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Postpartum Depression

When Charlie was about two weeks old my energy hadn’t returned and tears seemed to be my constant companion. Until I had a child, I never realized what a shock it is to a woman’s body to have her baby finally expelled from her body and in her arms. There is so much joy and relief, but the body experiences a type of shock. It takes a while to recuperate. During that time, I wrote these words…

Today is a beautiful day. After a miserable, long winter that broke snow records and a difficult pregnancy that kept me locked indoors for months, the sun is shining and the grass is green. My son is here and all I want to do is go outside with my little girl and run around, enjoying every minute of the beautiful, perfect day.

Instead, I’m standing at the kitchen window staring outside longingly as she plays without me. Tears are streaming down my cheeks, snot dripping from my nose as I give my sweet little baby boy a bath in the sink. My daughter isn’t alone. She’s playing happily with a teenage girl from church, going up and down the slide we just got her at a garage sale. They’ve pulled up grass from the yard and are watching it fly around in the breeze, laughing and clapping. Hiring her to play with Eliana is the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

But I’m standing in the window crying anyway. It’s hard on a mama’s heart to share her baby with someone else. It’s hard to know she’s having so much fun without me. I want to be the one who teaches her how to go up and down the slide, who claps as she learns to balance at the top, who rolls around in the warm grass tickling her. But I’ve made a choice to bring another child into the world. A best friend for Eliana! But giving her a new best friend means I can no longer be her everything. She has to share me now.

I know my tears are illogical. The babysitter is doing things that I’d never think of, having fun and exposing her to ideas that would never cross my mind. I’m too concerned with staying clean, and my body no longer responds to me the way their young ones do. I can’t hop up and down like that. I know I’m giving her a gift by bringing other people into her life. But it’s a hard gift to give.

I’m also relieved that the babysitter is here. I haven’t yet healed from pregnancy and childbirth. I can’t run around outside with them right now. My unhealed body makes it difficult to lift and carry a 20-pound toddler around while caring for a newborn.

But still… I cry. I wish I could do it all. I wish I didn’t have to let go.

During those first few weeks after Charlie’s birth, I cried a lot. I felt angry and sad. It’s difficult to admit, but it took a few weeks to feel all the intense emotions of love and adoration for him. On my guard against postpartum depression, I asked the OB nurse if I needed to call my doctor for some anti-depressant medication. She wisely suggested I wait a couple of weeks to see if it lifted on its own, then call if it didn’t.

I mainly felt sad for Eliana and frustrated that I didn’t feel good. Eliana loved Charlie, but the uncertainty I saw in her eyes about what her place in our family was just broke my heart. For a few days I felt angry all the time. It wasn’t like me, but I couldn’t seem to make it go away.

In hindsight, I know it was a result of the challenges of Charlie’s delivery, combined with a lack of sleep and my feelings of guilt for displacing Eliana from her only-child throne. Once I was able to get some decent sleep, recover somewhat physically, and accept that Eliana would be better off in the long run for having a sibling, the sadness lifted and joy rushed in.

I now look at my precious son and my heart nearly bursts with love. He’s the cutest, sweetest little guy I’ve ever known. I adore him and praise God for this amazing gift. He’s a good baby too. Last night he went eight hours between feedings, nursed for 10 minutes, fell back asleep and slept for another four hours. I know what a gift that is.

Rick’s parents realized I was drowning and they wisely suggested we get some help. They found a wonderful helper for me. She stayed with us five nights/days a week for the month of May and is continuing with us for the summer for three nights/days a week. It was hard to allow someone into my home, to accept help. I wanted to be able to do it all myself.

Having her around has not only been a help to me physically, but emotionally. It’s hard to sit around and cry when someone else is around. And when there’s someone to help out, I feel a lot less like crying!

My house is clean, I can take regular showers, my children are bathed and fed and dressed, my laundry is caught up and even ironed. She and I share the work and it feels good to return to cooking and keeping up with the house. The anger I felt has dissipated, the only tears I’ve had have been ones of joy, and I’ve had energy to do some fun things like take Eliana to the zoo. This week I plan to go back to the gym and regular exercise, which always makes me feel better.

My heart goes out to those who suffer from severe postpartum depression and anxiety, who have colicky babies or babies who don’t sleep well, and those who aren’t able to get help. I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me if I hadn’t had so much support and such a good baby. I’m thankful to God every day for the circumstances He’s placed me in and the many blessings I’ve received.

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