Seth and I decided to go to dinner alone that night, knowing that going to dinner alone probably wouldn't happen for a month or two. Over dinner we talked a lot about my emotions. My fears about having a second child. My fears of how Millie will handle the change. We talked about the birth and how the next day was going to be amazing and wonderful, just like Millie's birth was. I anxiously told Seth that the best day of my life was not, in fact, when we got married. The best day of my life was Millie's birth. We laughed because Seth agreed. Nothing beats birth-days. We talked about how excited we were for the next day because clearly, those days are a miracle.
One of the things we discussed was how instantly I fell in love with Millie. The moment she was born, I was hooked. 100% smitten, completely in love with her. I struggled as a new mother of course. I had the baby blues with Millie. I lost my appetite for days. However, I never once felt anything but extreme love for her. Seth mentioned to me, "That may not happen with Matilda. You should be prepared for that."
I thought he was crazy. Yet, in reality, I feared the same thing. One of my biggest fears of having a second child is that I wouldn't love that child as fiercely as I love Millie. Was that amount of love even possible? Would my heart just expand even more?
I also worried about having the baby blues again. I worried that the same thing that happened with me a week or so after I had Millie, would happen again. I was scared. I didn't want to go through that. This pregnancy just held a lot more anxiety for me than the first. Probably because I knew what to expect. Yet I knew what to expect, so I kept telling myself, "Yes it's hard, but you know it passes. You know what to expect. You know how to help avert it." That's what I told myself.
Matilda's birth was wonderful...a topic I will hopefully be blogging about soon.
It was an entirely different experience than Millie's birth. Yet it was also a bit traumatic. I didn't get to really hold her for 45 minutes after I had her. I'll go into it on the blog later. It was just ... well... different.
Yet I loved her instantly. I marveled at her. I nursed and snuggled her. I compared her to pictures of Millie when she was first born. I was smitten. I felt extremely blessed.
We got home from the hospital and I kept waiting for the baby blues to kick in. My milk came in, and I wasn't sad. I felt tinges of anxiety from time to time, but I never sobbed for no reason. I didn't lose my appetite really. I rejoiced! I beat it! I didn't get the baby blues!!
And then something shifted. About 4-5 weeks after the baby was born I felt things start to change. I lost my appetite. I was exhausted. I was nursing constantly and unable to keep up with her demand. I started making lactation cookies. I drank tea that is supposed to help nursing moms. I made smoothies with brewers yeast. It didn't seem to help much. The baby seemed frantic whenever I nursed her. She never seemed satisfied. I felt like a failure when I had to start supplementing with formula. Yet, I also felt such relief. Relief that I was no longer her only life-support. Relief that I could be away from her for more than 2 hours at a time. Then I felt guilt for feeling such a great amount of relief.
My mom asked me, "Aren't you enjoying being home during maternity leave?" I promptly replied, "No! Not at all!" I was antsy. I missed work. I missed interactions outside my home. Matilda was only 4-days-old when I was requesting that I be the one to pick up Millie at daycare. Anything, anything to get me out of the house. I also looked for any time to be alone with Millie. I missed her. I found myself crying as I put her to bed because I missed her so much. I wanted to just crawl in bed with Millie and sleep the night. But I couldn't. I never could stay long because I could hear Matilda screaming in the other room with Seth. I found that I was resenting the baby. I was resenting her because I spent nearly all my time with her. I was nursing, bouncing, holding her constantly. And I missed my special relationship with Millie. I felt guilty that I wasn't able to spend more time with her. I felt guilty for having to put her 2nd, always 2nd.
And then I felt horrible guilt for resenting Matilda. I found myself not wanting to be with her. I would love my time so much with Millie that I would feel dread set in as I knew I had to shift to Matilda again.
Night time would come, and I would get hardly any sleep. This, of course, added to my depression. I remember sitting downstairs, bouncing the baby around 3 in the morning and chanting a really horrible thought over and over in my head. Something so horrible I can't even bring myself to write it. At this point, I went and woke up Seth. I told him, "I am having really bad thoughts about our baby right now. I need you to take her." I went upstairs and slept.
And felt like a monster the next day.
It was a downward spiral. Not only did I feel guilty. I felt horrible. I felt like the worst mother. How could I possibly think such awful thoughts about my beautiful baby? Why do I seem like the only mom that can't hack it!? How do people have more than 2 kids? I'm clearly not strong/good/worthy enough.
Things would ebb and flow. Some days I felt good. Not great, but good. I was running. I was "adjusting". And other days were horrendous. The baby would fuss. I wouldn't be able to spend anytime interacting with Millie. I found myself yelling at Millie and losing my patience. I would often burst into tears in front of Millie. This always upset her and made her yell at me, "Momma! Stop it! Don't cry! You be a nice momma!" I would cry harder and then yell back, "Don't yell at me when I'm sad! That doesn't help!"
My dear friend Meili was keeping tabs on me. One morning, a particularly bad morning, she sent me a text to see how I was doing. I replied, "Not well. I am not cut out for this. I should never have had a 2nd child. I'm not a good enough mom." She responded, "Becky this is postpartum depression."
And I realized it was. I kept thinking I could snap out of it, or change it. If I ignored it, I couldn't possibly have it right? But I did.
At my 6-week follow-up with my doctor I filled out a depression questionnaire. After adding up my "points" in their scoring system it showed I was "extremely depressed." Extremely. Wow. So I got on medication. I didn't fight it. I knew I needed it.
Within 5-7 days I started to feel remarkably better. I had some pretty bad side-effects with the medication initially but that has gone away. I think a combination of being back at work and the medication kicking in really did it for me. I felt like a fog started to lift and it luckily hasn't resurfaced. The baby got older and less fussy and things have just been better. I have had to call family/friends less to come and help me when I'm solo-parenting. I haven't felt anxious. I have stopped nursing. While I felt guilt initially about that, I know that it has been one of the best things for me. Matilda is thriving. She's sleeping fairly well now. Seth and I each take a night shift so neither of us feel as exhausted. I'm able to spend more time with Millie.
The biggest change, is my feelings towards Matilda. I am 100% smitten with her. She smiles and smiles. She coos at me. She laughed yesterday!
I just can't get enough of that baby girl. She's snuggly and wonderful. I just tell her over and over, "Momma loves you. I am so happy you are in our family." And it feels SO GOOD to actually feel that way. I can do this. I was meant to have 2 beautiful girls. I love them both. I can mother them both and I know I'll be a good mom to each of them. Everything is going to be ok.
Postpartum depression is a bitch. I'm lucky to have had so many women and friends close to me that I have been able to confide in about this. I'm not one to keep things to myself (clearly) and I realized that once I reached out and began to express how much I was struggling, that people came out in droves with their personal stories. I think it's important for us to talk about these things.
Thank you. Thank you to those that have come to help out with the girls. Thank you to those that brought meals, sent text messages, emailed, called and supported me. Thank you modern medicine for providing me with medication that helps me not only with my depression, but with my anxiety and OCD issues as well. Thank you Seth for loving me through this and for encouraging me.
I feel back to myself again. And it's a beautiful thing.