When: Wednesday, July 11, 12:30pm – 2 days postpartum
Where: Carle Hospital, Post Partum Unit
We were packing our things to leave, and all of a sudden I realized that for the last 36 hours, I had been in this room, and this room alone. I did not remember how I had gotten here, nor what it all looked like just outside of my door. I thought of all the women who were going through the exact same thing as me, just feet away, through the walls that surrounded me, and that I had not seen, heard or even remotely tried to engage with a single one.
Part of me regrets sequestering myself for my entire postpartum stay, but part of me knows that this had been my only option. I had been attached to a catheter and IV up until 9pm the night before, so trips to the bathroom had been an event of epic proportions. I had only just showered for the first time since Sunday morning after they had detached me from all my tubes and wires, and even then, Martin had needed to call for help from a nurse to finish removing my bandages from my 6 inch incision on my belly. I had been in no shape to go anyplace, and deep down I had known that, but deep down, I was upset about it. That wasn’t me at all. Yet another thing, I felt, I had had no control over.
I got very little sleep during our hospital stay. It seemed that every other minute someone was at the door wanting to check the baby, or check me, or administer medicines, or tests or some such thing.
After my shower, the night before, I’d been ready to go home. To be comfortable in my own house, in my own bed, with my own family, without interruptions.
I was lucky that both my parents had whisked in, the night I went into labor, stayed at our house while we’d been in the hospital to take care of our animals, and checked into an Airbnb 2 blocks from our house the day we arrived home and stayed for an entire week to help us with cooking, cleaning, holding the baby so we could shower, and SO VERY MUCH MORE. I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for the magnitude of help they provided for all three of us in that time of transition. ❤
When: Monday, July 16 – 7 days postpartum
In a c-section, doctors cut through your lower stomach skin, fat, muscles and uterus to get at your unborn baby. I’m quite certain that they don’t put enough emphasis on the recovery from a c-section in ANY of the labor, delivery or infant care classes they provide at the hospital, considering the fact that c-sections make up almost 32% of all childbirth deliveries in the US (as of 2016, according to the CDC, I’m pretty sure that number has increased since then). Folks, that’s almost 1 in 3 women.
They cut through your skin, fat, muscles and uterus. They make a 4-7 inch hole. In your tummy. They take out your baby, and then they sew it all back up again. Voila, you’re a Mom! Now, go take care of your newborn baby!
Nevermind the fact that the act of laughing, coughing, sneezing, lifting your legs in and out of bed, sitting down, standing up from anywhere, walking, standing up straight and staying completely still, and every single thing in between sends pain shooting and screaming through your entire body. You’re a Mom, so go take care of your new baby!
For me, beyond the pain of my surgery, the swelling that occurred afterward was hands-down some more of the scariest shit I’ve ever experienced. My legs looked and felt like they were not my own. They were so swollen, they looked as though they belonged to a 90-year-old diabetic woman who hadn’t taken care of herself for over 30 years. They were so swollen that I had a hard time flexing my feet enough to walk, without feeling like the skin was going to split. I needed help lifting them in and out of the tub when I showered because combined with my inability to use my abdominal muscles and the weight of the fluid in my feet and legs, they were so heavy I couldn’t lift them. But, you’re a Mom, so go take care of your new baby!
The thought crossed my mind, more than ten times during that first week, that I had absolutely no idea why people did this to themselves more than one time. How did human beings survive as a species?!
By this time, I was still surrounded by my loving family, and my baby was glorious. He smelled just like a baby should, and he snuggled me fiercely. He cried, but I was almost always able to figure out why and make it better. But there was something wrong.
I felt a fog settle over me that made it difficult to smile, nevermind the fact that I actively avoided humor because of the immense pain that laughter caused me. Tears came, at the drop of a hat. At one point, one evening, my baby slept in his bouncer, my family and I had just finished dinner, and I felt a distinct pang in my tummy, exactly like it had felt when my baby was inside of me, and given me a kick. Instantly, I wept.
Later that night, I had a conversation with my Mom. It went like this:
Me: Mom, after you had me, did you feel lonely?
My Mom: Well, of course! You were born in the middle of winter, in Chicago! It was so bitterly cold that no one came to visit, I didn’t have very much help because there was no such thing as paternity leave back then, and I was overwhelmed!
Me: No, that’s not what I mean. (I put my hand on my belly, to show her what I meant) After I was born, did you feel lonely?
My Mom: (Cluing into what I meant: Did you feel like you were missing a piece of yourself?) Oh… No. I didn’t. Not like that.
And with that, I knew – My feelings had gone beyond the stereotypical “Baby Blues” and into a territory that I could not snap myself out of on my own: Postpartum depression.
I called my doctor that morning, and she and I were both in agreement: I started on an antidepressant that afternoon.
When: Monday, August 6, 1:45pm – 4 weeks postpartum
These last few weeks have flown by, in a mix of dirty diapers, endless baby snuggles, sleepless nights, coos and gurgles, bottle mixing, tears, laughter, and tiny clothing. My meds have had three weeks to begin doing their duty.
I’m still on driving restrictions from my c-section, but I’ve gone on walks with just the baby and me, as well as with the dog, too, while M is back at work. My motivation is returning. My body is healing. Our routine is manifesting. And most importantly: The sadness fog is lifting.
It’s important to note that by no means am I cured… But I am managing. Things are getting easier not only because August and Martin and I are all getting to know one another, but because I have help. Help in the form of support, love, medication, and therapy. Postpartum depression is yet another thing, in my opinion, that is not addressed well enough in the baby preparation classes. It’s real. It’s hard. But most importantly: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I’ve received nothing but praise from those I have told for recognizing it and seeking additional help so quickly.
M and I talked before I had this baby of the possibility of postpartum depression. We both agreed that my mental health is far more important than trying again, for another baby. We agreed that if postpartum depression was an issue I was dealing with, that we’d wait as long as it took for me to feel right again before we would decide if we wanted another baby. I’m so very thankful for a partner that I can have these types of conversations with.
You all already know that I am a strong, independent woman. But part of what makes me strong is that I can recognize when something is bigger than I am and when I need help. I’m so very thankful for the support system that enables me to get the help I need to be the best person I can be so that I can be the best Mom I can be. ❤
End of Act III