When Does Postpartum Depression End…

…and depression begin?

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That’s a great question I’ve been wondering and also getting asked.

In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you can back slowly away from the cliff and start living more like yourself again.

I really thought I had fall bagged. Summer played an endless set of danceable pop right up until the day school started.

None of the kids were in school or camps or daycare for the summer, so we plowed that money into getting nanny coverage for 40 hours a week. I worked two days a week, and planned adventures with the kids for the rest.

We went everywhere.

The Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, the Wilson River, the Zigzag River, the Kilchis River, Tillamook, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depot Bay, Dufur, Grass Valley, Neskowin, Astoria, Rainier, Mt. Angel, Seattle, Lopez Island, Sauvie Island.

But the baby.

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She’s the reason we need nanny help. The boys are two years apart: 8 and 6. I like being out with them. They can do short hikes, they can camp, they love being outside. They can speak in sentences and ask for things they need. They can be near water without throwing themselves into the current, they can see roads and not run into traffic, they can be in port-o-potties and not touch everything.

But the baby.

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Toddlers are cute, and this toddler is off-the-charts.

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But cuteness doesn’t help me get a good night’s sleep in a tent, and cuteness does not give me 30 minutes to sit and enjoy the beauty of the place I’m in.

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So one day a week, or two, the baby and a nanny came along with us. And the Fairy Pig loved to be out, roaming farther afield than our neighborhood park.

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But the other days the boys and I had this corner of northwest Oregon all to ourselves.

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We may not have seen you over the summer. And that’s because when I’m out with the boys, I like it to be just us.

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It’s simpler. My brain can focus on the logistics of just three people.

I like it when it’s the three of us. I feel like a good parent.

When we were at the Tillamook Forest Center eating breakfast on their suspension bridge this summer, K-Pants said, “I think we’re the luckiest kids in the world.”

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Boy Woww said the same thing when he was jumping in the waves at Sunset Beach.

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Those are the moments I live for, when I feel like I’m giving them more than just manners; I’m showing them the beautiful things in the world and making them want more.

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I want more.

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For me, life is a series of explorations anchored by home.

I thought that summer had charged up my internal battery to at least 50%, plenty to make it through fall. And then we would tackle winter with skis and snowshoes.

But the first week of school the Columbia River Gorge was burning and the smoke created a beautiful, lung-burning haze that filtered the light into an ethereal thickness but left me with headaches and house-bound. (See photos by my friend Tamara here.)

A lot of Oregon burned this summer. In Portland, we didn’t pay much attention until our hair became flecked with ash and our most beloved hiking trails were mostly destroyed. By some kids with fireworks. But that’s their cross to carry now.

Then Boy Woww got strep throat, and we settled into the mundane non-routine of school and sickness and sports. We wait for the rain, and we wait for charred-out roads to reopen. And surely we’ll wait for them to reopen again, when downpours bring mudslides to unmoored hillsides.

That’s how I feel. Like I’m calculating if there are enough roots left to hold the hillside in place. The ground is sliding.

So is it depression or postpartum depression?

I figured postpartum depression ended at two, when, by all reports, your hormones and brain go back to the way they were before you were pregnant. This summer was a solid touchpoint for that.

It was glorious.

But here I am. And there I was, sitting in my therapist’s office, feeling the most fragile I have in recent memory.

She reminded me that before I got pregnant with the baby, I was evening out and excited about where our family was going and the freedom we were starting to feel from growing out of the baby and toddler phase. We talked about the fact that my hopelessness comes when I’m alone with the baby, or when I feel like the demands of parenting small people are going to steal the last of my adult mind.

My friend Anne stayed with us for a few weeks at the end of summer, and it was a joy. One reason was that Anne balanced everything. Team Rational Brain had a third team member to even out the score against Team We Don’t Like What You Made for Dinner.

If it were just me and my husband and the boys, I really believe I would be faring much, much better. You never know. But indicators point that direction.

It’s pasta night. Team We Don’t Like What You Made for Dinner complains about flecks of green things in the sauce and not liking the sausage. They bring in their star player, the Fairy Pig, and she throws the pasta on the floor, spills her water, and then climbs onto the table lunging for another plate. When Anne was here, we could bring in our star player and she would open a jar of olives and pour a glass of wine. I even think, in overtime, we could have won.

But the balance is off again. My brain is off again.

The smoke is gone and I’m starting to exercise more. I’m figuring out the routine of my new work schedule. I’m going to sleep earlier. I’m going to acupuncture. I’m taking Epsom salt baths. I’m starting antidepressants.

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We’re still calling it postpartum depression because my symptoms tend to clear up like rain clouds when the baby things fall away. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. It only matters that I can get well and stay well.

 

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5 responses to “When Does Postpartum Depression End…

  1. Please put me down for Team-You’re-the-Most-Amazing-Cook-Ever and keep the green specks coming. Also keep those self-care activities going strong, because I love being around the real you, in all your manifestations. Balance is everything!

  2. Great post. Giving a real voice to the uncertain land of depression after way after baby but still in baby brain land. Who knows. But way to take care of yourself.

  3. I love that you went on so many adventures this summer. I’m so glad that you hired a nanny and that it paid off in your emotional health so well.Thank you for sharing your real you.

  4. This is a great post. Your honest sharing of what you feel, think and see in your role as Mom is a powerful expression of what it means to be a young and intelligent woman who is striving greatly to be the best Mom for her kids and at the same time managing her depression. Your courage and heroic effort will help see you to the other side. Lots of love.

  5. I love the way you’ve written this post! It shows the light that things can be so tough but still be glorious. As a postpartum depression +3 years mother, every day can be a challenge but it’s how you feel at the end of it that shows the real view. Motherhood sucks but it is the best thing in the world. Keep doing what you’re doing!

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