“Don’t you just LOVE being a mom?” I wanted to slap the woman who said that to me on my first day back to work. My answer to her was muted because I wanted to move on with my day but what I was really thinking was, “Not really. Would you if you had a terrorist child screaming 24/7 PLUS all the normal sacrifices of being a first time mom?” I can handle long nights, puke, poop, not putting on make-up, not hanging out with friends, etc. but what I cannot handle on my own is Postpartum Depression (PPD) exacerbated by this demon child and weight gain.
We all know that mental health is tied directly to physical health. Before Dustin and I got pregnant, my husband and I were working out frequently and eating fairly well. Together we were working through our past issues with food and eating but had that pretty tackled for almost 2 years. We thought it may take us a while to get pregnant but sure enough, we were lucky enough that it happened the first month after stopping birth control. The first 32 weeks of my pregnancy was pretty amazing. I was never sick, gained only about 8 lbs, I worked out at about the same intensity, and felt great.
Then 32 weeks hit. Apparently I was preeclamptic (high blood pressure, kidneys and liver starting to fail, blah, blah, blah) which I kind of brushed off until I magically gained 10lbs in one week, then 10lbs the next week, then I was really preeclamptic. I was admitted to the hospital at 34 weeks gestation for about 2 weeks total and at 36 weeks, my body fell off the planet. In the end, my blood work was terrible one day, verified twice, baby was breech, and we had an urgent c-section.
Wow, right? Up and down so quickly. It’s no wonder I feel the way I do now. We were very lucky to welcome a mostly healthy 4lb 10.7oz little girl into our world, minus a 5 day stint to the NICU for hypoglycemia. The first 4 weeks were as expected with sleepless nights and typical hard newborn stuff and then the Evil One appeared just before she was a month old. I mean, seriously. I work with newborns for a living, in the NICU. I deal with VERY cranky kids and she was worse than the ones withdrawing from drugs! She literally screamed 24 hours a day…every day, for about the first 4 months of her life. I thought I was crazy and just didn’t realize how hard it was to take care of a baby until seasoned professional mommies took care of her upon my return to work and vouched for the little-angry-Hulk-in-training.
I think around 6 weeks is when my PPD kicked in. I say “I think” because it is all so blurry. What I DO recall was how angry and inpatient I was. I felt like my world was crumbling and all of it was internalized. I’m sure my husband had no clear idea about what was going on and some behavior was probably attributed to being a new mommy. I was crying sometimes, but mostly angry and inpatient. That’s unusual for me because I am generally the just-go-with-flow type. I dealt with it for 6 weeks which seemed like a lifetime but I now know women who dealt with it for 2 years!
One night, she was screaming her brains out at about 2am. I was feeding, pumping, swaddling, bouncing, rocking, changing, singing, crying, angry, and repeat. I did what everything said to do which was put her in a safe place and get away from the sound. Yeah, I couldn’t do that for longer than 2 minutes without feeling even worse than I did before. I picked her up again, cried with her, and then felt like a rift in the time and space continuum was ripping me apart (Whovians will get that). Then there was this other part of me thinking that it wasn’t that bad. At least I have a husband, who is caring and present, we have a home, a healthy baby, a comfortable financial situation, so why does my world feel like it is crumbling? I couldn’t take the screaming anymore so I woke my husband up, handed the baby to him, and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I then got in my car and drove away for an hour or so. I realized that I needed to call the doctor the next day. I did and got some medication. It helped but I still felt…off. If you were wondering, my husband was definitely shocked that night.
The summer flew by, eventually stopped the medication slowly, and the anger/lack of patience didn’t really come back. Flash forward to today and I’m doing ok. First, the baby doesn’t scream 24/7 anymore. She’s pretty happy about life but I’m still damaged from the first 6 months of the experience. Second, I love being her mom most of the time but there are moments where I would be glad to go back to no baby. I know this is normal for any mom, most just don’t say it out loud. Third, I can tell that I still have the PPD. Interestingly, I’ve tried to explain to myself and others how I feel and even I’m just starting to grasp it. It feels like when you are first waking up and things are a bit foggy. It’s like I keep rubbing my eyes but there is no clarity. I’ve also described it as a grey veil covering all but 10% of me. I’ve read article after article about PPD and it’s all controversial on the tests/treatments. Fourth and most related to this blog, I weigh 50lbs more than I did in the middle of my pregnancy. About 20 of that came at the end with the help of preeclampsia but the rest is during the course of a year living under that veil of PPD. I’ve had some weight loss here and there but mostly suffered from emotional binge eating without the purge. The saddest thing is, the fatter I get, the farther away I feel.
I’ve started some interventions this week. I began by admitting out loud that I am still suffering and need help. I’m spending a little time every day in front of the window with the sun raining down on me. Sometimes I go outside to soak up the sun while the baby is napping as it is frightfully cold sometimes. I know this makes me feel better so I need to do it more often. I’m spending a couple of days per week at the gym to help get that natural feel-good boost. I’m working hard on not binge eating. One way I’m doing that is to hold myself accountable by sharing a bank account with my husband so he can see ALL the purchases I make. Finally, I’m scheduling a doctor’s appointment to follow up about the PPD and get some other lab work done. I will get some counseling as well to see if that helps. All-in-all, I’m better than I was 6 months ago and I will get better as time goes on. Wish me well!