When I started crying profusely the first week I was home, I knew it was postpartum. However, the crying spells passed after the first week, and I thought I had a very mild case. I was pretty exhausted taking care of a newborn and 2 year old. My husband changed careers shortly after the birth, and I stopped working. I had always wanted to stay home with my children, at least while they were young. This should have been a dream come true, right?
I became more and more miserable as the days passed. I became more angry and frustrated, especially at my 2 year old. My husband was home 2-3 days per week. I felt alone and so very tired. I just thought I was reacting to the lack of sleep due to breastfeeding during the night.
As months passed, I became more angry. I often took this out on my 2 year old by screaming at her when she wasn't listening. I smacked her when I could have talked to her. My behavior caused immense guilt and shame especially since I had worked with children with behavioral issues for a decade. I knew I wasn't reacting the right way to her, but I just didn't know how to give her what I knew she needed from me. It seemed we were stuck in the Bermuda Triangle, destined to repeat a dysfunctional pattern.
I had terrible thoughts. Some were about harming the baby. Some were about harming myself. I would just tell myself to stop it and try to think of something else not wanting to acknowledge how I felt.
I also had unrealistic, horrendous thoughts. I would often have the thought that an airplane was going to crash into our house when I heard one flying over. I also thought, almost every time I went down them, that I was going to drop the baby down the stairs, and she would die. I was lethargic and always exhausted.
I have a history of depression, but this was different. I just didn't realize what was going on, and I had the mentality that I needed to keep everything together. I needed to take care of the girls without complaint, because my husband had sacrificed so much so that I could be home with them.
It wasn't until the baby was about 9 or 10 months old that I woke up one day, and I felt more like myself. That's when it clicked. That's when I realized what had been happening. That's when things started to be pleasurable again, like taking care of my children. That's when I started to laugh again. I don't think I had really genuinely laughed until my baby was almost a year old.
It took another few months to completely be free of the wretchedness of postpartum depression and anxiety. I hate that the early days of my baby's life and time with my 2 year old was marred by something so ugly...something that resembled me but was not me. It's like I was replaced by a robot version that did what she needed to do, but her heart was somewhere else.
Looking back, I see how difficult it would be for others to realize what was going on. I appeared the same. I even acted about the same. I didn't want to admit to myself how bad it was. I didn't want to spend every day and night with my children. I wanted to go far away where no one needed me to feed them, change them or give them attention. I wanted a cave or a shell to hide in.
There were subtle differences in my personality. I got irritated a lot more and didn't have as much patience. I needed to get away more. I was more negative than usual. I often felt numb.
I was drowning, and no one knew it. Reaching out for help is kind of impossible when you can't keep your head above water, and you're holding two kids. My saving grace was God sending me a piece of driftwood so that I could start to catch my breath again. Eventually, there was a boat to save me...to save us (myself, children and husband) from the storm of postpartum.
I still struggle with guilt for how I acted towards my oldest daughter, but I pray she will learn from me what it means to ask for forgiveness. I learned that I will never be the perfect parent I had always hoped to be. I will fail miserably, and I will ask for forgiveness. Though I struggle, I will always strive to do better. I will point my children to the cross, the only perfection they need. We will always disappoint one another, but Jesus Christ never will.