IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Had Postpartum Depression -- Twice

I get up and put on my pants. It takes a year.
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Publish date:
December 22, 2014
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Tags:
motherhood, children, depression, postpartum depression

It's around 4:00 p.m. -- not close enough to when he gets home from work, but I can't call again. I should be able to make it another two hours. Of course I can. Anyone can.

The baby is screaming. Again. Still. Who even knows? I feel like all she ever does is scream. She's in the highchair, throwing food at the wall. This is a rental and there goes the security deposit. How do you even get carrot off of a ceiling?

She reaches that pitch. The one that makes your brain go primal. The one that reaches through thousands of years of evolution to smack your inner animal until it wakes up to act.

I see, with perfect clarity, what it would be like to shake her until she shut up. I can almost feel it in my blood.

I call my husband. And then I call a therapist.

*****

I forgot to buy milk again. He forgot to pick it up like I asked. Four months in and the baby still isn't sleeping. She has reflux -- severe -- and we haven't yet switched to solids. I can't remember the last time we got some rest.

I slam the cabinet doors and scream. How could he be so irresponsible? Why am I the only one who ever does anything around here? We go through this every day, it seems.

He won't even fight with me. He says I scream too much, at him, at the baby, and he's right. There's 10 inches of snow on the ground and I'm miserable. Nearly housebound. Suffocating in my unhappiness. And I rage. I don't know where to look to find a light.

She starts to cry again. I start to cry again.

There will never be a light.

*****

"When are y'all going to have another one?"

I actually, physically cringe at this question.

"Never. I am never doing this to myself again."

*****

Three years later and I'm five months pregnant with the second kid. It's mid-summer, hot as balls, and I'm baking. It's a pie this time. I've almost perfected the crust recipe, I think. I spent hours pulling the pits out of fresh cherries from the market. The juice stains my hands, glistening red as it runs down my arms. I painstakingly weave the lattice top for the pie no one will eat.

It joins the lemon meringues. The blueberry muffins. The chiffon cake with cream cheese icing. The angel food cake with lavender syrup. The fluffy, beautiful brioche.

I have gestational diabetes.

I have been baking compulsively since May. Some days I wake up, my hands shaking with the need to make something new. It's no matter that my friends and husband are astounded at this change in me. Normally I hate baking. Normally I can't do it right.

Maybe I'll buy a food truck for all this surplus. Make a little cash on my pregnant neuroses. After all, I might be fucking everything else up, but here, in the kitchen with my stone fruit and my pastry blender, I am queen. Here, I am in control.

No one eats the pie. We give it away, like so many other fruits of my labor.

I don't care. I think I'll try brownies next.

*****

I am on the myfitnesspal app again. My fetal medicine specialist says I am doing fine in managing the GDM. I don't think I get enough iron. I'm craving a sweet potato. They have too many carbs. So what if they're healthy? It's that magic number I have to shoot for.

I know this isn't good for me. I know where the slippery slope of extreme diet control can lead. I've been on its edges. I don't want to go there full bore.

But this is for the baby. It's OK to be obsessive when it's for the baby.

I meticulously track the chicken dish I just ate. I have to keep everything under control.

I have to keep it under control.

I have to keep myself under control.

I have to be in control.

Just for now. For the baby.

Everything will be better when I'm not pregnant. I just know it.

It has to be.

*****

It's Thursday. I've been seeing my therapist for a few years. Sometimes it feels like we're just shooting the shit. I think about not coming anymore. I don't know how much of a difference it's making. After all, I'm fine now.

I've just had my second kid. It's so much easier this time. I feel a shadow sometimes. I'm sure it's nothing. This baby is a breeze.

My insomnia is back. We have a newborn. Of course I'm not sleeping. The baby? Oh, she sleeps like a dream. Six weeks old and she's already through the night. I guess it's just me who's restless.

So maybe I'm having a little trouble finding myself again in Mommyland. It's been a big adjustment. But that's normal.

Isn't it?

*****

The baby is howling for attention. She needs something every time I sit down these days. She's four months old now.

"Mommy, did I cry like this when I was a baby?" the girl asks me.

I say yes. It could be a lie, though. I don't remember.

I remember very little from her first year. I was too busy falling apart.

*****

I get a gym membership in search of this mythical runner's high. I hate running. I always have. But endorphins help keep you sane, they say, and the gym has childcare, so I have somewhere to put the girls when I need to blow off some steam.

I feel great. I feel strong. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, even.

It never lasts long enough.

I find myself snapping at the kids, at my husband. The easy baby isn't so easy anymore. It seems she's been teething for ages. I never have enough time or enough patience. There are so many things to be done. There's a lot of steam building up. The world has lost its mind and what can I do but despair? What can anyone do, really?

I run. And run. And run.

I try cycling. I go to yoga. I lift. I swim.

It's everything I do for myself. It's never enough. I'm never enough.

Something has got to give.

*****

I'm doing better. The kids are seven months and four-and-a-half. I eat right. I work out regularly and it seems to have stuck. School's out. The summer stretches before us, with nothing but potential and light. We're on a trip to see my uncle for the day.

The girl throws up in the car. I can deal with this.

There's construction on 64. Traffic is a nightmare. I can deal with this.

The clutch goes out on the car. I'm dead in the water. Redlining my tachometer going seven miles an hour. The cars rush around me as I block the lane on the narrow, rural road. There's nowhere to go. I'm trapped. There's nothing I can control.

I'm out of control.

I have trouble breathing. My chest feels like it's collapsing. I am paralyzed. I might die. The kids might die. We'll all die if I can't get it together.

Think. Think. THINK.

Someone knocks on my window. I almost jump out of my skin. He's not going to help me. No one will. We're going to die on this road.

I force words to come out of my mouth. The baby fusses from two miles away. I have to focus. I have to think.

"Is anyone coming to help you, ma'am?"

His T-shirt is funny. Focus on the T-shirt. Hysterical laughter bubbles up my throat. I'm laughing and crying like the lunatic I am.

I remember that I have a phone.

He pushes my car off the road. We call for help.

I unravel.

*****

Nothing is working anymore. I've slipped into a vicious depression. I know I have. I just don't care. I guess that's how you know you're depressed.

The baby is 10 months old now. She is a lot more needy than her sister. She's still just a baby. I have to remember that.

I stare at my ceiling fan and identify briefly with its never ending loop. Over and over and over again, until somebody comes along and flips your switch. The girl climbs up in bed with me and gives me her favorite bear.

"Booboo will make you happy, Mommy. He's good at that."

Intuitive, that one.

My therapist has recommended Wellbutrin. I don't want to take meds. I don't have any real reason not to. Everyone I know is on something. I just don't want to start on that road.

I'm already on that road. I know it.

I don't want to admit I'm crazy.

I don't want to admit that I'm not in control.

I don't want to feel alone anymore.

I don't want to live this way.

I get up and put on my pants. It takes a year. I kiss my daughters, one and two.

I call my husband. And then I call my therapist.

It's time to get better.