I know. I’m talking about it again.
I just have to write about postpartum depression. The beautiful waves of amnesia are coming.They’re going to wear down the sharp edges of this difficult time. And when the sea glass of parenting young children is eroded to a luminescent, pocket-sized amulet, I’ll be left with hundreds of tender photos and a feeling of nostalgia that will fill my chest.
I will cherish that soft piece of glass: I love this fiery baby and her creative, independent brothers.
In thinking about the future, I’m finding I have a deep desire to make sure I remember that the postpartum depression was real, and that I wasn’t just a complainer with a penchant for hyperbole. No. I was an amazing mother who faced exhaustion and hopelessness, and who felt like raising a surprise baby shoved her soul against a brick wall and put a knife to its throat.
So I share these snippets with immense love and compassion toward my future self, who will say things to other parents like, “Someday when you look back, you will actually miss these moments,” and think that it’s kind and not callous. One or two of those parents might come here and realize that in that moment I simply forgot how hard it was.
This Is What It’s Like #ppd
I have a constant yearning for connection. I used to be an extrovert, but now I’ve swung to the other side. One morning, back in May, when I realized that my best friend was bringing her daughters with her to visit me, I started to shut down. I don’t like to be around kids right now, even though I love my best friend’s daughters almost like my own. They were my favorite girls until the Fairy Pig was born. Here they are picking flowers in my garden.
But these days I have to work myself up to talking to children, pausing for their constant interruptions, mollifying their basic needs. The baby had just gone down for a nap, and I felt like I could breathe for a few moments. I wasn’t prepared to have more kids around, even though my friend had surely told me they were coming and I had simply forgotten.
I sat in a chair in our living room and stared at the wall, swaying back and forth. I tried to call my friend back to cancel twice. My brain hits a wall and shuts down these days, making we want to cancel everything.
But my friend arrived, sent her girls outside to pick wild strawberries and build block houses, and then she hugged me and let me cry. After I stopped crying, she helped me clean my kitchen and sweep the floors. Then we sat down to a bottle of sparkling cider she had brought over because this whole morning was supposed to be a celebration for her.
About a month ago I went back to Baby Boot Camp to exercise—a place that makes me feel strong and energized during the day. Exercise is critical for my mental health, and I had gone to Baby Boot Camp for two years with K-Pants and Boy Woww.
At class, the Fairy Pig was fine, but other babies were crying. The crying short-circuited my brain and made my hands shake. I had to fight the urge to race to my car and leave. At the end of class toddlers were having meltdowns over toys and snacks. Most were fine, but all I could hear were the one or two who were loudly losing their marbles.
The crying and fussing and constant needs of other kids are too much for me right now. I can’t go back. I don’t think I could get my body to drive there.
On Friday afternoon my husband was off from work, and I pulled into the garage from an appointment. I was hungry and I needed to use the bathroom. I knew that he had put the kids down for naps, but the door from the garage into the house is very close to the baby’s room. She often wakes up when someone walks by her door. Not always. But enough that I’m paranoid, often hiding away in my room with my laptop and not leaving even if I need food or water.
Nap time used to be a time when I could count on an hour or two to feed myself, get some work done, and take some deep breaths. But last Friday I couldn’t work myself up to come inside from the garage. If I made it inside without the Fairy Pig waking up, she would surely wake up when I was using the bathroom, and if she didn’t wake up when I left the bathroom, she would surely wake up when I was making my lunch, and definitely by the time I sat down to eat.
It sucked the life out of me thinking about all the ways she would wake up and start crying and need things right away. So I sat in the garage for 45 minutes, until my husband found me and helped me make a step-by-step plan to come back inside.
These kinds of things happen pretty often right now. Normal situations that I could have rolled with before suddenly become overstimulating tangles of logistics and thwarted opportunities.
I love thinking of our family a few years from now, because I know this time of dreadful anxiety is related directly to baby-raising. And so I sit with the incongruous ideas: Now is hard. Later will be hard, but there won’t be a baby. You’ll forget everything and remember now as a magical time. I’m looking forward to it all.