Post Partum Depression…Please Don’t Judge
By Heather Waddington
This blog is hard to write. Even as I am typing this in Word I am debating on whether or not I will actually send it to be put on the web. I’m asking that you please make no assumptions as to the type of person/mother/wife I am, because I am writing this. This blog post is not a reflection of me as a whole, just a thing I am going through. So, here it goes…
My little one just went to her 2 month check-up and gotten her first round of vaccines. She isn’t happy, her little legs hurt, and last night she ran a fever, but it’s not her fault. I know it will be better in a few days. Regardless, I find myself amazingly short tempered. Not just with her, but with myself, my husband, the dogs, and our roommate, hell, not even the guy in customer service for the navigation system is safe from my fury. I’m not violent; I’m short, snippy, and just plain not very nice when my fuse gets this short. I am depressed, lonely and sometimes extremely agitated with absolutely nothing of any real importance at all.
These feelings aren’t something new for me. When I had my son 6 years ago, I suffered from really bad post-partum depression. I was a lot younger then, barely 21 and a 1/2. As I got closer to delivering baby #2 I promised myself that this time would be different. I have a great husband, I’m more prepared, and I’m in a better place mentally and physically. But, no matter how much I try to deny it, it’s here again.
I felt it creeping up inside me weeks ago. Things were great the first week. The second week was a little tough, but mainly just because I was adjusting to everything. By the time my 6 week post-partum appointment came around, I was beginning to feel really overwhelmed. My midwife and I talked about it, I told her that I really didn’t want to go on medication, that I was doing yoga, meditating, talking to my friends and my husband about how I was doing, that I was just under a lot of stress…that I would be OK.
Well, I lied. About some things anyway.
I do talk to my husband and to my friends, but I am pretty good at making it out to seem like it’s not as big of a deal as it really is. When people ask, “How are you doing?” I am an expert on smiling and saying “I am doing great!” even when I’m not.
So, tonight, as I am working on an invoice for a cake order, my sweet little girl starts crying. It’s hot, she hasn’t taken a good nap all day, I’m sure her little legs are sore and she is probably hungry. I ask my husband to get her a bottle so I can finish up. He says, “Sure.”
He had been starting to doze off, and instead of actually getting up, he starts snoring. Sensing my frustration, our roommate says, “I’ll get it, I need to practice anyways, so you will feel OK with letting Uncle Dan babysit.”
I sigh, but get up and get a bottle started. My frustration mounts as my husband sleeps through her crying and fussiness, and peaks at the image of our roommate feeding her instead of her father. To try to push it aside, (because it really isn’t that big of a deal) I wash her bottles and my pump parts that were sitting in the sink, and go over the packing list for our upcoming trip.
As our roommate says “Oh boy little one, you just blew your diaper up.” I reach my breaking point. I stay calm and reserved as I change her diaper, walk over to my husband, give him a nudge and say “I need you to wake up.” Once he is awake I tell him that he needs to get Olivia and take care of her, because I am going to go out for a drink.
At first he seemed confused, but he woke up, took her from my arms, and says “OK.” I assure him I won’t be long, that I just need to get some air. He asks if I’m OK, and I tell him, “No, I’m not. I don’t know how I am going to manage you working full time, making sure you are getting things done for your B.A. classes for school online, me working part time, keeping the house cleaned, going back to school myself, AND taking care of the baby, all while keeping my sanity… I just don’t know how it’s going to work, and I need to think.”
He didn’t say anything and I left. I got into my car and drove to the bar. I tried to call my aunt, and then an old friend from back home, but neither could talk. I’m sure if they realized what was happening they would have, but the moment they answered the phone I put my ‘tough girl’ face on and smiled as they asked if they could call me tomorrow because they were just too busy to talk to me.
I looked at the bar doors and thought about how good that drink would taste. So, I pulled out of my parking spot, went to the empty parking lot a block over, and cried.
I cried for about 10 minutes. I cried out of the fear, the frustration, and the desperation I have been feeling. I knew that by even having one drink, I was opening myself up to a very easy downward spiral, and I wasn’t going to do that. I wanted to, but I knew it wouldn’t fix anything; it would just make it worse.
So, I drove to Dunkin Donuts, got an iced coffee and a dozen donuts, and went home.
Olivia was in her crib, cooing to her mobile and my husband was getting his work clothes together. He smiled at me, but behind his smile, I saw his fears.
I told him I was sorry, that I’m just feeling too much, and I can’t keep it all contained.
I told him about how I feel weak, because I am struggling to stay happy, despite having a great husband, and a wonderful healthy little girl. I told him about how I feel guilty, because he works his butt off 50-60 hours a week to provide for us, and I need him to take care of Olivia sometimes so I can get a shower or go run a quick errand baby free.
I told him about how hard it is to keep smiling and stay optimistic when all I want to do is cry. I told him that it sucks because even though post-partum depression is a very common issue, it’s still hard to accept it.
I told him how my social anxiety is stopping me from going to play groups to meet other moms, because I’m worried that they won’t really like me or Olivia, that they will just tolerate us to be nice.
Then I cried some more.
Olivia had started to get fussy, so I picked her up and fed her. I was calm and looking into her big bright eyes I shared with him one of my deepest fears. I was afraid of screwing her up. I told him how my great-grandmother screwed my grandmother up, and she screwed up my mother. He knows my mother is manipulative, and a liar. He knows how she used my insecurities about being a good mother to my son as a way to get me to agree to her adopting him, only so she could attempt to completely cut me out of his life. He knows that I struggle with that all the time, and how I feel like I have already screwed up my sons life, and how despite all my attempts to change things, I will inevitably screw up my little girl’s life.
I told him that I just couldn’t do it alone anymore, and that I was calling the midwife in the morning. He said “OK.” And told me that we would get through this. We just have to keep talking, I need to stay healthy, and that I am doing an amazing job. I smiled, even though I wanted to scream ‘LIAR!’ at him.
I have a 12 and a half pound, 23 and a half inches long beautiful baby girl. The pediatrician was raving over how healthy and active she was yesterday as we sat in her office. Her blue eyes are the most calming and beautiful thing I have seen since my son’s. Her little smiles (when she decides to share those) are the highlights of my day. She sleeps an average of 7-8 hours a night, and will usually take at least one 4-5 hour nap a day, along with a few ‘power naps’ after feedings. I’ve been able to breastfeed (which I couldn’t with my son) and when she is awake, she is typically mild mannered, (unlike my son, who was colicky.)
I have a hardworking husband, a supportive roommate, great friends, and an aunt that is more like a best friend. I am a very skilled chef & baker. I’m artistic, love music, and laugh heartily (normally). I have a great apartment, we have 2 cars and some (not much) money in the bank. There is food in my fridge and clothing on my back. I have it great compared to most people.
And yet despite all this, I am unhappy more often than I would like to be. I know it’s not really my fault, but still, I feel guilty. I know many other women struggle with this, but many don’t always feel comfortable talking about it with each other. We circle the answers on the questionnaire we are given at our post-partum visits with a very careful and strategic method, Not too many “EVERYTHING’S GREAT” sort of responses. Not too many “I’M DYING ON THE INSIDE” responses.
We don’t want our midwives or doctors to suspect our lies, so we become perfect at projecting a fake smile. We cry during our appointments just enough so they won’t think we are trying too hard to seem ok, and laugh about little things. When we see other moms on the street, we exchange pleasantries, not wanting to burden the other mom with the truth. Even when it’s a truth she probably knows all too well.
I know it will get better, it always does. This feeling doesn’t last forever, but while it’s here, it can cause havoc. I consider myself to be a very strong person, and even stronger because I am making the right choices on how to handle my post-partum depression. I guess I am writing this because I have something to say to mothers out there.
Don’t consider yourself weak for asking for help, consider yourself strong and wise for knowing this is something you can’t do alone. To all the other mothers out there, please don’t judge!
***Heather Waddington is a 27 year old mother to 2 beautiful children. She lives in Barre, Vermont and both she and her husband are chefs. Her son, Gabriel (age 6) is currently under the care of her parents in NJ and she is raising for her daughter, Olivia (9 weeks). She is a strong believer in raising awareness of the seriousness of post-partum depression & has a strong desire to let other women know that its O.K. to ask for help. ***