Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Dark Side of having a baby: the things we don't talk about

My good friend recently went through some hard times, after a friend of her and her husband shot and killed their 7 week old infant, then turned the gun on herself. You can read about it here. Yes, it's awful. Yes, the news will stop you in your tracks. And yes, we all shudder in horror and pray for her soul, their infant son's soul,and for the poor family remaining. Her devastated husband, who came home and found them. Her horror-stricken twin sister, who talked with her everyday and knew nothing of her pain. And her mother, who had just talked via the phone to her 2 hours earlier. My heart just hurts every time I talk or write about it, and I didn't even know her.

People are now saying that she, the mother, was experiencing Postpartum Psychosis, which sounds about right. We, as a society, don't like to think that anyone in their "right" mind would kill their newborn, or themselves, and it's so awfully tragic to hear about a woman who should've been at the happiest point in her life, turning out to be the worst moments in her life. Bad enough for her to go through with a suicide plan.

But who knows what she was feeling? Who knows how sad and out of sorts she felt? Nobody really talks openly about the awful side of giving birth. The "baby blues" as they are called - which some women get so bad, they turn into someone they don't recognize, and they make themselves feel even more awful when they realize they aren't overly excited or overjoyed about having the baby they so desperately wanted at home with them.

My OB once told me that women who experience infertility often experience Postpartum depression more so than women who are able to get PG easily, etc.. Which to me, makes perfect sense. We go into the PG already dealing with stress that most people can't imagine, and just because we are PG suddenly, we are expected to be so happy and just forget all the grief and drama we've experienced before we finally carried our children to term. Never mind, how jacked up most of our bodies are on synthetic hormones, of estrogen and progesterone, and meds that have tricked and manipulated our bodies into trying to give us the children we so desperately want, which may be also manipulating our emotions and turning us into women we don't always recognize.

I went on antidepressants half way through my infertility experiences. At my yearly PAP appointment, my OB asked me gently how I was doing with the continuous fertility treatments, and CJ and I were discussing IVF at that point. I ended up breaking down in sobs in her office, and she asked me if I had ever considered medications. I had, especially since my mom's family is notorious for dealing with depression and bipolar episodes. I had no shame in going on the medication, and it made me realize that sometimes we aren't superheros: we sometimes need help, this way in the chemical way, to help us get through the days of our lives in one piece, without falling down in tears. Adding to the fact that our bodies aren't working the way we imagined they would, most women are also dealing with friendships/relationships that are changing, because infertility doesn't just affect your reproductive system. It usually invades your personal-social relationships as well, turning them into a minefield of explosive feelings and interactions with people who just might not "get" what we are going through.

When I had Keifer, I knew I might get the baby blues, but heck, I was still on my meds, and knew I had a head start in fending off the demons that might come my way. That was before I had the delivery from hell, and before I had the sleepless nights in the hospital, and came home, in extreme pain, not knowing how to deal with this screaming newborn who had no clue as to what she was doing outside of my warm womb. I also had not had a bowel movement in almost a week, and I spent the whole first weekend home on the toilet, in the worst pain of my life (yes, worse than my labor), screaming when I finally had success after 2 days of trying to go. Who ever told me about this? The inability to take a decent shit, and how awfully PAINFUL it would be to do so? Nobody. Nada. Nothing about this. Ugg.
The first night we were home, I snapped at my mom, which in turn caused me to go upstairs and sob uncontrollably because I could not control my emotions. Keifer was crying, she had no schedule yet that I could fathom, and the dogs were so confused, and there I was: sobbing and useless (so I thought). I cried for Tboy and Sass, and for the obvious hurt and bewilderment they were feeling - Tboy was so confused, he actually jumped into the Pack and Play one night, and the crib another night, in hopes of figuring out what this baby was and how come it was affecting HIS world as he knew it. And no, K wasn't in either when he jumped in, so there was no hurt baby episodes. And no, he hasn't jumped in since that first week.

After you give birth, everyone expects you to be so happy, so thrilled, so over the moon. You've gotten your wish. You had your baby. But I felt so sad. Sad to give her up to the "outer" world if you will. Sad to say goodbye to my big belly, that nurtured this infant to full term plus some time. Scared to death of how to take care of her. And the first few nights in the hospital, it worried me that it was CJ that was ga-ga over our girl, and not me. I had prayed for this infant and wished for her my whole life; yet, here she was, and I wasn't NEEDING to see her every second, like I thought I would. It made me confused and wonder if I could ever bond with her. Why wasn't that "bonding" feeling hitting me hard like I thought it would, or should? Why was my heart still not melting when I held her in my arms?

And yes, the baby blues did hit. They hit me hard the first few weeks home. Very hard. They usually hit me when the sun went down, and the darkness invaded our life. Nighttime was scary for me. I knew my emotions would become unbearable, no matter how I tried to trick myself into happiness. CJ would go upstairs for a few minutes, and come down to me rocking K in my arms in front of the computer, playing sappy love songs to her from the Tarzan soundtrack. I would be in utter despair that my house was a shit pile of THINGS everywhere, I would despair that my body was disgusting, floppy, and fat. The media doesn't help when it shows movie stars that have JUST given birth and they literally look like they could walk down the runway in a fashionable bikini next week, while I was sitting on the couch, still in maternity pants, wondering if I will ever lose the belly that is sagging under me. And would I ever be able to just shower in peace, and not have to worry about my hair, and when the hell could I stop wearing granny panties because of my incision?

But it did get better. And I obviously DID bond with Keifer. It was a relationship that, even though I loved her from the minute she was conceived, it took me awhile to feel that "gushing, uncontrollable, insane" love for. Now I see her and all I want to do is snuggle my nose in her neck, and hear her giggle, and listen to her breathing, and feel her hands as they cup my head and her mouth as she attempts to give me a wet kiss on my nose. My heart feels as though it could explode with love for her. And I know the baby blues have passed. For now.

People need to talk about their Postpartum depression. Awful things can be happening in a new mother's life, but maybe you don't know about it, because for some reason, there is this notion that not being happy is not "right". You should be so happy to be home with a newborn. Mothers get embarrassed to tell their friends they are thinking awful thoughts about "what if " they just let the stroller go into the street, and a car just happened to drive into it? Seriously. I was talking on my message board about Postpartum depression last week, and you would not believe how MANY of us go through these awful times. But we don't hear about it. And we should. We should not be afraid to say, "I need some support, I'm having a very hard time adjusting". And just maybe we could then save a potential victim of Postpartum Psychosis before anything awful happens. And there's something to think about.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I shared my PPD story here:

I hope the more people who read about it, the less "taboo" it will be to admit and discuss it. I hope that more women will be able to get help, sooner. I thank God that I recognized the symptoms and called my doctor when I did. But I wouldn't have if it hadn't been for a friend telling me her story.

Kerry said...

I know exactly what you mean about loving your baby from the first moment but it taking a while for the real bonding to happen. I had horrible PPD after Quinn was born that I did not recognize as such at the time and I actually thought several times about killing myself (never him though). Thank God my OB asked me about things when I went in for a follow up and I was truthful and began bawling. The story you posted makes me realize how easily I could have crossed that invisible line. It is such a silent topic.

liz said...

OMG, what a tragic story. I am so terribly sorry for that family.

(What's up with this, though? "You know how women are when they have new babies." I don't even know what that means!)

I am really grateful to people who shed light on this issue, as I have struggled w/ depression in the past and will know to be aware of it if I am ever lucky enough to have a baby. Thanks for sharing.

Monkeymama said...

I'm glad that our generation can talk about things like this. Even knowing a little about post-partum depression and being on the look out for it, I was totally unprepared for how I felt after Rebecca was born. I'm glad I had the heads up that I did.

Missy said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm afraid to click on that link because I know that story will just break my heart.

I'm right at the two week post-partum mark and I'm trying to figure out how I'm feeling - do I have the baby blues? Am I depressed? How am I doing? I really thought I was just fine after baby #1, but looking back, I probably could have benefited from some meds....

Missy said...

p.s. about your post below about Britney Spears - I can't help but wonder if she has Post Partum psychosis. It seems (from the outside) that her crazy behavior started after she had her first child. I feel angry sometimes and sad for her children, but I mostly feel sorry for her because she is obviously in a world of pain and doesn't know how to make it better. She, and everyone around her, is suffering because of it.

kristine said...

Wow - your post made me cry - big time. I know how you feel. I think there are so many women that go through this with their first child and don't even come close to recognizing that there IS something wrong and they CAN get help. I experienced this with Graycen a bit andam afraid it may happen with baby #2, thankfully, I know myself and I know (now) it is ok to talk about and be honest about. It is such a hard topic to tackle - even with other mothers who have felt the same way. It's really sad that we feel so shameful about it. Thanks for sharing. It's nice to "know" people that things like this have happened to. Makes you feel like you aren't an alien, afterall.


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