It has been two years since my last baby was born. It’s only recently that I’ve realized I’ve developed a bad habit over the years that I’ve been a mother – a habit of not taking care of myself, and “waiting it out”.
When my first son was born over five years ago, I split my pubic bone giving birth. I had no idea something like that was even possible. People talk about feeling like you’re being split in two, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be literal. With physical therapy, I was able to walk again in a few weeks. The pain lasted much longer. After a few weeks, I was given only motrin and told the pain would lessen with time. I just had to wait it out. I did.
Breastfeeding was a challenge at first. My nipples became raw from a baby wanting to nurse every half hour, and for a half hour. They hurt… and they bled. I was told that it would get much easier, that if I waited it out it would be worth it. I did… and it was.
When at three weeks my baby turned colicky, or entered the Period of PURPLE crying, or whatever they’re calling it these days, I thought I would lose my mind. I didn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time, and the crying… the endless crying form my son was unbearable. We held him non-stop, we wore him, we rocked him. We were told to hang in there – to wait it out and it would pass in four months. We did… and it did.
So when I began crying every time the baby cried…
and when I began banging my head on my wall to keep from squeezing my wailing son too hard…
I told myself it would get better, and tried desperately to wait it out.
When I awoke late one night to the screams of my child, and saw a small figure dart toward his crib, look at me, and then dart away in the shadows…
I closed my eyes and tried to wish it away.
When I became certain my child cried endlessly because the devil was after him…
I blamed it on sleep deprivation, felt ashamed, and decided to wait it out.
“Waiting it out” had been the answer to so many of my physical new-mom challenges. I hoped it would prove the same with my mental and emotional health.
The problem with waiting is that it is passive. Waiting never put me in the driver’s seat.
It did get better.
Then it snuck it’s way back in.
Without ever fully addressing my PPD and brief Postpartum Psychosis, it was able to lurk in dark corners and wait…
and when I thought I was better, it would pounce. It only started loosening it’s grip on me after I decided to talk openly about it. Opening the door shed light on those dark corners. Being honest, being vulnerable, being brave, and asking for help have all been my weapons in the battle for happiness.
Therapy is still a must for me, because after my second son was born with horrible reflux, depression and anxiety started to take hold again.
I have no previous history of mental illness growing up. It does not run in my family.
Was it because of a traumatic birth? Was it because of colicky babies and severe sleep deprivation? Was it because of no friends or family around to act as any kind of support system?
I don’t know.
Perhaps it was a combination of all those things. Perhaps it was a traumatic experience I had a few years before I had children. There is no way for me to know for sure.
I don’t know exactly what caused my PPD, but I do know one of the only things that has helped show it out the door – asking for help.
So, how long should you wait before you ask for help?
I say don’t. Don’t wait t all.
Set up a support network before you know you need it. Ask your OB/Gyn to help monitor your mental health BEFORE you give birth. If your a new mother and you feel exhausted, call a friend to come over so you can take a nap. If you’re hungry ask someone to get you a sandwich. If you feel like a failure, say it out loud to your spouse and ask them to help keep you afloat.
Colic will pass.
Raw nipples will pass.
A postpartum mood disorder will cling to your insides and feed on your silence. “Waiting it out” gives the disorder room to grow.
Ask for help.
and if it turns out you don’t need it as much as you thought – great.
You’ve got nothing to lose by being overzealous about self care.
There are things worth waiting for in life.
Help isn’t one of them.