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.