I just got back from my walk on which I listened to a podcast about postpartum depression. I don’t want to feel sad, but I wish I could redo having my babies. I would do it again, having more information and more determination to stand up for myself and fight for myself.
I had three pregnancies. I went to the doctor for the first one because of all of the nausea. I was sick for 30 weeks. I was just told that some people feel that way. But there is medication for nausea, and if I would’ve felt well, I could’ve handled everything better. When I was pregnant with Peter and Creegan, especially Creegan, I went to the dr with lower back pain that was unbearable. I couldn’t walk. I was told that maybe it would get better as the pregnancy progressed. It didn’t. I could’ve tried a chiropractor. I shouldn’t have had to live with that. It was awful. And that pain alone makes me never want to be pregnant again cuz I had it with every pregnancy and it got worse and started sooner with each one. I had depression during my pregnancy with Creegan. I knew it, and I never mentioned it to a doctor. It got better within a week after he was born, but it was bad while I was pregnant. Nights were so scary. I didn’t feel like Melanie at all. I shouldn’t have had to feel that way.
Then, the time after my babies were born was awful. I remember being scared to death when Ben would leave the house for school when Eddie was a baby. Like practically having a panic attack scared. And I would just hold on until he got home. I had anxiety, and I didn’t know that what I felt wasn’t normal. And I was so alone. (We had just moved to Atlanta from Utah, and I had no family and no friends, and Ben was super busy with his graduate program.)
On top of the medical problems I had, I had cultural/belief issues that really made everything worse. I truly thought that somehow babies were better off if it was their mother taking care of them, not just in general, but every single moment. So, Ben only helped with Eddie about ten minutes a day while I took a shower. Period. I remember one night when I was so exhausted, it was like 1 a.m. I lost it and was bawling. I gave Eddie to Ben so I could sleep. I laid in bed feeling guilty for abandoning my baby (abandoning him! To his own father!). I don’t think I ever fell asleep. I just calmed down and went right back to work. When Peter was born, Ben began taking care of Eddie, and I took care of Peter the exact same way I had taken care of Eddie. (which actually made it impossible for Ben to bond with Peter, which is a whole different sad story) By the time Creegan was born, I finally was aware that I was beyond my capacity to care for children by myself, so Ben helped a lot with Creegan as a baby as well as with Eddie and Peter. It was a much better experience for everyone.
Another detrimental thought process I had was that, as a good mother, I should always put my needs secondary to my kids’ needs. This is a dangerous belief to have because you can’t really take care of someone else well if you aren’t well. But I thought that’s what Heavenly Father wanted from me. Every time I somewhat failed at this, I would offer prayers seeking forgiveness, and I truly felt guilty. I really thought I had disappointed God in caring for his children he gave me. Something that was really helpful for me was realizing and believing that I am Heavenly Father’s child as much as my children are. That he loves me as much as he loves them. And that he wants me to be happy and well as much as he wants them to be happy and well.
The most detrimental belief I had was that I was alone at failing as a mother, that all the other new moms were doing okay. Why did I think this? Because every time I saw other moms, they looked put together and happy. Every freaking blog I read was full of sappy, crappy happy-to-be- a-mom stuff. (Thank goodness FB wasn’t the thing yet!) So I thought I was alone. Why can everyone else do this but me?, was my constant thought. I am so sad for that Melanie. She felt like such a failure at the thing she thought was most important and she was supposed to be great at (personality-wise and church emphasis-wise).
No one can take care of a baby alone. Maybe the nuclear family just isn’t the best model. It leaves you with so much responsibility and so little support. And really so little knowledge of what’s normal and what’s not. Maybe having one parent be the financial support and one parent be the emotional support isn’t the best model for a family because both parents are overwhelmed in their role and don’t have anyone that understands or can relate. You definitely can’t relate to each other. Maybe if we shared these responsibilities we would feel more supported and less solely responsible for something that seems out of our grasp. Less pressure, more love.
I wish I could tell all new moms out there all of this so they don’t get surprised when the experience isn’t at all what they expected. Educate them, establish normative feelings and behaviors. But maybe we all have to learn it alone.
When my children become parents, if I live close enough, I want to go to their houses once a week with a nice dinner, then clean for them, then take the baby that night so they can sleep. If not, I can pay for them to have meals and a maid once a week. And a babysitter. Cuz, really, no one should be doing this alone.