The Truth I’d Rather Not Admit: PPD and me

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It was raining harder than I anticipated it would, as I walked an hour to my psychiatrist appointment. I had an umbrella that barely did any good, but I didn’t care. It was a welcomed break. An hour to myself, without any cooing or crying, diapering or playing. Good or bad, I wanted nothing to do with my own kid, and I was tired, exhausted, by faking it. My daughter was 13 months old, and I was just diagnosed a week before, officially, with postpartum depression.

Looking back, I knew it was coming. It’s why I put an official diagnosis off for so long. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of thirteen, I was told I was three times more likely to end up in this situation. But I wanted a baby more than those women who get postpartum depression. Way more. So it wasn’t going to happen to me. No way, no how, no chance. Find another new mom, global statistics, ‘cause I am not the chosen one.

Well, I had my baby. Everything went as planned. A relatively uncomplicated pregnancy led to an incredibly textbook delivery. And I took one look at her, and I felt nothing. And I continued to feel nothing for a good long time.

My Type-A personality vanished as I handed my less than six-pound baby girl to whomever would take her. I felt no need to grab her back, protect her, snuggle her. I felt no void when I had to attend my own medical appointment at the same time as her first pediatrician’s appointment. No need to be there, to take a photo, to document the day. I needed the information, but I didn’t need her.

I have wanted nothing more than to be a mom for as far back as I can remember. When asked what I wanted for my seventh birthday, I responded with a stroller. A real stroller. When we had “flour babies” in sixth grade, I chose to have twins. So when it came time to buckle down and figure out what I was going to do with my life, it was no surprise that I ended up training to be a child life specialist, working with children and families from all walks of life. Later, I got my masters degree and worked as a child development specialist at a well-known parenting center. I prepared every step of my life meticulously to make way for the path of parenthood. From who I married, to when I got married, to where I worked and where we lived. Every duck in its row, set up for success.

And I failed. Miserably.

Until recently, I could count on one hand the number of times I could remember feeling love towards my child: Over thirteen months—less than five times. In fact, I believe the exact number was three. So far and few between that I could detail those exact three moments of feeling that way so many other mothers get to feel so often.

When told how beautiful she was, I could only say, “She’s a good one!” And when people asked me how it was going, the most I could bear to mutter was “It’s hard.” And even just last week, the furthest I could push myself to admitting the truth was announcing that “I wasn’t the happiest new mom,” which has become my signature line in describing the first year of my child’s life.

It took more than six months after starting treatment to see what a terrible and terrifying place I was in. I consider myself lucky; I wasn’t in the category of wanting to hurt my own child, though on those long walks to therapy looking over the Mass. Ave. bridge, I did wonder what would happen if I were to just jump in front of a moving car, or throw myself into the water. And now, it has taken almost a full two years to acknowledge, out loud, that this was my experience. That everything I had hoped for and dreamed of and put so much effort into came tumbling down. And that most people didn’t know. Because as I’ve said in the past, Facebook posts about milestones and Instagram photos of family outings do not a happy mother make.

To compare where I am today, and where I was for such a huge chunk of my daughter’s life so far, is unbelievable. To reflect on what she missed out on due to what I missed out on is so sad. Together, we were both gigantically ripped off. But, through therapy combined with medication, and some major attempts at late-stage bonding, somehow, we have both healed in a way I couldn’t have ever expected to be possible.

I miss her when we are apart. My heart sinks when she falls. I, to my surprise, finally feel that innate love that so many new mothers are lucky enough to feel. That quintessential baby-being-put-on-your-chest-for-the-first-time connection has happened over mommy-daughter dates for frozen yogurt, completing art projects, and celebrating holidays. It may not have been the standard path, but we finally are on the right track. And this time, it’s truly a good one.

Can you identify with Rebecca’s PPD experience? Or do you know someone who went through a similar situation? 

photo credit: Camilla ∆ Rocha via photopin cc

Weaning Is A Let-Down

by Honest Mom contributor Carisa Miller – blogger at Do you read me?
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When I first suggested she not nurse constantly, my daughter behaved as though I was withholding her will to live.

I could offer little consolation, since bringing her near me only made her think I was about to offer her a nip. (If ever I wished my breasts were detachable.) I tried my best to let her know that she deserved to mourn and that I was sorry for her loss. Very soon, her fits of devastation adjusted to less severe displays of displeasure. As she worked out a way to comfort herself, I did my best to pretend it wasn’t killing me not to nurse her.

Over the last month and a half, I’ve worked at taking my die-hard-boobie-baby from an on and on suck-a-thon to a set number of times per day. Four … three … two…

Two days ago, without warning, I hung up my mammaries for good.

It was the first morning I denied her request to nurse upon waking. She didn’t fight me at all and my heart broke outright. Apparently she did not fully understand my intentions. She was supposed to sense a half-heartedness in my effort to stop breastfeeding, not take the hint and actually give it up. Stupid baby.

I knew, right then, I had to pull the plug. (Pun intended.) I couldn’t bear to drag weaning out over several more weeks with the tapering method I had been using. I’d had enough of this killing-me-slowly bologna.

When she got up from her afternoon nap, she asked to nurse. And I breastfed her silly. I let her stay latched on for as long as she could stand it. She switched sides over and over, for an hour while I cried.

It was an ideal setting, alone in rare silence with my baby, to take one last opportunity to cherish our breastfeeding relationship … and then give it up.

‘Twas no stroke of brilliance, that last extendo-feeding session. It set my mammaries into a production rush. My breast tissue currently resembles densely packed gravel. Whatever. Since this whole deal sucks (additional pun fun), mind blowing pain for a couple days doesn’t make a huge-heckuva-clogged-duct difference to me.

I am so far from over this. Whisper the word “hormone” to me and I’ll cut you. I feel like an addict. All I can think about is giving her a hit. This is harder than when I quit smoking.

I am letting out a breath I have been holding for five years: through two pregnancies, a several-year bout with horrendously painful pelvic dysfunction, a case of pre-eclampsia, two birth experiences (the first of which was traumatizing), and breastfeeding each child beyond one year.

Weaning marks the end of my children’s claim on my body. <Insert enormous exhalation here.>

Gone are the excuses for not spending a night away from the children. Without a baby attached to my breast, I will be expected to venture out into the world and see what everyone else has been up to. I’m not sure I want to. I’ve gotten used to life this way.

Since the moment my children were born, no word has defined me more than “mother.” While I still have two lifetimes of mothering ahead of me, without breastfeeding, I am no longer a mother to babies. My heart sinks at the thought.

There’s a new me coming on, but I don’t know her yet. It has been such a struggle to keep my independent self above water in the midst of all this mothering.

When I got up this morning, my I-won’t-hold-still-for-nothin’-or-nobody sixteen month-old daughter crawled into my lap, reclined to let me cradle her and stared up at me contentedly. She held my nipple for comfort (her favorite party trick) and didn’t fuss or try to swoop down to latch on. She understands breastfeeding is over for us and gave me exactly what I need to make it through to the other side: A baby in my arms while I sort my new self out.

If you breastfed, did you, like Carisa (and me), have a hard time when you stopped nursing your baby?

Is your child a “Heather”?

by Honest Mom contributor, Janine Huldie – blogger at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Is your child a Heather“Are you a Heather?” “No, I am a Veronica.” Yes, for those who can remember back that far, I am quoting a conversation from the 1988 movie Heathers between Winona Ryder (Veronica) and Christian Slater. You are probably asking – why I am doing this?

Well, I had an experience with my three-year-old daughter at her preschool, where she was involved in being a part of the so-called “in crowd.”

Let me set up a bit of background. My older daughter, Emma, has three cousins, and they all are born the same year and are the same age. They have, of course, been best friends and played with each other from pretty much as far back as they can remember

This year when Emma started preschool, both of her cousins did, too. They all go to the same school and are even in the same class. When Emma refers to her cousins, she simply says “My Friends.” Even though they are her cousins, to her they are just friends. We are so happy to see them together, because they do truly love each other.

And it is a very cute scene with the three of them walking down the hall holding hands, because they remind me (at least) of three little old ladies with their walking pace – and they sometimes bicker like them, too.

One of their classmates, another little girl (I will call her “Veronica”), was standing with her mom waiting for the day to begin. I had spoken to this mother a handful of times, and she always told me that Veronica talks about Emma often at home. Well, Veronica was standing there and wanted to hold hands with the three “Heathers.” If you have seen the movie Heathers, then you probably know where I am going with this. The Heathers, of course, wanted nothing to do with Veronica, and she stood there dejected, hiding behind her mother.

My heart broke for Veronica, because when I was young, I was never one of the popular kids, and I knew how it felt to be left out. I also was embarrassed and ashamed of Emma, because I have not raised her to be this type of person, and have always encouraged her to be outgoing (she was uber-shy even up to last year), but to be a kind and warm person, too.

I then tried to include Veronica by telling Emma that they were in the same class, so why not hold her hand, too? My “Heather” wanted no part of it, and that left me shocked and upset.

Emma went into class and I stayed behind to speak to Veronica’s mother, who was nothing short of gracious and totally understanding that the three girls grew up together.

But still, I came home feeling terrible and mentioned it to my husband Kevin when he called from work. He was just as appalled and thankfully on the same page as me. We discussed how we were truly not part of that in-crowd and remembered what that felt like way back when.

At dinnertime, Kevin had a conversation with our little “Heather” about what happened at school, and by the end of it, I felt he got his point across to Emma.

After their conversation was over, we both agreed that we needed to keep a better eye on the situation and even try to set up a playdate, so that Emma can play with Veronica more and get to know her better.

It is ironic, because last year another blogger was talking about “the mercy playdate” and how her son wanted nothing to do with it – but in the end it turned out more than fine and her son enjoyed himself. I even commented on that post that I didn’t think I would have to deal with this for a few years.

I guess I was off by a couple of years. But I will say this: I do not want my daughter to be a Heather and to be hurtful to other kids her age. And will do anything I can in my power to make sure of this.

Has your little kid been a “Heather” – or a “Veronica”? What did you do about it?