Saturday, December 29, 2007

A few emails I sent during my PPD hell

Email to Ben, my husband, 3/11/06 - Evan is 3 weeks old

Hi, sweetie.

I need to talk to you, and since you’ll probably check email before we talk in person, I thought I would just send you an email about what’s going on for me right now. I can’t sleep because I’m so worked up… and I know something is really bothering me because everyone is sleeping right now – even Evan – and I should be taking advantage of this time to sleep since I’ve been up for 4 hours now… but I tried going back into the bedroom to sleep, and I can’t even lay down next to you, that’s how worked up I am.

I am feeling very sad, overwhelmed, and not so great right now. I need you, and I feel like I’ve been trying to tell you that these past few weeks but I’m not sure I’m saying the right things so that you know just how much I need you. So I’ll just try to use email to try and tell you some of the things that I wish I could tell you in person. Everytime I try to say them, they sound so stupid that I can’t get them out of my mouth…. But they’re simmering inside, and perhaps typing them and hitting a ‘send’ button will feel less stupid.

I didn’t feel ready to be a mom before, and I still don’t feel ready to be a mom. A lot of the time, I wish things could go back to the way they were, before Evan. Not because I don’t think he’s awesome. But frankly, right now, I’m just not feeling the mommy love all the time. I don’t feel up to the task of having someone who needs me 24 hours out of the day, 7 days a week. The reality of that is daunting to me right now. I don’t always like the way that life has changed since I got pregnant with him. I feel like I’ve totally lost control of everything… my schedule, my body, my career, my independence, and my relationship with you. And I don’t feel like I had a say in any of it, I just had to take it and be OK with it, even if it wasn’t what I wanted… because doesn’t every woman want to be a mother?

Tonight I was supposed to get good sleep, yet here it is 8:00 a.m. and I’ve been awake since 4:00. I was awake through an entire feeding that wasn’t even supposed to be mine. And I’ll have to feed him again at any time… so the cycle just continues. To be honest, I’m annoyed that I had to be awake through what was supposed to be my ‘sleep’ time tonight. I know that’s petty, but it’s how I feel. Before we went to sleep, you told me you wanted me to get to sleep tonight. Yet, when the nighttime comes, you tell me that I should be around to feed him in case the syringe doesn’t work. That basically means, “Don’t sleep.” You can – and do - go back to sleep if I’m breastfeeding him at night… and you sleep through things and noises that happen in the night… but I don’t have that luxury. I have to be awake to breastfeed him if the syringe doesn’t work and he stays awake… and I have to wake up to pump even if I don’t feed him…. So that whole “sleeping through a feeding” doesn’t happen for me. It makes me resent being a mom, and then I resent myself for feeling that way about the situation, because he’s a baby and he just needs to eat, and it’s not his fault. And you’re tired and you can sleep better than me, and it’s not your fault either. I know you wanted me to be able to sleep last night. But in the end, it didn’t work out that way… and again I was awake through the feeding, and then beyond. It just doesn’t feel fair. When that happens, I find myself resenting you for just falling back to sleep and leaving me there to feed him again, or nag you awake. Just because I have the breasts doesn’t mean I want to stay awake and feed him. I guess I have this intense sense of ‘fairness’ and being a mom isn’t a ‘fair’ thing – but I guess I’m still thinking that it should be. I know I’ll have to let go of that.

I’m still feeling pretty yucky, physically, and I’m having a tough time transitioning into full-time mom stuff. I’m sure it will get easier, but right now, it feels like a continuation of pregnancy, where someone had taken over my body and it’s not mine anymore. I feel like all I am right now is a milkmaid, and sometimes I wish I just didn’t have to feed him. My body feels totally unsexy, and hurts and is swollen and leaks everywhere… and although I’m trying to get over the C-section thing, I’m still pissed that I had to be cut open, and had to go through this kind of recovery.

I told you that one of my biggest fears was that a baby was going to mean that I would just take a permanent backseat in your mind, and I feel like that’s already happening… and it’s really tough right now because I still really need you and want you to need me. Before, if I’d been crying like I was tonight, you would have asked me what was wrong… tonight, you pretty much ignored me, leaving me to just cry on my own in bed. That makes me feel so much worse. I told you I was going for a walk… you didn’t even ask me why or what was going on. What does that mean things are going to be for us 5, 10 years down the road? What will I have to do to get your attention? When this whole house sale starts in a few weeks, things will only be busier. And you’ll then have house projects going on… which makes me wonder if I’ll ever even see you when you’re home? How will I ever begin to compete for your attention at that point?

I know all of these things probably sound silly to you, and I’m sure that in a few days or weeks they’ll sound silly to me, too… but right now, I feel about as unattractive and undesirable as a floormat, so these are real concerns for me. How do I need you to treat me right now? The way you did when I was pregnant, where you took care of me and made me feel like I was important to you. Evan may be out of my belly now, but I’m still uncomfortable, and I’m still ‘restricted’ in what I can do, and my hormones are still totally out of whack. Basically I’m still pregnant, even though I look skinnier on the outside. Maybe other women revel in this motherhood stuff, but I’m not yet… and I can’t pretend that I am just yet… because that just makes me feel worse about how I feel. It makes me feel like a fraud if I pretend that everything is OK. At least if I can be honest with you and tell you how I’m feeling, even if it embarrasses me, I can get it out of my system which will hopefully make me feel better in the long run.

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been up for way too long, and I really should go back to sleep, but I am still too worked up to sleep. Thanks for reading, I’m sorry for the rambling thoughts, and I know I’m totally complaining, but I had to send this otherwise I’d explode at a bad time.



Email to one of my counselors, 9.13.06 - Ev is 7 months old

I just don’t know what to do anymore, and I’m getting SO tired of this. None of the books help with this night waking stuff, and my husband doesn’t help, even though he means well. He’s just useless in the middle of the night. I feel like my marriage is a mess, and a year after getting married it shouldn’t be like this. I feel like I’m not doing anything well – my business, my house, my mothering skills, my own self-care routine, my food, my sleep, my social life – they’re all just BLAH. I don’t have anything to talk about except Evan, and I don’t even want to go to social functions because, frankly, I have nothing to say, and I’m too tired anyway. I’m just barely scraping by on all of them… and this is NOT the kind of life I wanted. Maybe if I could scrap the business, the social life, the household stuff, and my own care… and just focus on Evan…. I might feel a sense of accomplishment and pleasure. But right now, even though I love Evan to death, I just feel like I want my old life back. And I can’t imagine adding another child to the mix.

Email to two of my friends, 9. 06, asking for help

It was especially helpful for me to have you guys there the other night, because it was a rough day. I feel like I should let you in on what’s going on for me right now. It’s hard because I hate asking for help, but I also know that I really need help and support right now.

I’ve got postpartum depression… I’ve had it ever since Evan was born (well, even longer if you count that last month of pregnancy when the C-section came into the picture). I’ve blamed it on lots of things like not getting enough sleep, moving to Andover and not knowing anyone, not having my career, not knowing what I’m doing as a mom, etc. – and all of these things were factors in the depression – but they’re not what’s causing it.

I don’t know much about PPD… I’m still trying to figure out how to treat it, other than medication (because of breastfeeding I don’t want to go that route)… but everything I know how to do isn’t working. From what I’ve read, it’s chemical/hormonal… so will power can’t fix it. I know, because every day I wake up and try to fix it. It’s like there’s a gap between what I know I should be doing for myself, and what’s actually getting done. Not having a babysitter and time away from Evan isn’t helping either, these days.

It’s not the kind of depression that makes me cry all day (although I do cry) or think of hurting myself or Evan… but I’m just “flat.” I don’t care about much anymore, and I can’t make decisions to save my life. I just go through the day, and I don’t do much, because I can’t. Everything is really hard. And because I’m sad, angry, bitter, resentful, and all that good stuff… I’m hiding from people, because who wants to be around someone like that? Pretending to be OK is a lot of work, and I don’t have enough energy to pretend anymore. If other moms feel this way (and I know they do), they don’t talk about it… so it’s a lonely place to be. I keep feeling like I should be able to snap myself out of it, but try as I might, I just can’t.

So, I just wanted to ask both of you if you’d be willing to check in with me every once in a while, and ask if we can get together. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy… just something to take my mind off of things, and get me out of the house. It’s fine to have Evan with me… I like to have Evan with me… but I have a hard time initiating anything these days… but I always feel so much better when I get out and make something happen. I feel like the last 7 months have just slipped by, and not in a way that I would have liked them to, so I’d like to start changing that.

Email to my husband, Ben on 10.5 - Ev is 7 1/2 months old (we'd gotten to the point where communicating by email worked better than communicating in person). Sad, but true.

… I'm resorting to email... just like in the first few weeks after Evan was born… when you and Evan were asleep, and I was up fuming and upset, and feeling totally alone. So I guess email is the only way I’ll be able to ‘talk’ to you about this.

If I ever leave the bedroom upset again at night, come get me. Don’t let me be down here alone. I know you might not know what to do or say, but at least come be with me so I don’t have to be by myself. Sometimes I wonder if you really love me and know me, because I simply don’t understand how you can stay up there in bed and sleep when you know I’m down here hurting. That completely boggles my mind.

I came down tonight to get you because I was having a hard time. I couldn’t say anything before bedtime because Mike was here. I figured I wouldn’t have a chance to talk with you in the morning because you’d be out tuna fishing. I was hoping you’d ask me how I was doing (because it’s really hard for me to start a conversation by telling you how tough a time I’m having), and when you finally asked me, and I told you I wasn’t alright… you had absolutely no response. No, “Tell me what‘s going on…” No “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way, is there anything you’d like to talk about?” You just went to sleep. When I finally mustered up the courage to restart the conversation by telling you I needed help, you asked if we could talk about it in the morning. That’s the same response you gave me about a week ago, the first time I asked you if you thought I had PPD. You asked if I wanted to talk about it in the morning. I didn’t – I wanted to talk about it then, but it was obvious YOU wanted to talk about it in the morning.

I need your help, Ben. I know you think you’re giving it. But I need more help, or a different kind of help. The help I need changes on a daily basis, so I need you to keep asking me what I need, and do your good job of anticipating/over-delivering what you think I need, if I can’t tell you. Mostly I need you to talk with me and ask me how I’m doing. I need you to ask me what it’s like, how my day was, to show interest in what’s going on for me. And then listen to whatever detailed details/ramblings I talk about. They may sound inconsequential to you, but they’re huge to me.

I am doing the best I can to keep things ‘together’ and look like I’m doing fine whenever possible, but I’m not. It’s like a wave that keeps crashing against me… I get moments of peace when the wave moves back out again, but it always comes back and crashes against me again. It’s slowly making me feel like the shittiest person alive. I wish I had some kind of ‘real’ illness so that people would actually take care of me, because this PPD thing is debilitating in the way that a serious illness is, but no one ‘sees it,’ or they think it’s not a big deal.

You haven’t asked me what this is like for me. You came home with a list of PPD symptoms, and read them off to me, and then got mad when I tried to ‘get into the details’ of what was on your list. I know you keep hoping this will get better and just go away, and so I’m trying to go along with that, but it’s not working. Things don’t change. My day starts out good, but when you leave for work, it starts getting harder. I am trying to pretend, for Evan’s sake, that things are good… but it’s a long day of pretending. I don’t really care about much anymore, and that’s a scary place for me to be. It’s not me.

Do you know how lonely it is here during the day? I don’t know anyone here, I can’t talk with most of the people I know who have had babies because they just don’t get what I’m going through (and that only makes me feel more alienated), the people who haven’t had kids have no idea what to say to me, and Evan just wants all of me, all the time. I have given up all of my business ventures, and while I know I need the time/space… it’s not really time/space, because Evan needs me. And even if Evan was elsewhere, I’d only be left alone with my sadness and anger. So, even ‘getting a break’ isn’t really a break. It just means I’m alone with my depression.

The memory of that last month of pregnancy haunts me, and it never goes away. It’s a flashback that I have in some way, shape, or form many, many times a day. I can’t will it away – I’ve tried – and I can’t rationalize it away – I’ve tried. It’s like this pain that is so deep inside me and it makes me want to just curl up and never have to come out again. It’s like I lost a piece of my innocence, and was totally violated. And yet, I can’t say anything about it, and no one seems to care.

People say “it’s just a scar” and “you have a healthy baby” and “there’s nothing you could have done about it.” Those things don’t change the fact that it made me feel like my freedom, my choice, my body, my motherhood was taken away. It’s what makes me feel like a fraud of a mother, something I have to fight to convince myself is not true every single day. And then the depression just serves to reinforce the fraud feeling even more. So when people say “you just need to meet new people” and “all moms have a tough time at first” or “you just need to find a babysitter” it makes me feel worse… because those things don’t help me.

People don’t ask about me anymore, they don’t ask how I’m feeling… they pay attention to Evan. It’s like I was just this vessel, used for him to come into the world, and now I’ve served my purpose, so I can just be tossed aside. I know that’s not the real deal, but that’s how it feels to me. I miss pregnancy because you used to treat me like a queen, you didn’t get mad at me for needing help, and you gave me help without me asking for it. Now I’m just a depressed mom who doesn’t want to have sex, and I feel like more of a burden than anything.

I know this is more than you expected to have to face this early on in our marriage, but it’s much more than I expected to face. And because my brain and body aren’t working right, I need you to really be there to help me balance myself out. At the very least, when I finally muster up the courage to tell you that I’m not doing OK, I need you to be there with me and support me and let me talk it out. Even if it’s late at night and you want to go to sleep. Because trust me, if it’s late at night, I want to go to sleep too.

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At December 30, 2007 at 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting these e-mails. I know you've really struggled, and it will help other women to read your stories.

Wishing you all the best now and hoping 2008 will be your best year yet.
~ Kimberly


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