Have you noticed how boring my posts have been lately? Seriously: SNORE. I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m happy.
And I’m happy, at least in part, because I’m on anti-depressants. That’s right, mommy’s on meds.
I have debated whether or not to share this bit of information with the World Wide Web since I popped my first pill a little over three weeks ago. While it’s true that I am a drama queen sans pareil, I also have a deep desire to help anyone who might find themself in a similar situation at some point. The friends who have told me their stories and helped shepherd me thus far are godsends. So I’ve decided to follow in their footsteps in the hope that someone out there finds in me a sympathetic virtual shoulder to cry on.
I was so naive pre-Seabass. Colicky babies were born to patient people, and post-partum depression was for Brooke Shields. During my pregnancy, I had a voracious appetite for books on how to nurse baby, how to put baby to sleep, how to implement a schedule, blah blah blah. All of the chapters on colick and postpartum depression were for some other mother. So I skipped those.
But all the books in the world couldn’t have prepared me for Seabass’ arrival. He screamed – a manly, deep, earth-shattering scream that belied his young age – in a way that gave entirely new meaning to the word “inconsolable.” Surprisingly, I was hopeful and upbeat for the first six weeks. This will end, I told myself. Everyone says it will end some day. I clung to a chart in the book The Happiest Baby On The Block which shows a precipitous decrease in babies’ crying from six weeks forward.
But when Seabass’ crying didn’t decrease at six weeks, faith in my own endurance started to wane. I’d heard that one in eight women experience postpartum depression. Looking around the room at my moms’ group, I saw seven happy, engaged babies and mothers. And then there was me and Seabass. (Beneath the exterior, I’m sure those moms felt the same sense of panic and unease as me, but to my bloodshot eyes, everyone else looked like they were on the best carnival ride ever while I was still stuck in line.)
One morning, just two hours after Jake had left for work, I called him in tears. “I can’t do anything right for this kid,” I sobbed, barely holding a howling Seabass in my arms. “I don’t know what to do.” When Jake asked me if he should come home, I didn’t even know how to answer. I just mumbled “Um, um, um” into the phone until he finally said he was on his way.
This scenario recurred with increasing frequency; I worried that Jake would someday say he couldn’t come home. When people asked how things were going with expectant smiles on their faces, I tried to be honest without being a wet blanket. “It’s okay,” I’d moan. How could I tell them that I wasn’t fit to be a mother?
Getting out of bed to feed the baby in the middle of the night, I felt a resentment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before – not at Seabass, but at life. Like someone was out to get me. To make me miserable. To find my breaking point. And insult to injury, Seabass was wide awake and wouldn’t fall asleep after eating. So I lay on the floor of his room trying to get some sleep while he rocked in his swing, eyes wide open for an hour and a half. When he finally went to sleep, I crawled into bed and promptly started to weep bitterly, hoping Jake wouldn’t wake up. But he did. “I’m so worried about you,” he whispered over my shoulder. “I think you should talk to the doctor about getting help.”
Interestingly, I balked at his suggestion that I was struggling with postpartum depression. “It’s not depression,” I snarled. “It’s just a tragic combination of tough baby and hyper-sensitive mother.”
But on Seabass’ 10-week birthday, I felt cracks in the dam. The whole week I’d been listless, heaving monstrous sighs and thinking that nothing I’d ever done was right. Seabass couldn’t do anything right, either. Every little chirp and minor fuss he made joined a chorus of voices in my head saying that the good life as I’d previously known it was over. Talking over dinner one night, Jake was gentle but firm. “I think you need to tell the doctor how you’re feeling, love,” he said. “Life can’t go on this way.”
Still, I wasn’t ready to “give up.” It took conversations with two different friends who’d struggled with postpartum depression to get my attention. I relayed these stories to Jake. “She went on anti-depressants?” he asked, amazed. ‘And she did, too?” Something about knowing that normal, otherwise healthy women had felt the same uselessness and despair changed our perspective. Suddenly, postpartum depression didn’t seem so improbable.
I wanted my doctor’s opinion, though. After hearing an account of the previous weeks, he suggested I consider anti-depressants and gave me a short but thorough explanation of how they work. I started the medication the next day and haven’t had a single regret. I suppose I could let myself feel defeated or incompetent about the whole situation, but honestly, I’ve been too engaged in enjoying Seabass to feel much of anything besides gratitude.
A new mother does not envision herself taking medication for this sort of thing. She does not set up her registry to include diapers, receiving blankets and a six-month supply of Lexapro. And many women probably muscle through depression in early motherhood without giving anti-depressants so much as a thought. It’s very possible that they are stronger women than me.
But exciting blog posts be damned. I’m sticking with boring and happy.