Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Normal...or Not

I’ve seen a lot of press lately about postpartum depression and anxiety. Thank goodness. It amazes me that there is still so much stigma around such an important issue, that babies (and mamas) are literally dying because of it-and yet I understand completely because when I went through it my biggest fear was that someone would find out. 

After we lost Rip, everyone asked me if I was depressed all of the time. Doctors, nurses, my parents, friends- and the answer was yes, but understandably so. Under all of that overwhelming grief, I somehow sensed that this was a situational depression, “normal” in the most abnormal of circumstances. I was feeling everything you would expect to feel after the loss of your child and as awful as it was I needed to feel it. Grief is different for everyone and for me, at that time, medication just seemed to make things worse. This pain was necessary, something I had to endure to make it through to the other side.

It was different after Gracie was born. Here I was in this amazing, joyful time. The answer to all of my prayers had arrived. I could finally relax…except I couldn’t. Not in a normal, new parent way. Not in a newly sleep-deprived, what in the heck happened to my life way. Not even in a parent who lost a child way. In a something isn’t right, anxiety-ridden way. In an obsessive-compulsive way. 

It took me weeks to leave Gracie's side, and by leave her side I mean walk out onto the driveway with Parke while my mother-in-law stayed with the baby in our house. If someone spilled something, if something was messy, my heart raced until it was clean again. I showered twice a day. I worried obsessively about Gracie’s safety, about falling down the stairs with her or burning her when I opened the oven. I worried if someone knew about these worries they would come and take her from me. Somewhere deep inside I knew this couldn’t be normal, but I was supposed to be normal now…finally normal…and I was too ashamed for anyone to know otherwise. I’d put everyone through too much already. All of this started to fade after about a month, and was completely gone around two or two and a half months. Only after it was over did I realize how bad it had been, how afraid and irrational I’d been.

When I saw my doctor several weeks after it was all over, she asked me what I thought of those first few months. She asked it in a, “wasn’t is amazing” kind of way. I told her I thought I could have really benefited from some medication. It wasn’t the answer she was expecting, because at the time I’d told her we were doing great! We were so in love! So happy! And that was true…but I was also in need of help. She couldn’t have known that. Nobody could have..but I think maybe if people were talking about postpartum anxiety and depression then as they are now, even four years ago, I would have felt better about opening up when I needed to.

Except for that doctor’s appointment, this is pretty much the only time I’ve ever admitted to feeling that way. I never wanted it to sound like I was anything less than extremely grateful and in love with my baby girl. Now I see how silly that sounds- the only way I could have loved her more was to have taken better care of myself when I needed it. 

For the record, I had no symptoms of postpartum anxiety with Sam. Poor soul has been dragged to Target from week one. Gracie may never forgive me for those months of missed shopping opportunities. In all seriousness, though, my point is that my experiences only go to show how unpredictable this can be. So thank goodness for the brave mamas out there telling their stories and helping others get the help they need. 

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