Our seventh child, Sweet Pea, was born just after midnight on April 25th. She weighed 8lbs 2 oz and was 20.5 inches long. I suppose 8 lbs is average, but after Ducky, who weighed 10 lbs 6 oz at birth, she seems tiny. She has a full head of dark red hair that is very similar to what Strawberry had at birth.
While we are all excited to welcome a new baby into our family, this is also a time of adjustment and can be hard for me. I am one of around 15% of women who experience some form of Post-Partum Mood Disorder. I'm not sure that statistic is accurate. I suspect that many more women suffer from PPMD and just don't talk about it. Mood disorders tend to leave you thinking that everyone else is just dealing better than you are and you don't want to be a whiner. You also worry that people will know how bad things really are and have you locked away. It’s better to just not talk about it.
I have had some degree of Post-Partum Depression after each of my children, sometimes it was very slight, sometimes it was awful. I'm not sure what my journey will be like recovering from Sweet Pea's birth, but I've decided to share it with you. I usually am picky when I write a blog entry. I write and rewrite, then I pass it to a friend who proofreads it. I know that if I submitted my struggle with depression to such a process, I would never post it, so I am not going to rewrite or have anyone proofread. I'm just going to write what is on my mind, every couple days. I apologize in advance for the errors and my verbose nature.
When depression is grappling in my brain, I am not the mom I want to be, or even the mom I usually am. I hate it. I hate the anger, weakness and stress. I hate that some of you won’t understand. However, I know there are other mamas out there suffering in silence and I want them to know they are not alone. It’s time to shed some light on this disease that festers in the darkness.
Yesterday was rough. Breastfeeding a newborn is not easy. Sweet Pea is quite tiny for my babies and her tiny mouth has caused some damage. One side is mostly healed and the other side is getting better, but nursing on that side is like piercing my breast with white hot needles. This is not the stuff peaceful sleep is made of, but at 12 days old, Sweet Pea needs to nurse quite often through the night. This won’t go on forever. It’s just going to feel like forever.
When Hubby woke me up at 9 am and I saw he was dressed for work, I nearly cried. I told Hubby I couldn’t do it. Even as I was saying this I felt bad. I saw the slight look of panic that he tried to hide from me. I know he doesn’t want to leave me any more than I want him to leave. He was attending a ceremony to receive an award. He has worked hard for this award and he deserves it and he deserves to be at the ceremony to receive it. I hate myself for making him feel bad for going to work. Why can’t I have some self-control? I’m a terrible wife. I should have laid out nice clothes for everyone the night before and had us all up and dressed to go to the awards ceremony with him. Instead I’m hiding at home.
I swap my breastmilk-soaked night shirt for an oversized tie dyed T-shirt, keep on the pajama pants I wore all night long, scoop up the baby and head down the stairs. Nobody has started coffee. Nobody has changed Ducky’s diaper. There is only an empty pot where oatmeal should be. I scrap the oatmeal idea. There’s just enough yogurt for the big kids to have that and cereal for breakfast, but none for Ducky, who is allergic to dairy. She will have to eat a hard-boiled egg. I hope they are still good. Why can’t I be better prepared? I should have had Hubby buy some groceries the day before so we would be ready. I don’t even have a grocery list started. How much effort does it take to jot down a few things? We are almost out of so many important things and the floor is scuzzy dirty and there are dishes in the sink stinking the place up.
I know I’m spiraling. I take a deep breath. I’ve been yelling at the kids to shut up, sit down and wait while I figure breakfast out. Now I remind them that until I eat I am going to feel cruddy. They know how to serve cereal and yogurt, so they need to get it taken care of. I get coffee started and then I realize that someone, probably Cookie Monster, has made me an omelet. It’s been sitting in the toaster oven to keep warm for at least 30 minutes, but he forgot to turn the toaster oven on. I don’t want cold eggs, but I know I should thank him for taking care of me. He has made my breakfast every morning since Sweet Pea was born. I truly feel a little crazy right now. Coffee is ready. I fix a cup sweet and creamy and take it to the table with my nuked omelet and 13 days of old newspapers. I know it is crazy. I should just recycle the old newspaper. However, I also know that flipping through the newspaper will make me feel like I accomplished something. I will also hand the sections I have read to the kids and they will happily read and discuss the articles. That will buy me 20 more minutes to eat my breakfast and we will call that Studying Current Events.
Just as I scoop my first bite of food, Sweet Pea starts fussing. She’s hungry and it’s time to nurse on that sore side again. I breathe deep and let her fuss for a few moments while I drink some coffee and eat a few more bites. This is self-care and it’s sensible, but it goes against every grain of my being at the moment. Everything is screaming, FEED THE BABY! I take another deep breath and try to relax. I get her latched on and the pain shoots into my back. I try to relax. Then Ducky comes up and touches Sweet Pea’s feet and I roar at her, “Don’t touch the baby! She’s nursing! Leave her alone! Leave me alone! Why can’t you just leave me alone!” She runs away crying and the tears pouring down her sweet fat cheeks kill me.
I hate myself. It’s not just that I hurt Ducky’s feelings and scared her. I don’t want her to think that when I am nursing Sweet Pea I am rejecting her. She’s handling this new sister so well. She loves Sweet Pea. I send Polar Bear to go save her. I’m aware that my children are watching. A lot of them roar when they are hurt. They roar at whoever tries to comfort them. I hate that I have taught them that. A good mother would be soft and kind. A good mother would say, “Ducky, please leave the baby alone when she is nursing. She needs to eat.” Then that good mom would ask Polar Bear to please change Ducky and help her get breakfast. In that moment, I cannot remember that I know this is what a good mom would do because it is usually what I would do. I only know that I am a bad mom.
As my milk lets down, the pain subsides and I start to feel a little more sane. I finish my omelet and ask Cookie Monster to toast some Ezekiel bread for me. Clearly at least part of my issue this morning is low blood sugar. Some complex carbs will increase my blood sugar gradually and I should feel a lot better. I finish my second cup of coffee and my eyes are actually open. I pour myself a glass of water and drink nearly all of it while taking my prenatal vitamins, some Tylenol and all of my supplements.
After all that and a quick trip to the bathroom (Strawberry held Sweet Pea for me) I am able to see things in a different light. My children are all sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. Ducky apologized for scaring Sweet Pea and I hugged her and told her I was sorry for yelling at her. I kissed her sweet fat cheeks and told her she is my most favorite Ducky and asked her to forgive me. She gave me a sticky hug and ran to sit in Polar Bear’s lap and “read” the comics.
In the end, the day was kinda awful in the morning, better for an hour or two, then awful again until nap time and then hubby got home. We ate dinner late and the family got to bible study very late. I stayed home and nursed Sweet Pea, ate ice cream cake, and watched a cheesy Hallmark movie. A friend came over after care group and held the baby for a few minutes between nursing sessions while I cleaned up my living room for book club to come over the next day. The kids got the house fairly tidy before they went to bed. My friend stayed for a couple hours and chatted with me while I nursed Sweet Pea. That was good. I needed the adult interaction.
It was a hard day, but not the worst day. I need to put some crutches in place to help myself, now that Hubby is back to work. Lara Bars in my bedside drawer and a second full glass of water and my bible on my bedside table. Program the coffee maker so that I wake up to coffee ready to go. Tomorrow I will try again.