Monday, May 02, 2011

The PPD Discussion.

Disclaimer: This is a post about feelings. Read on at your own risk!

I've mentioned twice on this blog that, like many mothers, I experienced postpartum depression after Max was born. What I didn't mention was how severe the depression was or for how long it went on. For me, postpartum depression wasn't only a problem, but something I carried around with an enormous amount of guilt. I've always been a happy person, so experiencing postpartum depression was something I had no idea how to handle. Not that I've never been sad. Like everyone else, I've had a lot of hurtful experiences in my life that were followed by insecurities and mourning periods, but in general, I've been able to come out of those situations smiling and ready to tackle my next challenge. So, when I felt a little blue during bed rest and then a little more blue after Max was born, I figured I'd shake it off soon and move on with my life. I mean, how could I not? He was perfect.

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Postpartum depression is different for everyone but for me it went like this:
I was overjoyed when Max was born, so much that I remember telling Andrew that I didn't even know it was possible to be so happy. Which was how I felt most of the time. When I didn't feel that way, though, I felt completely out of control. I never cried and no one around me knew anything was wrong because I was so on top of things that I was walking around the hospital six hours (!!!) after having an emergency c-section. But starting in the hospital, I never slept, opting instead to watch Maxwell to make sure he was breathing. A couple weeks later, I went to Missouri so I could have help while recovering but I still refused to sleep, even if Max was with my mom or my sister. So much so that one night, when my sister had taken a late night shift with him and I couldn't hear them through the bathroom, I went into her room and found them snuggled up on her bed together sleeping. On seeing this, most new mothers would feel misty-eyed at seeing their sister be an aunt and witnessing love in the room. I'm not sure if Anna even remembers this because it was so early, but I reacted differently. I freaked out, yelled at her for falling asleep on the job (it was like 3 am!), and carried him into the other room where I held him and refused to go back to sleep. That night, I knew I had a serious problem and starting the following day, I worked a lot harder to overcome my fears of SIDS and other horrible scenarios I'd read about on the internet. And in general, it worked! I started sleeping more, laughed when Max rolled off our bed while we were on vacation (after checking on him, of course), and had good alone time with Andrew while we went on vacation where Max had all kinds of doting relatives watching him.

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Then, when Max was almost two months old and still co-sleeping with us, I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night to find him purple and breathless. Like any mother would, I started screaming, grabbed him, and tried to make him start breathing. By the time Andrew responded to my screams (which was the fastest I've ever seen him move!), Max began breathing, albeit shallowly and unevenly. We loaded up the car, I sat in the back with our baby, and off we went to the emergency room. While there and while at the doctor's appointment the next morning, we were told that Max was extremely healthy, but that one of the main theories surrounding SIDS was that babies fall so deep asleep that their breathing shuts down. Meaning that, if I hadn't woken up and found Max when I did... well, you can do the math. But I found him! And we went home armed with phone numbers and a baby breathing monitor.

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I should have been grateful that I had woken up and found Maxwell, but instead I was angry. I was so angry that it scared me and when I should have been sleeping through the night (he was on an extremely loud monitor!), I'd stay awake so I could watch the lights on his monitor blink. I was so terrified of losing Max that it consumed me. I initiated large-scale arguments with my husband. I stopped going to class. I didn't want people to look at me. I ate horribly. I stopped caring about anything besides Andrew and Max. I became extremely judgmental. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid of other people. I wouldn't leave the apartment without Andrew, not even to check the mail or go on a walk. I refused to go to therapy. I was beyond tired and beyond exhaustion. I felt lifeless. Then, in late November, Andrew sat me down and gave me a serious talking-to. I finished the semester, I felt one hundred times better, and stopped checking on Max fifteen times a night. By Christmas, I could sleep for two (sometimes three) hours in a row without checking on Maxwell.

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In January, I still felt better. I started to pick my old hobbies up. I drove our car. I didn't forget Max in stores like I was afraid I would. We moved into our living room so Maxwell would have his own space. February was rough, but by late March, I would only check on Max twice during a nap instead of every ten minutes. I somehow graduated college, even though I almost dropped out countless times. Last night, I didn't check on Max at all. I just slept. I still have days where I feel bad about myself, where I worry about ridiculous things or have moments where I feel extremely lonely or angry but in general, I'm the same person I was this time last year (finally!).

I tell this story for two reasons.
(The main) One, because I wanted to write it for myself.
And two, because nobody's life is perfect and because no one's life is defined by a single occurrence or experience. Sure, I had a rather difficult pregnancy and labor, followed up by at least nine months of varying degrees of postpartum depression. But guess what? I also married the man of my dreams (yes, Mr. C., I wrote that just for you) after knowing him for five months, I didn't have wavy hair until after I went through puberty, I read extremely fast, I planned on being a professional photographer long before it became a fad, I tell really stupid jokes, the past few weeks of school I gained a lot of stress weight, I love my family fiercely, I hate changing poopy diapers, and even though I can be extremely outgoing, sometimes I feel like being shy. Everyone comes with a history and because of that, everyone has more to them than meets the eye. As for me, I'd rather have reality over fantasy any day and my reality is this:

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I am happy again.
And Max's reality?

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He is scared of his sock monkey and harmonicas. But y'know- ya win some and ya lose some.