Post-Partum Guilt? One Mom’s Story
I don’t feel guilty when I think about the first seven months of Suzianne’s life, just sad.
Seven whole months with her were wasted on my postpartum depression. It’s not my fault and there is nothing I did wrong, but it still breaks my heart.
It started March 6, 2012, the day after Suzianne was born. Before they send you home with the tiny version of your spouse you just made, they make you sit through this class about how to diaper, bathe and generally keep your baby alive. All the other new moms were sitting on pillows looking attentive. I sat on my pillow and cried. Hard.
I remember the pit in my stomach each evening as “the night shift” approached. Many new moms refer to night feeding as “snuggle time” on their Facebook pages; it was not snuggly for me. It was simply sleep deprivation. Around 7 p.m., my mind would begin processing the “night dread” — I knew what time it was without even looking at the clock.
For three months worth of night feedings, I ate grapes, counted the windows in the office building next door (43) and wondered if I would ever sleep again. I did not enjoy this “special time together,” as so many other moms seem to. I didn’t even enjoy weekends.
In those first few weeks, when it came to breastfeeding, I experienced overwhelming anxiety and anguish. Knowing that I was only able to produce enough milk for the moment, and not enough to store away for later, like so many of my friends could. Even when I was pumping 15 ounces a day, she needed more, and I had to supplement 10 ounces of her milk with formula. That felt like a failure to me. My friend Olivia (who breastfed her baby for 12 whole months) reassured me that I was awesome and said, “There’s nothing like pumping breastmilk to put a specific measurement of ounces on a woman’s worth.”
In April, from my perch on a sitz bath, I called my best friend and bawled as I told her I was a horrible mother … that I didn’t know what I was doing and felt like it was not fair to Suzianne. “I’m not good at this,” I kept repeating. She listened and told me I was a wonderful mother, that Suzianne loved me and all would be okay. Four more months would pass before I believed her.
In May, my back went out. I remember laying in the bed, not being able to lift Suzianne or play on the floor with her. For some reason, I was convinced that those few days of little interaction with me were scarring her for life. I laid on my pillow and cried.
In July, I went back to work; the hormones started to level out and I began to feel like myself again. Until I stopped breastfeeding. Just like my friend Beth warned me about, my hormones went through another insane shift all over again. It was like when you are trying to rewind “Smash” on your DVR, and you push the button a little too hard and you have to watch a scene with Ellis again… again. Just awful.
In September, when we were in Hawaii (hard life, yeah?), I finally figured out my hormones were still whack. Here I was, five months after Suzianne was born and still getting emotional and exhausted by trivial things, like not having a white Onesie and corresponding bunny for the six-month photo. But it was being away from her for a week—and being really, really relieved about the break—that led me to the conclusion that I remained a little off. I felt a little better once I acknowledged it, but I couldn’t shake the fog. So, I sat at the pool overlooking the Pacific and cried.
In October, I went with mom to a GNC store and asked the guy, “Do you have anything for post-partum issues?” He said, “Sure!” and escorted me to the menopause supplement section.
I said, “No, no. Not menopause hormones, ‘just-had-a-baby hormones.’”
He said, “Your problem is that you stopped taking your prenatal vitamin after you had the baby, amiright?”
Me, “Yes, but this is hormonal, not vitamin-related.”
Him, “It’s the vitamins. Take these for two weeks and bring them back if you don’t feel better. I swear.”
I do feel better. Thank you, GNC guy.
From Suzianne’s birthday—March 6—to mid-October, my head was cloudy and my heart was heavy nearly every day.
I don’t know if it is the vitamins, the perfect San Diego weather, or my hormones finally leveling out, but I’m finally feeling normal.
Proof: Thanksgiving week we spent seven straight days with Suzianne in Nashville and I never lost my mind. I never once got flustered or upset about anything baby-related. (I did get emotional the last night there, but that is only because I really miss my Nashville friends.)
Holiday travel with an infant and no baby-sitter was just the test I needed, and I passed like a boss.
I’m me again. I have always liked me, so I’m really excited about that.
Dave and I spend more time with our baby than most families are able to. It’s a luxury I do not take for granted (this time). It’s fun to finally feel and experience those new mom warm fuzzies that I’m always reading about on Facebook. I, too, could spend hours just staring at my daughter. She’s remarkable! I didn’t feel this way until recently … there was too much hormonal clutter in the way.
Moving to California has brought with it a most awesome gift: a second chance at spending quality time with my infant. I don’t deserve this do-over, but I’m grateful for it and am soaking in every moment.
Margie Newman is a writer, runner, to-do list conqueror and lover of most things geeky. A Nashville native, she currently resides in San Diego with her husband, teacup poodle and dawn-worshiping toddler, Suzianne. On Twitter: @margienewman.