I thought I could be a supermom. When I envisioned my post pregnancy life I envisioned myself doing it all...taking care of baby, cloth diapering, laundry put away, house clean, breastfeeding, exercising, babywearing, hair & make up did, smile on my face. Yes, my vision was basically that of a 1950's housewife except without the high heels, dress, and apron (okay, an apron might be cool, but the dress and heels might be pushing it).
What I didn't envision was the overwhelming feelings of failure that I would have when I couldn't do it all. My labor and delivery was long and painful (imagine 48 hours in the hospital with 3 failed induction attempts and 2 failed epidurals, followed by an unplanned c-section when both baby & I started to struggle that was extremely painful due to the failed epidurals) and then a couple days later I went into SVT and had to spend the night on another floor hooked up to heart monitors. My pregnancy was 5 months of bedrest so very little could diminish my joy at finally having given birth.
The relief I felt to be okay and to be healthy sustained me through the rest of my week (yes, 7 days I was in the hospital) in the mother baby unit. My husband had to go home at night (we didn't anticipate being there so long) and I felt no guilt about sending the baby to the nursery so I could sleep. In fact I felt grateful to have the nursery staff there to watch over my sweet little girl at night so I could get some sleep. I missed her tremendously (the night in the ICU about killed me from missing her even though they brought her down several times so I could see her) and I always felt so happy to see her when she arrived for her middle of the night feedings. Even when she cried and fussed from 3am on one night I was just so happy to be with my baby that I didn't care.
I was ill prepared for what would happen when I got home though. I knew women suffered from post-partum depression, but I was certain it would NOT happen to me. After all I was going to be a super mom. I was blessed enough to be able to stay home and to have my hubby take a month off work.
Once we got home the anxiety started almost immediately. I know that it is my sheer will power that is keeping our daughter alive. I didn't tell anyone how I felt because I'm a clinical social worker. I coach people all the time on how to handle anxiety. I know all the tricks. But none of those tricks helped. I would find myself crawling to the end of the bed throughout the night to peer over the footboard, reach down to touch her, and make sure she was breathing. Despite the pain of having a c-section I did this time after time, night after night. We finally had to buy a co-sleeper because I could not sleep even with her only 5 feet from me. I needed her right next to me so I could peek at her, touch her if I needed to, and it helped a little. I was able to get more than a few minutes sleep at a time. Then the crying started. Okay, so maybe I had a touch of post-partum blues, but I was not giving in to depression because that would mean I wasn't supermom.
Then I came across a blog about a couple who had recently lost their 4 1/2 month old daughter to SIDS and I spent the rest of the day crying. Suddenly I could no longer attribute the pain in my chest to lingering issues from the SVT. I admitted to myself that the feeling of having a heart attack all day every day was truly due to anxiety. I cried and my poor husband just stared at me, wanting to help, not really sure what was wrong because I hadn't confided in him, and we both were chalking everything up to being hormonal.
I know the symptoms of depression: the lack of appetite, the loss of interest, feeling hopeless, on and on. I could go down the check list of depression and check them all off. I am bonding with my baby, but sometimes I just want to have 5 minutes to check my Facebook or read my book or 5 whole hours to sleep and not feed her every 2 hours I have not experienced the joy of motherhood that I see in other people and I feel ungrateful. My baby girl is perfect. The love I feel for her is amazing, but my prayers at night have started taking on a fervent quality as I beg God to not let SIDS effect our lives. I became obsessed, asking the pediatrician about it, looking up prevention on the internet, and worrying. I check to make sure the baby is breathing all the time.
I am not supermom. I am the farthest thing from it and every day my symptoms have gotten a little worse and yet I still did not tell the pediatrician or my ob during my 2 week check up. Finally I could no longer deny what I am feeling. I told my husband in a bout of crying one day how awful I feel. I am tired of being so anxious all the time. I am tired of being depressed. I am tired of crying. And as much as I didn't want to take any medications I finally called for an appointment with my PCP because I am afraid of where I may end up if I don't get help.
It is okay to not be supermom. It is okay to admit that things are overwhelming. It is okay to admit that I am sad and tired and at a loss. It is okay to want 5 minutes for myself. It is okay to be scared.
So here I am. Waiting to hear when my appointment is. Relieved at having taken this step towards regaining my health and loving my baby and my husband. I know that at some point I will be the mom I want to be. I will settle into motherhood, the baby will settle into her life, and we will have a routine, but to think that this will all occur immediately after giving birth was putting too much pressure on myself.
So screw you Tom Cruise. Post-partum depression is real and women should not feel that they are lacking as mothers or suffer in silence if they experience it. And hopefully the more women that speak up and share their stories, the more women will ask for help without embarrassment.
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