Taking care of mom

4 Mar

In a recent post I shared my birth story. What I didn’t share was how I felt in the weeks following delivery and how that time probably impacted my postpartum depression that surfaced.

I started back on an antidepressant just a few days before delivery because they already had identified me as high risk for postpartum depression. Having a history and knowing I was high risk made me think I’d recognize it if and when it came around…but I didn’t.

Looking back on it now, sleep was a huge factor. I didn’t get enough. Not nearly enough. Sig-o was a great support — I got up to feed then he took the baby for a diaper change and got him back to sleep while I dozed — but there were other factors at play. Like family. Z-baby is the first (surviving) grandchild on both my husband’s and my side of the family. You can imagine the anticipation. Not just the first, but the first after our miscarriage — everyone was on pins and needles throughout the entire pregnancy. So when he arrived, it was a B-I-G event.  And it didn’t take me long to see the pattern.

Everyone wanted to help us out. But their definition of helping was taking care of the baby. What I needed was someone to take care of me so that I could take care of the baby. Some may say I was jealous of the attention because everything was focused on the baby. But that’s not it at all. Mothering, and learning to mother, takes time and patience and a lot of attention. What a mother needs during that crucial time is support so that she has both the space and the comfort to do it. My family, and our society in general I propose, thought they were doing the best thing for us all by taking care of the baby so I could rest, take a break, etc… So you see the disconnect?

So what effect did this have on me? I remember sitting on the couch beside people who were holding the baby and falling to pieces inside (can we say anxiety?). I missed him so terribly and we were less than a foot away from each other! I occasionally asked for him back, but it was also hard when you have to balance family politics (i.e., making sure both sides of the family are getting their share of baby time) with your desire to just even hold the baby. It all started sounding silly in my head. I loved having family and friends with us and loved watching them with the baby. I started thinking I must be crazy or it’s just all the hormones settling back down. Sometimes the only time I got to hold him was when I was nursing him, and I came to cherish those moments each day even more because of it.

At any rate, I started staying awake at night in my room once everyone else went to bed so that I could spend time with the baby. Watch the baby. Hold the baby. Smell the baby. Nurse the baby. Let the baby wrap his spidery little fingers around mine. Just be with the baby without feeling like I had to apologize to hold him. Just me and the baby. Bonding. Uninterrupted.

So you can imagine how much sleep I was getting. I knew I needed to sleep, but I didn’t care. And when I went back to work the baby wouldn’t take a bottle and reverse cycled — he didn’t eat all day long and waited for me to get home and then nursed all evening and night long. So you can imagine how much sleep I was getting then, too. Long-term sleep deprivation is not good.

Looking back on this all now, I can see the anxiety and OCD already there. I thought it surfaced later, but no. It grew, yes, but their feet were firmly on the ground early on. Things snowballed and that’s how I got to where I am today.

So to any readers out there who are family or friends to a new mom: take it from me and take care of mom.


2 Responses to “Taking care of mom”

  1. makemommygosomethingsomething March 5, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    So true. When people think of helping out they focus on the baby and not the mom. Being a mom is a very hard job especially when you have PPD. Us moms need to be taken care of too! Thanks for sharing your story


  1. You’ve come a long way, baby « The Vaca Loca - April 30, 2011

    […] Taking care of mom – what happened after the birth story […]

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