Meet Selena. She blogs over at Because Motherhood Sucks. Selena submitted this story a few weeks ago and I have been dying to share it with you. I’ve been busy with sick kids among other things. I’m thrilled to finally share her words with you here as the Postpartum Voice of the Week. I hope you’ll find her words and story as powerful as I do.
I was no stranger to depression. I had my first experience with being hospitalized when I was 13 and was treated and released only to succumb again and again and again throughout my teens and into adulthood.
I was on Prozac when I found out I was pregnant and for some reason this didn’t interest my obstetrician in the least. She basically told me to taper down if I wanted, but that she was completely comfortable with Prozac during pregnancy. I stayed on a low dosage and had a relatively uneventful pregnancy. I say “relatively” because although my health and the development of the baby were totally fine, I was exhausted, nauseous and miserable throughout. So much so that I remember having other mothers ask me if people were always touching my belly and I realized that NO ONE had EVER approached me to touch my belly. Of course, I suppose I wasn’t completely approachable.
I just ASSUMED I would experience Post-Partum Depression. I read up on it. I knew the symptoms. I decided that I didn’t care about the type of birth I had or whether or not I breastfed. The goal was always a natural birth and breastfeeding, but if it didn’t work out that way, I was not going to be disappointed or hard on myself because I didn’t want any added stressors to get depressed over. My mother would be there to help me for 5 weeks and could stay longer if I needed the help.
As far as I was concerned, I was perfectly okay with depression. It was an old friend who overstayed her welcome. It was annoying, but familiar. I would deal with it and move on. No problem.
Until it happened.
I woke up to the sound of the baby crying and was overwhelmed with a sense of utter terror and panic. I was alone in the house with her. Her father had gone back to work and my mother had left the day before. In the 5 weeks that my mother had been there, I had experienced a mild case of “baby blues” and gotten over it. I had no idea how I was going to handle this gigantic task that was ahead of me. I had to get her up and feed her and change her and dress her and find time to eat something myself and keep her calm and happy and get her to nap and on and on and on. And I would have to do this every day for the rest of my life.
My kid had severe colic. She screamed non-stop for about 12 hours a day. And the doctors just told me she’d grow out of it. I knew I couldn’t do it. I had made a terrible mistake. This was all my fault. What was I thinking when I assumed that I knew the first thing about being a mother? And what kind of a failure was I? My ONLY job in the whole world is to keep her comfortable and alive and she hates me. She never stops crying and she hardly sleeps. How could I do this?
I called her father. “Please come home.”
He told me he couldn’t come immediately but he would be home when he could. And when he came home he found a sleeping baby and a complete mess of a mommy. I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to leave. I had made a terrible mistake. I hated this baby. She didn’t even like me.
He took over and I tried to sleep.
He stayed home for the next few days. I tried to sleep when I could but I heard her crying all the time. I got earplugs and ran a fan and I heard her screaming all day long. I got mad and wondered if he hadn’t left her alone, and I stomped out into the living room only to find a sleeping baby and daddy on the couch. I was hearing things.
I was terrified. I didn’t want to touch her. I decided that I was going crazy and would have to leave her for her own good so she should get used to her father taking care of her. I didn’t want to hold her. And yet, I wanted nothing more than to nuzzle her and love her and have her little head on my shoulder and hear her breathing in my ear. In the middle of the night, I would go get her to hold her and I would cry because I didn’t understand why I wanted to leave her so badly. But I did. I wanted to run.
I had an older friend come over to let me shower one day and the baby didn’t cry for her at all. For her, it was fun to hold the baby. It was easy and enjoyable. I marveled at the way she handled the baby and how she seemed to entertain her by doing nothing. I cried because it was so hard for me. I didn’t know what to do with a baby. I didn’t want to hold her and I didn’t know where to put her down and when I did, she just screamed anyway so I got a sling and she hated that. She hated her bassinet and she hated the floor and she hated the couch. I hated this kid.
Again, I called her father at work. “I think you can take a baby to the fire department and leave them, no questions asked. I am going to take her there, okay?” He told me that was crazy talk. He said the words, Post Partum Depression.
THIS was not depression. This was something else. I knew depression. I could handle depression. This was horror. This was terror. This was pure guilt and anger and infinite regret. This was like depression’s more evil, less apathetic twin. Depression was like a cold, heavy, wet blanket of fog. This was a nuclear winter.
My mother came back out to help. She took charge. She sent Ben back to work and got me an appointment with a doctor. She kept the baby busy and let me take a shower. She forced me to eat. My mother, not for the first time I am sure, saved my life.
After a few weeks of medication and 4 or 5 sessions of therapy, I was feeling a bit more steady. One morning, I was finished feeding the baby and talking to her on the bed and she looked up at me and smiled. I loved her right then. I knew without a doubt that I loved her and I never wanted to leave her. I told my mom it was safe for her to go home. I made some plans to go to a Post Partum group and began to reach out to my friends.
I would be lying if I said that I was okay right away. Being a stay at home mom requires a lot of planning your days and staying busy and it took me a really long time to find places to go to break up the day. I decided to work part time so that I had a life outside of the baby and that helped. I joined a Mommy Meet-Up group and that helped too. Mostly, I went easy on myself and realized that babies can cry and it is not an indication of my skills as a parent.
Three years later, the colic has stopped and the depression is under control but if I said I was completely thrilled with motherhood I would be lying. It has been a really difficult road for me and as a bit of a control freak, motherhood is a HUGE adjustment.
The thing that has helped me the most though, is being okay with the idea that I am simply NOT one of those women who believes motherhood is the most wonderful and thrilling experience that anyone can have. I started to blog about it and learned (mostly by anonymous comments) that there are many mothers out there who feel the same way. Motherhood is work. It is a job!
But I continue to work on it and try to find the happy moments among all the day to day drudgery. And when my three year old turns into a total monster and I have that moment of thinking how I wish I could run away, I remember how it was when I REALLY wanted to run away and that helps me to know that it’s going to be okay.
It will be okay.
Selena is a reader, a book person, and a self-affirmed pessimist. She lives in Upstate NY, has her hands full with her diva-esque preschooler and hopes to one day be able to write full time.
Find out more about her love of motherhood at Becausemotherhoodsucks.blogspot.com.