For the last four and a half months, Chad and I have had two beautiful but noisy squatters living in our bedroom. These squatters that we prayed for and went through quite a bit of money and medical procedures to produce were evicted from our room last week and put into the lovely nursery that I joyfully designed for them while they kicked away in my belly. I need to say this as much for myself as for anyone else. I could NOT love them more. They (and Chad) are my whole world and every single day, I am grateful for them. But, the last two months have been rough. Way rough.
I want to be as candid about my postpartum depression as I was about my infertility. I am not on the other side. I feel the clouds lifting and I am beyond grateful. But I am aware that I am still very much in the midst of this current struggle. Praise be, my OB has a counselor literally embedded into their practice just for this very reason and she has been so helpful. This is a course I have not navigated before. I hesitated to admit that I had postpartum depression because I was worried that it confirmed my biggest fear; that I am a bad mom. That I am not cut out for this and that my weak mental state will ultimately lead to my destruction as well as that of my kids. And in part, I didn’t want to admit it because it gets such a bad wrap from so many people. It isn’t always that you want to drown your baby in the bathtub or drive them into the lake. It isn’t even always that you feel like you can’t bond with them. Sometimes, it is the feeling of being completely overwhelmed and unable to see that life will ever be different. For me, it’s not feeling confident to make any decision or think clearly. It’s not wanting to be alone with the babies because I’m afraid they will cry and I won’t be able to meet their needs and soothe them. I’m not sure if the fatigue is from caring for two babies 24/7 or the PPD but it’s there.
The cumulative effect of infertility, insane amounts of hormones, IUI’s, a terrible pregnancy, emergency hospitalization for preeclampsia, NICU stays for both my babies, and colic just wore me down to the point that I was crying every time I was alone with them. Chad would leave for work and I would sit anxiously hoping that one of the babies wouldn’t wake up because I was doubtful of my ability to comfort or care for them. Colic seemed to be stealing all the joy of motherhood and there was nothing that was able to console my sweet children and often we would all dissolve into tears together.
I was basically a sitting duck where PPD is concerned so I wasn’t shocked to be diagnosed with it. But I was shocked to be so “new” to a diagnosis given my line of work. I felt inferior and ungrateful for these wonderful babies. I judge(d) myself so harshly for feeling frustrated when one baby finally falls asleep only to have the other wake up crying. I look at people on social media doing amazing things with their babies and posting cute monthly photos and think “man, they are just so much better at this than I am!” I feel overwhelmed by almost every decision that needs to be made and I constantly feel like I might make the wrong choice. I am using present tense because I still feel all of these things but not as strongly as I did three weeks ago. Three weeks ago, I stood over Luke’s pack n play, crying (always crying) and hoping he wouldn’t wake up and wake up Leia who had finally just gotten to sleep after being rocked for 30 minutes and the only thought I had was, I want to get in the car and go. I want to drive somewhere, anywhere, and not come back for a week.
I realized that my heart as a mother hung in this sad limbo of wanting Luke and Leia to grow out of some of this stuff that was making life so hard and at the same time, seeing them grow and missing how little they used to be. The guilt over feeling like I’m missing i! I’m missing my babies growing up and these precious moments because I’m so anxious. I was scared to admit that this is not the best time in my life, the time I have always waited for. This time was hard and unappreciated and, dare I say it, downright shitty sometimes. (Sorry!, no other word describes it as well).
Recently, I realized that there is a part of me that has felt defeated since they were born at 35 weeks and 1 day. I fought everyday for weeks, for months really, to keep them safe and in my womb as long as I could. In the end, the inability to get my blood pressure to lower and the resulting anxiety that led to the decision to take them at 35 weeks felt like a failure. As they struggled in the NICU and then at home, I felt like my own frailty had permanently saddled them with bodies that were underdeveloped and riddled with problems that a fully cooked baby might not have. I am choosing to stop believing this lie because it’s not helpful and my babies are fearfully and wonderfully, powerfully made.
I called my counselor and asked for her soonest appointment. She kindly helped me see that I was nearing crisis levels of exhaustion and anxiety and that I needed a “corrective mothering experience”. Her recommendation was to go to the nearest hotel, check myself in, and not leave the bed for 2 days. My tendency is to not know how bad something is until someone else tells me how bad it is. So, while going to the Ritz was not exactly an option for me, I did tell Chad that we had to do something and make changes immediately because the way we were doing things and caring for the babies was not a sustainable plan for me.
He took two weeks off and we set about making changes for our family. I moved into the guest room to get better sleep and not wake up with every sound the babies made and speed read as many books on sleep training multiples as I could. We made a decision that scared both of us: to move the babies into their own room and begin the process of sleep training our 4.5 month olds. (A dear friend lost their granddaughter to SIDS three weeks after Luke and Leia were born and we were gun-shy.) I decided that the method for sleep training we would use was going to be the one that was the most recommended and that was Weissbluth’s “no-peek, extinction cry-it-out”. Wait, their crying stresses me out and you want me to increase it? How sadistic! But I didn’t want to put us all through various methods. I wanted to try the one that worked the fastest and was recommended by their pediatrician and other experts. And I also decided that I would take an Ambien and Chad would take the first night.
I kid you not, I fully believe that Chad and I were getting in the way of our babies sleep. By the 3rd night, we were able to lay them in their cribs, fully awake, and they put themselves to sleep with zero crying. The last 6 days have been nothing short of miraculous for this tired mama.
But, as with our infertility journey, I don’t want to talk about all of this in hindsight. As far as I am concerned, this battle with postpartum and feeling overwhelmed is still ongoing. Sleep has helped more than I thought possible. For me and the babies. I have been able to fall in love with them all over again every morning when I get them up. And they are happier and more animated than they have ever been.
My prayer for the last 6 months has been more one of “God, fix it”. Fix these terrible aches and pains from two big babies in my ribs and my pelvis. Fix my blood pressure and keep it under control. Fix this unbearable pain from a complicated c-section. Fix my babies feeding issues and bring them home. Fix the Godforsaken colic. Fix Chad’s job so he’s home at night when our babies are seeing who can burst mommy’s ear drum fastest. Fix it all. My prayer lately has been “God, use it.” Use all of the things that I have gone through, that Chad and I have gone through. I clearly don’t understand why they have all happened but use them for your glory. In counseling, one of the greatest things we can do is allow people the safe place to tell their story. Narrative therapy can be transformative. I’m feeling ready to tell my story. I’m feeling ready to be transformed. I’m feeling ready for God to use it.