I felt I was losing my identity. I was a bad mother. That was the name of my postpartum depression: Bad Mother.
I remember my second pregnancy very well—it was very stressful. I was afraid I would lose it, like the first one. To drown out the fear and to not have time to think, I eagerly took a job offer. Despite that, once every six weeks or so, with a knot in my stomach, I showed up in my doctor’s office to find out if my child was alive. She knew my history, so she welcomed me with warmth and sensitivity. During those nine months, I designed my motherhood. I only read positive stories about birth, nursing, caring for and spending time with a child. I was prepared for the best. But I was not at all prepared for the worst.
I remember giving birth with great detail. It was not at all like the visions I had about home birth, in the water, naturally, surrounded by family, in a circle of women, and so on. It was beautiful, but it was different. It was difficult, exaggerating all my weaknesses, and time after time, minute after minute it broke all the expectations I had built up over the few months of the pregnancy. Feeling like I would die from pain, I fought an internal battle with myself: could I still be a “good mother” if I had an epidural? Today I see the absurdity of those thoughts, but at the time I felt that in that deciding moment of giving birth, I became a “bad mother.” That I disappointed everyone, that I was selfish. On July 12, instead of being a woman bursting with pride for giving the world a new human being, I asked my husband to not tell anyone that (after 18 hours of labor), I took the epidural. And that is how I came home heavier.
|My husband would run my bath and say, ‘Go, relax,’ and then check on me every few minutes. I only ate because he was bringing home all the meals and would call asking if I even went to the refrigerator.|
What I don’t remember, however, is the first few months of my motherhood. And there would be nothing strange about it if I were hundred years old and had Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, it’s only been two years. Looking back I see myself depressed, frustrated, and feeling guilty. My friend, who had her own newborn, baked apple cakes and waited for guests while I cried with my screaming child attached to my sore breast. As another friend sent me photos of her sweetly sleeping baby, I fought back and knee pain from carrying, rocking and then carrying again my daughter, who slept only a few hours a day. At the same time, I had a breastfeeding crisis, and struggled with advice of the “you have to suffer through it” type. I wanted to run away. I would escape to the bathroom to sit on the floor wiping my tears, then go back to the newborn who overwhelmed me. I didn’t sleep, or I didn’t have strength to leave the bedroom, so I spent entire days in pajamas.
The neighborhood midwife would mock me, “Children cry, what did you think was going to happen?” My family tried to console me: “It will pass.” Friends with their first babies would say, “What are you talking about, it’s wonderful, we are just going for a walk.” I felt I was losing my identity. I was a bad mother. That was the name of my postpartum depression. Bad Mother.
|Depression should not be left at the mercy of time, because time may not be very gracious.|
Postpartum depression affects about 10-40 percent of women in the world. There are many causes of depression, including anxiety related to pregnancy, low frustration tolerance, the child’s temperament, and lack of support from family and community or mental illness. Depression manifests itself by a permanent sadness, a marked decline in activity, excessive sleepiness or insomnia, excessive worrying about the baby’s health and nursing, feelings of worthlessness or excessive/insufficient feelings of guilt, fatigue or lack of energy, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, and even thoughts of suicide, or in some cases, attempts.
Depression should not be left at the mercy of time, because time may not be very gracious. I was lucky to have a husband who took care of me and did not leave me alone in an emotional desert. But you could be the only person who sees a problem in your friend, your cousin, or your sister. If so, don’t think about it for too long; invite yourself for coffee and offer your presence. You will be the best start of her recovery.
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