Every time I fly I always listen carefully to the emergency instructions, especially after 9/11. In the event that the oxygen masks are deployed, they always point out that if you are travelling with small children that you should put your mask on first before assisting them. I always thought that was odd, but now I see why they make a special mention of it. As a parent your natural reaction is to protect the safety of your children at all costs, even if it’s to your detriment at times. What’s so screwed up about that is that if you don’t take care of yourself first (put your mask on) you won’t be able to help your child and you both could end up paying the price.
For the past 2 weeks or so I’ve been waking up mentally telling myself to “put my mask on first”. Every morning I immediately wake up and think of Esther’s needs. Usually that involves changing her, making her a bottle and feeding her right away. This process usually takes about an hour. Before I know it, it’s noon and I haven’t used the bathroom, gotten dressed or eaten. My needs have taken a back seat lately. While some of this is expected as a mom (esp a first time one) a lot of what I’ve been experiencing lately boarders on unhealthy and unnatural.
I have a history of depression. I’ve struggled with it since college (although I’m sure I was depressed before then it just wasn’t diagnosed). Sometimes this depression presented itself as an eating disorder, mania, or a deep dark “retreat from the world” feeling. In the past I’ve managed this demon with psychotherapy alone, medication alone or a combo of both.
Before getting pregnant I was in a good spot. I was managing my depression on my own, meaning I found a great balance between exercise, getting enough sleep and making sure I reached out when I needed to. I had slowly weaned myself off of my meds and at the time, I felt it was the right thing to do. Then I got pregnant. Immediately my depression was a concern. At my first prenatal appointment I disscussed this with my OB and she said that if I wanted to we could set up a course of action to make sure I was taken care of right after the baby was born. This is where I made my first mistake, I said, “Well, let’s just wait and see.” I refused the help because I thought that my new momma love for my baby would be enough. I thought that I’d meet him or her and that my love for them would superceed any feelings of darkness, sadness, anxiety. I mean who would have time for all of that moping when you’ve received this increadible gift from God? I’ve always belived (and still do) that there isn’t a way to “wish away” true depression. It’s a medical disease that needs just as much treatment as diabetes or cancer. For some reason, though, I momentarily thought that my baby would somehow “save” me from ever feeling depressed again. Unfortunately, that’s not true.
I’m struggling. It’s hard to admit that. Having a new baby is magical. I love my daughter so much it’s sickening. Really, I’m obsessed with her. Probably to a fault. Being a new mom (first time?) is hard as sh*t!! I wish more moms would share that. Sure- it’s the best thing you’ll ever do, but it’s terrifying at times, frustrating, and like I said…hard as f*ck!! And I have HELP! My husband is here and willing to help- I just struggle with letting him. This is where my depression and anxiety is creeping in. I feel this need to be around her 24 hrs a day or else something bad could happen to her.
I’m exactly the kind of mother I didn’t want to be. My fear of having a child was that I’d pass on my “crazy” to him or her. I feared that he or she would observe some of my unusual behaviors and someone discern that the world was a bad place. I want Esther to be confident in herself, trusting of others and overall a well rounded person! I felt I used to be that person and someone lost my way a bit. Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve slowly watched some glimpses of my previous (depression and anxious ) self return. For example:
1) I really didn’t leave the house with my baby for the entire 1st month of her life. Except to see the doctor
2) I didn’t want anyone around her (some of this is warrented b/c I was advised to keep her away from germs and people in general because of RSV, cold and flu season).
3) I’d have an overwhelming feeling that she would get sick and have to be hospitalized
4) She would somehow get RSV or something else, be hospitalized and die
5) Then if she died, there’d be no way I could live without her
6) I’m obsessed with knowing she’s ok 24 hrs a day. So much so that 90 percent of the time I take her in the bathroom with me, in her bassinet, when I bathe or shower. Oh, and this is when Jim is HOME and could easily watch her
7) I only feel comfortable leaving her with Jim, and I barely do that for fear he’s going to break her
I’m not proud of any of the above behaviors. Rationally, I know it is “nuts”. I still can’t help myself.
Today on a walk I finally said something to Jim about it. He said that I was acting like a single parent when I’m not. Something about that shook me. I realized that I needed help NOW before things get worse. I know that in a few short weeks I’ll be returning to work and Esther will have to go to day care. All of this has been coming to a head because we have to find someone to help raise our daughter (that’s how I look at finding a day care provider because really, that’s what they’ll be doing). I thought to myself, “How am I going to leave her with someone when I barely trust my husband to take care of her.”
Today I put my g*ddamn mask on already!! I called my internet to re-fill my meds (as a back up). I called a psychologist who was listed on a postpartum website as a coordinator for my area and she was able to talk to me on the phone today. Coincidently I was a patient of her’s in the past when I was 25 and feeling like I was having a quarter life crisis. It was actually nice to chat with her and she remembered me- which put me at ease a little bit and made me feel like I’m headed in the right direction. I have an appointment with her right away Monday morning to talk about course of treatment/action.
I’m doing this because I don’t have a choice. I cannot let myself fall into a dark place. It’s not fair to me, but more so to my sweet little girl and husband. I’m getting a mammogram soon because there is a family history I don’t want to get breast cancer and leave them alone. To me, my mental health is just as serious as that.
I’m sharing this, this very personal thing, because I hope it helps someone- specifically a new mom.I think sometimes we don’t want to talk about the struggles that come along with being a new mom because it’s supposed to be this happy time- and it IS, but it’s also challenging and it’s ok if you’re struggling. Just don’t struggle in silence and by all means put your mask on ! You need to be your best self for this new little person in your life.