I held my newborn son in my arms and watched as he puckered out his lips and stretched. I have always loved that face. “Duck-lips” we call it. Each of our six babies have done it, and I swear that someday I’ll actually record it happening to memorialize it for all time to come, but I’ve never been able to swerve my gaze from them long enough to find the camera. As I stared into this baby’s sweet little face, I knew I should embrace this moment. He was to be my last little one, and he wouldn’t stay little long.
But, instead, I found myself frustrated. All I wanted was to find a show to binge-watch. It didn’t matter what- just anything mildly entertaining to take my mind off of the reality I was now living. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run out of the house, hop in the van, and take off for Florida, all by myself.
I came downstairs with baby in tow and faced a crowd around our table. Five little faces sat with their grandmothers and father, all having started supper. They loudly, happily greeted their momma, who had been hibernating all to often in her room. Instead of running to kiss their heads and beam smiles, I wanted to just STOP THE NOISE!!! I handed the baby off to the first set of open adult arms and sat, angrily pushing around the food on my plate and asking them to please just be quiet.
The baby had had a pretty scary case of jaundice. He had to be readmitted to the hospital on day three. Once we were finally released, we had to return every single day for almost two weeks to continue to monitor his jaundice levels. It was a lot. I worried for my baby and I ached to see his poor teeny feet covered in too-large band-aids. My breasts ached from newborn baby feedings. My body ached all over from giving birth and lack of sleep. My head pounded. And all I felt was a severe desire to be alone and not be touched. I could tell from the looks at the table that I was hurting feelings. Mommy was not being very nice.
When I went for my first post-pardum visit, the doctor took one look at me and pronounced me DEPRESSED. “What?” I almost shouted at her. “I’m not depressed! I’m worn out! I’m sad! But I’m not….” I couldn’t get the words out. I just burst into tears and sobbed all over her. I’m pretty sure she was thinking of committing me somewhere had I not persuaded her that it was due to the many, many trips to the hospital for the baby.
“Have you ever felt like this before?” she asked. “No!” I answered. “But I’ve never had six kids before either!”
After dwelling in the Land of Denial for a few days, I finally did a google search for “Signs of Post-Pardum Depression”. It was totally all about me. Except for wanting to harm myself or others, I fit the bill to a tee. But how could this be me? Depression was for people that didn’t want to be mommies! Or weren’t prepared for it! Or were under a great deal of stress- like in the middle of a war or had just had their arm ripped off or something else really horrible! It definitely wasn’t for me! I had done this “mommy gig” five times before! I kind of/sort of felt like I knew what I was doing. (We don’t ever really- but I had survived this before!) I had a loving husband, a supportive family. We were financially stable. No impending doom loomed over my head. So why the depression?
To admit I was depressed felt like I was weak. Like I was not appreciative of all the good things and people in my life. But to not admit it meant I was not going to get any better. So face it I did.
I talked about it with my husband and my mom. I was told, “I know, Dear.” I prayed daily and asked God to remove it from me and make me happy again. I told my closest friends and asked them to bear with me for the time being. It was not a quick thing to be fixed. It took many months. For some people, I hear it can take years. I am grateful it didn’t for me. I let myself rest as much as I could. I delayed starting back school with the kids. I read my Bible more. I let others help me. I let myself binge-watch those teenage shows without guilt. I ate whatever I wanted and enjoyed it. I wore fuzzy socks and stretchy pants and took long, hot showers. I held my baby and let myself just be content to feel bad for the short term, knowing that I loved him, even though I was hurting. I fake-smiled for the other kids, hugged and kissed them and stuck it out, loudness and all. And tried desperately to keep my mouth closed.
And slowly, ever so slowly, I came out of the dark storm clouds and back to myself. Those days were full of sadness and pain, tears, and an overwhelming sense that nothing would ever be fun or happy again until I got to heaven. Living was HARD. But I’ve come out of that, hopefully a little wiser for the experience and a little more empathetic.
And I’m grateful.