Tag Archives: postpartum depression

In the End, It Was Not the Summer of Postpartum Depression

I just finished cleaning the car from summer, taking out beach toys and swimsuits, dozens of granola bar wrappers and an air-dried Jack In The Box cheeseburger remnant. Now I’m prepping for muddy fields. I’m checking our umbrella count and fleece supplies. I’m washing the sand and caked-on peanut butter from picnic blankets.

One week ago we were here.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I took this piece of sea glass from the ocean’s dance.

Sea glass on sand. MomsicleBlog

I’ve been rubbing it softly between my fingers, and it takes me right back to the cool air of the coast blowing in off the infinite sea.

I had been worried about summer. Summer could have been a fire lookout far out in the forest in need of repairs—timber beams creaking, a stair on every case rotted, nails coming loose from the freeze and thaw cycle of postpartum depression.

Instead we enacted my get-into-nature plan. We bolstered the lookout with steel and replaced the old nails and the softened steps. We had a nanny with us four days a week; we kept the car ready for the beach at a moment’s notice; we didn’t coordinate much, we just went.

And I made sure I was never alone at the top of the tower.

We headed out from base camp and toward water wherever we could find it within a two-hour radius.

In the Water Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

We didn’t do a single camp.

Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I look at our checklist and feel proud.

Summer 2016 Checklist. MomsicleBlog

We captured summer and held it in our arms and rode on its back through the sand of what seemed like a thousand beaches.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I want to draw our treasure map again and mark all its special spots. I want to go out with passion and purpose.

But it’s time to focus on fall and school and soccer. Autumn feels crisp and dead to me: Its smell makes me nauseous.

I have to change the way my senses respond—to look for how routine can ground and nourish us. Somewhere in me fall’s small ember burns. I have hope for early bedtimes and good books and hot baths and getting my body stretched out and my muscles strong. I have soccer practices to help run, I have freelance work that’s exciting and scary.

Summer wasn’t drowned by postpartum depression. It’s time to find oxygen to blow into fall.

This Will Not Be the Summer of Postpartum Depression*

*Every post these days has “postpartum depression” in the title. I don’t care. Some people have postpartum depression and don’t feel comfortable sharing about it. Some people think they may not survive another day. Hey you, with the brain meltdown and the life-sucking baby—it’s not okay. But you’re not alone. I have really great days and I have bad days with good moments and I have horrendous days with hard cider and 85% dark chocolate.

*

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

Summer is an interesting beast. Many things that I loved as a child I hate as an adult. Bath time. Birthday parties. Bubbles.

But summer. It has retained its exhausted, warm-skinned glow. If summer were my neighbor’s wife, I would covet it.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

I started thinking about summer back in March, when I realized my amorphous plan of being outside for June, July, and August needed a backbone.

You know K-Pants—he’s intense like Roquefort with royal jelly. Nature is the Allen wrench that fits perfectly into the hexagonal hole of his soul.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

People kept asking me what camps we were doing for the summer. “K-Pants doesn’t like camps, and he does really well out in nature, so we’re going on day trips.” As I filled my piggy bank with this sentence, I realized that the no-camps, out-in-nature plan was also for me. Maybe mostly for me.

Nature, adventure, exploration…these are my magic. Camp would destroy it all. Camp would tell us when to wake up and leave the house and when I should wake up the baby from her nap so we could get in the car to get the gremlins from f*cking camp.

NO CAMP.

So when K-Pants uttered the magic words, “I don’t want to go to any camps this summer,” I turned on the disco lamp and danced. All of our summer money would be allocated to nature, and hiring summer nannies to join us. God bless you, summer money.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

I was tempted when K-Pants’s friends’ parents asked about a few camps that The Pants might have loved if he could have warmed up part-way through. But no. I want every week for me, and the beach.

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

And now when I’m home exhausted at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’m waiting for anything. We’ve been out somewhere with sand and water. I feel like we’re here. 

Summer with Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

A Postpartum Depression Love Letter in Photos to My Feisty, Old-Soul Daughter on Her First Birthday

This year has been too real to stop at “I love you to the moon and back,” so here’s a postpartum depression love letter in photos to my feisty, old-soul daughter on her first birthday.

Her birthday is a celebration that we’ve done it, we’ve made it, we’re here. Soon the toughest times won’t sting like they do now, and the beautiful photos I’ve taken over the year will remain bright and tender.

These photos, here, I’ll keep just for me.

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Fairy Pig First Birthday. MomsicleBlog

Let’s Talk About Postpartum Depression

We were in the car—the whole family—and I was talking about a friend I really love. K-Pants got mad. “When you love other people my heart gets smaller and smaller,” he said.

“But remember what we talked about? Love is something that grows and grows. And my love for you only gets bigger. If I love someone else, it doesn’t mean I have less love for you.”

“No,” he said. “It gets smaller and smaller.”

***

Postpartum Depression. MomsicleBlog

I’ve been suffering from postpartum depression. People talk about PPD. It’s not off-limits. I just figure I should share because I’m a normal, extroverted, sarcastic, fill-in-the-blank kinda girl. And I’m a great mom and an excellent writer and a kick-ass cook and a pretty bangin’ wife while we’re at it.

These things and postpartum depression are not mutually exclusive.

In a related scenario, there’s an adorable baby on one hand, and my sense of dread about getting through the day with her on the other. She likes to be held and played with all the time—you know, baby stuff.

I don’t like that she stole my sense of self and has yet to give it back.

This stuff can be awkward to write about, because even though it’s not taboo to talk about postpartum depression, it automatically shuts you out of the gold-star moms club. I mean who doesn’t love babies? But I need to talk about it because friends have been saying, “Do you really have postpartum depression? I thought you were okay,” in ways that make me feel like I need to go through the exhausting task of explaining postpartum depression and then checking off the boxes that apply to me. I’ve also been getting a lot of “But the nice thing is that it will pass,” and “Keep it up,” and “Have you tried letting the baby play with plastic spoons while you do the dishes?”

So let me try to explain how this postpartum depression thing works for me.

I’m like a cell phone.

I like to charge my cell phone every night no matter how much juice it has left. Because what if there’s an earthquake and it takes me a few days to find my solar-powered emergency radio with the USB connection in order to hand-crank my phone battery back to life? So my phone usually only gets down to 75% battery life before a charge. Maybe 40% if we’ve been out on adventure and I need to use GPS and Instagram and Snapchat all day.

Parenting my two boys through baby and toddlerhood as a mostly stay-at-home-mom was exhausting. My battery would hang out in the red zone most of the time. If I had time to recharge, it would take things up to maybe 21%, and then I’d be right back in the low-battery pop-up-screen zone again. But I had started to get out of the red zone. I got to hike or write every Saturday. I spent time in the garden. I exercised. I had regular chunks of time when the boys were in school when I could reliably schedule appointments. The boys started to play with each other more. Having play dates didn’t mean I had to be involved the whole time.

And then the baby came. [Read about her entry into our family here.]

She doesn’t let me do anything except care for her.

“Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.

The baby smashed my flow of creative life.

I’m not looking for a way to entertain the baby so I can get the dishes done: I’m looking for a way to let my soul sing. Passion and creativity glow within me. The baby takes them away through a program of sleep-deprivation, diaper changes, and feedings.

My cell phone battery hangs out in the 3–5% range.

The phone works. But one extra Instagram post or group text message may just shut it down. Even with babysitting, a great therapist, and a supportive spouse, I can barely get to 10%.

As we pulled into the parking lot of MOD Pizza for my birthday lunch, I said to K-Pants, “It smells delicious.” “I don’t want pizza,” he said.

This kind of thing would have irritated me before, but I would have had the energy and the soul-fire to parent through it. K-Pants is not a kid who makes it easy to feel like a good parent. But now, a quick interaction like this, combined with the earlier admonition that I’m shrinking his heart, makes the phone shut down.

I decided to go to the grocery store while they ate lunch.

I wanted to walk around the aisles, shopping for sweet potatoes and avocados and frozen fruit and olive oil, acting like a person whose soul was on fire and who was going to cook some things that people might enjoy.

These days I most often describe postpartum depression as this condition that makes me very fragile. I’ve temporarily lost my resilience, which I find to be a personal trademark in normal circumstances.

These days I often don’t have the energy for normal interactions. I’m an extrovert, but not now. I’m too overstimulated by constant crying and whining and problem-solving. Often, I just need to be in the garden by myself.

I’m not open to suggestions on how to be a better parent and I avoid situations in which I may be judged for my parenting decisions. I’ll tell you if my feelings are hurt, and I have very thin skin right now, so I try to protect myself by being with people with whom I feel very safe.

Once the baby is older and I can get away on Saturdays again to hike and write, and the battery charge reliably stays above about 15%, then I’ll be able to access my normal self more often.

If you see me or talk to me I may tell you about my postpartum depression or I may say things are going well. It depends on the moment. I like to feel well, so I like to enjoy those moments.

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you what it’s like, and why sometimes I’m fine and sometimes that last Instagram post shuts the whole thing down.

***

If I need your help, you’re probably already giving it. I’m seeking joy and balance in a very active way with the help of my wonderful people (who include my husband, friends, family, therapist, naturopath, babysitter, acupuncturist… the list is long and you can find my individual postpartum depression toolkit here).

And to my friend who anonymously left chocolate on my doorstep a few weeks ago, I love you gloriously, and in a manner that doesn’t shrink anyone’s heart.

Babymoon

Sad Mama. MomsicleBlog

Boy Woww drew this picture. It captures how I’ve been feeling about baby-raising. (I’m the one holding the baby.)

I don’t find unfiltered joy in babies. My heart doesn’t explode into a love that I didn’t know existed. I find babies adorable and annoying.

It wasn’t always this way. At least I don’t think so. My institutional parenting memory is flawed by amnesia and stress hormones. But I remember enjoying K-Pants, my firstborn. I like new projects. I’d always wanted to be a mother. Then Boy Woww came: He was an easy baby—the tonic to the increasing intensity of his toddler brother.

But this baby. I haven’t been feelin’ it. She’s the ball and chain. I feel like she took a vibrant, passionate woman and turned her into a listless baby Sherpa.

Then we went away together.

I knew I couldn’t leave her behind when I went to Sri Shim’s celebration of life last Sunday in Hawai′i.

Sri Shim Celebration of Life. MomsicleBlog

In discussing whether I should go, I told my husband, “This January has been really hard. Even though the reason is sad, I feel like being there will be cathartic and rejuvenating.”

Sri Shim Celebration of Life. MomsicleBlog

It was our babymoon.

Not the kind where you go away before the baby comes, but the kind where you find joy and connection in a relationship that had been accumulating resentment and withdrawal.

Babymoon. MomsicleBlog

It’s no surprise that celebrating Sri’s life ignited a glow. He is magic, the spirit of aloha. And that magic was everywhere last weekend.

Babymoon. MomsicleBlog

The Fairy Pig was held the whole time. We slept together; she breastfed constantly—things I get annoyed by at home, but that felt natural while we were away. And words won’t capture how thankful I am to Mana and her family for letting us be there to experience this time with them, and for their hands in holding the baby and open hearts toward us and everyone who was there.

Babymoon. MomsicleBlog