Baby Blues After the Non-Baby Blues

Postpartum Progress, that fantastically wonderful Nobel Prize-worthy site about post-partum depression, asked on Facebook yesterday for stories from ladies who had post-partum depression after infertility.  No arm-twisting required here. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass and I’ll tell you about what I consider to be one of the more nasty secrets about infertility: the shame of having post-partum depression after you’ve worked for five years to have the baby.

I’ve written before that while I was trying to have a baby, I was very focused on actually having the baby.  I was not concerned with what happened once the baby arrived. Either I didn’t believe that there would be a baby or I didn’t want to jinx the run of good luck that got me pregnant and cooking said baby.   So, no thought whatsoever was given to the post-partum period of life.

And then, I had the baby, the wailing, lung-strong, hungry, tired baby.  The (very normal) baby who woke us in the middle of the night with his fire alarm screams, who spit up on every non-washable surface, who was like the crazy roommate that you question your sanity for inviting into the house.  I felt like I had the world’s worst case of buyer’s remorse but I couldn’t tell anyone about it because I had done just about everything possible to (literally) buy this bundle of joy.

There were many times in those first few months when I wanted to give him back – back to whom I couldn’t articulate. I just wanted to return him, say “Sorry, made a mistake, lost the receipt, please take him back, he’ll be so much more happy elsewhere,” and we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled programming.   I would feel terrible for having these thoughts, and then feel doubly terrible because I had wanted this experience so badly. Talk about a vicious cycle.  Bad thought, bad thought for having the bad thought, rinse and repeat.

It never occurred to me at that time that having been through infertility I would be more prone to having post-partum depression.  If I even began to think about having PPD, I quickly concluded that I wasn’t allowed to have post-partum depression after infertility.  Yes, I wasn’t allowed because I had begged to be a mother.  Rex wasn’t an oops or even a timely planned baby.  He was way overdue by the time he did arrive so much that I was afraid he wasn’t going to show at all.  So how on earth could I then have the feelings that I was having?  This could not be a rational world where I was allowed to have these thoughts and not be utterly ungrateful.

It took me a  long time to recognize that I wasn’t ungrateful for having Rex.  I was normal.  I was a normal new first time mom who had been through the wringer for longer than recommended and was still trying to find that new comfort zone.  And, I had PPD.  And the PPD was treatable.

I’m so much better now.  There were so many moms who told me that it would get better and I thought, “maybe for you!” but they were right.  It got so much better.  I really enjoy being a mom now and I think I’m pretty darned good at it, too.

Confessions of An Introvert Mom

I am the introverted daughter of a librarian.  This means that I like books more than people.   (Not you, of course. Just everyone else.)

 

jbwan via Flickr Creative Commons

Being introverted also means that I require a lot of time to myself to recharge.  A lot of time.  If you are thinking that this is likely incompatible with an infant, you are correct (see why I still prefer you to books?).  In fact, it seems like I require even more time than I did before Rex was born which is probably a direct proportional response to the amount of time that Rex deserves and requires.

Because Rex, being human and all, is a person who requires heavy interaction and entertainment, two things that easily drain my battery faster than your average person to person contact.  I’ve never been good at entertaining someone else for long periods of time – even adults! So, entertaining a baby for long stretches has been really hard for me.  Rex, bless his heart, is becoming every day more and more of a joy to entertain, though.  No adults I know give me such huge smiles or giggle at the simple things like he does.  Granted, very few would also probably let me tickle them.

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I can always tell when I haven’t had enough me time.  I begin to get cranky, even with Mr. X’s company.  I feel physically and emotionally exhausted and want just to go somewhere quiet for a while to be alone.  Of course, with a baby, that’s not always feasible.  I refuse to short Rex time with me because of my need for ‘me-time’ but negotiating away me time is also not an option.  The solution?

I take it where I can find it.  This has meant getting creative about fitting it into my day, especially since I’m still working to pay for those diapers and the SimiCrack (not to mention socking away cash for the ballooning college education expenses).

I’ve become more disciplined about how I spend the time that I do have allocated.  Gone are the days of aimlessly surfing the net.  I read, sew or (gasp!) work on my book (aren’t we all?).  If I find that I’m feeling particularly drained in a day and don’t have any long stretch available in the near term, I will take a quickie 5 minute break and read a trashy novel.  Works like a charm every time.

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I’ve also allowed Mr. X to help me.  Yes, you read that right.  I’ve come to realize that more often than not, I was not letting him help mainly because it was so much easier for me to do whatever it was that needed to be done.  The down side of this, of course, is that I was doing everything.  Stuff was getting done, but I was slowly losing my mind because let’s face it, folding the laundry, while productive and useful, is not a substitute for recharging time.  I realized that it was ok to let the clean laundry sit around until Mr. X got around to putting it away.  The world would not end, and it turns out that his schedule is not terribly later than mine.  So, rather than spend that time folding laundry or any number of things that need to be done but not right at this very moment, I will take that time to peruse a magazine, or play with the dog, or just be.

I’ve been able to squirrel away enough me time for now so that I feel normal again.  I’ve also recognized that I need me time like diabetics need insulin.  It’s what makes me work, makes me be able to take the daily onslaught with a modicum of grace and humor.  I also know that I can always find five minutes and I’m allowed to take them, if I need them, to recharge.

My Day of Reckoning

I knew this day would come.  It was only a matter of time.  It was when, not if.  I knew that I would have my day of reckoning and I would have to face my worst fear.  That day arrived recently, later than I thought it would, but still earlier than I would have liked.

See, Rex had a virus thingy that Kept. Coming. Back. bringing with it a pesky low grade fever that did not appear to bother him in the slightest but bothered day care because sick babies don’t belong at day care.  It was never a scary illness, it was the Virus du Jour making its rounds of all the kids and he managed to catch it.

It was this illness that brought me face to face with my greatest fear: staying home with Rex all day. By myself.  The panic that I felt welling up inside me that Thursday night when I took his temperature, watching that damn thermometer go up like  Chris Farley’s blood pressure rating, was similar to the feeling when I realized that I had hit a bicyclist with my car back in law school.  It was the panic that I felt when I realized that our first baby had died.  In other words, it was gut-wrenching, breath-sucking panic.  It made my teeth hurt.

How is it possible that I have never spent an entire day at home with my baby by  myself?  Well, even during maternity leave, I had someone there at least part of the time, either my mom or my mother in law or my wonderful friend.  And then, and now, he is in day care.  And, Mr. X is home on the weekends, so poof, all seven days of the week accounted for.

The day for me to face the fear had come.  And, all I could see stretching before me was the endless day of me holding a constant one-sided conversation with Rex or worse, listening to him cry before succumbing to a nap and then waiting on pins and needles for him to wake up.   What if he should get it in his head to be cranky? There would be no one there I could say, can you just let me have 5 minutes? And for that matter, what would I do with him all day?  When we first brought him home, I kept asking myself this question. What does one do with a newborn all day? The obvious answer now is feed him, change him and get him to sleep by whatever means necessary.  But, at the time, I was clueless.

Even now, it’s not the most intuitive thing for me to be at home with him.  He’s on a schedule now for feeding and napping, but during the other time, I look at him quizzically and ask, what should we do? And he looks right back at me and drools.  He’s as clueless as I am.  We end up in a cycle of playyard, jumperoo, throne, quilt on the floor with toys, (me) reading books to him while he tries to eat the books, going outside, taking a walk, etc., etc.  It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

In the end, though I managed. Frankly, I managed pretty darn well.  Mr. X came home at lunch to relieve me for a little bit so I could go out and get us lunch.  Rex decided that naps were the new black and took two ginormous ones, one in the morning and one the afternoon.  And, I wasn’t exhausted at the end as I had thought I would be.  I was tired, to be sure, but not physically and emotionally drained as I had felt on prior occasions when I was the sole caretaker for more than a few hours.

I know now that some of my panic was in the not knowing: not knowing if I would be able to do it, not knowing when it was going to happen.  Just the sheer act of doing it and getting through it relatively unscathed has given me a great deal of confidence.  It has also reinforced what I’ve suspected for a long time: I am not cut out for being a stay at home mom.  Oh, do I salute you ladies who do it and do it well, day in and day out.  Give me a contract to review or a nasty letter to respond to any day.

Even though we had a good day together when he was home with me, the time that we have when he comes home from day care is that much more special.  I kiss his big cheeks within an inch of his life and he squeals in delight.  We’ve both had a good day, then.

photo: Vandelizer

Let There Be Light

I cannot begin to express my thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on my last post – all of you helped me see that I am not alone, crazy or ungrateful because of these thoughts that I’ve been having.  Once again, the IF community has been a source of get comfort and support. Thank you, thank you.

Since Rex* was born, I have been seeing my therapist and taking Zoloft, since it is approved for nursing mothers.  But, the sadness, the feelings, all of it was still there.  So, I dug a little deeper after I made that post.  I began to read accounts of other women who have suffered PPD and found myself nodding vigorously at the thoughts that other women were having.  It felt so good to hear other women vocalizing what I had been thinking and to know that those thoughts are classic manifestations of PPD.  I finally realized the extent to which I having problems and I began to look for ways to help myself feel better.

One of the first things I did was wean myself off of pumping.  Rex has been having formula from day one, but I was also breastfeeding.  Once it became clear that he was a grazer and I would likely spend up to 12 hours a day with him attached to my boob (2, 3, even 4 would be fine, but not 12 – that would really send me off the edge), I switched to pumping so that he could still get all of the benefits but I would be tethered to a machine for 20 minutes and not to a baby for hours on end.  I realized that one of the big factors that was causing me problems was the feeling that my body still wasn’t mine – it belonged to Rex since I found out I was pregnant and it was still his even after he was born.  Stopping pumping let me get control of my body again letting me eat, drink, etc. whatever I wanted and it felt so good.  Rex got a good four weeks straight of breast milk which under the circumstances was the best I could do.

I also have talked with my OB and she has turned out to be a great resource for help and support.  I had my 5-week post-partum visit with her last Wednesday and she prescribed me progesterone cream to help and ordered blood work to test my thyroid and Vitamin D levels.  Both could be a potential aggravating factor.  The results should be in next week.

Perhaps the greatest help she gave me, though, was to tell me that I needed to go back to work sooner than I had planned.  And she is absolutely right.  I need that intellectual pursuit right now to help me feel more normal – because that is what is most difficult for me about this whole process. I don’t feel like myself yet.  But, getting back into things I did and enjoyed before I had Rex has really been helping me get back to that feeling of normal.  I really think that going back to work will help move this along. Rex will head into daycare at a wonderful facility on site at Mr. X’s office.  He will be well taken care of and I will be able to have the time and distraction that I need to be a better mother to him.

I don’t know when I will be free of my PPD, but I’m taking it one day at a time.  Still.

* Rex is the name I have chosen for our little one on this blog.  He truly is king in our household.

Rude Awakenings

What I am about to say will likely either resonate with you or really piss you off.  Either way, I have to say it:

Right now, I do not like being a mother.

This makes me feel terrible – not only because it seems as if I should love it from the beginning but also because I went through so much to get here.  I’m not a 16 year old who got knocked up by accident.  I pursued motherhood the way many people approach climbing Mt. Everest. How could I go through so much to get something and then not want it when I got it?

Unfortunately,  I never spent much time while we were trying to get and stay pregnant thinking about the details of what would happen if we actually had a child.  I mean, it just seemed so distant, so alien, so … not going to ever happen that I did not want to torture myself with thoughts of what we would do with an infant.  Then, once I was pregnant this last time and it looked like it was actually going to stick, I didn’t want to jinx myself by thinking about the future for fear that something terrible would happen.

So I was seriously unprepared for the utter shock and awe of the introduction of a newborn into the household.  I knew that there would be disruption and sleep deprivation, but I didn’t know that taking care of an infant day in and day out would be such a soul-sucking endeavor.  Because, right now I have a baby that does what any almost 4-week old does: eats, cries, sleeps, poops, pees, and repeats.  No smiles, no giggles, no cooing.  It’s just not in the developmental milestones yet.  Which means that I am a janitor, waitress, chef, and nanny all rolled into one with not even a little smile to break the monotony.

There is at least one moment, each day, when I want my old life back or when I fantasize about getting a full-time nanny to whom I can give him whenever he cries or when I want to sleep.  Whenever I get out of the house by myself, I feel as if I am on parole but still required to return to the prison after a few hours.  Everyone tells me that it will get better, but that was like telling me that I would eventually get pregnant when we were dealing with infertility – it did nothing to help me at the time. I’m also afraid that these feelings mean that my dad was right all along: I’m too selfish to be a mother because I do want my time, my sleep and my freedom, still.

That being said, I am slowly accepting that this is my new life.  And, I still look forward to those little milestones – longer sleep, the first smile, the first day we can put him in daycare.  I’m also trying to find some enjoyment in this period – I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t enjoy it more.

So Not Much to Say

edward-hopper-morning-sunFour Weddings and a Funeral has been on a lot recently and I have had flashbacks to high school swooning over Hugh Grant.  For the life of me, I cannot understand what I saw in him back then, with those silly glasses and that scrawny little frame of his. I need meat on my man, and he was positively anorexic in that movie.  Still, he was so … earnest.  Anyway, one of my favorite lines in the movie was uttered by Gareth (the gargantuan gay man who ended up being the subject of the lone funeral). He opined that the only reason people got married was to have something to talk about, after they had run out of all other topics of conversation. 

Sometimes, I feel that the opposite is true for Mr. X and I when it comes to this pregnancy.  We hardly mention it except in terms of, “if things are still looking good, we can go do ____” or “how is your nausea today?”.  I have absolutely no problem not mentioning it in polite conversation or even not thinking about it for long stretches of time.  Why? A big fat shout out to those of you who guessed Self-Preservation!  As I have detailed ad nauseum (no pun intended) here, I just can’t get too invested yet because there is still that chance, however small, that it can all end.

I was confronted with this problem today when I got an email from my dad.  It was so wonderfully supportive, letting me that he was thinking of us all during this time and that he specifically was sending good thoughts to the baby.  I wanted to think that he was referring to the dog or one of the kitties, but I knew this wasn’t the case when he specifically mentioned them later.  I wanted to blur out the word – I can’t bear to make that connection yet and it pained me to even have to think about it.  There is no baby yet for me. There is a pregnancy and this is what has allowed me to stay sane while navigating these treacherous waters where we sank twice before. I’ve only been able to string the words, “I” “am” and “pregnant” into a sentence twice since we found out. Obviously, I am not ready to make the leap to the ‘b’ word.

This of course, takes a huge topic of conversation out of circulation, but that is fine with me.  I know that talking about it, even remotely with optimism would cause little suspicious synapses to start firing in the old noggin causing more anxiety than a trip to the bathroom.  Instead we talk about our upcoming vacation to the northeast, the dreadful two days we spent without air conditioning before the system was fixed, work and weekend plans.  Or, we just sit in a companionable silence.   And that is just fine with me.

* * * * * *

Edward HopperThere is one topic that we have been discussing that is somewhat related – my depression.  It has gotten better, mainly because I finally admitted to myself why I was in such a funk.  I had apparently made the executive decision not to allow myself to look forward to anything lest I suffer the pain of disappointment, during this time when disappointment can be at its peak.  I mentioned this to Mr. X and gently asked if it was okay for me to look forward to some things (like a weekend or a good book) and he wholeheartedly agreed.  Once I made that connection, I was able to begin to see some light.  I haven’t completely climbed out of the trench, but I’m slowly getting there.

We Came, We Saw, We Heard

I have a really bad habit when something big is about to happen. I think, “oh, in x number of hours, we’ll know” or “in another hour, it will all be over.”  Of course, this is only used for events that are anxiety inducing – they are not pleasant thoughts and only serve to cause more anxiety about the impending event.

This was what I was thinking as we drove the five minutes to the clinic in 6:50am cool air.  I’ve driven this route so many times now, seen the same people walking the same dogs, it’s amost comforting. Almost. Because today, was no ordinary day.

Today was the 8 week scan. The scan where the stakes were raised to threat level heartbeat.  Luckily, Dr. Salsa didn’t waste much time getting down to business.

And, poof, there was the little p.  I could tell right away that there was significant growth since our last scan two weeks ago.  And, with the movement of the wand just a milimeter, I saw the tell-tale flashing.  The tiniest heart amongst us.

You will probably shocked to hear this, but I never actually saw the heart flash before on either my two previous pregnancies.  Dr. Uterus’ scanning equipment was fine, but there was one monitor and it was rather hard to crane my neck to see the important stuff. Dr. Salsa of course, provides you with your own monitor on the ceiling which I am appreciating more and more each time. 

He turned on the sound and there it was – wocka, wocka, wocka – like Fozzie bear.  The rate measured at 167 bpm which is nice and solid. He took some measurements and everything was on track.

I also tallked with him about the big D.  He gave me the name of a psychiatrist who can, if need be, proscribe me something.  I also see my regular therapist on Monday and will definitely raise the issue with her as well.  Between the two, we’ll see what we can do.  The uncertainty level has gone down a little with today’s appointment.  But, it will come back up again.  We are in charted, but still dangerous waters and know that the boat can capsize still.  We’re just taking it day by day.

Thank you all for your lovely comments and support. May this karma rebound to you in droves!

Trust

Infertility and miscarrige have brought many new experiences into my life – needles (oh so many needles, of all shapes and sizes);  powerful, mood altering drugs; amazing bouts of unrequited jealousy; complete lack of modesty; an apprenticeship in reading follicle scans (seriously, I am a total pro. I can guess within 1 mm); the first opportunity since grade school to use ‘meniscus’ in a sentence. 

rogiroBut, one of the less obvious, yet still devastating experiences these two harpies have brought me has been a loss of trust and confidence in my body and its ability to nurture life.  Reproductively, we certainly didn’t get off to a good start – somehow both of my fallopian tubes became blocked and had to be cleared.  I have a champion uterus, but that has meant absolutely zero since the embryos that keep implanting in it are chromosomally abnormal.  So, I can easily say that I no longer have a lot of trust in my reproductive abilities. And, it is an awful feeling.

This has become painfully clear again with this most recent try for the teething ring.  I question my body, and frankly everything about this go round, constantly – am I exhausted enough? nauseous or just nervous? what was that twinge? cramping, but not too much? spotting? not spotting red? – because if I worry about it, or so the thinking goes, then I won’t be blindsided again with bad news.   

And, it’s not just physical feedback from my body that has me on edge.  I still eye even good news – good beta numbers, etc –  with suspicion because I’ve had the “good news” before and then watched it turn very bad.  I think taking a frying pan upside the head would have been less painful than the moment I learned that my first pregnancy had ended because I didn’t see it coming At All.  All subsequent pregnancy experiences for me revolve around never getting blindsided again like that because it was such an awful, awful experience. Easily one of the top 5 worst in my life. 

So, even when today’s scan at approximately 6 weeks had no surprises, I still cannot say that relations have improved.  But, I can report one bean, measuring on target with a gestational sac, yolk sac and a fetal pole. No heartbeat detected on the screen, but Dr. Salsa didn’t try using the microphone.  I had asked him ahead of time what we should expect to see and a heartbeat was a 50/50 at this stage, so I wasn’t too concerned (and Dr. Google repeatedly told me that it would be iffy seeing one at this stage).  The gestational sac was looking more oval and elongated than round, but Dr. Salsa once again was not concerned since the angle of the dildo cam can change how it looks on the screen. 

I still don’t trust my body or my reproductive abilities, but the ice is melting. Next scan is in two weeks, when the stakes get raised (or the limbo bar gets lowered, depending upon how you look at it) again. 

image: rogiro

Facing the Fear

I remember the wait before my first OB scan.  I was nervous, but mainly because I had no idea what to expect.  It didn’t occur to me that there might not be anything on the screen or if there was, that there might not be a heartbeat.  My naivete was rewarded with a perfectly normal OB scan, complete with a heartbeat (although it still ended up going south anyway – so much for statistics!).  The second time I was waiting for that first OB scan, I wasn’t nearly as naive.  I was also tormented with spotting which I had never had before and was convinced meant the end before the beginning.  By the time I got to the scan, I was so exhausted from worry that I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t much to be seen

7 (Miguel Angel)So, approaching this latest first OB scan has been a study in compromise.  Should I allow myself to have even a little dash of hope?  Should I be like Mr. X and expect the worst?  I have, so far, chosen the middle ground.  Neither hoping or dreading.  Even when I started spotting last week (brown) or cramping more regularly today, I have refused to entertain that little voice in my head saying, “OMG, OMG, OMG, what if it’s all over?!” 

I do, however, sit down with it and ask, “So, what if it’s all over? What is the worst that can happen?”  And, I find comfort in knowing that I know what the worst is that can happen and I have survived it, twice now.  Ironically, whenever I think about it, I worry most about being an object of pity and how much that hurts.  But, I know that I would be ok, as would Mr. X.  We would survive as we have done before, and we would move on, although where I don’t know.  And, that by far is more comforting right now than anything Dr. Google has been able to provide. 

I have kept Dr. Salsa in the loop about all of the gory details – the brown spotting (or staining as I think it is officially called), the sudden change to reddish brown on Sunday that disappeared as quickly as it arrived, the increasing cramps – only asking whether or not I should be worried and taking heart in his all caps response, NO. 

In the end, my fate is out of my hands as it has always been and I can only wait patiently to hear what it will be. 

image: 7 (Miguel Angel)