Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wasn't sad

I always thought depression was about feeling hopeless and sad. It was about crying at the drop of the hat for no apparent reason. Depression was a deep black hole with no visible exit sign. I was not depressed. I loved my life. I loved my children. I loved my husband. I could see a rosy future in front of all of us.

I also could barely stand to bathe my 2 month old baby by myself. It was so easy to see all the calamities that could befall us. I could slip in water he splashed on the floor. Then I might hit my head. I could be knocked unconscious. My baby, despite my best efforts, could die because of some freak accident. Some car might cartwheel through our yard hitting the bathroom. We could all be crushed when the walls collapsed. Oh my goodness, we won't even go into the scenarios where random acts of violence could be perpetrated against my poor, small, innocent children. But I wasn't sad. I was just a little bit anxious.

I watched other mothers, some with way more children than I had, do a tremendous amount of work in a day. I worked hard all day and yet there were still piles of laundry to fold, dishes to wash, carpets to vacuum, and meals to cook. It seemed like no matter what I did I just was not good at being a housewife. Working with 2 kids in tow felt like trying to run in chest deep mud. My body was slow and heavy. I was lazy, and apparently a poor housekeeper. But I wasn't sad.

When Sam was 9 weeks old my grandmother had cataract surgery. She needed someone to come stay with her the first couple of nights. Since we're all comfortable at Grandma's house I volunteered to bring my little family to visit until she could see well enough to get around. Dave came home early that night and stopped by Grandma's (where I was with the kids). He still needed to go home and pack a bag and I needed to go buy some milk and salad ingredients. Chris was almost 3 and he wanted to stay with Grandma. Since my mom lives just up the road from Grandma and she was on her way home, I called and she offered to stop by and stay with Grandma and Chris. I took Sam, since he was nursing every hour and a half or so, and Dave and took Dave home to pack a bag.

It made sense that while Dave was packing I'd go do the small amount of grocery shopping we needed. Usually when Dave was home I'd leave the kids with him when I went to the store. That day he was in a hurry and didn't want to deal with Sam too. We had a conversation about it and I said I'd take Sam grocery shopping with me. Sometime between our house and the store I forgot that Sam was with me. You hear about mothers "forgetting" their kids in the car and I always assumed that they must have some horrible character fault that enabled them to absentmindedly forget a child.

That's not at all what happened. I walked across that parking lot and into the grocery store thinking about my family, thinking about my baby. I hurried because I didn't want Dave to feed Sam a bottle (I HATE pumping!!).

I saw babies in the store and thought about how Sam compared with their size and weight. It wasn't until I returned to my car that I had even an inkling that Sam was still there. It was as if all the thoughts in my brain were on separate pieces of paper and somehow the page that knew Sam was with me was stuck behind the sheet that had me planning to leave Sam with his dad while I went shopping. I was forgetful, and apparently a horrid mother, but I wasn't sad.

Thinking about it later, I realized that there were several occasions I left the house and forgot where I was going by the time I got to the stop sign on the corner. Usually I just went to the grocery store at that point because I was guaranteed to find something we needed. I also had a hard time reading and getting into the story before I was needed elsewhere. I would rather give up breathing than not read, but I certainly wasn't reading at the rate I did before the baby was born. Before I had Sam I had a photographic memory and as for focus and concentration... well, let's just say I earned the money for my first car working as a labratory technician. I definately didn't have trouble with memory or concentration. After Sam it was different, but I was just distracted and overwhelmed by my inability to be a good housekeeper as well as a mother. I wasn't sad.

I went to see my doctor after THE INCIDENT. From the time Sam was born until after that doctor's visit I had one huge, long, horrible migraine. I assumed that the hormones were to blame (and they were) and so I didn't seek medical attention. After all, it takes a while for everything to get back to normal after you have a baby. After finally seeking help and telling my doctor about THE INCIDENT he prescribed beta blockers to stop vascular spasm (since they're safe while nursing but migraine meds aren't). The migraine stopped 3 days later. I still felt like I was working in deep mud, but at least the pain in my head had stopped.

Dr. Martin also told me not to beat myself up over THE INCIDENT. He told me that the only difference between me and every other mother is that I had a more dramatic occurance when my memory failed. I didn't really believe him, after all I FORGOT MY BABY IN THE CAR!!! How could that be a common occurance? How do you forgot you have a child with you? Dr. Martin suggested that I was suffering from post-partum depression and I didn't believe him. I was worried and sure that my children would have been better off being raised by wolves, but I wasn't sad.

I did a lot of research about sleep deprivation and that did offer me some comfort and explanation for how the memory lapse could occur. It didn't help me sleep better at night or become a better housekeeper, but it did offer some great solutions to make sure nothing similiar ever happened again (now I never put my purse anywhere other than between the smallest child and the door of the car, then I can't get my purse without seeing my child).

I was incredibly tired, my mind obviously wasn't functioning at it's normal capacity. Although I loved my children I kept wondering if they wouldn't be better off in daycare because at least then I'd be bringing money into the family. My skills as a wife, mother, and home maker were not on par with the skills of those around me. Never in my life had I experienced the feeling that I couldn't be the absolute best at anything I chose to do. But I wasn't sad.

One morning I woke up and realized that the laundry was caught up, the dishes were washed, the floors were vacuumed, my children were fed, and we were all playing and laughing together just like all those other families I saw. It seemed to have happened almost overnight. That day I realized that even though I wasn't sad I had been depressed.

About 8 weeks later I commented to my best friend that I'd only had one period since Sam was born. I knew that nursing makes such things irregular but still, I wondered if I should be concerned. Amy suggested (while laughing really hard) that perhaps I should buy a pregnancy test. Of course, she was right and I was pregnant. In fact, I was 8 weeks pregnant. My whole life changed when Jake implanted and the hormones shifted. The depression was gone. I'm positive that Jake was a gift from God, sent just when he was most needed. If Jake hadn't surprised us I would never have chosen to give birth again because I just wasn't as good a mother as others I saw. If I couldn't hold everything together with two children how much worse would it be with three? Thank GOD for Jake.

Jake's 15 1/2 months younger than Sam. My house isn't always spotless. Okay, it's rarely spotless. The laundry isn't always folded, but it is clean. We eat nutritious home-cooked meals and we play together as a family. I go through life towing 3 small children behind me and it doesn't feel like I'm moving in deep mud, it feels like I'm walking with my family.

Before Jake I might not have said this, but I believed it none the less. Depression affects people with weak minds. If you just try a little harder, work a little more, it will go away. It's not true. I have a good mind. At times I even believe I have a great mind. The lesson I learned is that it's not infallible. I was so ashamed of most every aspect of my life that was touched by the depression that I would never talk about it. It's still hard to share my story, but it's made easier because now I realize that even though I wasn't sad I was depressed. If anyone who reads my story sees even a few things that sound like what they're living with now... know that you're not alone. It's hard to talk about depression and so most of us who've experienced it are silent. Every woman should know, depression is not what you think it is. Sometimes it's forgetfulness, sometimes it's a rage that's so tangible you can almost feel it moving underneath your skin seeking a target to aim for, sometimes it's the inability to move without feeling like you're carrying a 100 pound weight with you. Help is out there. Even nursing moms can take some of the depression medications. Life does get better.


Mrs. B. Roth said...

Thank you. I'm not sad ... (though I'm crying now) but your metaphor - like trying to run in chest deep mud - that's exactly how I feel. Everything feels SO hard and I know it's not hard, but it feels insurmountable.


I don't want drugs, I don't want therapy ... I just want to BE better. I want life to be weightless. I just don't want to have to try so hard. I want my husband to come home and have dinner with us and entertain the kids while I catch up on chores or maybe do something I want to do.

I was reading a SIL's blog and she wrote how she'd finally gotten my BIL to stop watching so much TV and read more, go out and do thing and I thought she sounded so condescending about him and inconsiderate of his personal preferences. But I just want my husband to do what I want him to do, too. It probably won't make things all better, but in my mind it would make all the difference.

Janet said...

My doctor would have helped me if I let him, but I wouldn't admit it could be depression. I too just wanted things to be back to normal and didn't want to take drugs or do anything other just get my act together. It wasn't until I got pregnant and the depression lifted that I could see how bad it had been. While you're slogging through the mud you put so much energy into just getting through the day that you don't have a lot left over for self pity.

I wish I'd listened to my doctor and tried the drugs. If it were arm that was hurting I'd take something to help it. Your brain's even more important to you and your family than an arm is. Go talk to someone and learn what your options are. Just living through it can be successful but it's a lot like walking through the fires of hell. You don't want to make your children walk with you there, even though you'll still do everything in your power to keep them from howing much you hurt they'll still know.

Janet said...

I also kept thinking that if I just had more help...

The truth is that I would have felt much better if I could catch up on sleep but it still wouldn't have been normal.

Mrs. B. Roth said...

But it's not every day ... I have great days when I catch up on a few things and feel great and life IS easy. Maybe one or two days a week are much harder, and mostly I think it's either sleep or hormones. And I think, maybe if i exercise every morning (but who has time and energy for that?!) or if I stop drinking soda (and I don't even drink it every day anyway) or maybe if I drink more soda ... things will pick up .. sigh ... I hate feeling crazy and not knowing if I'm crazy or lazy ... the doctors - they throw a pill at you faster than you can say "I think something's wrong." They just want to get me in and out and take my money. I've no faith in their industry. I can fix it myself ... ug. Don't say my kids are suffering .. that is definitely my soft underbelly! Husbands thinks if I could just establish a routine .. maybe that's all I need. I don't know why, I just don't want a pill. Y'know? like that would be giving in.


maybe more prayer ... sigh some more.

Janet said...

Here's my take. If you'd talked to me in the 6 months following Sam's birth I would have said the same thing you just wrote. Because I had such an immediate change when Jake was concieved it was easy for me to look back and say that I was worse off than I would admit at the time.

If you're wondering whether it's depression and whether you should do something about it (doctor like), ask your best friend what she sees. A good friend who's known you for a while may have a different perspective about how well you're doing. Your husband will always tell you that you're fine unless he thinks you're a danger to yourself and others. That's just the way husbands are.

My mother was incredibly helpful when I was post-partum. She kept telling me that time management was my problem. If I would just be more organized everything would be fine. She also kept pointing out all the other mothers who had clean houses and multiple children (she once even commented about the Duggar family on tv). In her opinion the fault lay with me and the way I managed my home and family. It's really funny how those issues all resolved themselves just about the day I became pregnant again.

Amy said...

Hi I hope you don't mind me adding to your discussion,

Brandy,it sounds like you really don't want to consider medication if it is PPD, So I thought I'd mention that there are also foods that can help depression. At they have a Healing Kitchen area and you look up the ailment and they explain what foods and why they can help. They even offer recipes. Most of the stuff is really basic and even if it is just stress and lack of sleep these aren't going to hurt to try.

I hope this can help and remember you are not the only Mom feeling like this!

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room