Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brutal Honesty: Postpartum Blues

Disclaimer: This blog goes to dark places and may unnerve you. If you are easily upset I strongly advise not reading paragraph 6.

A lot of people would assume that since I have my emotions well under control at nearly all times regardless of circumstance, that I may somehow be less affected by them. Or perhaps even that I do not feel or have emotions, since I've got mine on such a tight leash. Let me assure you: I feel emotion the exact same way you do, whether you see it or not. When I say, "Only you can decide when to be happy, angry, or sad," I mean just that. This wasn't always an easy thing, it took time to master. As with all disciplines.

I did not get hormonal mood swings during my pregnancy. At worst I found myself mildly agitated from time to time. So I figured postpartum hormones would be no different. This deduction was wrong. I found controlling my emotions much more challenging after labor than before it. Your mind wanders to really extreme places under that amount of pain and stress. Things you'd normally only think about for a second you find yourself thinking about for hours, maybe even days, as you have nothing else to really do to distract you from such thoughts. Your job is to nurse and nap. That's it.

I never once felt bad about my post-pregnancy body image or got mad at Aaron simply for having a penis. However I did manage to somehow take every single criticism given by anyone, constructive or not, personally. Sometimes even if it wasn't directed at me. I didn't outwardly show it, of course. True to nature I realized the illogical nature of these feelings and did not act upon them, but I still felt them.

When my milk didn't come in until almost a week after delivery, I felt like the most useless human being on the planet. When the eye dropper from our necessity kit didn't work, somehow I felt like that was my fault too. Even though I had no hand in even buying it! When I dared take a walk a week postpartum only to pass a huge blood clot and be told by nurses to I would need to take it easier... my fault! I knew better, I truly did, and I withheld these feelings because of that. Yet things like this still happened. No amount of reasoning could prevent it.

Many new mothers experience resentment towards both their newborn and their significant other. From the books I have read, it is actually totally normal to want to throw your husband, your baby, or both out of the god damned window at any given time -- so long as you don't actually do it and the thoughts don't linger. This I did not experience. Instead I distinctly recall while nursing Jude well into the wee hours of morning, how very tragic it was that any mother anywhere could abandon her offspring. I was just overwhelmed by sheer love looking at his little pink face as he peacefully nursed and could not fathom ever dumping him off somewhere and walking away. I wondered how many new mothers had done this only to regret it hours or days later, too late.

Then I got to thinking of even worse things. Such as mothers who actually harm their new babies. Their completely helpless babies who depend on them completely for survival. What utterly desperate mindset they must be in to do something like that. Then the terrible realization of just how simple it was: to place a baby into the bathtub and just turn on the water. I wondered how many mothers who had done this regretted it minutes too late?

These weren't things I was considering, mind you, not ever. As I said, I began this sombre mental journey by being overwhelmed by contentment and love. Yet somehow my hormonal postpartum brain thought it up anyway. As if I were too happy and that wasn't okay. I needed something to depress the hell out of me.

Any time I missed out on eating dinner with my family, I'd get sad. Whenever I thought about how my mom could not be with me at the hospital, I'd get sad. When I thought of my mom, I'd think of Booka and, you guessed it, get sad. When Aaron would play video games, no matter for how long, without me -- yep: sad. When I realized all of my friends who could help me most during this period were 3000 miles away, more sadness. It was a horrible experience. Nothing you say or do seemed to make it any better. Every extreme high of new motherhood was countered by a self-inflicted low. Like Nature's way of making sure you don't overdose on happy.

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