It’s hard to remember the early days after becoming a mother. When I look back, I don’t think of cute little baby toes and fingers, or newborn cuddles. Everything from that time in my life is cloaked in darkness.
When you ask most mothers what the best day of their life was, they’ll answer that it was the day they became a mother. But not me. And I’m certainly not alone. Approximately 10-15% of women suffer from some type of postpartum mood disorder. And it doesn’t necessarily end there.
I can remember being told that it is normal to feel a little sad in the early days following a birth. But if those feelings get worse, or don’t go away, you should seek help.
That’s easier said than done.
I gave birth to my first son before the days of the Affordable Care Act. I was on pregnancy Medicaid, which ends coverage after your postpartum checkup. I shrugged my way through the joke of a “depression survey” they give you.
I often wonder about my depression. Was is postpartum depression? Was it situational (because the situation sure sucked)? Was I just being whiny?
I had lost my job, gotten a new one, and then had to quit for medical reasons during my pregnancy. My husband is an immigrant who had just received his green card, and thus permission to work. We survived on money that was meant for him to finish out college, and we did not seek out any financial assistance other than Medicaid so that I could see a doctor through my pregnancy. It wasn’t until close to the end of my pregnancy that a nurse convinced me to apply for WIC.
I remember a damn Kirby salesman making me cry at about 8 months pregnant. “Would you really want to lay your baby on a floor that THIS all came out of?” I knew better, but I was tired and emotional, and I could not afford the ridiculously overpriced piece of junk he was peddling.
Then, after Evan was born, I was different. The birth should have gone well. I labored at home all day and went into the hospital around dinner time. I remember walking up to the desk and saying, “I think I’m in labor.” I had my doubts, but contractions were about 5 minutes apart at the time.
The nurse who checked me asked me how dilated I thought I was. I had not the slightest clue. I believe it was 7-8 cm, but I don’t fully remember. I do remember telling her I wanted to go med free.
“Oh, I’m sure that won’t be a problem!” she told me.
I remember all kinds of staff members being impressed that I was handling everything so well. But then they pushed me down the rabbit hole of intervention. Let’s break your water! Let’s add pitocin! Somewhere in there I threw up. I never got taken off the monitors, that I requested.
Spoiler alert: I gave birth before 10 pm. I was only at the hospital for about 5 hours…and all this happened in between.
The pitocin made me feel awful. The nausea from what I now know was probably just transition was awful. The fact that I couldn’t move without bumping the cords and “losing” the baby’s heartbeat was awful. I was already in a daze when I asked if it was too late for pain meds. I didn’t ask for pain meds, but I’m sure that’s how it was interpreted by the eager to help (and very sweet) student nurses that I had allowed to stay in the room. They checked, and somehow I ended up with a shot of narcotics.
The drugs made me very out of it, and before I knew it, it was push time. I was too drowsy. They immediately took the baby away, and I don’t remember caring. He was affected by the narcotics. They told me they were taking him for observation for a little bit, but they would probably be back in an hour. I made myself open my eyes, and I asked to see him. They held him up but I didn’t have my glasses on.
I was so out of it that I don’t remember if the first time I really saw him was a picture my husband brought back, or if it was when they brought him back to try breastfeeding.
Then breastfeeding didn’t go well at first. That was so hard for me, because I literally could not afford to formula feed. Breastfeeding HAD to work. But after supplementing, he wouldn’t latch. It was more than a week later when my pump died. I felt so defeated. But I had a follow-up appointment with a lactation consultant at the hospital, so we decided to give it one more go. And he latched. And things got better, then worse, then better, then worse. The cycle really never ends.
Life went on and I haven’t experienced quite the same darkness since, but it’s still there.
It’s there when we have crappy weather for days on end, and the kids are bouncing off the walls, and I just need five minutes to myself. It’s there when I have fifty things to get done right this moment and can’t figure out where to start. It’s there when bedtime is just around the corner and the boys decide to play loudly, crashing into each other until somebody is crying.
But when mommy is hurting for whatever reason, my 4-year-old boy will come to me and ask if a hug will make me happy. And it works. Not because of the hug itself, but because I must be doing something right to have such a sweet, empathetic, little boy.
Even through the darkness, there are good moments.
Think you may be depressed?
Blog posts about depression:
- This is what a depressed mom looks like. at Honest Mom
- To all you moms dealing with anxiety and depression… at Honest Mom
- I am NOT Okay, and THAT’S Okay at Birth Without Fear
- Post Partum Depression…Please Don’t Judge at Birth Without Fear
- Postpartum Depression Checklist (PDF)
- The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (In Plain Mama English)