It was six weeks after Annika was born, on a Friday, that it hit me. Annika was having another one of her “colic” fits of uncontrollable crying. Her crying lasted about 45 minutes. My uncontrollable crying lasted 3 hours.It sounds stupid to say that I didn’t know I had postpartum depression, but I didn’t. I thought, it’s just sleep deprivation from never getting more than 2 hours at a time all night long. It’s social isolation from never going anywhere since Annika would scream in her car seat. It’s just sadness from having a kid who is obviously hurting, and there is nothing I can do about it. “Don’t worry”, everyone said. “It’s just colic, she’ll grow out of it”. Three and a half months later we finally got a diagnosis of silent reflux. In the meantime, we suffered and she suffered, while we heard every piece of parenting “advice” from well meaning friends and strangers with babies obviously “easier” than our own.
Somehow I didn’t put the pieces together until I saw one of those little mini quizzes on babycenter.com. “You might have postpartum depression if…” I answered “yes” to every single one of the questions.
And then I got scared.
What if I can’t provide for my daughter? What if I hurt her? (I ask myself, as I cling to her, wearing her and soothing her and nursing her and caressing her all day long and all night).
“Babies with mothers who have PPD are more at risk for _______” they say. Oh dear Lord, another thing I need to worry about now.
Thank God for my midwife. Jason begged me to bring it up at my 2 month visit with her. And thank God for the passage of time. Once we learned it was reflux and treated it, Annika slept better and cried remarkably less. Then she learned to sit up. We moved to a place where it is sunny, and I finished my stressful board exams. It feels like ages ago since I sat there in our tiny one-bedroom apartment sobbing for hours.
It was a horrible experience, but now, on the other side of things I am glad I went through it. My heart for postpartum Moms has swelled. I understand what it is like to have a sick kid, and how awful and scary and out of control it feels.
I know what to look for in colicky babies and when to not call it “colic!” And I definitely know how to identify and treat Moms with PPD.
Still, all these feelings rose to the surface this year on Annika’s one-year birthday. I thought I would be able to relive my amazing, picture-perfect birth experience on that day. Instead I mourned the first 3 months of her life–having a great birth does not equal having a great postpartum experience, I learned.
So now I am filled with wishes.
I wish I could get those three and half months back. I wish I could get a re-do.
I wish someone had told me it’s not my fault. I wish my medical brain could have bubbled up through the dull baby brain and reminded me of the hormonal hell that happens in postpartum.
That my baby has been sucking vital nutrients and fatty acids for nine months, and continued to do so as long as I nurse her, further contributing to the problem.
That the progesterone in my pregnancy acted like valium to my brain, making me feel like drug-addict going through withdrawals.
I wish someone had told me to stop feeling guilty. That it wasn’t due to any “wrong” choice in pregnancy or pre-pregnancy. That it wasn’t because I’m not strong enough or healthy enough or smart enough or wealthy enough.
That it wasn’t because my body “failed” me.
I wish someone had told me that it is not shameful to get help. I wish that one of my naturopathic friends had told me that there is nothing wrong with using a pill when you really need one–and that it doesn’t make me a worse person, patient or doctor.
I wish I had gotten a good counselor, or found a Mom who had PPD herself. But then, I wish I could’ve had the energy to even try to find that. I wish I had taken my sister’s advice and gone to a new Mom support group earlier-no one cared that my baby was colicky.
I wish I had asked for advice rather than waiting for people to volunteer. Still, I wish people had forcefully come to my house and given me food and held my crying baby so I could take a shower.
I wish someone had told me I’m still a good Mom. Actually, I think my own Mom did tell me that. I wish I had been able to really hear it though.
I wish another Mom with PPD could learn from my wishes. I wish a community of Moms would start to learn how to support one another, and for the love stop making other Moms feel guilty for every stupid thing.
I wish and hope that the next one is easier. Please God, please.