It wasn’t supposed to happen to me! Being a mother and having a baby was something that I longed for my whole life. For all intents and purposes, I did everything “right”, much like the time and effort I spent preparing for my labor and birth, so why did I feel this way? I advocated for all the women who always wanted to be a mom, but for whatever reason couldn’t or had to find alternative ways or those who lost their babies whether it be in utero, during birth, or after. I was angered to no end by women who appeared ungrateful for what they had, so why was this happening? It wasn’t supposed to be this way! I am the last person in the world who should be depressed when my ONE lifelong dream had come true!
My labor was NOT what I wanted, not what I had educated myself for, and not what I was prepared for, but I was still so excited to hear the first cries of my baby that many women dream of. Those first few hours were amazing. I just sat there and stared at my baby in awe of her perfection. I am pretty sure that I did that for days, I actually still do it now! Nursing/breastfeeding went and is still going well. Recovery was not at all what I was prepared for, or rather, NOT prepared for. The amount of bleeding was more than the “heavy period” that others say it is. The pain from the c-section, in my opinion, was worse than the BAD labor pains that I had, and I HATED the pain meds that they had me on. Thoughts, images, and memories from our labor and birth would stick around in my thoughts. I would constantly look at picture to try and remember what happened and cry when I couldn’t. I would cry when I would see my pictures from when I was pregnant. That smile that I had somehow just wasn’t there anymore. It was like I was a different person. I was convinced that all this was why I was having a hard time feeling the euphoria I was expecting to feel with my new baby, why I felt like I was in a fog just going through the motions.
Or was it? I was struggling to stay awake all the time, including while I was nursing her. Bob would have to stay awake to keep me awake so we could be sure that Calista was safe. I didn’t deal with that too long because I promptly made them discontinue the pain meds and give me something simple like ibuprofen. I was convinced that would help. But, even after, I was feeling tired all the time and kinda just numb going through the motions.
I HATED that I was too incapacitated to even be able to get out of bed fast enough when Calista cried, so Bob would have to get her and bring her to me. This was certainly NOT what I had envisioned. AND I DEFINITELY had not ever thought that Bob would be helping me to and from the bathroom, on and off the toilet, and other things that go on in the bathroom postpartum. I am VERY private when it comes to that stuff. I was humiliated.
This was ALL while still at the hospital and I was miserable. Miserable about all this, but also that I was not enjoying being a Mom. Why? Surely it was just being in the hospital and things would be better at home, right?
Once we got home everyone wanted to visit. I really wanted to show off our girl. I wanted to show everyone how strong I was. Suddenly I felt this weird need to show everyone that I was “OK” as if people didn’t think I was. Then at night, while in bed with Bob I would cry for no reason. Confessing things like how overwhelming all the people were, how I did miss being pregnant-a confession that many other women had told me that, until I gave birth, I didn’t understand. I told him that I didn’t know why I was crying. I explained how I felt about all of the above and how sad I was over how our labor had unfolded. He told me that it was the hormones and what I was feeling was completely normal. It was the baby blues. He was so right. He was so great, loving, supportive, and just amazing.
Days and weeks went on and those blue subsided, but there was still something just not right that I could not put my finger on. Something stronger than those blues that I was initially feeling. I also kept feeling like this new job was harder for me than I thought it should be. I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job at being a mom. I was heartbroken over how our labor went and was not able to move past it. The only thing that I found enjoyable was the time I spent nursing Calista. Even those late night feedings meant the world to me. I hung on to those and felt like that was all that I had to give. I began to feel guilty for being a shitty mom. I felt guilty because I felt like there was so much burden on Bob with caring for me and a newborn, him having to keep up the house, the dogs, the other 3 kids, etc. I felt like I had somehow ruined everyone’s lives. I couldn’t eat. At the first sign of crying I was passing Calista to him because I felt so unfit as a mother. I questioned to him everything that I did. I just felt worthless.
I kept all this to myself, but would still cry to Bob at night and tell him I didn’t know why. I think he began to not know what to do.
Then he went back to work….
I was suddenly faced with fear. I didn’t think I knew how to care for my daughter well enough. I felt overwhelmed taking care of her all on my own and the responsibility that entailed. Then I felt guilty for feeling that way. I started to have anxiety over him leaving for work. Once he gone old fears from a ex who had stalked me arose and I became fearful of someone breaking into our house and me not feeling strong enough to have the know-how to protect our daughter, I didn’t know what to do.
Then Calista started crying every night, for hours, for seemingly no reason. It was worse on the nights that Bob had to work and each night would start earlier and earlier. By the third night of the week that Bob was working I was calling him home from work because I was done and couldn’t do the crying on my own anymore. I felt even more like an unfit mother. On the third week he was back to work, on his third shift of the week, her crying would start at 6pm, right after he would leave for work and continue until midnight. Again, by the third night he was working I was calling him home. This time I was scared by the thoughts and feelings that I was having. I never wanted to harm Calista, don’t get me wrong, but I could see how people shake their babies. I was angry with it all, I was frustrated. I didn’t understand why this was happening. I felt overwhelmed, unfit, anxious, sad, unable to care for my daughter, and completely worthless as a mother and a poor excuse for a girlfriend, women, mother, and human being.
Bob and I knew that I needed help. I fought depression so much of my life growing up. I knew what was happening. That last night Bob came home I cried and cried about how hard I had worked to overcome depression in my past and I was SO upset that it had come back at what was supposed to be the happiest time in my life! So, we called the pediatrician and spoke with our amazing midwife at the 6 week follow-up and got sent in the right direction.
I did chose to take medications, something that I am generally against since my past recovery went best when I got off of the medications and focused on myself through yoga, personal development, and physical wellbeing through fitness and nutrition. But I needed something and I needed something quickly. Medication isn’t the only answer though. Therapy is a must and of course I still believe that my personal yoga practice along with fitness and nutrition are all key components to my healing.
Looking back it all makes sense. To me, my birth was traumatic, I have a history of domestic violence that I still have issues with and healing to do, a history of depression, and a history of miscarriage. It doesn’t make any of it better. I still feel guilty. There are so many women out there who would give anything to be in my place that could never understand why I would feel this way. I was one of them.
The craziest thing is, as soon as I started to get better, so did Calista’s crying. It was like she could sense my stress and in an already overwhelming world to her, where Mommy is her everything, she couldn’t handle me being how I was. I still, honestly, feel like a loser. I still feel guilty. But I am working on it and I feel better enough now to talk about it. Creating a routine, lessening the amount of people who visit at a time, being open about it, the medication, working out, and going to work, i.e. getting back to a more “normal” life has really helped a lot as well. I am really enjoying being a Mom a lot more. My confidence is growing. My favorite thing is still those private moments nursing her and her smiles.