My friend warned me. She told me that it was fine to focus on the pregnancy and getting through the delivery, but that taking care of a newborn is an intensity that you cannot be prepared for.
Last week was an amazing week, because AM and I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. But somewhere between the sleep deprivation and after birth hormones, I started feeling hella overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, that I started having psychotic thoughts (warning, this is about to get REAL) – thoughts of “accidentally” dropping my baby, smashing my cell phone into his face, what if the hammer accidentally dropped on him? It hurts to write this but I’m writing this to help anyone else who might be reading and going through the same post partum experience. And as I type this, I’m passing some time before AM takes me to the emergency room so I can get some help (read: meds). So here is what happened last week:
I delivered on Monday morning and that was euphoric and amazing, with the vaginal birth I wished for. But then the aftermath was quite bloody and terrifying and exhausting. What I mean by that is, there were a plethora of things that were going on in my body. After pushing for two hours straight, my pee muscles refused to work. Literally when I had the thought that I needed to go to the bathroom, I would pee my pants like a newborn. It scared the shit out of me. I mean, I did Kegels nearly every day during my pregnancy! So that was that, and then, there is the blood that comes out of you. A TON of blood. I was soaking through pads that I situated in adult diapers and seeing that kind of stuff come out of your body (and the pain that goes along with it) is quite scary. And on top of that, there is caring for a newborn. Did you know they need to be fed every two hours? And because I wanted him to be exclusively breast fed, it put the pressure on me to do all his feedings. By the afternoon, my body started shaking uncontrollably and I got a fever, due to the aftershock of delivery. Good times!
Here is something I knew, but when you think about it, seems quite insane: you are supposed to feed a newborn every two hours for the first two weeks of their life. And the feeding schedule goes something like this: say you feed them at 8 a.m., and they feed for one hour, well their next feeding is at 10 a.m. – you base the next feeding on the time you started their last feeding. Well what if that goes on all day? When do you sleep? When do you take care of yourself? All good questions that I have yet to figure out the answers to. And my biggest universal question is this: how do all human infants in this day and age survive when for the first two weeks of life, their parents are required to feed them and take care of them in a way that completely depletes the parents? Back in the day we had wet nurses, we had whole families taking care of a newborn. My mom just told me that when she had my two sisters in Canada, a nurse came to help her for one month. I live in D.C. in a studio apartment with hubby. That’s it! Why don’t more people talk about how excruciatingly hard this is?
Hubby has been amazing. He’s been a rock at my side through it all. Burping, feeding, and taking care of both the baby and myself. But this thing I’m going through, feels so lonely and outside of the scope of anything that he can really understand.
Anywho…I’m a week removed from the birth and the bleeding has slowly gotten better, as well as my control over my pee muscles. But taking care of a newborn is still so hard. I cannot stress how difficult it is, and if I do it again, I will definitely work to pump my boobs and get some formula ready (even though breast feeding proponents stress not to pump your boobs for four weeks, what the heck, dude, how am I supposed to heal and recover if all I’m doing is breast feeding my baby all day??)
So by Saturday, something in me freaked the fuck out. My sister, TC, left, and that led to uncontrollable crying, and the feeling that doom had descended on me. The baby had pooped a ton of times, the apartment was a mess, and he kept on feeding on my boobs for an hour at a time (most sessions last 30 minutes.) I.COULD.NOT.TAKE.IT.ANYMORE The crying picked up again, and try as I might, I couldn’t nap. Every time I tried to nap, I just thought of the next feeding session, and how little time there was between one feeding session and the next. And the psychotic thoughts felt like they were getting stronger…I was breastfeeding the baby and at one point I felt that I was going to throw him across the room. (This is so hard to write.)
Thankfully, I had asked my mom to come for a week to help me. I knew I was reaching my breaking point. I was snapping at hubby, and when my parents finally arrived, I was a complete, fucking mess. Crying, hysterical, and I couldn’t be calmed down. I felt that all of my compulsive, crazy thoughts, were going to come to pass. I kept my hands behind me, and I begged hubby and my parents to keep the baby away from me. I was on the phone with the midwife on call, who urged me to go to the ER. Of course, I didn’t want to do that. They admit you, and keep you for as long as possible in the psych ward, while they figure shit out. I wasn’t ready to take that step a few days ago, but today, I am.
I’m hella scared. I’ve never had mental health issues quite like this. But I could feel myself unravel, and I’m not back to center yet. When my mom arrived, I yelled at her in a way I’ve never yelled at her before (it makes me cry to just think of that) and my poor dad was trying to make sense of everything that was going on. Hubby took over, I just hugged him and smelled him and that brought me back to life. We ended up going on a walk, and he arranged for me to stay with my friend. I’ve been there the last two days, but that is not a sustainable solution. I need something more…
We went to see my therapist today, and while she looks for a psychiatrist for me, she encouraged me to head to the ER to get on some meds. I still don’t trust myself around my son. I finally breast fed him today after staying away from him since Saturday, but I made sure my mom and hubby were right near my side, watching him. I need to take this final step in order to protect my family and myself.
It’s a huge puzzle, this whole post partum thing. I know I’m not alone in this, that so many women go through it. I just wish there was something I could have known or done to prevent this. I’m not on the other side (yet). My therapist wants to see me at the end of the week with hubby so we can come up with a plan of attack (ensuring I get adequate rest, etc.)
I do hope that anyone reading this, who hasn’t had a child, finds the help and support they need, sooner rather than later. I hope the medication brings me back to myself, so I can be the best mother to my son, and wife to hubby.
Stay tuned for an update!