Battling the Baby Blues…

isaac2

My struggles with the Baby Blues happened way before Isaac was born.

It wasn’t very far into my first trimester that I knew the way I was feeling wasn’t just the normal hormone changes that come with pregnancy.

I had been down this road several times before in my life.  The road where anxiety holds my left hand and depression holds my right.

In all honesty, they had been gaining on me for awhile before I got pregnant.  All the transitions in my life over these last few years left me vulnerable to them and they knew it.

At my first pre-natal doctor’s appointment they made sure to give me information on Postpartum Depression.  The pamphlet listed several of the signs and symptoms to watch out for within the weeks following the arrival of your baby and instructed you to get help as soon as possible.  As I perused the list I realized that I was already feeling a lot of these things already.  Is there such a thing as Prenatal Depression, because if not, I think I invented it.

From where I am now (not so much at the time) I can say that I am thankful that the anxiety and depression became more pronounced at the beginning of my pregnancy, because it forced me to deal with the issues I had been avoiding for quite some time.

I hadn’t been to a therapist in 8 years, but I knew I couldn’t live this way, so I made an appointment to see a counselor.

The first counselor I saw wasn’t a good fit for me, but I didn’t give up.  I kept looking until I found someone I was comfortable with. It’s important that whoever you chose, you are going to be willing to open up to and also be able to trust them enough to allow them to speak into your life.  Real change takes effort.  Taking on this process while I was dealing with morning sickness, weight gain, and hormone changes was less than ideal, but having anxiety attacks and living in a cloud isn’t exactly ideal either, now is it?

What I thought would be just a few visits to get myself back on track turned into months of therapy right up until Isaac was about to arrive.  Talking to Tony or my friends and family is wonderful, but I needed professional help in order to gain the tools needed to not only battle these issues during pregnancy, but for the rest of my life.

It’s the best decision I could have made for myself, Isaac, and my marriage.

The first few weeks after Isaac’s arrival I was in survival mode.  I didn’t have enough time or brain power to think about anything except the present moment.  It wasn’t until after I recovered from the headache and we started to get a little routine in our lives that I was finally able to reflect on what we had just been through and what the future will hold.  It was then that the thoughts started to come.  The thoughts that I wasn’t a good mom.  I wasn’t doing enough.  What I was doing I wasn’t good enough.  When I would think about how much this little infant depended on me, my blood would turn cold in fear.  I would dread when Isaac’s precious little eyes would start to open because that meant I was supposed to do something, but I wasn’t sure I knew what to do.  Even though newborns sleep about 18 hours a day, it was those 6 waking hours that made me so anxious.  I started doubting that I knew how to care for him.  When his diaper had been changed, he had been fed, and all other variables had been checked yet he would cry hard and tears would run down his face, I would cry too because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to make him better.  When the colic started around the second week and there was nothing we could do to stop his crying for hours, I thought I was going to lose it.  It wasn’t so much the sound that bothered me as much as the fact that my baby appeared to be in pain and I couldn’t fix it.  Not only was I now a mommy to a newborb, but my marriage immediately changed and those days and nights when it was just us and we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to do it seemed to be out the window.

My whole life had changed in the blink of an eye and I was left spinning on my heals.

Then there was the crying and sadness.  I cried…a lot.  Anything and nothing could start the waterworks.  I know that it is normal to cry and feel emotional after giving birth, but knowing that I was predisposed to PPD made every tear a threat to my determination to avoid it at all costs.  Every time I would feel sad, overwhelmed, or exhausted, I worried that I was getting PPD.  And you know what excessive worry does…that’s right…it can make you depressed! I hadn’t seen my counselor in over a month or more because it was difficult for me to get around much at the end of my pregnancy, but I knew I needed to talk to her about how I was feeling, so I called right away and made an appointment.  I also called my OBGYN and Isaac’s pediatrician and talked to them about how I was feeling.  Hey, all the literature they give you says to call them if you feel “any of these symptoms”…so that’s just what I did.  I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  When it comes to my health and even moreso the health of my baby, pride needs to go right out the door.  If PPD thought it was just going to have it’s way with me because I was in a vulnerable place and had a history of depression….think again, sucka! I talked to anyone and everyone that would listen about how I was feeling.  When I felt sad and I needed to cry….I felt sad and cried.  When I felt scared or overwhelmed about the many mysteries of being a new mom, I called someone up and asked them for help or I just talked through my feelings…and cried.  When I felt like I had cried enough…I cried more!  My point is that I didn’t try to run away from what I was going through and feeling.  I pressed in.  I was blazing a new trail and it wasn’t going to be easy, but there is only one way to blaze and that is to move forward right through the thick of the wilderness.

There is no sure-fire way to avoid getting PPD, but I believe that so far I have been able to dodge it simply by expressing all that is inside me even if I am ashamed of what I am feeling or thinking…especially if I am ashamed, actually.  Depression and anxiety seek to convince you that you are broken.  No one feels like you do.  No one thinks such horrible, selfish thoughts.  They cloud your perspective of how wonderful you are doing and they lead you to compare yourself to others and they way they appear (key word: APPEAR) to be doing so much better than you.  (Instagram and Facebook are dirty liars.  The end.) They seek to isolate you, so that you sink farther and farther away from the truth.  If you hold your tears and feelings inside because you want to try and be some super human, then you may be giving anxiety and depression a foothold in your life.  (Even Jesus, God Himself, cried, mourned, and asked for help from those He trusted.)

Look, I know it’s not easy to reach out when you are beyond exhausted both physically and emotionally…even spiritually, but I am telling you that reaching out is your lifeline.  Don’t let pride and worry about what people will think of you stop you from taking care of yourself.  You can’t properly care for your baby if you don’t properly care for yourself first.  Speak up!  Ask for help!  It may not prevent PPD from making it’s appearance, but it will certainly help shorten it’s visit and lessen the impact it has on your life.

It’s very important to note that many times PPD is caused by chemical imbalances and hormone fluctuation.  There is nothing you can do to prevent that from happening.  The best defense is a good offense.  If you start to feel like something isn’t quite right, or if someone close to you tells you that they feel you are acting differently, please don’t wait…get help.  You may have PPD or you may not, but there is only one way to tell and that is to talk to a trusted health care professional.  And also, you don’t have to wait to talk to someone until you have PPD.  Even though the baby blues are considered “normal”, it is vital to talk through them as well.

The main thing I want to emphasize is that regardless of whether the baby blues or PPD is caused by a chemical imbalance, hormone fluctuation, or the drastic change in your life….it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.  You are not broken or a bad mom.  God isn’t punishing you.  He hasn’t left you.  You are NOT ALONE.

Thankfully, I have not gotten PPD, but I have to tell you, the baby blues are no picnic.  It wasn’t until around the 4th week after Isaac’s arrival that I began to see the sun behind the clouds (Isaac will be 7 weeks tomorrow).  It takes time to transition into your new life.  It takes time to learn what your baby’s cries mean. It takes time to get into some semblance of a routine.  You need to take time to mourn what was, and then live in the present.  It may sound silly to say that you need to mourn after your baby makes his/her arrival.  Isn’t it supposed to be a time of joy?  While it is a time of joy, it is also a time where the reality of the change in your life hits you like a ten pound hammer.  If you don’t allow yourself to go through the emotions and steps of letting go of what was and start embracing what is, you may miss out on the joy altogether.  Your relationship with your baby is just like any other relationship in your life, including your relationship with God; it takes time, patience, and lots of grace, mercy, and love.  Even if you immediately fall in love with your baby and have no trouble bonding (some women don’t feel this way immediately, and that is also normal),  you still have to put in some time into building your relationship with your baby.  Every mom is different for how long they take to feel comfortable in their new role.  Please don’t waste any time comparing yourself to anyone else.  This is your story, and yours alone.  Your relationship with your baby is unique, so please be patient with yourself and with your baby as you grow together.

In my case, I believe that talking to my counselor, my husband, my doctors, and my friends really helped me to avoid PPD and face the baby blues with the reassurance that I am a wonderful mom and what I am feeling is TOTALLY NORMAL.  Let me say that again…the crying, the sadness, the exhaustion, the thoughts about not being able to do it…they are all normal the first few weeks after baby is born.  When these feelings continue on past a few weeks and/or seem to be getting worse, then you need to be evaluated for PPD.  Just because you have a history of anxiety and depression doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get PPD.  In fact, you may be at an advantage if you have used your past experiences to gain knowledge on how to identify and deal with signs of depression and anxiety. Don’t let the fear of getting PPD keep you from enjoying your pregnancy and arrival of your little one.

Please, I beg you, don’t let shame, depression, and isolation lie to you.  You are not who they say you are.  There is nothing to be ashamed of at all.  The secrecy of it all is the way they try to keep you in the darkness.  The key to freedom is to speak the truth, no matter how much you are afraid to do so.  Just know that PPD is so very common and that even the darkest thoughts and feelings you have don’t make you a bad parent or someone that is broken.

Now that Isaac and I have a few weeks under our belt, I can tell you that it definitely does get better.  All those veteran parents kept smiling at me and saying, “Aw, sweety, don’t worry. It gets better,” and I wanted to grab them by the collar and scream, “WHEN!?? WHEN does it get better?  I’m gonna need an exact date on this, people!!!”  When someone tells you on your 3rd week of being a parent that it gets better after A FEW MONTHS, you’re just about ready to hand them your baby and hop the next slow boat to China.  A few months sounds like a million years to a parent that is in the midst of the transition and the cloud of the baby blues or PPD.

But you know what…they’re right.  It does get better.  Usually once you stop trying to control when it “gets better” is right when it does.  When Isaac got reflux AND colic, I didn’t think I would be able to handle it, but you know what.  I can!  In fact, once I let go of trying to control it, it is so much easier and even enjoyable. That’s the thing about colic.  You can’t do a darn thing about it.  You can try to soothe them, but ultimately, the baby has to outgrow it.  In the beginning I wanted so badly to control it, but now as I am rocking my crying baby for an hour and putting the pacifier back in his mouth for the 18th time in two minutes, I do my very best to live in the moment.  I look down at my little man and I thank God for him and for the fact that I get to be the one to hold him and comfort him when he is fussy.  These days where I can hold him in my arms won’t last forever.  He will grow up before I know it and one day I will look back on his fussy days as I talk to new parents and I will smile remembering that bonding time with my son and I will say, “Aw, sweety, don’t worry, it gets better.”

Love,

Mama Alicea

If you are reading this and you feel that you might be dealing with the baby blues or PPD, please, PLEASE, reach out to someone you trust and share how you are feeling. You can even reach out to me: ktmae.alicea@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. “If you don’t allow yourself to go through the emotions and steps of letting go of what was and start embracing what is, you may miss out on the joy altogether.”

    SO GOOD. This post is beautiful, baby. I’m glad you didn’t hesitate and just posted it. I think a lot of moms (and even dads) will be able to benefit from your (our) story. I’m proud of you. KEEP WRITING!

  2. OMG Katie!!!!!!!! I’m so sorry you went through all that! Guess what — everyone that is a parent, around me — went through the same things! For some reason, no one talks about it. I’m SO glad you dealt and you know that it’s difficult. No one really ever tells you how difficult. My sister was like, “no one prepares you for what’s to come.” My other sister thought that there would be soft music playing in the background as she put her very quite babies to bed…Her reality was premature twins crying through the night and would only sleep to the sound of “shhhhhh” so she would find her self at 3:00 a.m. saying “shhhh shhhh shhhh” for the next hour and a half so they can sleep for fifteen minutes. Now I see my sisters and their children and they don’t remember all the hard times…they look at their kids and see how far they’ve come and that’s that. Those very difficulty days have, somehow, erased from their memories! 🙂 Go figure….

  3. Sharon Mcnemar says:

    I am so proud of you, Tony and Isaac. Your experience will help others and I am so happy that you see your way through the clouds. Love you all!!!

  4. Margie Arroyo says:

    My dear Katie,
    As always, your writing is insightful and profound. I am so proud of how far you’ve come. Just want you to know I never stopped praying. You are an amazing new mommy and Isaac is blessed to have you and Tony as parents.
    Love you all!

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