Posted in musings

postpartum depression

I had PPD with my first baby.

I’d hoped for a natural delivery and done all my prenatal care with a wonderful midwife at a birth center near our home, but I was still pregnant two weeks past my due date and state law required her to transfer my care to an OB and, after a failed induction, Rondel came into the world via a C-section.

The week of his due date I’d had a major fight (for lack of a better word, and without going into the details) with my husband and was feeling extremely emotional and stressed about that episode through the early postpartum weeks (despite how supportive and amazing my husband was through the rest of the pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period – I have trouble letting go of negative emotions).

So I felt like my body had let me down, and like my marriage was letting me down, and then Rondel turned out to be one of the most sensitive babies I’ve ever met, struggling with the basics of babyhood and responding to his struggles with tears and screams and demands for instant comfort. The sleepless nights wore me down. The constant crying wore me down. Nursing helped hold me together – until his prolonged comfort nursing led to an oversupply and an overactive letdown that led to more frustration and discomfort for us both. Nothing was outside the realm of “normal,” but the sum total of things, plus my own hormonal instability, meant that it wasn’t a good situation.

I didn’t trust anyone else to care for Rondel as well as I could, or to love him as much, even my husband. If someone else was holding him I couldn’t let them out of my sight. But at the same time that I loved him so fiercely and completely, I worried with a deep, uncontrollable fear that I was a horrible mother, that he would be so much better off with someone else, that if I just left the picture somehow both he and my husband would be happier and better in the long run. Neither fear was rational; between the two of them, I felt hopeless and stuck.

I managed to hold life together until I unexpectedly fell pregnant again, around 7 months postpartum, and the changing hormones broke the hold of PPD on my mind and body. There are still things that bring back flashes of it: a rough night with the boys, maybe; the casual off-hand comment of a friend about how women’s bodies are designed to give birth so it shouldn’t be that difficult; a post about how well someone’s infant sleeps through the night thanks to some method or other. The insinuation that because labor was difficult for me, that because I needed an induction and a C-section I somehow was weak or a failure, triggers the old lie that I’m not a good enough mother; the assertion that some parenting technique can make your baby happy, relaxed, independent, and a good sleeper does the same thing. Because my body gave childbirth everything it had, and I gave motherhood everything I had, and we didn’t have the “expected” or “ideal” outcomes.

Now, 3.5 years later, with two more babies’ worth of experience, I know those things don’t define me or the “success” of my motherhood. But it’s a powerful lie.

Will I have PPD again, in this postpartum period or in some future one? I can’t say for certain. I didn’t with Limerick, and I’m still in the baby blues/transitional period with Aubade so it’s too early to know. It was one of my biggest fears through this pregnancy, though – because in the midst of it, asking for help seems almost more difficult than just enduring it, and the overwhelming sense of failure and shame is a pain so great I don’t even want to imagine having to go through it again. But this is the resolution I have made, for myself, for my family, for baby Aubade: that I will make rest and self-care a priority from the beginning to try to prevent it, and that if I feel things are not right within me, even if I can’t say I “know” I have PPD, I will ask for help.

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