[Forgive me if I’ve written about all this before – I honestly don’t remember, but I think about it so much that it’s highly possible. Thoughts in this post came to me again after reading a blog post about postpartum depression and caregiver stress for special needs families and how similar they may be.]
I don’t think I had PPD after Nathaniel was born, in a strict sense, but I remember feeling extremely alone & stressed out for a long time. He had difficulty sucking from his bottles (and if anybody says anything about breast is best shit, I’ll freak). Trying to feed him stressed the hell out of my husband & I. We had to go for weekly weight checks for the first five weeks or so because Nathaniel wasn’t gaining back his birth weight. For a little while, we were encouraged to do 2-hour feeding intervals, all day & night – because he still needed to gain more weight. He had reflux. After each feeding, we’d have to hold him semi-upright for a half an hour. We’d have to wake him for feedings and we’d have to get him back to sleep & to stay asleep after getting back in his crib. Eric & I took turns during the night after I tried to do it myself for a short bit & couldn’t handle it. For months, we’d cheer for every new milliliter line he’d reach. I still remember when he finally hit 3 oz per feeding, and then 4 oz. I was in such happy disbelief, I called my parents to tell them.
But mostly, the stress was from the crying and major fussing. The unearthly crying, punching at the air, back stiff & arched, icy cold feet & hands – the whole colic thing for over 3 months. I rocked him day & night, one special rock that was the only way to stop the crying and fussing even momentarily. My whole body would ache by the end of the night. He’d immediately cry if I sat down while he was awake. He’d cry if I put him down & then I’d have to work to soothe him again. During the weekdays, while Eric was at work, I’d avoid going to the bathroom or eating much until someone could come to help me. Putting him down for a minute wasn’t worth the 15 or 20 minutes it might take to calm him again. The grandmothers came a few times per week for a few hours & I’d stand by the window desperately willing them to show up early, because he almost always slept in their arms & I could sit down & stop with the rocking. They’d ask me if I needed to do anything, but all I wanted to do, after taking a shower, was to sit, drink a huge cup of strong, Nutella-laced coffee & have someone to spend time with, even just to chit-chat about what was on the TV. One of my best friends traveled here to stay several days – she frequently offered to help – and did in practical ways – but the biggest help was just having someone to spend the day with and not be just me & my unsettled baby. Eric & I couldn’t go out much, because of the crying, and it was so cold & grey that winter. He cried even more in the car for a long time, especially if we stopped. There are so many traffic lights. But sometimes, if desperate enough, once I felt comfortable enough with his floppy baby neck in the car seat, I’d take him to the mall & walk laps, just so he would nap. He’d cry on the elevator, so I did one section again & again. When it got warm enough, I was finally able to easily take him for long walks. I’d walk an hour or more, whatever it took.
I feel like my maternity leave was stolen. I’d had such a wonderful idea of how it would be. I feel as if Nathaniel was robbed as well. No teeny little baby should have to be that unhappy. So many people I knew had babies around the same time – none of them had any problems that I knew of. They were chubby, smiling cherubs. Why did Nathaniel have to be so discontented? To this day, over 3 & a half years later, I read about others’ more pleasant first few months with their babies & I feel sad & a bit bitter. I don’t want for them NOT to have a blessedly sweet time – I want for every baby & mommy to live with bliss. But I still feel like Nathaniel & I missed out. I spent the majority of those 3 months stressed, frequently sobbing, wishing that the crying & even silent, clearly discomforted fussing of his would stop. I never ever wanted to harm him. I never wanted to leave him. I just wanted his pain to stop, whatever that pain was.
As I said before, I think about those first few months a lot. I feel like I have some kind of PTSD about it. I still get tense & shaky when I hear any baby or child cry. I have vivid memories of being almost frozen in place, hearing a baby cry while out shopping. I remember being in line while a baby cried in her infant car seat in the cart, while her family chatted & casually checked out their items, as if nothing were happening. I just wanted to take that baby out of that car seat & rock her. I remember being in another store, where a small child fell out of a shopping cart, the howls, the unbelievable sound of that crying, while the mother rocked him while sitting on a bench by the door. I still wonder if that child ended up being okay. Both events were probably at least 2 years ago. It’s better now, after a short bit, after hearing a baby cry, I’m okay and don’t hold onto the moment.
And sometimes I feel terribly guilty for feeling this way – there are so many children born with HUGE issues to combat. All Nathaniel had was colic, perhaps the beginning of SPD. Nothing terminal. Nothing life-threatening. He came home with no complications. Who am I to moan & complain?
It’s not that there were no happy times, or no baby smiles or or delicious baby giggles – there were, interspersed, those moments after he’d drink his bottle – we called it “Happy Baby Time.” My husband & I cherished every smile, every giggle, every quiet & contented moment. It was like the sun would shine & a rainbow of hope would appear.
So often, we’re told to just think positive, be positive, surround yourself with peace & joy, choose happiness. But sometimes, I just can’t help but ruminate. It doesn’t do any good. But there it is. Sorry, no tidy ending to all this. That’s all for now.