In October, 2005, I gave birth to my son “Cherub.”
I wrote about the trauma of his birth in my post “Big Baby Blues” http://www.humbledseeker.com/?p=134 This experience is, I believe, the trigger for the collapse of my mental health.
Looking back, I should have realized that something was wrong when I wouldn’t put my baby down. I couldn’t let him go. Once I remember that I held him for more than three hours straight, not putting him down even for a moment to rest my arms or have a sip of water or go to the bathroom. If he wasn’t in his bassinet asleep, I held him and carried him with me. I especially remember the intensity of that whenever we had company. He was a newborn and vulnerable. He needed my protection.
I believe now that my possessiveness was due to the dangerous birth the he and I went through. A friend suggested to me many years later that I may have had PTSD. I don’t know, it’s certainly possible. Regardless, since his birth I was not quite right.
I also often sequestered Cherub and I in my bedroom, leaving his daddy and his 3 1/2 year old brother Lively on their own. While daddy went with it, Lively was abandoned by his mother and confused. After all, he had been mommy’s single focus for his entire life — the star of the show, all love and affection given to him. He was curious about his brother too. So by unwittingly distancing us, he got a little lost to me. Lively was feeling threatened and resentful, normal perhaps for the older sibling, but I’m sure it was made worse by the way I was mothering. I wasn’t just changed forever, Lively was too, all from what I discovered later to be postpartum depression.
As the weeks went by I started melting down. I had the typical first two month adjustment, teaching him to sleep through the night, which he accomplished at 9 weeks. I recall the intensity of the sleep deprivation as being significantly worse than with my first son. I was expecting him to sleep through the night at eight weeks, as my first son did. That last week was wrought with despair, impatience, and exhaustion.
As an aside, I realize that some mom’s who may be reading this must think I’m a pansy. What baby sleeps through the night at nine weeks!? Try nine months! For the record, and this may be helpful to new or expectant mothers, I followed the approach in the book “Babywise.” The concept is eat-play-sleep, not eat-sleep-play. I can’t recommend this method enough.
Months passed. I was grappling with having two children, one of who I could barely let go of, and the other who seemed to be slipping away. I recall vividly sitting in the rocker with Cherub, many, many afternoons, with a glass of wine on the table next to me, and as I looked down gazing at my baby I just cried and cried. I couldn’t stop the tears. Over time I began to think this wasn’t normal. After all, shouldn’t these be moments of bliss; sunlight rays beaming through the blinds, quiet, cozy in the nursery, just he and I, my new little love?
Finally when he was a little over eight months old I went to my doctor. I broke down and told him how I was feeling sad and weepy all the time. I don’t remember if he said the words or if I was aware enough to realize that what I was going through was postpartum depression. But, that was the diagnosis. The pediatricians had missed it. They look for signs of depression at the regular visits with the baby. Nevertheless, he was certain. He was clear that I would need medication. I didn’t balk at that. I felt desperate to feel better, to be myself, to be a better mom.
He prescribed me Zoloft. Within a week I felt like I was high. I felt elated and happy and at ease. I was not just back to normal, I was better than normal. I opened up to Lively, actively trying to nurture him and help form a bond between he and his baby brother. We hung out the three of us more often. All was finally well.
More to come…