I remember the day so vividly. Sitting in my doctor’s office, saying “I just can’t do it anymore. Everything makes me mad. EVERYTHING. And if I’m not mad, I’m crying, or I have no feeling whatsoever.” It was all or nothing – extremes. “I’m mad at my toddler when she does normal toddler things. I’m mad when the baby cries and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
– – – – – –
The day started as night bled over into morning. The baby was NOT sleeping. Not only was she not sleeping, but she was crying. Not sure if it was reflux, or her colic creeping over into nighttime, or what, but she was crying. She would sleep, but as soon as I put her down in her crib, crying began again. This was after days of dealing with her reflux, milk allergy, and general exhaustion of parenting a newborn. Plus a toddler. Plus the end of maternity leave looming. Plus the guilt of being nothing more than passing ships in the night with my husband, because once the toddler went to bed, so did I. And I couldn’t do it any more. She cried, I cried.
My husband found us in the nursery as both baby and me were crying uncontrollably. I briefly explained between sobs that I was so tired, that I didn’t know what was wrong with Cady or me, and that I couldn’t keep doing this. He did his best to comfort me, took the toddler to daycare, and messaged my mom.
At the same time, I messaged my mom and my best friend. “I need help. I don’t know what kind, but I need help.” Please keep in mind: this is not like me. I handle things. I’m a fixer and a planner. I don’t crash, I don’t ask for help, and I don’t reveal weaknesses. They both encouraged me to call my doctor. So I texted him, as he gave me his cell when I was really sick during my first pregnancy and my husband was out of town. He instantly responded and I got in to see him in under two hours. I dropped the baby off at a family member’s house and rushed to his office.
I have to say, major props to my doctor’s office. They instantly took me back when I got there, walked me directly to my room, not just my doctor’s waiting area, and were very calming and comforting the entire time. I wouldn’t wish this situation on anyone, but if you find yourself in it, I hope that you are in a place as warm and welcoming as my doctor’s office, because I can assure you, that day, they looked at my messy crazy and welcomed it.
I talked to my doctor and his nurse. Based upon my history of high-functioning anxiety and what I was describing to him that morning, we decided that a low dose of an anti-depressant and counseling was what I needed to get me through this rough patch. He thanked me for telling him something was wrong and shared some stories with me to help ease my panic for lack of control over myself and my emotions – something that is totally not normal for me.
Fast forward fifty days: I am well into my medicine and have a few counseling sessions under my belt. I feel like my normal self, but better. I have more patience. My anger is gone. I don’t have a desire to sleep most of the day any more. My house is clean(er), I’m cooking for my family again, and I’m smiling because I want to, not because I have to.
Ladies, postpartum is ROUGH. Don’t Do it alone. If you feel off, reach out to your tribe. You are most likely not going to recognize postpartum depression or anxiety on your own. I was fortunate enough to have a best friend who gently helped me realize something was wrong. The most important thing I can say is – don’t be ashamed to tell your doctor. Perhaps medication isn’t right for you, but maybe counseling is. Your hormones are a wreck. They can change your outlook on life. If you are tired and it is more than taking care of a newborn, ask for help. It will be the best thing you can do for you and your family. Your desire to appear perfect is not worth falling apart. Keeping this in can be detrimental to your health, to your family, and to your life. There is no shame in taking care of yourself.