Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Transparent Moment--Postpartum Depression

When you're pregnant your Doctor may speak of Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. Baby Blues affect 70% of women following birth. Most women will admit to being weepy after having baby, or being emotional. Postpartum depression affects 10% of women after birth. Strangely, you don't hear much from those 10 percent. Oh sure, you hear it referenced when you're pregnant, usually by your doctor, or there have been some celebrities that have shed some light on it, but more often than not it gets dismissed as it will never happen to me. 
Exactly my words; it will never happen to me. I had always wanted to be a mommy. When I was 10 I got my first babysitting job. I then spent the next 14 years in childcare in some fashion; babysitter, daycare, nanny. I was pretty darn good; I usually had a waiting list for Friday nights, and had families offer to pay more just to ensure I would remain theirs. I knew how to hold, clothe, bathe, rock, burp, sing to, and cuddle babies. I had been on trips with families as a nanny and I had stayed days at a time with families as a nanny. Calm a screaming baby? You got it. Change the nastiest of all nasties? Done. So, you can see why I thought I would I would be a natural pro at motherhood and handle it with ease and grace.

I was not prepared for the sledge hammer that hit me over the head after my first son was born.

I understand why not very many people talk about it.  No one wants to admit wanting nothing to do with their brand new baby. No one wants to admit they were filled with regret. No one wants to admit spending days crying, laying on a bed in complete exhaustion wondering if they made a mistake. Having a brand new baby at home is supposed to be incredible. You're supposed to be filling out birth announcements, swooning over your baby, and taking picture after picture (I think I took 2 pictures in the first 5 weeks.)

Leading up to and immediately following the birth of our son we were in the middle of chaos. As is my style, I had taken on too much. My husband was remodeling our house so we were living with my parents and brother; 5 adults, 4 dogs, and a brand new baby all in their house (not having a place to nest was hard but figuring out nursing with my step dad and brother over my shoulder was harder). My sister-in-law was getting married 4 days later and I was devastated that I couldn't appropriately be a part of her wedding (We missed the rehearsal because we were back at the pediatrician's office getting our son's infection looked at. I wasn't able to help with any of the setup or other matron of honory things. I was so exhausted after the ceremony that I had to duck out of the reception early.). Christmas was a week after his birth.  I didn't have a network of mommy friends; I knew very few moms my age and wasn't very close with the ones I did know. And, I went from having a lot of attention when I was pregnant to feeling very alone, very isolated afterwords.
(A very rare sight...8 days old)
In addition to all the events that were going on, I was afraid to ask for help. I thought I should be able to handle it all myself; I thought I should be able to cook, clean, take care of our son, be a great wife, and nurse every 2 hours for an hour (yes, that is really how long it would take him and if I didn't oblige, he would be screaming 20 minutes later), be a great sister in law, and hand make all our Christmas gifts. Boy was I wrong. I was frustrated that I wasn't doing it all. My mom was cooking the meals and cleaning while we lived there, I was hardly taking care of our son, I was trying my hardest to please everyone, and I felt like I was failing...miserably.

The tears flowed about as often as my milk. I felt like I was being weighed down by a boulder; like I was being crushed. I longed for a connection with our son and was upset with myself that I didn't feel one. And to top it all off, our son didn't sleep. I would always get angry (read: extremely pissed) when someone would say sleep when your baby sleeps. Well, that's great for someone that easily takes naps and has a baby that sleeps for more than 30 minutes at a time. You could literally set the timer for 30 minutes and my son would be up. Nothing, no amount of nannying or childcare, could have prepared me for that level of exhaustion. (God blessed us when we had our second, a sleeper, that slept for 20 hours a day.)
(That's more like it)
Luckily, my depression only lasted for about 6 weeks. The. Longest. Six. Weeks. Of. My. Life. However, for some moms this lasts months. Luckily, I never wanted to hurt my child. Some moms with severe postpartum depression do. I thought what I was experiencing was just the baby blues; I didn't realize how depressed I was though until I got out of it.

I don't know what happened but one day I just woke up and felt better. Was he sleeping better? No. Was I sleeping better? Not really. Could it have been that we were finally settled in to our own place? Maybe. Could it have been that the chaos had subsided? Maybe. Whatever it was, the cloud lifted. I immediately felt the connection with my son that I so longed for...like he and I were meant to be. Did I cry still? Sure. I still do. But for entirely different reasons. And that's okay. I'm a mom. 

And for the record, I may have known how to take care of a baby based off of all my experience nannying and I may have felt like I loved those kids I nannied for like they were my own, but nothing prepared me for the love of being a parent (after the postpartum depression lifted).
I will be doing a follow-up to this post with tips and tricks to hopefully ward off postpartum depression. Transparent moments are hard to write, it's difficult wearing my heart on my sleeve, having it be laid out there for better or worse. But hopefully you're getting something out of them. 

© Transparencies of Motherhood 2010


  1. Greta, I too suffered from PP and I know exactly what you went through. Reading your blog was a reminder of my first few months with Aberly. She was a poor napper/sleeper and very fussy. I often wished we hadn't had her and I wanted my old life back. I had no energy to do ANYTHING and it felt like a burden to cook/clean/care for my household.

    I luckily, wear my heart on my sleeve and constantly called my mom and a friend (who had a similar baby to Aberly before me) for advice and to vent. Their support got me through, along with a wonderful husband.

  2. hey greta! i need to go back and read this post you just put up tonight! but, i wanted to tell you that my friend from high school linked on her blog to your post about gender envy. i was so excited when i saw it! maybe you already have? if not, here it is: http://cragun.blogspot.com/2010/09/couldnt-have-said-it-better-myself.html

  3. hey greta. i loved reading this post. really loved reading your honesty. i know there are a lot of people who have felt the same way that will really appreciate reading about it from you.:)

  4. I am so sad that I didn't know about your postpardum blues :( Because you were at your parents and you and your mom are so close I just felt in the way. I should have done more - forgive me sweetie! You can tell that Kadyn is no worse for wear because of it ;) Love you very much, MomC

  5. Your story has a lot of similarities to mine. I went through PPD with my first, who was also born just before Christmas (December 14). We live 500 miles away from all our family, and I was the first of my local friends to have a baby, so that meant I was alone in the house M-F with no social interaction.

    I actually just wrote a little bit about my story here: http://www.bellebeanchicagodog.com/2010/09/decision-to-have-another-baby.html

  6. @Price Family--I'm sorry to hear you went through the same thing. Check out the post I put up today to help gear up if/when you decide to have baby #2.

    @Carly--thank you for passing my blog on to so many people. I really appreciate it.

    @Mom and Dad Cheney--NO APOLOGIES ;) That's the subtitle of the blog. hehe. No one really knew except me...that's why I'm sharing it now to hopefully encourage others. AND you had SO many other things going on at that time...you're only 1 woman, an incredible woman, and you were where you needed to be.

    @Liz--Thanks for stopping by my blog :) My son was born Dec 17. I just read your post...your story is truly amazing.

  7. After I had Henry the doc asked me at my 6-week if I was feeling well emotionally. I told her I was. She told me to call if that changed and that there were medicines I could take if I felt depressed. It was very casual and very kind. It hit me then that I'd wished someone had asked me that after I'd had the twins. I won't ever know what was going on with me then, but I've come to suspect it was some depression. Whether it was postpartum depression or the run-of-the-mill kind I deal with now, I'll never know.

    I'm glad you came out of your experience with the bravery to share your story.

    Big hugs,


  8. Thanks for sharing Greta...YOU were the one who noticed when I wasn't doing well and it made me realize it. Thank you for being open and sharing. This made me cry to think back to that terrible time. But mine lasted for months and it can go on for a long time. It's good to get this our there so other mommies know to get help. You rock Greta, Love you.

  9. Wow. Greta, thanks for sharing your story. It's so important for moms going through PPD to know that they aren't alone. That's one of the toughest things about being a new mom, I think. Unless you have close mommy friends you can feel so ALONE. And then even if you crave social interaction and someone wants to come over it can be more of a burden than a blessing. Sigh. They are wonderful gifts, but the labor doesn't end when they are born!