Life with PPD is the epitome of the saying, “One step forward, two steps back.” I had a great weekend. My daughter took great naps during which I was able to run, write, shower, and eat. We even took her to a party on Sunday where she took a whole half hour nap! In someone else’s swing! Life was looking up. I felt human again. I felt like me. I thought I had made a turn.
Then Monday came. It was also the day of the dreaded four month check-up. That means shots. Four of them. Since the last time the doctor gave her shots, he turned her into the red-faced screaming demon she now is (really NOT a result of the shots, but the coincidence gives me an easy target to blame), I had understandably been worrying over this appointment for weeks.
It started out great. My daughter was smiling and cooing and charming the whole waiting room. Her head is now in the tenth percentile! She is three inches longer! And even though those things have absolutely nothing to do with me, I was a proud momma. I had to be doing something right. Look at how my baby was growing.
And then they weighed her. Between her two month and four month check-up, she gained…a pound. Just the one. My husband and I looked at each other in shock. Look at those chunky thighs! Listen to her guzzle when she eats! And although we were surprised, we weren’t concerned.
Until the doctor came in. She asked if we had any questions, and I immediately pulled out the notes I had taken on my phone with a dozen or so questions. Most of them had to do with her sleep. The doctor’s response? Her feeding was the problem. She wasn’t eating enough, which is why she only gained one pound, and which is also why she’s having so much trouble sleeping.
My heart sank. I was doing something wrong. I did this. My baby girl was hungry every time she woke up at night and I didn’t always feed her because I thought she was just mad we wouldn’t give her the pacifier. The one area in which I thought I was actually doing pretty well, nursing, was essentially causing all of our problems. It’s my fault.
And then she dropped the other bomb. No more sleeping in the swing. Not safe. Crib only. Just when I had gotten my arms back and a couple of hours every day free, she was taking it away from me. My daughter doesn’t nap in the crib. She was barely napping in the moving swing.
The world that had seemed to be getting a bit bigger with each passing day shrunk back. The tears I had been so good at holding back the past couple of weeks came pouring out. I had just started to recognize glimpses of my old self again, and I felt that this doctor had taken that all away from me.
The whole ride home I was wracked with guilt. My poor girl just wanted to eat and I’ve been depriving her. I am not fit to be a mom.
When we got home, my daughter was clearly exhausted from the shots and the dose of Tylenol we gave her. My husband took her upstairs, swaddled her, and laid her in her crib. She cried for a few minutes, but then she fell asleep. I stupidly allowed myself to hope. Maybe this can work. Maybe she can do this. Maybe I can too.
Exactly one half hour later, she woke up wailing. I knew I had to go upstairs and try to get her back down. She’s clearly tired, and a half hour nap is not going to cut it. I had to go into her room and get her to fall back asleep.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t get myself off the couch. Even though she was screaming, even though I knew she needed me, I couldn’t do it. I felt so overwhelmed with guilt, fear, worry, and despair that the thought of actually taking care of my daughter felt like too much. I wasn’t up to the task. My husband graciously took over. The rest of the day I spent in bed, crying, sleeping, unable to make a decision about even the smallest things.
I was in mourning. Taking that one step forward made those two steps back so much harder. I mourned the loss of my confidence. I mourned the loss of a baby who woke up from naps happy and smiling. I mourned the loss of finally feeling like maybe I could manage this whole mom thing. I mourned the few days I felt like a real person again. I mourned for my life pre-baby when I felt like I knew who I was and what I was doing.
But I am a mom now. And being a mom means that I am no longer the most important person in my life. I have a daughter who needs me. Whose very existence depends on me. So I will get up. Because my depression? It isn’t me. I will not let it win. I will not let it prevent me from the most important job I have ever had: being a mom. If I need to cry, I will cry. If I need to rest, I will rest. But I will keep moving forward. I will keep taking baby steps. I will keep my eyes on the woman I know I really am. I saw her last week; I will see her again.