When It’s More Than the Blues (post-partum depression)
by Tam King
I was enraged.
“Why are you so needy?” I screamed. And then I just stood, silent with tears flowing down my face. She was maybe twenty-eight days old, there was no excuse. I hadn’t slept. No excuse. She was constipated, hysterical and desperate for me to help her, to please just stop it hurting. There was no excuse. I loved her, desperately, but in that moment I hated her. But more than I hated her, I hated myself. There was no excuse.
I can honestly say, that was the only time I ever screamed at my baby like that. I called my husband at work, I told him I was sick, and he needed to come home and look after the baby. I went to bed, and I cried my heart out until he got home, and then I lied. I couldn’t tell him the truth; that would make me a failure. It would make me the worst person in the world. I had just screamed at my newborn. I told him I had a vomiting thing. That I was probably just run down from a newborn, still recovering from the most horrific birth – I just needed a few hours. He sent me to bed, and took Lucy. I feel asleep, tears on my face, hating myself, and pitying her – the innocent baby who had been landed with me as her mother.
In some ways I recognize that even then, I had post-partum depression (PPD). But aside from that one crazy moment, it didn’t manifest in anger, in shouting, or wanting to hurt Lucy. Instead, I had crippling anxiety and scary thoughts. I would lay her on a rug near the wall, and out of nowhere the thought would come into my head “I wonder what would happen if that clock fell on her.” It didn’t matter where I was, or what I was doing these thoughts would creep in. Walking down stairs “I wonder what would happen if I dropped her”, doing the laundry “I wonder what would happen if I put her in the machine…..”
But still, I didn’t seek help. I was afraid, I was scared of being called a bad mum, I was afraid that they might lock me up, that someone might take away my baby. I was terrified my husband would think I was broken – defective or faulty. I was a young mum, but I wasn’t a naive one, or an uninformed one. I had read every book about pregnancy, birth and beyond that I could get my hands on. None of them mentioned this. I didn’t display the more widely recognized symptoms – I didn’t have troubles eating, I didn’t gain or lose weight rapidly, I was sleeping fine when she would let me sleep, I was still socializing, I wasn’t crying all of the time. By all accounts I was fine. Being ‘fine’ was what left me undiagnosed, untreated and my family and friends completely unknowing.
I wish I could say this story had a happy ending, and I guess, in the non-traditional sense it did. I never did go and see my doctor. I never talked about it – with anybody. Nobody ever knew.
Instead, I spent the better part of six months being afraid of my daughter, and for my daughter. As she grew more independent I started to relax, and feel less anxious all of the time. I went back to work when she was only four months old, and that really helped me. I fixated on all of the ways things could hurt her, the ways that I could do something wrong, and hurt her less, and because I would work until late I started enjoying the time I had with her, instead of fearing it, fearing me and these crazy thoughts. As a direct consequence I don’t remember great chunks of Lucy’s first year. Her infancy was happy – I can see that in the photos, in the memories others have shared with me, but I can’t remember most of them for myself. Some days it’s as though I woke up with a baby, then woke up with a one year old.
By the time Lucy was one, the PPD had completely subsided and I was feeling like myself again. I feel guilty all of the time that I was so distant and unresponsive for Lucy’s first year. In that crucial year of growth and development I really failed her. We talk about Mummy-Fail moments a lot but this was without a doubt my biggest fail. It remains one of my biggest regrets.
When I was pregnant with Ariana, I finally told Matt about my PPD with Lucy. We never really discussed it, beyond for him to acknowledge that he understood what I was telling him and then that was the end of the conversation. I was grateful for that – I was scared I would hit that level of emotional disconnect once Ariana was born, and he acknowledged what I was telling him, and then he let it drop. Truly then, I wasn’t ready to discuss it in detail, I just wanted him to know about it, to be aware. He was the first person I ever told.
Back then, the idea of writing this blog post would have given me nightmares. But since then I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that this internet community really isn’t as vast and scary as people tend to make it out to be. I’ve learned that despite the few crazies out there, the people who will take you in your worst hour and crush you ignoring all the good there has been, there are mostly good, amazing people out there. I’ve learned that despite the ‘mommy-wars’ (which I am beginning to believe may not actually exist in the capacity generally accepted – but that’s another post) most people will look at something like this post, where someone details the times they weren’t that perfect and sigh with relief because guess what – they aren’t that perfect either.
PPD was my first experience with depression. I had never suffered from depression, nobody I knew had ever suffered from depression. I didn’t know how it could manifest. I didn’t know that anxiety makes up a part of it. There was so much I read, but it just didn’t tell me enough. It didn’t seem to fit.
So, if this post makes you feel like you too weren’t that perfect, that’s ok. Then I feel as though it was worth writing. If the idea of missing out on a big chunk of your baby’s life scares you, and you recognize yourself in some of my words and you go to the doctor and seek help, then that also makes me feel like it was worth it to put myself out there, and write it.
Nobody likes to feel like a bad parent. And nobody likes to feel like they are alone.
About the Author: Tam King is a 26-year-old Mum to three, parent to two. She is a blogger, she works part-time, studies part-time, parents her two children full-time and lives with the loss of her second child, her daughter Ariana at 4 days old all of the time. She uses blogging as an outlet and to keep her sanity and preserve her marriage. She writes about her life, her loss and her grief and the varying dimensions they take on at any given time. You can read more of Tam at her blog, Nearly… Not Quite or follow her on Facebook at Nearly… Not Quite
Also by Tam King ~ Nearly, Not Quite (newborn death)
If you believe you are suffering from postpartum depression, please visit Postpartum International.
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