This is the story of my battle with depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression), and post-partum depression. As I have stated before, these are feelings that I wish I never had felt. This is not the way I wanted either my pregnancy or post-partum experience to go. But this was my reality, and I am not going to sugar coat it. That doesn’t do anyone any good. I have decided to share this for the benefit of other women, especially those who may be going through, or have gone through similar experiences. While I was in the midst of my battle with PPD I desperately searched the internet for stories of experiences like mine, and came up with only a few results.
This was not easy to write, and I suspect it’s not going to be easy to read. But the ending, though still in progress, is a happy one. This should be a story of hope and preservation as opposed to one of sadness and bitterness, and I hope that it touches you.
During the constant nursing sessions I spent a lot of time on my phone googling anything and everything. I was desperate to find the stories of anyone, anyone at all who had had similar experiences. I was googling things like “hate newborn phase,” “don’t love new baby,” “don’t love my child,” etc. It was a dark time and there were very few resources out there to shine a much needed light.
I should have gone to therapy. In fact, I considered it a few times. N left a message with the OB/ GYN during those first weeks and they gave us the names of a few therapists, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house and face the reality of my situation. And therapy is expensive and the baby was nursing all the time- I reasoned to myself. So I put it off and put it off and eventually never went. But I did make a call to my psychiatrist saying that I just didn’t feel like my anti-depressant was doing enough. He had me ramp up to double the dose, and in a few weeks I finally started to feel better.
It’s difficult to recount how the fog lifted, but it did, and it did slowly. I decided to make an effort to get out of the house. I connect with a group of local young moms on Facebook and joined a few of their meet ups and outings. It was probably one of the smartest moves I could make.
The first time I met up with these moms, I met a girl who had a baby just two days younger than mine. The baby had been born on her due date, which was my baby’s due date as well. I watched her carefully as she interacted with her baby. She held her baby a lot and give it lots of kisses. This seemed so strange to me. I had no interest in picking my baby up, and even less interest in placing my lips on her. But I decided to try and mirror her images. I picked up my baby as she slept and kissed her on her tiny, wrinkled forehead. This of course woke her up and set off her typical screams. Flustered I put her back in her car seat and swung it until she calmed down. I was mortified but all the other moms were very supportive.
For one outing we went to the zoo. I was glad to go somewhere fun, but the baby screamed like she was being tortured the entire time- and would not stop. Strangers were giving me dirty looks and all the other moms tried to hold my baby in order to pacify her but nothing was working. I had driven another mom and her kids there so there was no way to duck out early. When we sat down to eat I went to get the bottles I had pumped for the baby, only to realize they were still in the car. By this time the screaming was out of control and distracting from other people’s lunches in the picnic area. I went with my friends to buy a drink and that’s why my baby had a diaper explosion.
The baby was screaming and I was panicking so I took out her changing pad and changed her right there on the sidewalk, not truly realizing the extent of the blowout. Let’s just say I was getting a lot of dirty looks, and rightly so. I was using cloth diapers (and just getting the hang of them) and the process of putting one away and putting another on was not exactly simple. The baby screamed and screamed and I knew she had to eat. I searched frantically for a secluded spot to nurse- still weary of nursing in public at that time- and finally found a rock among some trees. The baby nursed voraciously and fell asleep when I later put her in her car seat. It was an incredibly stressful ordeal but I left feeling more empowered than hopeless. I didn’t take her on many outings afterwards though.
The colic lessened in time as well. When she was a few months old she woke up without crying and even smiled for the first time. Ecstatic I grabbed my camera and filmed it. She started screaming as soon as I stopped filming but those few minutes had been precious. I didn’t love her yet but I started to feel hope.
The months wore on. The weather got warmer, nursing went better, I got used to mothering, and as I said before, the crying subsided. Between those events and the fact that I had doubled my dose of anti-depressant I started to feel feelings for my baby. I started to find her appearance cute and endearing; I started to post more pictures of her online. I started to enjoy dressing her, and I found a new hobby in cloth diapers. I started not to cry as much on Monday nights when I knew N would be going back to work. And in the fall I started school again and came to realize that I sort of missed my baby while I was away.
And then it hit me. I don’t remember the day, or even the month. It may have been August or September. But it was at night, and I was nursing her. We had transitioned from the car seat to nursing her to sleep at night in our bed and then co-sleeping. It was an arrangement that worked out wonderfully. That fateful night she had unlatched and rolled over in her sleep. She signed and smiled as a little dribble of milk rolled down her face. I thought to myself, “god I just love her” and then realizing what I had just felt I started sobbing. I had sobbed a lot during those months but this time it was out of happiness. I loved her, I LOVED HER! And the love was consuming at intense.
It was like a switch had flipped, and though I still often felt sad or resentful or a tiny bit numb, things were different. There was finally joy for me in being a mother, and I knew that I would have never wanted it any other way.
Today my love for my daughter, my amazing Reagan, is stronger than ever. She went from a surly infant to an equally surly toddler, and she may be difficult (and I mean difficult) but she is also funny, talented, and completely wonderful.
I was crying as I wrote this, and she was in the room watching cartoons. She crawled up on my lap and pushed the hair out of my face and wiped my cheek. “Don’t cry mama. Don’t be sad. I love you too much!”
I love you too much too sweet baby. I will love you forever.