you support them, you're there for them, and offer help! It was "shameful" in my eyes to have depression with such a wonderful creation around me, but it's a part of life and a medical condition. Don't let anyone make you feel like less of a parent because of it. Seek help from your doctor, and comfort from your loved ones. Being a parent, especially with an infant, is the most rewarding challenge I've ever experienced. Every day it's something new and unexpected, but every day I fall deeper and deeper in love with her. Despite the depression, anxiety, or whatever obstacle you come across as a parent, give it to Christ or whatever brings you peace. Watching your children grow is the adventure of a lifetime!
Melissa Howard - Guest blogger
You can find be here: @melissagracehoward
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