My Postpartum Depression Didn't Look Like What I Expected
I didn’t want to kill my baby.
That’s what they all said to watch for. When my doctor came into the hospital room to check on me, she said, “She’s perfect,” about my new baby girl and, “She seems to be latching well,” about our breastfeeding and, “No intercourse for six weeks,” as she went over the recovery process.
And then, “Don’t be surprised if you feel emotional and weepy throughout the next couple of weeks as your hormones shift all over the place. But if it extends beyond that or you begin to have feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your baby, then you call us.”
All the labor and delivery classes, every single postpartum pamphlet, the questionnaire I had to fill out at the pediatrician’s office –– they all said the same thing: “If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important to seek help.”
But I’m sitting in a rocking chair clinging to my newborn baby girl. I rock back and forth, and the room seems to be closing in on me, like the already dim lights are growing dimmer. Like I am featherweight, but also heavy, and I will either be sucked into this black hole that seems to be growing larger by the minute or else I will be flattened to the ground by the unbearable weight of dread that is sitting atop my chest.
I hold Claire tighter. She is sound asleep, and yet I don’t want to put her in her crib because I fear she is the only thing anchoring me to any sense of reality. I don’t want to kill my baby, no. Instead, I feel like everything is trying to kill us. Like the man who walked a bit too slow past our house this morning was up to no good. Like the pain I feel in my right calf is a blood clot that is slowly traveling to my heart. Like I will walk down the steps and we will both go tumbling down. Like I will dry a knife in the kitchen and the blade will somehow slice her open. Like this pain in my chest is a heart attack that will leave my sweet daughter without a mother to show her how to grow big and strong.
Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
Looking back, I can see it all started when I honked the horn. I was on my way over to my parents' house so my mom could watch Claire while I went to get a haircut. Driving with an almost-3-month-old baby was still new enough to me that I would check the rearview mirror multiple times while driving just to make sure she was blinking and breathing.
As I was driving, I noticed a white workers' van roll through a stop sign to my left. I was on the opposite side of the street, so they weren’t going to hit me. But it made me nervous, so I lightly tapped my horn. Two men in the front of the vehicle threw their hands up at me; the passenger leaned out the window and made wild gestures. I kept driving, but my heart was pounding and my hands had begun to shake. I thought, “What is wrong with me? Why do I get so upset?”
I approached a red light and looked in my mirror to find a white van heading my direction. It wasn't close enough for me to see the driver, but I kept my eye on it. It was advancing quickly, almost like they were trying to catch up to me.