Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baby Blues


I plopped the donut cushion on the couch and shuffled back to the bassinet for the bundle of blankets responsible for my condition. It took a few minutes to adjust all the pillows and clothing properly so I could begin the two-hour process of nursing her.

Our family, July, 1970

Thirteen days into motherhood the novelty was over and everybody but me had gone back to regular life. Dee was working at a ranch and my family was spending the day there. "Horse-back riding? Nobody even told me!" I whined to my sister. My newborn squealed as her breakfast twisted out of reach. "Well, it's not like you can go," Polly said matter-of-factly.

The baby and I sat home that 24th of July and cried all afternoon. Nobody noticed. Babies are supposed to cry and mothers are supposed to stay home with them. I was twenty years old and I felt like I'd died. In a sense I had. I went into mourning.

Nine months before I said I'd give anything to be a mom. That day I resented giving up a horseback ride. Horseback riding was never my thing, so it wasn't even a real sacrifice. What I was mourning was the possibility of a horseback ride. Choosing motherhood meant that now I was saddled with it. Along with a new baby, I'd birthed a new me. The old me was buried in responsibility.

Two weeks at my mother's was long enough—Dee promised me that everything would be normal once we got back to our own home. Before car-seats and seat-belts, moms nursed their babies in the front seat to keep them content, and the drive to Provo was quiet and reassuring.

Our trailer at BYU

When we arrived at our trailer, Dee dropped me off and left for school. After staying in my parent's lovely big house, our little place added to my depression. Especially when I went inside and found the bed still unmade . . .

My first kitchen

. . . and the dishes from two weeks before still sitting in the sink. On the table was a sack, and when I looked inside I found the stiffened, dirty clothes I'd been wearing in the hospital when my water broke. Gabi was upset by her new surroundings, too. She started crying and didn't stop for at least a month. I joined her most of the time. Our relationship did not come easy to me.

When the stub of her cord fell off I noticed her diaper had blood stains on it. Frantic, I called the hospital, certain my baby would bleed to death through her navel. The nurse who took my call implied that I was being hysterical. In a sarcastic tone she said, "I take it this is your first baby."

A cute green dress came in the mail from my aunt Berniece. Surely a new outfit would cheer my wailing daughter, I thought, and put it on her immediately. She screamed all morning. Finally, because I couldn't think of anything else to do with her, I decided to give her a bath. When I took off the dress I realized I'd left the pins in the sleeves. They'd been poking her tiny armpits the whole time!

What if someone realized I didn't have any motherly instinct, that I was clueless and incapable? Would they come and take her away? But what if nobody ever came, and I was stuck with this bawling baby for the rest of my life? And what was the matter with me? I loved her so much but resented her at the same time. Labor was nothing compared to this mind-wrenching, heart-breaking exercise. Now I understand that this was the process that made me a mother.

Carrying a baby around all the time developed my responsibility muscles. I still missed my old, irresponsible self, but I started to like the new, mature me. Maybe I had potential after all. At the end of six weeks, I felt I was coming out of a heavy and isolating fog, and I was excited to see where I was going.

Marty and Gabi, Oct 1970

My first experience with depression was baby blues, a common short-lived side effect of having a baby. Tomorrow I'll talk about a time I had a deeper, darker shade of blues.


Now it's your turn:

Have you had postpartum depression? How did you cope with it? What would you advise a new mom dealing with baby blues?




18 comments:

kenju said...

You and I lived those first six weeks pretty much alike and you have described it better than I ever could. I was certain that everything I did (or didn't do) would kill my son and I would be blamed for being an idiot. But I finally came out of it, as you did, and it was somewhat smooth sailing after that.

Grammy T. said...

Oma you have hit the nail on the head. Love this!!

Kay Dennison said...

I was 27 when I had my first and I was definitely ready to be a mommy. I guess I was lucky.

Shelley said...

For me it was the realization that I didn't really know what I was doing. I thought I had everything under control because I was an Early Childhood Teacher. I knew everything there was to know about children. I was an expert. Then reality hit and I cried a lot. I remember bringing home my son putting him on the living room floor in his car seat. I sat down on the couch looked at him and said "What do I do now?" But like you said it eventually falls into place and you can't imagine it any other way.

Hil said...

Oh thank you! I so needed this post. I had my first baby at 21 and I had my second baby just two and a half months ago.

I definitely experienced some major baby blues with my first, and a mix of anxiety and blues with this second. He is a colicky, reflux baby and is finally starting to pull out of it. I also have recuperated and am loving being a mommy of two, but those first few weeks were SO HARD.

It is always so reassuring to know that you are not alone in your baby blue feelings! Thank you for sharing this post. It's just what I needed.

Diane said...

I don't think anyone really gets it unless they've been through it - all the joy of having a baby, lost in the everyday doing of things. Finally a tiny glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, and we swing into our new lifestyle. It'a process we all go through, one way or another. Your description was perfect.

Christie said...

I don't remember having postpartum, but I'm sure there were days that I did. It is so overwhelming when you first become a mom. But so much fun at the same time. Thanks for sharing your story!

Katie H said...

Currently going through it! I love my daughter, but man, some days, I wish she were old enough already to nap & sit & drink bottles on her own. This hits home all too much for me...but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel...

Grandma Shelley said...

Excellent post. I never had postpartum depression but both of my daughters have. It can be very serious.

It robbed my girls of weeks of time with their new little babies. Weeks that should have been joyful but rather were filled with anxiety, emotional distance, and tears!

Gabi said...

But it's all worth it now...right?!!!

Hannah said...

I went through a bit of baby blues as well. The colic didn't help. I'm so happy to read these stories and know that I was not alone.

Raejean said...

I was indeed clueless when my first child was born, but I didn't deal too much with the "baby blues" until she was four. She was sassy!

When I had twins, I might have dealt with the blues, but I was too tired to know for sure.

Seriously, I know some women struggle with serious depression. I hope we can pull together as women and help out the new moms around us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, I came here from a friend's recommendation. It is exactly what I needed to read.

Susan Adcox said...

I escaped the baby blues, but one of my daughters had a mild case. Grandparents are sometimes the first ones to notice that something isn't quite right with a daughter or daughter-in-law who has just had a baby. I've written about how to tell if it's post-partum depression (PPD) and what to do about it. Also, did you know that fathers can get PPD as well?

Miranda said...

You've read my account of postpartum depression before and I'm always relieved/thankful to see more people writing about their experiences. Thank you for writing this and than you for reaching out to me when I wrote about it.

Abby said...

I love reading about your trials (does that sound mean?) It is good to know people have been dealing with the same types of issues for years! Its nice to know there are people we can go and talk to. I also love the way you tell stories. Adding a little laughter always helps out everyone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have had really serious case of post partum depression for the past 2 years. I needed to be medicated, but I wouldn't accept it until recently. My son's second birthday is around the corner and I just started the meds two weeks ago. I thought that I was just a weak person. You have no idea what your words have meant to me. Thank you for helping me realize that I'm alone in feeling this way. It feels as though no one else talks about it.

Shannon said...

Your story is so very moving. It made me wish I had been there to clean your house and make it comfortable for you and your new baby. Thank you for opening this dialogue.

Even when you're prepared to have a child (I was 30 and had been married for three years), it can be so overwhelming. I remember one night when my oldest was just a week old. We were having a freezing rain, the kind that's really dangerous to drive in. My husband was late and by the time he got home, I was rocking the baby with tears streaming down my face. All I could think was what would become of us if something happened to him?

Isn't there a tradition in Japan where new mothers and their babies spend the entire first month in bed, being cared for while they get to know each other? I know this wouldn't eliminate postpartum depression, but it sure might help.