Baby Blues

Today I had my two-week follow-up with the birth center, which is basically just a screening for post-partum depression.  They have you fill out a little questionnaire, which then scores you for PPD risk.

And I basically failed — or “scored a little high,” as they so kindly put it.

Which was not a surprise to me.  The questions include things like, “Do you feel sad or miserable [never, a little more than I used to, much more than I used to, all the time]?” and “Do you feel so sad that you find yourself crying [never, a little more than I used to, much more than I used to, all the time]?” and so on.

Given my history with depression, I knew I’d have to be on the look-out for the symptoms.  Mine so far have included:

  • Increasingly frequent crying fits for the past two weeks
  • Lessened interest in most activities
  • Feeling directionless
  • Loss of appetite

Basically everything I dealt with before, though luckily not as severe and usually not all day.  It sucks, because Pip is, so far, a pretty easy baby.  He eats well (now that we’re pumping exclusively) and sleeps well — which means we get the chance to sleep pretty well, too, if in chunks rather than in 8-hour stretches (which I never really did anyway).  Whatever it is that tends to trigger my descents doesn’t seem to be related to any behavior of his, which is a relief.

Except that also means it’s harder to pinpoint.  Some days it’s me worrying about T getting to do the things he wants to do or being rested enough for work, etc.  Some days it’s fearing we won’t get to do the things we love to do, like travel or write or go on regular dates.  Other days, it’s guilt over not having written anything in ages — not because I don’t have the time (pumping forces me into 30 minutes of downtime several times a day) but because I just haven’t had any motivation or drive to do so.  It’s something I was already dealing with while pregnant, and it finally came to the surface again yesterday.

Sometimes I feel bad because I feel like T is either dealing with a crying baby or a crying me, but he continues to be a rockstar.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without him.  Yesterday, in the midst of me sobbing into his neck, he took my hand, put it on my mouse, and forced me to open a document.  He set a timer for 10 minutes and made me write whatever came out of my brain.

He also texted my mom to ask her if she could babysit while I went for a run.  Those two things combined helped the fog lift for the remainder of the night.

run

This morning, I was tired, which always makes my weepiness worse, but I actually felt a little better after my appointment.  I left with a plan, which always helps.  Here’s what’s on the docket for me:

  • Continuing to get exercise
  • Getting sunlight, preferably at least 30 minutes a day
  • 6000 mg Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • L-Tyrosine
  • Naps

There’s also some research that suggests caffeine can reduce the instance of depression in women, so, while I want to limit the amount because I’m pumping breastmilk, I think I’ll start adding that in during or right around my first pumping session of the day to keep most of it out of kiddo’s food.  It has the added bonus of being a nice little treat for me.

treat yoself

If I’m still struggling in a couple of weeks, the next step will be to cut out gluten for a while, which is what I did back in 2011.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, because I sure do enjoy gluten-containing foods, but I enjoy actually being able to enjoy stuff more.

I’m also trying to get back into one of my old scripts.  At this point, it’s just reading through and taking stock of what’s there, what’s working and what’s not, but that’s the first step to the next draft.  And it feels good to be doing that.  And thanks to T, I’m also going to try to get back to writing some short stories in the meantime.

I’m lucky because I have an amazing support system.  My parents are only a few minutes away, and my mom is always thrilled to babysit.  T is my rock, my encourager, my comforter.

A lot of women don’t have such a solid support system. So this is the call to action. If you know a woman who just had a baby, reach out to her in those first few weeks and beyond.  If she needs a shoulder to cry on for a while, offer it.  If she needs a nap or to get out and just be herself instead of “mom” for a bit, watch the baby for an hour or two.  If she needs someone to deliver a cup of coffee and a brownie, make that happen.

Above all, let her be honest.  Let her say that being a new mom is hard and that maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be at first.  Let her say that she wants more out of life than to stare at her infant in awe for 24 hours a day.  Let her say that, while she loves her baby, she’s not entirely comfortable with the role of “mother” yet — and doesn’t know when she will be.  Let her say that she misses the way her life used to be, and that she’s afraid it will never be what she hoped it might.

In the end, people keep having kids, they all keep telling us it’s worth it, so I think most of us new mothers believe (or at least hope) that these feelings will pass.  And for most mothers, they do seem to.  But knowing that doesn’t always help right now.  What might help is releasing the guilt of having those feelings.  We are complex, amazing beings, and we can wonder if we’ve made a huge mistake while still loving our children with infinite devotion.  It’s that complexity that makes us human, and that’s something to be embraced and celebrated.  Honesty and compassion is a good start toward that.

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12 thoughts on “Baby Blues

  1. Stena says:

    Sarah, I am a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 8. I know how you feel and I can only tell you it will get better. Our first born is such a learning experience a wonderful, crazy time in our lives that we think we will never recover from, but we somehow do. If I was closer I would love to watch Pip for you and Tyler. I am glad you have a great support system. You are a beautiful woman with such great insight into life. You will be fine and you are already a great mother. Keep feeling your feelings, don’t be afraid to talk about them. I wish you much happiness. Hope to visit soon. Hugs Stena

    • Elizabeth Ditty says:

      Thanks so much, Stena. The “being a parent” part, logistically speaking, is going relatively well so far. It just seems to be the emotional fall-out from all the rest of it that’s the problem. 🙂 I’m hoping getting on a solid supplementation regimen + exercise & sunlight will help a lot; they did before. I really am super lucky; my mom is always ready at a moment’s notice if I need her to pop over for anything — and you know Tyler is wonderful. 🙂

  2. Meagan says:

    I enjoyed reading this. I never experienced baby blues with either of my infants but now that they are older I am definitely experiencing something! I can’t stand the constant whining and fighting and the role of either mom or professional. I need to read a friggin book or hide in a bathroom or have an 8 hour straight stretch of sleep. I love being a mom and I love my children but after 4 years of being “on” I wish I had someone I could trust and rely on to watch my children so I could take a weekend trip, a shower or heck even a poop! So happy you found a great man that steps up and takes action!

    • Elizabeth Ditty says:

      So you’re saying it *doesn’t* get better?! Everyone is lying! 😉 I asked someone with a 1-year-old the other day if it gets easier or harder or both, and he thought for a moment and said “both, but I think the newborn phase is a little easier in some ways because they sleep so much.” Which wasn’t exactly encouraging, lol. But then he followed up with the familiar “it’s all worth it” chant. You ladies who do this whole parenthood thing without much support are true heroes — really. I don’t have any advice to offer beyond this: take the book into the bathroom & kill two birds with one stone. 😉 Seriously, though, I hope you find a friend or convince a partner soon to give you the break you deserve!

  3. Katie Weeden says:

    As far as the guy that said it gets easier and harder….b/c they sleep more…. Well, guys don’t have the crazy hormones after being pregnant! It definitely gets easier b/c you feel more like yourself without the crazy crying fits. Trust me~ a lot of it is the hormones and it just takes time for your body to calm down. Don’t worry too much about exercise to lose weight–just light stuff to make you feel better. The weight will come off well with the pumping and eating nutritionally! Hang in there! If you want a good outing with other really new moms try st. luke’s east breast feeding support group. (they have pumping moms too!) I really enjoyed it when sadie was young and it was a place where i met some of my mommy friends i still hang out with now! It’s on monday mornings at st. luke’s east in lee’s summit. maybe 10-12pm??? you will want to verify the time, but i would highly highly highly recommend it! You do not have to have delivered there or anything! It’s also come and go- you don’t have to arrive on time or stay the whole time. With a new baby it’s hard to get anywhere when you intend to! Of course you can always call me for nursing/pumping questions. I pumped for about 16 months, so i could offer tips if you need any help! Call me any time!

  4. the 80/20 mom says:

    Thank you. You’ve articulated very clearly the feelings that many of us have when we become new moms and the worry about letting down our partners. I struggled with the same feelings; the newborn stage was tough and wasn’t my favourite. I can say that 6 months later things are much, much better. I still have days where I wonder what happened to my life, but mostly I’m just really starting to enjoy my baby. I hope that you get there soon too. 🙂

  5. Mariana says:

    You made me cry a little while I remembered those first days full of love and tenderness with my baby. It’s such a complicated time for moms, though…lots of mixed feelings. I remember I looked happily at my baby in awe because she was so beautiful, but then I found myself crying just because I was singing a lullaby, or just because! (we get very touchy) and then I felt all I needed was to sleep all day long. I remember I cried at night when my husband slept with our baby in his arms because I felt so alone! All of a sudden, new moms have no life of their own, someone needs them to survive, needs their undivided attention, and that’s a shock as well. Physical pain is another issue: if you had a c-section for instance, when you experience pain when milk comes in or when breasts become hard as a rock, etc. So, thank you hormones for all the mess! But the good news is: it will pass. YES. Let time do its job: to balance hormones. And let time make your mind find the way to accommodate this new baby into your life. 18 months later, I can tell you things have gone much better. All the best 😉 PS: Because of this article you wrote, you have me as a follower!

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