Early this morning, my sweet four-year-old daughter embarked on an adventure to grandma’s house. She’ll be staying with her Nannie for an entire week. Both my lips and my heart quivered as I kissed her goodbye. And, although I am looking forward to some one-on-one time with Pickle and time alone (my little guy still naps twice a day), I’m going to miss my delightful Pumpkindoodle.
A few years ago, however, my response would have been different. I did not enjoy motherhood until recently. In fact, I had many days when I wanted to run away. As much as I loved my daughter, I felt burdened both by her demands and my inadequacies. I’m not certain how to measure the role PPD played in my drama, but it was significant.
I ended part two of this series with the words, “I need help.” The Professor, did not understand the crushing grip PPD had on my mind and body, but he loved me enough to know something was terribly wrong, and that professional help was mandatory. Unfortunately, in our naivety, I only received just enough help to keep me partially together.
During Pumpkindoodle’s eight-week check up, just one day after my I began exploring the abominable option of ending my life, I confided in her pediatrician that I was not “feeling like my self.” She asked if I wanted to hurt my baby. I replied no, because I didn’t want to hurt my baby. I wanted to tell her about the thoughts of being afraid that I would hurt my baby, but terrified that she’d take my child from me, I kept quiet. She then asked if I wanted to hurt myself and I told her that the thought had crossed my mind. She frowned. “You’re going to need medication.” She gave me a prescription for a low-dose of a popular antidepressant and included a year’s supply of refills.
Thinking I had the magic antidote, I filled the prescription and began taking the small pills. I kept my condition secret. A close friend and neighbor whose baby was just three months older than mine shared with me her PPD experience. I listened intently, but it took me several weeks to tell her about the similarities in our experiences. I thought that my silence would make me a better friend.
The medication eased my symptoms. The anxiety and intrusive thoughts decreased, and I began to feel as though I could survive motherhood. Notice I used the word survive and not enjoy. Enjoying motherhood felt like a myth, an impossibility. Surviving, I thought, was the best I could do. When I followed up with the pediatrician, she told me to give the medication some more time and that I should be feeling completely normal by the time my baby turned one-year-old.
That doctor meant well and she took me seriously, but it is now obvious to me that she was not properly trained regarding pre and post natal mood disorders. At the time, I knew no better and felt too weary to research. I did as told.
So many parts of that first year with my lovely daughter are fragmented memories. If I had to pick just one word to describe myself at that time, the word, without a doubt would be confused. How could feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment belong to the same woman who fell in love time and time again with her baby girl? And how could this same woman love so deeply, yet seldom want to spend time with the object of that intense emotion? Nothing made sense. I recognized my face in the mirror, but the mind inside was not my own.
Panic attacks also invaded my life, but I didn’t know what they were, and now I shake my head and sigh that I had mistaken them for allergies.. When Pumpkindoodle was four-months-old we moved from Washington, DC, to Tyler, Texas. I noticed that every time I went to the grocery store, or stayed home alone, my breathing was labored. Since I was diagnosed with mild asthma several years prior, I thought that something was triggering my asthma. I hadn’t had an attack in five years, but was certain that the climate change brought it on.
Since motherhood has so many struggles, and PPD wears so many masks, I cannot tell you if my symptoms ever went away. I can write that I did not get the appropriate help during my first round with PPD, which could be why my second round was even harder. I can also write that until this past December, I felt like a complete and utter failure. I didn’t understand why God gave me children, because I was certain that having me as a mother would ruin their lives. Oh, how the truth, the beautiful, beautiful truth has set me free.
To be continued…
…and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3