Before Baby Key was born, “depression” was a word that was completely foreign in my vocabulary. I have a very bubbly personality and I considered myself a very positive, upbeat person. If you have ever met me, you know that I high five strangers and shamelessly use “jazz hands” when I talk. When I spot a friend across a room, I instantly throw my arms open for a big ol’ bear hug.
But in the few months since Baby Key’s birth, I have felt a lot less…”jazz hands-y.” It took me a long time to decide whether or not to write this, but since this is something I have been struggling with, I decided to tell my story. It is deeply personal but I am sure there is someone out there that can relate.
I will be the first to admit that I was completely overwhelmed with all things related to Baby Key. Sure, we went to the parenting classes, breastfeeding classes, and “what to expect” classes, but nothing on the planet truly prepares you for that day when you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. No more nurses at the push of a button. No more hourly visits from doctors to make sure mama and baby are happy and healthy. You are on your own…and reality b*tch slaps you in the face.The first two weeks of being home with Baby Key are a complete blur. On a nightmare scale of 1 to 10, I would absolutely give them an 11. He cried…and cried…and cried. It was terrible. We are not talking the normal “I’m hungry” cry or the “I need a diaper change” cry. This cry involved quivering lips, an arched back, fists clenched, and hives. Yes, he even broke out in hives. It was enough to send any sane person crawling up the walls. And it was incessant. 24 hours a day. He never stopped.
For weeks, I felt like I could do nothing. All I could do was hold him. Putting him down or resting him in a swing was not an option. Trust me, we have probably spent over $1,000 on swings, mats, swaddlers, and any other product to soothe a crying infant. None of it worked. We tried EVERYTHING. I could not go anywhere. I felt so trapped. The nurses on the hospital “warm line” even got to know the sound of my voice because I called so often begging for help. There were days that my husband left for work in the morning only to return home that evening to see me sitting in the same rocking chair, wearing the same clothes I had slept in the night before. I remember sending him frantic text messages pleading for him to come home and give me just a little bit of reprieve because I was just sure that if he didn’t my ears would literally start bleeding. On these days, getting a daily shower before 7:00PM was my crowning accomplishment.
As the weeks went by, everyone kept telling me things like, “Hang in there. It gets better.” or “It’s just a phase, you’ll make it.” While I appreciated all the kind words and sweet sentiments, I just could not see how things would EVER get better. Because they weren’t. As time went by, his crying and tantrums only seemed to be getting worse and more violent.
Things really started turning south around the 4-week mark. This was at the point where the typical “baby blues” should have started going away. Not only were they not going away, but the feelings seemed to intensify. There were moments when I was holding him, and he was in one of his fits, and I played out this scenario in my head…
What if I just put him down, walked away, closed the door behind me, and never dealt with this again?
I really thought I could not take one minute more of it. There were times that I would just look down at him and think, “Why did I do this? This was the worst decision of my life. I should have never had a child.” There were even times that I looked at him and thought, “I don’t even want him anymore.” And yes, there were moments that I even wanted to shake him.
Several friends of mine had babies right around the same time that I did. By this time, they were posting cute pictures of their kiddos smiling, doing fun things, or updating me that their babies were happily sleeping in their swings. While I was happy for them, it made me so angry. I tried really hard not to let it get to me, but it did. I sat there, fully convinced that my butt was permanently melding to the seat of the rocking chair, seething. Why couldn’t my baby be the “easy one”?
All of these thoughts brought on extreme guilt. After all, this is the child we prayed for, the child that we wanted so badly, the child that we were told we were never going to be able to have. And here I am, wishing him away. This was one of the lowest points in my whole life.
I will never forget taking Baby Key to his 6-week check-up. I walked in looking like death warmed over, holding my crying child. As soon as his pediatrician walked into the room and asked how things were going, I broke down completely. I totally lost it. I begged her to “fix” him. I must have looked so absurd, but I was desperate. I needed help…fast.
This was the point at which she expressed that what I was experiencing was beyond the normal baby blues. The first thing I thought was, “Oh great! Just add that to our list of issues to deal with” but it was true. Each passing day made me feel more and more detached from my child, exactly the opposite of what I “should” be feeling. It was also on this visit that Baby Key was diagnosed with a severe case of GERD. Though I was not thrilled at his diagnosis, being given assurance he really was crying more than other babies, helped me feel less crazy. Up until this point, I am pretty sure there were people in my life that when I told them, “He cries all the time.” thought I was exaggerating. This day was our turning point.
Not wanting to immediately start taking medicine, I started to see a therapist. Talking about my anxieties, fears about the future, and caring for a child with special medical concerns helped me take some control over my issues. After several weeks of counseling sessions for me, and a twice daily dose of Nexium for Baby Key, things started looking up. The sun seemed to shine a little brighter, the air didn’t feel as thick, and for the first time since he was born, I actually wanted to hold my son.
Before Baby Key, I did not really know much about depression at all…especially post-partum depression (PPD). Not that I did not think it was real (no Tom Cruise-like rants from me, I promise), but I just assumed that depression was for other people. I know that sounds awful, but it is just the truth. I never thought it would be me.
I have come to realize that having a bout of PPD does not make me crazy, does not make me a bad mother, and with time and honesty, can be dealt with in a healthy way. All it means is that it took me a little longer to get to that joyous I-want-to-smell-my-baby-every-second-of-the-day point than it did some other moms.
Now that we have turned a proverbial corner, I am starting to feel more and more like the “old me.” The changing season and warmer weather have helped us get out and do more so that I no longer feel so trapped and isolated. My husband and family have also stepped in to give me a little more time to go running, which does so much more for me mentally and emotionally than it ever did physically. And the best part is, I simply cannot wait to end my work day so that I can go home to my husband and beautiful baby boy…you know, to smell him and tell him I love him.
I say all this to let you know that if you are going through a similar experience, you are not alone. If you or a new mom you know has had or is having these kinds of thoughts or having a hard time bonding with your new baby, I sincerely urge you to ask for help. Speak up. People are there to help, I promise.
Please don’t suffer in silence.
There is no shame in admitting you need help and seeking out the necessary treatments to make you a happier, healthier woman and mother. The sooner mama gets better, the sooner everything gets better.