Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins, The Preschool Mommy | Posted on 08-05-2012
This is one of my longer, and more serious posts. You’ve been warned.
Last week, at my first post-natal appointment, with sincere compassion, my OBGYN asked, “So, how are you feeling now?” I replied, “So much better. Still not awesome, but way better.”
I wasn’t going to share my experience with Post-Partum Depression (PPD) until I was back to awesome – but I’ve since decided that because I’m an open book, it would be too hard to skate around the topic in coming posts. I anticipate that much of my current, and future, musings about motherhood will inevitably be colored by this “condition,” so why not just put it out there? Besides, if I can help even just one woman recognize that she’s not alone in her thoughts and feelings, then I owe it to her not to delay sharing my story.
I am prone to anxiety. I’ve been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. About 10 years ago, the anxiety escalated to full-blown panic attacks. For a brief time, I was on medication, but weaned myself off of it after a year. While the anxiety slowly crept back in, I never did have another panic attack – THANK GOD because those are awful. Awful.
I had feared the possibility of PPD when I was pregnant with DJ. I knew that because of my past issues with anxiety, I was considered “at-risk” for PPD. I was one big, walking worry wort throughout my entire pregnancy with DJ (Actually, I was kind of a hot mess). My thoughts were often irrational, stressing not only over things out of my control – but literally obsessing over the what-ifs. However, the moment she was born, all of my fears, my worries, my doubts, and my anxieties just melted away. Seriously, the second she was placed on my chest, everything felt calm, and peaceful. I was whole, balanced, sane. I remember being pregnant and people telling me to “just wait, once she’s born you’ll have a new set of worries.” But, the thing is, I have never worried about DJ to the extent that I did while I was pregnant with her.
When I got pregnant with Z, naturally I thought that because I’d done it all before, the worrying would be at a minimum. I was so wrong. In fact, the two pregnancy experiences were so similar that I diagnosed myself with pregnancy-induced anxiety (I don’t even know if that’s a real thing). Anyhow, I’d assumed that once Z was born, just like with DJ, all the worrying would stop. I’d be overcome with contentment and joy, and I’d revel in each new moment.
So, when things didn’t go quite like that – I was ashamed.
It happened very slowly. It wasn’t anything extreme. I didn’t want to run away from home, abandon my husband or toss my baby out a window. In fact, I wasn’t struggling to bond with Z at all. I was struggling to tolerate DJ. I was living life by holding onto the promise that each day would bring DJ’s nap time. In those early days, just 8 weeks ago – I’d barely breathe while DJ slept for fear of anything waking her. And then, when she’d begin to stir and moan, I’d feel myself desperately holding back the tears. “Don’t wake the beast,” became a mantra in my head. And when the almost-three-year-old beast would wake, I’d count down the hours till my husband got home from work. Living life watching the hands of the clock slowly tick by, is an excruciating way to pass time.
Day by day, DJ’s tantrums grew less possible to manage, and my resentment began to mount. I was aware of it, though – and I’d crumble daily under the guilt of how I’d gotten there. How had I gone from denying I’d ever be able to love another child as completely as I loved DJ, to just trying to make it through each minute with her.
Time out. Mothering had been my favorite thing in the world. Mothering had been my calling. There was no greater source of happiness – and there I was, loathing it at times. Something wasn’t right.
I couldn’t sleep. I stopped showering daily. I stopped caring what the house looked like. I stopped answering my phone. I stopped replying to email. I stopped leaving my house. I stopped being patient. I stopped being fair. I stopped thinking. I began depending on our DVD player to get us (me, DJ and Z) through the day. I realized that I didn’t like who I had become. Something wasn’t right.
I remember laying in bed, Z on my chest, DJ at my side, with the umpteenth cartoon of the day on. With both girls touching me, pawing at me, needing me, wanting me – my skin began to crawl and I literally thought I might scream. Instead, I sobbed. I sobbed and I texted a close girlfriend whom I knew was currently on medication for PPD. “Can we talk PPD later?,” I wrote.
She called me that very night, and for the first time, I shared with another human being that I wasn’t enjoying being a mom. A feeling so contradictory to the truth that I knew to be inside of me. It felt so good to spew the entire truth without fear of judgement. To my relief, some of the things I was feeling were “normal.” Overwhelmed, insecure, exhausted…those were universal feelings when trying to find balance in a new, more complex parenting role. Even the fleeting, “What was I thinking to alter the family I already had, already knew?,” was a familiar thought to many other healthy women.
“On a scale of 0 to 100%, how much are you enjoying being a mom right now?,” my friend asked. “Maybe 40%,” I reluctantly admitted. She encouraged me to reach out to my doctor.
Once my doctor and I got on the phone, all 5 weeks of shame came pouring out. I bawled as I told her that I kept thinking it would get better, but that everyday felt darker than the previous day. She asked how I wanted to proceed, with medication, therapy or both. “Both.” I was afraid that I’d start therapy only to recognize that I also needed medication, and that by then I would’ve spiraled down even deeper. I also didn’t want to lose one more day of enjoying my children. So, I got the happy pills and I’ve been on them for almost 4 weeks now.
Like I said, I am better – way better, really. I force myself to leave the house everyday and I shower at least every other day (insert smiley face here). I’m cooking again and keeping the house tidy. Most importantly, I am once again head over heels in love with my first born. Despite her wicked tantrums, I can’t get enough of her hugs and giggles – and I have the presence of mind to deal with her negative behavior in an effective way.
Once again, I’m falling in love with motherhood. I am slowly returning to the woman I know myself to be. I start and end each day feeling extremely blessed for, and by, my two girls. In between morning and evening, there are still struggles…still temptations to stay in bed, still tendencies to shut the world out, and still debilitating guilt over the amount of TV happening in this house – but overall, I’m feeling so much more in control. So much more present. Hallelujah!
I have a little ways to go yet – but let me tell you, I am miles from where I was. I am so grateful for the many women in my life who shared their own personal struggle with PPD. It’s much more common than I was ever aware of. I am hoping that by sharing my story, you’ll feel inspired to share your own. The more we talk about this, the fewer women will spend a second longer than they need feeling trapped in their own skin.
Motherhood is so beautiful…and complicated. Do whatever it takes to enjoy it purely, and to embrace it wholly. There’s just no need to “tough it out” when you’re feeling so disconnected to the very thing you were most longing for – to love, and be loved, by your children.