Gabe had a “LET’S READ EVERYTHING” day yesterday. And I couldn’t say no.
Now, I don’t know if it’s because he’s my tiniest little baby, or the fact that he’s a boy that plays a part in this, but I have a hard time saying “no”. A lot. I do it, because as a responsible parent, it’s what needs to happen in certain situations, but sometimes it’s hard. I can’t even explain it.
What I fail to explain even more is just how much I never thought I’d be at this point of loving someone.
What I’m blogging about today is post-partum depression (PPD). And while I realize this isn’t a subject everyone wants to read about, or think about, or will experience, it’s also something not commonly known. Honestly, when I was first pregnant with Riah, it was something that was easily brushed over and spoken about just briefly in passing. “Ohai, after you haz bebe, you may feel sad or moody, and that’s just hormones and/or baby blues. Don’t worry about it unless you want to hurt your kid.” That was it, more or less. And, man, I was so beyond blind-sighted.
See, I was 18 when I had Riah. I had no idea what I was in for. No clue whatsoever. I was a kid, with so much growing up to do. And then I had a kid, and my biggest fear was they were letting me take her home where I could potentially do something wrong and it would kill her.
I held her. I bragged about her. I posted stats about her online, so everyone could read them. I handled visitors. I attempted breastfeeding, and failed. God, I wanted to love this itty bitty little 8lb 1oz bundle of tiny human. So much that I refused to listen to the little voice in my head that kept repeating “She’s not yours.” I ignored the feelings of detachment and waited for the maternal part of me to kick in. I desperately wanted the attachment with her, and it never came.
Shortly after she was born, my (then) husband, Riah, and I moved to Arkansas, almost 5 hours away from our immediate families. I still had no idea what I was doing, and along with being a new mom, I had to adjust to being a wife and homemaker. And it wasn’t an easy transition. I trekked through, I learned everyday, but…God, that feeling never came. I went many, MANY nights without sleep, waiting and dreading when she’d wake up to eat. I went through the routines more like a robot than anything else. And the voice got louder. “She’s not yours.”
I so desperately wanted to love her. I wanted to be the parent that was so overcome with emotion that I broke down everytime I looked at her. I wanted that. I felt like it was within my grasp, but no amount of reaching would put it in my hand.
As Riah got older, things got harder. My marriage wasn’t awesome, and of course everything takes hard work, but this wasn’t something that seemed to be getting fixed regardless of what I did. I was no saint, I’ll fully admit to that. I’ll 100% take the blame where needed in the failing of it all, but I will not say that it was all my fault. That’s an entirely different story, though. I tried to keep my head together, hellbent on being that mom. You know the one I’m talking about. And the more I tried, the more it seemed like I failed. I tried opening up to family about it, and the things I heard..nothing was supportive. Nothing was explained. Everything was “you picked this bed, now lie in it.” Things that ranged from “That’s life, it’s hard work, you just have to suck it up,” to “you stay at home all day, you don’t do anything, quit whining about it, you have nothing to be upset about.” No one understood. No one really heard me.
I remember one night in a sleepless stupor, I ended up asking a friend that I had made via an online forum for pregnancy and parenting if they had ever looked at their child, just a few months older than mine, and asked themselves when it’s real parents were coming back to pick it up. She told me never, that everytime she looks at her kiddo her heart hurts with how much love she has. Dear God, I craved that feeling.
There was a turning point in all of this, I can assure you. It wasn’t my finest moment, to say the least, but a moment that needed to happen. Riah was somewhere in the 5-8 month range, I want to say closer to 5. My (then) husband was at work. I was at home doing something, I’m not sure what. Riah was fussy. She was going through one of those “LET ME BE ATTACHED AT YOUR HIP” phases, and everytime I tried to put her down things would go haywire. My nerves were shot, my brain wasn’t functioning (or so it felt that way), and I was tired. Tired of waiting for a feeling that never came, tired of faking my way through each and every day, just…tired. And quicker than you could blink, I put her down. I put her in her pack ‘n’ play, where I knew she was safe, and I walked away. That was the only logical, smart thought that entered my mind louder than “maybe if you shake her, just a little, it will calm her down.”
No. Not my finest moment. Not something I’m proud of. The moment is…just a big no all around. It’s not something I like to admit, it’s not something I like to speak about, but it happened all the same. But what DIDN’T happen is I had enough sense to put her down and walk away. I did that. That was my first maternal instinct that was clear as a bell in my head. Just put her the fuck down. Now. And I did, thank God.
I walked away. I got my space. I had a cigarette. I washed my hands. I cleaned myself up, because I was in hysterics thinking about what a failure I was at everything. When I walked back up to her, she was calm and simply cooing up at me. It’s true what they say, the baby can pick up on your feelings. Once I calmed, she did, and things were better. Much better. Something changed in me after that. I knew that maybe the whole maternal thing would never come to be, but dammit I was going to do whatever it took to be the best to her that I could be. And I pushed for it. I tried each day, and it was tough. A lot of days, I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I did, because she deserved better. And then, when Riah was around 9 months old or so, something lifted. Something changed.
Yup. I got pregnant with the Dot. And, for some reason, it changed a whole bunch in me. I was on it when it came to the whole June Cleaver thing. I was a forced to be reckoned with. I was unstoppable. I even talked to my OB about my previous bout after having Riah, and she confirmed it was, in fact, PPD. She offered medicinal treatment, but I told her I’d rather go a more natural route, opting more for getting out of the house and exercising and whatnot. And, while that was great in theory, my getting out of the house moments were few and far between, and the same with exercising. It was almost impossible, but luckily I was better during the pregnancy..with the exception of the tail end of it, when a lot (LOT LOT LOT) of drama and chaos unexpectedly hit me and rocked my world completely.
After Dot was born, I almost died. That’s the truth of it. I don’t know why there were complications, but there was uncontrolled bleeding. I don’t remember much of it all, but I remember the first horrific thing that came to mind after seeing her for the first time.
“She’s not my kid.”
The thought terrified me so much, that I even voiced it to my OB, to the nurses, to everyone who would listen. Their response was always the same. “It’s just the drugs. You’ll be fine, don’t worry.” And it was always coupled with a reassuring smile and a leg pat or shoulder pat. I even insisted that they mistook my kid for someone else’s. Nope. And I know that was wrong, because they had her by my side pretty much 100% of the time. She could even sleep with me in the bed sometimes, after nursing (which we made it to almost 6 months for, surprisingly). She was rarely gone. But..it still all felt off.
I’m able to say that my PPD wasn’t near as bad this time around. I still had to deal with depression, but not to the caliber of after I had Riah. And, luckily for me, I have that relationship with Riah and Dot both, the one I wished and prayed and hoped for. They know their mommy loves them more than all the stars in the sky, and that she would do anything for them. Absolutely anything.
So when I found out Kyle and I were expecting Gabe, you can imagine my fears came rushing back to me after everything else that had happened. Except, this was different. Before I had Gabe, I sat down with Kyle and talked to him about everything. EVERYTHING. From my complications after having Dot to how bad my PPD had gotten, but unlike everyone else that brushed it off, he listened. He went out of his way to make sure I was happy, stress free, and it made a world of difference.
After he was born, I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited more.
And the darkness never came. I knew this kid was mine. I felt it in my heart. I knew who he was and what I needed to do. And while you may argue that I should know it by now, words cannot even explain the amount of relief I felt knowing that my demons weren’t just creeping around, waiting for their time at me. It was like a huge weight was lifted, one I didn’t know I was carrying.
I can talk about all of this openly now, because I’m not scared anymore. That sounds so ridiculous, atleast to me, but to be able to say I’m not afraid? That’s huge. It’s a dark place I DON’T want to be back in, my lowest of lows, and I know that whatever depression will throw at me, I will NEVER reach the low I was at just 6 years ago.
But then, the thing is, so many women aren’t getting help for PPD because they’re scared. All of this stuff is pretty much a whisper, and rarely talked about, and I get why. They think of PPD, they automatically think of abusers and rapists and people like Andrea Yates, but THAT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE CASE. Find help, in whatever way you can, whether it be going to the doctor or finding something you can do on your own that works. You don’t have to be stuck in the darkness. And if you are, you’re not as alone as you may think.
None of us are perfect. And this doesn’t define you. Your actions do, though. So do the right things for you and your kid(s). Help yourself.