23 April 2008

A Case of the Crazies, I

Since people are actually reading this blog (I honestly thought I'd write on it every once in awhile as a sort of public diary that would essentially be private because no one would give a damn), it's a little harder to post stuff about postpartum depression. I've told many friends about my ordeal, but it's not something I detail often. It's a fairly long story, so there will be several posts.

I think it's important to talk about postpartum depression because 1) it's more common than you think, 2) women need to know that they're not alone, and 3) there are many many caring professionals and other moms who can help. I wish I had asked for help much sooner.

Well, here goes...

Benny’s arrival into this world was more perfect than I ever could have imagined. Before I got pregnant, I decided to eschew the “normal” birthing experience—the hospital—in favor of having a midwife deliver my baby. Since Texas laws prohibit midwives deliver in hospitals, they practice in birthing centers or deliver babies at a mother’s home. The home birth was out of the question. I didn’t think I could handle that for my first experience. But, after having nine months of appointments at the birthing center, I felt very comfortable with the center and its midwives.

Birthing centers practice natural births, meaning that they do not offer any of the “interventions” you hear many women experience during labor. They do not administer pitosin, a synthetic hormone that starts labor; they don’t give epidurals, which numb a mother from the chest down. Midwives encourage women to birth by doing what feels natural. So, when my contractions started, I walked, I swayed, I sat in a tub, I groaned, I grunted, and moved all about. It was a beautiful process and while I don’t remember the really painful parts, I would do it again without a second thought.

I was determined to breastfeed Benny for the first year. He made it really easy. He latched on immediately and ate like a champ for three months. When I say “like a champ,” I mean he ate and he ate and he ate. The first month wasn’t so bad. The lack of sleep didn’t bother me. I also didn’t mind being tied to the chair for hours and hours—I read five books in the first five weeks of Benny’s life. It was sort of a treat.

By month two, the getting up in the middle of the night was starting to get to me. What’s more is that Benny wasn’t a great sleeper. He would nap for about 45 minutes three times a day. I was convinced that that was not enough. We also had a hard time getting him to sleep. Nate or I would dance and dance and dance with him at night to get him to sleep and sometimes that didn’t even work. It was often a two-hour process to get him down. Whoever told me that babies slept a lot was lying or too sleep deprived to notice.

By the third month, I was taking three walks a day with Benny to put him to sleep (my back was KILLING me!) and Nate drove him around in the evenings until he fell asleep. Between months two and three I became increasingly obsessive about Benny’s sleep, convinced that he wasn’t getting enough and thus not developing his brain (I was delusional and irrational). Because Benny wasn’t getting enough sleep, neither was I. I won’t blame my insomnia on Benny or my delusions that I might be able to write my dissertation proposal. In the end, I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t be the perfect mom (breastfeeding every three hours) and read journal articles for my literature review all on three to four hours of sleep a night. The more I worried about Benny’s sleep, the less I was able to sleep myself. It was a downward spiral of exhaustion. I didn’t know how bad it could get.

To be continued...

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