Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All that I am



It took me almost a year to muster up the courage to write this post. I started a draft when Quinn was three-months-old, but I struggled to find the words. It’s still hard to articulate, so please forgive the length of this post.

Let me preface this by saying I was never diagnosed with post-partum depression, which is probably why I’m still unsure if I had PPD after Quinn was born. All I know is whatever it was, it’s better now. Thanks to my mommy-friends and the brave bloggers who chronicle their stories, I now know these feelings are normal. Although, it feels anything BUT normal when you’re in the thick of it.

People tell pregnant women that “everything changes” when the baby comes. But the magnitude of this fact is not conveyed. What people should say is not one single thing will ever be the same, which is somehow different from a casual “everything changes.”

Though you know everything will change, no one tells you that you might hate that. You’re in soon-to-be-a-mommy bliss. It’s about to be the happiest time of your life. This adorable, perfect, bundle of joy will bring you just that – joy. And the joy is there. But so is the sadness.

No one tells you about the sadness.

As soon-to-be new parents, I fully expected to be frustrated, stressed out, seriously sleep deprived, and even angry at times. But I didn’t expect to be so sad.

I tried to take friends’ warnings to heart; like that the baby would eat every two hours from start to start, and some babies take 30-45 minutes to eat. While that didn’t necessarily sound appealing, I just assumed that if my baby was latched to my boob 90% of the day, I would be fine with it. If that’s what my baby needed, I would happily leash myself to him, and it would be okay.

It was NOT okay. I was not fine with it. I hated it. No one told me I would HATE it. They told me it would be hard.

Hard, I expected. Hate, I did not expect.

But I never hated the baby.

I always thought PPD was when a mom didn’t feel that maternal bond with her baby at first. These women resented, or even hated, their new babies and had fantasies about throwing them out the window or abandoning them at grocery stores.

Since I didn’t feel that way at all, I didn’t think PPD was my problem. I had the opposite feelings. I felt I couldn’t protect my baby enough. Just the thought of anything happening to him made my anxiety level skyrocket. I would look at his beautiful face and just cry. 

After Quinn was born, I couldn’t stop holding him. I wanted to put him down, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t get out of bed. I sat there all day in my bathrobe, holding the baby and eating the stash of granola bars my loving Hubs left in the nightstand drawer before going to work. He would come home for lunch and find me in the same spot. I hadn’t eaten anything else, hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth. I hadn’t even peed yet.

“This is what they call ‘baby blues,’” I told myself. I knew my hormones were running amuck, so it was easy to explain away my tears.

But I felt it was more than hormones. Nothing about my life was the same. All the things I found self-worth in were gone. I didn’t have my career anymore. I didn’t have time to clean my house or cook meals. I didn’t have time to do my hair or make myself presentable. I no longer felt like a good friend, daughter, sister or wife because all I could focus on was the baby, and all my relationships suffered. Badly.

And since I could pinpoint actual tangible reasons for being sad and angry, I didn’t think I had PPD. (I had not yet heard of post-partum anxiety.) I didn't know I probably needed help. 

Being Quinn’s mommy is wonderful, just like I knew it would be. I just didn’t know that being his mommy would be everything. It’s all that I am now. I used to be so much more. While I love my mommy life, I mourn the loss of my old life, my other selves, my old identity.

I think that’s why I feel so guilty so easily. When Q was a newborn, if I needed to just put him down for a few minutes instead of holding him all day, I was not taking care of my baby. Even now, if I take time for myself to go to the gym or get my hair done, I am not taking care of my baby. 

And if Q’s mommy is all that I am now… and I’m not taking care of him, even if only for a few moments… than what am I in those moments?

Nothing. In those moments, I am nothing. What identity I have left is gone when I’m not taking care of Quinn.  

So I focus on him entirely so I can feel like I am somebody. And that becomes exhausting. And so I cried a lot in the beginning. A few days after we brought Quinn home, my husband told me he had never seen me so happy or so sad at the same time.

Nearly twelve months later, I still feel the anxiety, but the sadness is finally gone. Like I said, I was never diagnosed with PPD, so I can’t say for sure that’s what I experienced. But my story feels so similar to others that I have read. Here are just a few of the bloggers (there are many more!) that helped me feel less alone.



24 comments:

  1. Melissa, I just loved this post. When my son was born I read a great parenting book that said your life does not change at all when you have a baby, you just get a completely new one! And, it can take time to adjust to it, plus there is the crazy hormones and the huge changes that occur if you leave your career and go from an independent person to someones mom.

    I had a lot of the same feelings you speak about. I was so nervous about PPD that I had my husband drive to me to my old therapist 5 days after our baby was born. I was not diagnosed with it either, and handled it very similarly to the way you did. Time, talk, friends, meeting other moms. When I had my second child though, I did get diagnosed and did go on medication for my anxiety. It made a huge difference.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I think it will help so many women going through the same thing right now. Much love to you!!

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    1. That book is 100% right. You get a whole new life in one day. Glad to hear you got the help and support you needed. I wish I had been more knowledgeable about PPD before Q was born. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement! Much love back!

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  2. And now you will help more people fell less alone. THis is the beauty that can come from our challenges and valleys: that we can extend the hand of acceptance and understanding to others.

    So happy you did this, because to reveal yourself is such a liberation, isn't it.

    I love you.

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    1. You're so right! As usual. :) It does feel good to get it out there and stop pretending it didn't happen. I hope this post can give someone else the same comfort that I received from others. Love you, too, lady!

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  3. What a wonderful support system! These ladies know how to make it through.

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    1. Totally! We're so lucky to be part of such a wonderful, supportive community of amazing women.

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  4. So proud of you for posting this. I know how hard it is.

    PPD, in all its forms, is so complicated and I think that's why we don't know what it is when it hits. Also why many new moms don't actually get diagnosed.

    So glad you're doing better. One thing I will say is this: You ARE someone outside his mommy. It took me a while to figure out who I was too, but you are, and when you start to see that better you will be an even better mom because you are a person unto yourself. And then you'll really feel back to normal.

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    1. You're right - I thought I knew what PPD was, but I was wrong. Thanks, Robin, for your kind words. I am finally starting to discover who the new ME is, although it's hard to find some normalcy outside of motherhood that doesn't feel like I'm being selfish. But I know that will get easier with time as well.

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  5. Motherhood can feel so isolating sometimes and I applaud your courage to speak out about your feelings. It's never easy to go it alone. Sometimes a little encouragement is all we need. And believe me ... it's good to have some alone time...happy mommy = happy baby!!!!
    I've awarded you. Come on by and see!!! :)

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    1. Aw! Thanks so much for the award, Susi. You and your blog are quite lovely as well. I'll be sure to pass that on soon. I completely agree that a happy mommy = a happy baby, although I often feel selfish doing things that make me happy. And I worry that I will appear selfish to others. I hope this gets easier with time. Just once, I'd like to go get my hair done without feeling like an awful mommy! Thanks so much for your support and encouragement. Xoxo!

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  6. Good for you, Melissa, for writing through this!

    I am not a professional, but I would say what you had was definitely ppd. I never hated Eddie. But I hated being a mom. I hated all of it. And my hubs had to pry him out of my arms at night. I almost think that is part of the reason he was such a lousy sleeper for so long. I either wanted him to fall asleep as soon as I put him down, or I wanted to hold him forever.

    With just weeks before Charlie gets here, I am nervous about it happening again. But at least this time I know what to watch for.

    Thank you for publishing this. You will give voice to something for so many women. Good for you for being so brave.

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    1. Thank you for your courage to share your story, Katie. You have no idea how much you helped me. I read your post on your concern about getting PPD again with your second child, and my heart broke for you. I hope you have a much easier time with little Charlie. You have lots of friends here in the blogosphere that love you and will reach out. Including moi.

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  7. Mel - AMAZING post in its honesty, emotion and how much it's going to help others. I was there too - you described it To. The. Letter.

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    1. Thank you so much, Missy. This means so much coming from you. Your honest and courageous posts inspire me.

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  8. Hi Melissa, I know you are searching for your identity outside of being Quinn's mom, and in one facet of your life you have found an identity and a voice through your blog. I've discovered that blogging can be a very personal, uplifting and fulfilling experience. Your blog is 100% you - no body is telling you to change your words, you have 100% control. So yes, you are a mommy, but you can add another hat to your role, "blogger"! Your story is beautiful. I did not suffer from depression or anxiety when my daughter was born, but there were many times I broke down crying from lack of sleep and when she wouldn't stop crying, and there were many times when my husband and I argued because he wanted some attention and I couldn't let go. It is a very challenging time to be a new mom. I really admire you for sharing. And most important, your son is adorable!!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I can SO relate to the new-mom challenges you described. You're right - this blog has become so important to my identity since Quinn was born. It's the only real creative outlet I have, and the amazing people I have "met" through this blog have made the experience incredible. So glad you're one of them!

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    2. Thanks Melissa, I'm glad I met you too!!

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  9. One of the most amazing things about this whole blogging thing is that it can help new moms to understand what they are feeling, to understand that they are not alone and to discover an army of people willing and able to help along the way.
    Jenn

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    1. Absolutely! We are so blessed to be part of such an amazing community. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. I know you don't need to hear these words from me (and you can even remind me that I said them in a few years, if you'd like), but I'm going to say them anyway, because I'm a sharer. lol.

    In my unprofessional and inexperienced opinion, your identity is not based solely on what you do (how you spend your time) but on who you are. Parenthood encompasses both of those (doing and being) so it makes everything feel gray and easily confused. An employee wasn't your identity. You were a creative, driven, and passionate person, and someone paid you to utilize those characteristics in a way that benefited them. Those things didn't go away because you had a baby. It just took you some time to figure out how to re-purpose them. Clearly this blog was one of the ways. As a friend/relative, you were caring, thoughtful, and giving. Those things didn't disappear just because you couldn't give as much as you used to. And, again, you've found another way to be those things for so many people. So, while everything in your life is now different, you are still you, and probably even a more advanced version of your former self.

    I love Mel 2.0. She's pretty damn inspiring, if you ask me. ;)

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    1. Okay, thanks a lot. Now I'm blubbering like an baby. :) Thanks so much for your sweet and wise words, Katrina. I really needed that. You're a wonderful friend, and I am so blessed to have you in my life. Xoxo!

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    2. *waves hand* I'm the lucky one. I'm just glad to be a member of the audience. ;)

      *hugs*

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  11. So very proud of you, with each word you typed, you let a little go ... when you reached the end and pushed publish ... was it liberating?
    ... just a little?
    Your words will help others, what a gift you have shared!
    and that the blogosphere can bring so many together to hold eachother up in a time of need - just all caps AWESOME.
    Love to you xxxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Nicole. You're the sweetest. You're right, it was liberating. I let go of a little shame and fear with each word. I am so grateful for you and others like you who offer support and encourage every step of the way. Much love right back atcha!

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