Thursday, December 13, 2007

Journey Part 2

Let's see, where were we? Oh, yes, about 3 weeks postpartum. As I was saying, Ladybug was crying constantly and I was spending hours rocking her.

I began to tell everyone that something was wrong with her. On this point I was correct, but nobody believed me. I would tell my mother, my husband, and our pediatrician that something was wrong. She was not acting normally. A baby shouldn't cry as much as this. My mother thought it was just me reacting to the differences between Ladybug and Sweet Pea, who was a relatively calm baby. The pediatrician didn't understand the extent of her crying and told me it was just newborn behavior. Friends would tell me it was colic and I'd have to wait it out. It would be 4 more months until we finally figured out the root of her problems. It was lesson to me in mother's intuition. Always trust it.

It was at this point that I became obsessed with keeping notes on Ladybug's eating and sleeping habits. I had already read every baby book I could, trying to figure out a way to get her to stop crying. One of the books suggested keeping a log of eating and sleeping habits to try to discern a pattern. I kept a journal on the bookcase in the hall next to her room. I would record the times she ate, when she fell asleep and when she woke. I made my husband follow along and I became very angry when he forgot. I would worry about it throughout the day and check and recheck my notes. This type of obsessive attention to detail is one of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis.

I started feeling very guilty about the lack of time and attention I was able to give my two year old. Sweet Pea was upset from the beginning. When my mother-in-law brought him to the hospital to see us, he wouldn't look at me and refused to let me hold him or sit on my lap. When we got home, he continued to ignore me. It was very obvious to all of us that he was mad at me, which was understandable. He went from being an only child who spent every day with his mother to having to share me with a screaming, needy baby.

Before I had Ladybug, Sweet Pea and I did all kinds of things together. I'm a member of a local chapter of the MOMS Club and we went to playgroups, play dates, The Little Gym, Kindermusik, etc. We were very active. I did it as much for myself as for him. I was bored stiff just staying at home and I tried to fill our days with activities just to get us out of the house.

Because Ladybug refused to sleep anywhere other than her crib, we were housebound. I was also terrified to take her anywhere because of the constant crying. I didn't want to subject others to her noisiness. When we were home, the majority of the time I was rocking her trying to get her calmed down. I would put Sweet Pea in the playroom next to Ladybug's bedroom and tell him to play quietly while I rocked her. What two year old plays quietly? He would make all kinds of noise and come running in and out of the bedroom, inevitably waking up Ladybug just when I had gotten her to sleep.

I began to feel very guilty about not being able to play with Sweet Pea and not being able to provide him with his usual activities. This quickly turned to resentment. I began to deeply resent Ladybug. I resented her for disrupting our lives and stealing time from Sweet Pea and I. I resented the loss of sleep I was suffering. I resented her constant crying, which often upset Sweet Pea. I resented the loss of my free time. I resented her for being born. This was the first very serious sign of PPD.

I would sit, rocking her, and think of all the things I could be doing. I would think of all the things my son was missing out on because of this baby. I would think about the friends we weren't seeing much of. I would think about the story times we were missing and how much Sweet Pea loved to go to the library. I would think about the lack of exercise I was getting. How would I every lose the baby weight if I couldn't exercise? I would think about the books I could be reading. I would think about how I was never able to make dinner anymore and we were never able to sit down together as a family and eat. I would think about how miserable I was and how I was going to have to endure this for months to come. I could barely see how I was going to make it to tomorrow, let alone months from now. I began to feel that my life had become hopeless and there was nothing I could do about it.

The resentment festered inside me and grew. Within days, the resentment changed form and blossomed into hate. What a horrible and horrifying emotion for a mother to have. I cringe to think of it now. But I began to hate Ladybug. I started to try to avoid having to touch her. If my husband was home, I wanted him to deal with her. If relatives were over, I would happily hand her over. I did not want to have to see her, hear her, or touch her. I didn't want her, period.

I began to tell my husband I wished she had never been born. I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives in having her. I would suggest to him that we try to give her away, laughing as I said it, but meaning it deep down. I started to fantasize about taking her to the hospital and leaving her there. I thought we could look into putting her up for adoption. Intellectually I knew I should not be feeling this way but I chalked it up to all the difficulties we had with her and her constant crying.

The hatred fueled rage inside me. Not only did I hate her, but I began to get furious with her. I would yell and scream and rant at her for not going to sleep. I would rage at my husband for not doing what I thought he should when he was caring for her. One day, as I was trying to get her to bed, dead tired myself, I lay her on the floor and screamed at the top of my lungs. I told her I hated her and I wished she had never been born. I yelled at her to just shut up and go to sleep. I cursed at her. I continued to rage at her until my husband had to remove me from the room. This was the first of several such episodes. I can only imagine how it must have terrified her. Her mother's ugly, hate-filled face looming over her screaming obscenities.

I also began to cry. I cried everyday, often for hours. I felt on the verge of tears all the time. I would sit in the rocker and look out the window crying. I cried in the middle of the night and in the morning. I cried every time I had to care for Ladybug. My husband would come home at lunch to help me. I don't think I ever actually asked him to stay, but inside I begged him to just stay home with me and give me some relief. I would sob as his truck pulled away to go back to work and I would count down the hours until he returned.

I began to have what intrusive thoughts, another sign of PPD. I would picture ways Ladybug could get injured or die. I would have visions of her strangling in the crib or suffocating. I would picture her flying out the window. I would imagine myself smothering her with a pillow. I would imagine cutting her with a kitchen knife or her accidentally impaling herself. All these thoughts came unbidden. They just popped in my head periodically and proceeded like a slide show.

Together with the hate, they planted in me a tiny and secret desire. Alone, in the darkest corner of my mind, I almost wished she would die. I remember actually thinking to myself that if she died of SIDS, I wouldn't really care. I didn't think I'd even cry. I thought to myself, well, it would mean an end to all this. It would mean relief. Maybe we'd all be better off. Yes, maybe she'll die, accidentally of course, but maybe she'll die. I began to welcome the thought and even wish for it.

Another night, in the middle of the night after a feeding, she would not go back to sleep. I began to cry, sobbing at the frustration of it all. I felt the anger build up in me and I seethed inside. I roughly grabbed her by her arms, squeezed and shook her for just a second. I stopped myself before doing anything else. This experience terrified me. I realized how close I had come to crossing that line and doing the unthinkable.


Kristin said...

Wow. How powerful your story is. I applaud you many times over for being so honest and sharing feelings that so many other moms have had and yet are afraid to recognize and share. You are amazing to have through it and then to go back and re-visit it. I know how hard it is. I uncover bits of pieces of my PPD experience on my blog, but a little at a time because it's so hard to go back to that place of such sorrow and pain. And mine happened 12 years ago -- and yet it can still be so fresh.
Thanks again for sharing your story.
Warm regards,
Kristin Park

missyb64 said...

Again, this is good stuff. I'm sure that this is very painful for you, you are in my thoughts with this. And again, I hope somebody out there, somebody who maybe sat in judgement of someone who was suffering just like you did, is reading this and learning. But, that's not the way it usually works. We usually think we know the answers to everyone else's issues, much better than they ever could. Bless you, and the kids, and hubs, all of you deserve a wonderful life after all that. BTW - screaming babies are the reason I cannot fathom having my own child. I feel so helpless when they do that, helpless and frustrated. I always imagined that I'd be the Mom in the paper, found leaving her child on a table, by a window, on the second floor of her home. So, that's why I never tried again.

Johanna in NZ said...

I have tears in my eyes as I read your story because I know it. This is how I was with my daughter. She is five now, and I still struggle with these feelings. I have had two more children since and love them deeply, but with my oldest one it has been a struggle. This is not how I wanted it to be. I long for it to be different but I don't know how to change it.

Anonymous said...

Hello. Thank you for being so honest and for sharing your story with people everywhere. You may not have planned this but you have helped women everywhere. Your honesty is so real and deep and your description of motherhood is dead on. It is so hard sometimes and yet, we have to endure. We have to go on.

I am the mother of 3 small children and I have suffered from PPD with each of them. Actually, we adopted #2 from South Korea and I experienced post adoption depression with him. Nobody knew much about it and I suffered needlessly and I suffered alone.

With my last baby, born in November of 2007, I suffered from the most debilatating case of PPD. Even with my history, I was allowed to go off antidepressants during the 6th month of my pregnancy. I was feeling so great and only now realize that it was the hormones that helped me feel so good. I didn't want my baby daughter to be born and have to go through Prozac withdrawl and so, I stopped the antidepressants.

Shortly after my daughter's birth, I started crying, not sleeping, not eating, not taking care of myself in the ways that I should. I managed to care for my new baby and two other children but I was miserable. There were days I couldn't get out of bed.

I ended up in a very cold and sterile hospital where the employees were mean, cold and unhelpful. I watched as they treated everyone the same with no compassion and no empathy. They didn't know how to help someone with PPD and I did everything in my power to get out of that hateful place so I could find real help. Nobody deserves to be treated badly, not even people with drug problems, alcohol problems, anorexia or any other mental illness.

With the help of my wonderful OB, I was referred to a psychiatrist who deals only with PPD and menopause. She is extremely knowledgeable about hormones and the different stages your body goes through after giving birth. When one antidepressant that I was put back on wasn't working, she kept trying and found the right combination. I will be forever grateful that this woman decided to help me and I truly hope all women who suffer from PPD can get help in this form. In addition to educating themselves about PPD, women need someone to "mother the mother" and our husbands and families are not always aware of how to do that. With sleep, good meals, proper rest and helpful doctors, there should be nobody who ever has to suffer from PPD again.

Thank you for your story and I wish you continued peace and good luck in raising your children and beyond.

East Lansing, Michigan

Bloggin Mama said...

I just came across your post. It is so brave of you to have opsted this and I am sure many women around the workd ar thankful for your honesty. Near the beginning of my PPD which started late, I felt resentment towards my second child and guilt for not spending time with my older child. It ate away at me. Again, well written!
Bloggin Mama