name='p:domain_verify'/> The Red Accordion Diaries: Most New Moms are Liars: PPD and what I've learned from it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Most New Moms are Liars: PPD and what I've learned from it.

The wee boy is almost nine months old. They say that you blink and they're in college, but I've got to say: these have been the longest nine months of my life. As a mother, I am not supposed to admit that. I am supposed to ooh and ahh and talk about how happy this time has been. I'm supposed to suddenly connect with all of womankind, convince my non-mother friends to join the club, and sigh with pity at those who just don't understand.

Guess what I've learned more than anything? Most new moms are liars.

Yep. I said it.

Liars. 

And you know what? It's really, really unhelpful. It does a huge disservice to mums-to-be, pretending that everything is sunshine and rainbows. It would have been a lot more helpful to me, someone who had a bad case of postpartum blues, if other women who had PPD actually talked about it. Or at the very least, if they didn't cover it up.

When I confessed on the blog that I was dealing with PPD, I was inundated with emails from friends and strangers who said they, too, had it. Some of them suffered for years before they realized what it was, and most of them didn't even understand that they had it until they came out of it. It's much, much more common than you think, and I suspect it's a lot more common than even the studies suggest.

As for me, I'm not talking about typical baby blues here. I'm talking about spending most of the day in tears, having no interest in playing music or writing, not wanting to answer the phone when my best friends call, and ... and here's where you'll gasp in disbelief and shake your head in disapproval: not wanting anything to do with the baby.

Most of my symptoms centered around guilt. According to all my mother friends/books/articles, this is supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I'm supposed to be completely in love here. I'm supposed to want to snatch my baby away when another woman wants to hold him. I'm not supposed to exhale with relief when David's parents ask to babysit for a few hours. I'm not supposed to take them up on it and run out to the pub with my husband. And if I do go, I'm supposed to think and talk about the baby the entire time I'm gone. If I don't, well, then I'm an unappreciative new mother who doesn't deserve to have a perfect little one.

Believe me, I absolutely know how lucky I am. I'm 34 years old, we planned this baby, and I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. When I was in the rocking chair trying to get this screaming baby to go to sleep, and he was scratching my face, and I was sobbing as much as he was, I really did try to take deep breaths and remember how many people would give up so much to be in that position. I appreciate it. I do. I can also tell you that now I absolutely adore the wee boy, and I actually enjoy spending time with him -- though I, too, would be lying if I told you I loved every minute.

I remember distinctly the first time I actually looked forward to the next day; it wasn't until the baby was almost three months old. Up until then, I think I was just living one minute at a time, awake, exhausted, and unclear as to what the tiny boy wanted. I loved him, of course. I was in awe of him -- amazed that he could possibly have been the same alien that turned inside of my body, twisting, hiccuping, doing jumping jacks on my sciatic nerve. Still, I did not feel the kind of bond that I'd read about. All I felt was guilt.

Guilt.

Guilt.

When I was unable to soothe his tears, but my husband could make him melt ... I cried. When someone else asked to hold him and I felt not a twinge of jealousy or instinctive over-protection ... I cried. When he would lie happily on the floor staring at a book, entertaining himself, I was flooded with relief and a desire to have a minute to myself. And then again -- I cried. I should want to be with my son at every minute. My friends said all they wanted to do was stare at their babies for hours at a time. Me? I wanted alone time.

So, yeah, he was three months old before I distinctly remember going to sleep one night and looking forward to playing with him the next day. Three months! I smiled, relieved that I was finally having motherly feelings. Then I felt even worse with the realization that I hadn't felt that way until then.

And guess what? I've talked to loads of other moms who have felt the exact same way. They just never say that in public. Who can blame them? 

It's many of these same mothers who post Facebook statuses saying how they'd "never been so overcome with love" and are "absolutely in love" with their babies. There are photos of them holding the wee ones with captions like "the perfect morning" and "the greatest feeling." I'm not saying that every new mom is depressed, nor that we should be posting statuses like "This sucks" or "I want a nanny."

But we should not hoodwink future parents by saying that every moment is wonderful and that it was like that from conception.

Maybe I've read too many fairy tales. Maybe my expectations were too literal (or maybe these other moms have never actually been in love before). I believe in romance and butterflies. I wanted to be overwhelmed by emotion. I expected a rush of pure love like nothing I'd ever felt before. The strong desire to jump in front of a bus for this tiny creature. The warmest fuzzies of them all. I wanted that beautiful hospital picture that everyone posts when a baby is born. Here's the closest I've got to one of those sweet just-born photos:



And yes, that's the "smile for the camera and look happy because everyone expects you to be in complete and utter love at that moment with stars twinkling in your eyes and bluebirds of happiness floating around."

What did I actually feel? Relief. I was effin' tired. I'd been through twelve hours of back labour (he was posterior) without an epidural, including about four hours of pushing. I hadn't slept in two days. I wanted to take a nap. I was loaded with whatever natural cocktail of hormones is cooked up when you have a hippie birth, so I was expecting to feel differently. But, no, I wanted to sleep, not cuddle.

The real "first photo" looks like this:
 Caption that with a big ol' "scared-to-death," which, I suspect, is a lot more accurate.


I'm sure there are those who truly love every minute, but I do not. And I'm not going to lie about it. I feel like I would have been much better prepared for these emotions if someone had told me -- even if you don't have a proclivity for depression -- that:

1) There will be moments when all you want to do is cry, and that's okay.

2) You aren't supposed to be able to handle it all by yourself. Remember that whole It-Takes-a-Village thing? Most women throughout history had lots and lots of help -- from relatives, neighbors, siblings, etc. If I had a bunch of aunts and sisters around who were lactating, I would have gotten a good night's sleep by now.

3) That perky new mom at the mall -- or even your closest friend whose Facebook page you stalk -- who has perfect hair, makeup, and a yoga butt, and who glows about how easy and wonderful motherhood is ... well, she's probably lying. Or she has a nanny. She'll never admit to you (but she should, she totally should!) that she's cried herself to sleep or that she doesn't instinctively know how to soothe every cry.

4) Social media makes it worse. People filter their pain and show only what they want you to see. Don't judge your own feelings based on what other people put out for public consumption.


I wrote most of this when the wee boy was six months old. For three months, I've kept the blog in draft, wondering if it was better off as a journal entry. Someday my boy will probably read this, and I don't want him to think he wasn't loved. I absolutely adore him, and of course I would jump in front of a bus for him. I'm feeling a lot better these days, which makes me realize just how bad I was.

I wish I'd been able to post this months ago when I wrote it, but again...the guilt. Well, now I'm [mostly] over it. How I reacted, and how you're reacting to your situation, is totally normal. I've coped and managed, and now I wake up most days looking forward to playing with this little guy.

On the days I don't, I let it go.

28 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I really do hope it helps someone. I still can't really believe I actually hit "publish."

      Delete
    2. I can believe and I too am grateful you did. I love my son more than air itself yet I felt the same way and had a complete "nervous breakdown" at the yr and 1/2 mark. You're not alone Brigid and you're right, we should share our experiences more honestly so those that follow our path aren't blindsided. namaste

      Delete
  2. I went threw the same feelings with my first with the exception that I still wanted to give him up for adoption it took four years for me to get put on meds they say baby blues are normal but trust yourself when you know it's not just that! Thank you so much for writing this more people should be open to talking about it instead of hiding it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes -- "baby blues" and PPD are totally different things. I could go on and on about our health care system (a different blog), but I have to hand it to the NHS. I'll write about it over the coming weeks, but the post-natal care I received in Scotland was simply amazing. I don't know where I'd be mentally were it not for my home health visitor. I don't think I would have ever recognized my symptoms, and I would have just thought I wasn't cut out for motherhood. I'm so sorry you went through it.

      Delete
  3. Thank you. My experience was nearly identical, from the posterior hippie birth to the constant crying to the shattering guilt. I've always told my pregnant friend's to call me if they'd rather hear the real story and if they need someone to whom they can vent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! And it's a fine line between not wanting to terrify my friends -- not wanting to talk them out of having a child just because I'm overwhelmed. But it's not fair to tell them you're blissfully happy too. So confusing at an already difficult time.

      Delete
  4. Excuse the unnecessary apostrophe that my autocorrect insists upon.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had my first daughter 41 years ago. I had never heard about, read about PPD--not a hint, not a whisper. I thought I was evil and insane. I kept it secret, pretended to be happy, like (apparently) every other mother of an infant in the world.
    What an excruciating memory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So miserable! "Evil and insane" are words I would constantly say to my husband. I'm so sorry you dealt with it.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for your story. I relate to it a great deal. It took about 14 weeks for me to not be totally miserable, and I think the biggest factor in regaining my sanity was returning to work, ending nursing, and putting my kid in daycare. I love my kid so much, but I need space. I look forward to Monday morning's return to work and daycare. Thankfully I don't feel guilty about it too often, I think the feeling is mutual. We have fun together but space is healthy. I love birth stories, but I think post-birth stories are way more important. I felt prepared for birth and completely unprepared for what happened immediately thereafter - I kept thinking "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?!" Now I'm about to have kid #2 and my #1 is 16 months old. I'm apprehensive about the arrival of kid #2 and if I'll go through the same spell as before. I hope it's different. But I know more tools to seek out help now than I did with PPD the first time around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes!! I was the same -- totally ready for the birth and then just overwhelmed. People always said it was strange that they 'just let you take the baby home,' etc, but no one mentioned the need for space. Best of luck to you for this second child. You sound like you're in a good place.

      Delete
  7. chica I am right there with ya! Moms really do a major disservice not talking about the sh** that goes on behind closed doors. I have two boys and with both of them PPD set in actually around the 6th month mark. The WORST thing you can tell a mother is that it gets "easier"!! We need to hear that its OK not to be enjoying EVERY minute of EVERY day. It doesn't mean you are a bad mom or any other crap we try to convince ourselves of. And most importantly we need EACH OTHER. Everyones PPD is different but I know that mine had everything to do with trying to do everything myself. It literally takes a village to raise a child!!!!!! Took me two kids to figure that out! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree! I hugged the first person who told me "sorry, it doesn't get easier," and thanked her for her honesty.

      Delete
  8. Hey Brigid,
    I think I wrote something along these same lines when my kids were 3 and 6 months, because I think that was the first opportunity I had to sit at the computer. It IS exhausting, overwhelming, and terrifying, you're completely correct. Thanks for being so honest. Consider putting this post up on BlogHer so more women can read about the truth of what most women go through the first year with their sweet babies. (By the way, your boy is gorgeous. I'm so glad you're coming through this.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you went through it too:( Thanks for the sympathy. I haven't actually delved into BlogHer before ... will explore it. I have been brought to tears (that's not really shocking though) by some of the emails I've gotten from women who read this post. I didn't expect the post to be so widely read, but I do hope it's helped more than a few women (and men).

      Delete
  9. Brigid,
    I am so sorry you went through PPD and the Baby Blues, I am actually that annoying mom you talk about.... with my 2nd baby. My first was colicky and cried for probably the first 6 months of her life. Reading your story makes me cringe remembering it. I remember calling my mother and asking her to please come help because I hadn't slept in days and I actually had a thought that dropping her might help (of course I didn't drop her, i called my mom. Who thankfully came to my rescue). I can't believe Im admitting that. Anyway, It was way different with my 2nd. I couldn't get enough of her her smell her touch everything. It is strange because I love them both so very much and my 3 yr old is definitely the funniest, most awesome 3 yr old ever, but it took me months to look forward to being around her. Wheras it was instant with my 2nd. I think our hormones are a crazy unmapped alternate dimension and there is no rhyme or reason. Thank you for sharing. That took a lot of guts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU for sharing! "I think our hormones are a crazy unmapped alternate dimension and there is no rhyme or reason." I want that embroidered on a pillow. But I won't do it myself, but I am not perfect crafty mom:)

      Delete
  10. Your story could have been mine. My baby girl was 9 months old before I realized I loved her.. I took care of her but really I felt like someone who's baby sitting charge had way overstayed their welcome... Thank you for posting this its important for mothers to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes -- feeling like a babysitter. It is such a bizarre, guilt-ridden ride. Thanks for sharing:)

      Delete
  11. I truly appreciate this. There was a time I stopped talking to even close friends about how I felt because the subject seemed to be so taboo (and it shouldn't). My child is 5 and I sometimes still have these feelings. Of course I love her to the moon and back, but there are days when I feel like I have lost my own identity and even the time to find it. You may feel this way too...and I think that's okay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you -- I'm sorry that you still sometimes have those feelings, but thank you for saying so. I'm feeling better (thanks to medication), but it's really nice to hear someone talk about still feeling that way years down the line. It's obviously not nice to have those feelings, but I appreciate your honesty:)

      Delete
  12. Fortunately for me I had no illusions or preconceptions of how it would be. I cried for three months solid when I found I was pregnant and ended up in a wheelchair for nearly four months with no idea if I would ever walk again due to my pelvis separating in delivery. I was as low as they go!

    My mother asked me early on in the pregnancy what I had done with the past 26 years that was better than being a mother and I thought "plenty" but bit my tongue. Now, 21 years on I can safely say that me being a parent is the best thing I have EVER done. :) As a creative with many talents (*blush*) I have to admit- my child is my VERY best work. :P

    But GETTING to this point took time and acceptance of guilt. Yes, you nailed it. Guilt... Ultimately it isn't the baby, the partner, or even the being a mother which is the issue- it is the guilt.

    I had baby blues to end all baby blues. I had seconds of panic where I felt I wasn't sure that I didn't actually want to drop the baby. Where I thought that I would run away and leave the baby to... well, you can guess. And burst into tears when I couldn't get out of the wheelchair to do so. Or when I couldn't be by myself, even in the bathroom. As one of your readers wrote- losing the pre-mother self is a real tragedy. The loss is real and the grief of losing someone you know so well and who you are actually OK with being is serious!

    And the acceptance that the mother you become is cool too is long in coming.

    What helped me immensely was a birthing card a wise woman gave me while I lay in hospital (I had a relatively good birth but the separated pelvis kept me in for a fortnight- meh!) mourning my singleness- it contained the excerpt on children from the poem by Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet. Even today, over 21 years later, I think on it and remember that I am still one but with another one, similar to me, who will move into a space and time where I will not be. And THAT keeps me sane.

    So I started counselling with the NCT as a post-natal coordinator with the specific role of working with women who had difficulties physically as a result of childbirth and you know what? I don't care for knowing others have the same issues (as I do not wish PPD on ANYONE!) but it DOES help to know it is NORMAL.

    Fortunately the joys of motherhood ultimately outweigh the lows by a mile. And I remind myself regularly- like life itself, you cannot truly appreciate joy without understanding sadness/grief. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a beautiful comment -- thank you. I really really thank the NHS for their amazing postnatal care. It was my home health visitor who diagnosed the PPD, but I returned to the US two weeks later with no access to mental health care (unless I could afford thousands of dollars). It took me six more months to get to a doctor for medication. I'm thankful to be in a better place now, but I don't know where I would have been without the health visitor. At least I recognized what was happening to me.
      I will look for the Gibran book. I've got it around the house somewhere. You are so right about mourning the single self.

      Delete
  13. I wish someone had told me that when I had my firstborn. I had awful PPD and it lasted a year because I was more focused on hiding it from everyone than dealing with it. In fact, I didn't really "heal" for another 4 yours, when I told my story for the first time to a friend who admitted she was struggling. Now I tell people all the time, to normalize it, and help women who feel like I did to see they are not going to loose their children if they admit to professionals they want to toss their baby in a bin and drive away.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...