About four months after becoming a new mom, I developed a fear of knives. I didn’t want to be near them. And if I ended up next to one, I’d quickly push it away.
It’s hard for me to admit, but I was afraid I might stab myself.
First of all, the night wake-ups were torture. Once I woke up, I really couldn’t get back to sleep. Everything was a blur.
And, ugh, I’d had an awful time with breastfeeding. I barely made any milk and had to supplement with formula from the beginning. I decided to just pump instead of nursing, which was exhausting. I was so tired and frustrated and defeated.
Plus, I was the first of my group of friends to have a baby. So I didn’t have anyone I could talk to, who understood what I was going through. I felt so alone and so depressed.
So, I just kind of cycled down a really bad path. I was crying all the time. Then I started having these awful images in my head of hurting myself. I was too ashamed and afraid to tell anyone.
One day at the grocery store, I muttered something about being tired to someone. “Well you just need to hire more help,” the lady told me, “so you can sleep during the day”. Seriously? Who is this lady?
When my daughter was four-months-old, I visited my internal medicine doctor, and finally opened up about what I was going through. He responded, “I think you have Post-Partum Depression”. What I had was called Post-Partum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and my fear of knives was a common symptom. I’d taken medicine for anxiety before getting pregnant, so this made sense to me.
My doctor felt a medication called a Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) would be most effective. But that was the end of breastfeeding for me. I felt sad and guilty about stopping.
Then, a Nurse Practitioner came in. “You know what? At the end of the day, your baby’s not going to be happy if you’re not happy,” she told me, “And sure, breast milk is better, but so many people in our parents’ generation thought formula was better, and the kids are fine.”
The SSRI drugs really got me out of that funk. I also joined a Mommy & Me group and started making friends with other moms. I started getting out and doing things.
Around that time, my husband, Sean, and I started going out for date nights too. Sean was so keen on us getting out together, because his parents used to do it. In the beginning, we’d just take Natalie with us on dates. Once she started to talk though, we couldn’t even have a conversation, if she was at the table with us. So, my husband said, “We need a Saturday night sitter”. And, we were able to keep doing date nights.
When I had my second child, Oliver, we did things a lot differently than we’d done the first time around.
We hired a night nurse to come three times each week. Sean would go to bed early, and I’d feed Oliver around 11, right before I went to bed. Then Sean took the middle-of-the-night and early morning feedings. We both knew sleep deprivation was way too hard on me.
I also took a more relaxed approach to breastfeeding. “If I can nurse for six weeks, great”, I thought, “but I’m not putting pressure on myself”. And, I was able to breastfeed for six weeks. I pumped exclusively, so the night nurse was able to give him a bottle.
I stopped pumping a lot sooner, than I did with my daughter. And I felt so much more free. I could get out of the house. I didn’t have to worry about pumping.
I also had my amazing friends from Mommy & Me. They’re my closest friends now. A lot of us had our second child around the same time, and it was so fun to share stories with them.
And, I never fell into any kind of depression.
The hardest part, with my son, was the way people judged me. It was as though I was a failure because I stopped breastfeeding. People even made rude comments to me like, “well there are all these health benefits”. Believe me, I know. And, I really think it’s wonderful that some people can do it for longer.
But I needed to stop. I needed to avoid falling back into a depression. And that’s none of their damn business.
The key for me feeling so much better the second time around was just knowing what I could handle. I needed sleep and I needed my body back.
I incorporated a sleep plan much sooner with my son than I did with my daughter. With Natalie, I did cry-it-out sleep training at four-and-a-half months. But by then I was so tired I could barely function.
It worked, but it was absolutely brutal and it felt awful.
With Oliver, with the help of the night nurse, we just started pushing him to sleep longer and longer, starting at about six-weeks-old. Each night, we logged the number of hours he slept, and just stretched it another fifteen minutes, then another fifteen minutes. Sometimes, she’d offer a pacifier to help him make it just a little longer.
I really stuck with an eat-play-sleep pattern, and I was super-strict about his nap schedule. I think because we started incorporating good sleep habits so early, he just naturally slept. By nine-weeks-old, Oliver was sleeping through the night. So, we never had to have him cry it out.
Meanwhile, Sean and I kept up our date nights. We just had to get out. Sean worked long hours so that was the time for us to connect on what was going on and what happened that week.
I could have easily put the kids first, but I really felt Sean really needed to come first. Ultimately, we feel that if we’re not happy, our kids are going to suffer. I think just making time for each other—time to connect—has made such a difference for us.
I’d never been away from the kids for very long, because I felt too guilty about going anywhere. But Sean’s family is local and they offered to watch the kids, so I finally decided, why not? So we took a trip to the Caribbean for three nights. It was SO FUN to be away together! It was good for our love life—ha! And, we loved just being able to do whatever we wanted, just to sleep in together.
It’s hard to believe that when I was first a mother I was afraid I might stab myself. I knew someone who killed herself, just 48 hours after becoming a mother. PPD is scary and serious and people are afraid to talk about it.
I’m so glad I did though. And, the second time around I was willing to admit what I couldn’t handle. Thankfully, I’d say Sean and I are even stronger after having kids. I put him first and he puts me first, which has kept our whole family strong. Now, I’m even more in love with Sean and I’ve absolutely loved motherhood.
And, actually, I have something to tell you. I’m just not ready to be past this stage in my life. I’ve just loved the baby stage and doing all the activities with the kids. So, we’re going to have another baby—I’m pregnant again!
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