I had the perfect birth, a home birth surrounded by my husband, midwife, doulas and friend. My 3-year-old son joined us in the birthing tub soon after his baby brother emerged. My baby nursed well at first, and the four of us — our new little family — fell asleep together in my bed.
A few weeks later, baby and I were struggling to nurse well. Wincing at the thought of him latching on to my sore, raw breast induced tears. Nursing issues plus the fact that I was at risk for postpartum mood disorders equaled a cocktail I really, really didn't want to drink.
I took a shower and the hot tears flowed. I don't remember everything about that time, what with being in my postpartum, mommy-brain stupor, but I do remember this:
I never, ever wanted to get out of the shower.
I couldn't understand what was happening to me, yet at the same time of course I could. I had the symptoms of postpartum depression — I was physically and emotionally exhausted and thought I wasn't being a good mom. I was a doula who helped moms and babies get breastfeeding off to a great start but had issues nursing my own baby, my mother-in-law was dying and I was too tired and depressed to give my toddler the attention he needed.
I gained what tiny bit of composure I had and got out of the shower just in time for the baby to want to eat. Again. I knew I would be strong and stop the tears, though, because that's what mamas do, right?
I sat down to nurse my baby and my toddler came out to play. I couldn’t hold back the tears though I tried, and let's face it, even 3-year-olds are way smarter than parents give them credit for.
"Why you crying, Mama?" he asked.
"I'm OK," I lied, er, said.
"Mamas don’t cry," he said.
Oh, but we do, I said. I vaguely remember saying everyone cries. Sometimes we cry when we're sad, other times because we’re happy. I reassured him I was OK.
I went to the doctor and we developed a plan to curb my postpartum depression. I met with a lactation consultant, and with a lot of time and effort I was able to nurse my baby happily. Without tears.
Bottom line? It’s OK to show emotion in front of older kids. It's crucial to seek help if you even just think you may have a postpartum mood disorder.
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