Today I’m so pleased to have Marinka, who blogs at Motherhood in NYC and the Mouthy Housewives, at Postpartum Progress today to share her story. She wasn’t ever treated for postpartum depression, but looking back she knows it was there.
I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, but shortly after my daughter was born, I started talking to God.
It would have been okay, I think, if I had been a religious person, if I believed in God, but I didn’t. I knew I didn’t. Which is why I cried so much when I was talking to him. Please, I begged. Please let me stop being such a failure as a mother. When those prayers didn’t work, when my infant daughter still wasn’t able to nurse, I upped the ante.
“If you let me do this one thing right,” I bargained, “if you let me feed my baby, I’ll accept breast cancer in 15 years and I won’t seek treatment.”
My best friend visited, full of happiness and delight at the newborn. Taking her out of my hands and singing to her so that I could shower.
I knew that if I died, my husband could marry my friend and my daughter would have a better mother. Didn’t every child deserve that? Didn’t my child?
And yet during that time, I never considered hurting myself physically. I don’t think I could have mustered the energy, although I spent hours in suicidal ideation. It made me feel even more worthless, as though I were taking up the space that could have been better taken by someone else.
Somewhere I held on to a thread of sanity, of having heard about the “baby blues” and of knowing that maybe I would not always feel like this. But it certainly felt like I was doing real harm to my child. Between the not being able to nurse her, never having heard of such a thing, being told by one lactation consultant that “it must really make you feel like a failure to have your child reject you like that,” I was crying to the point of dehydration.
I was surrounded by people who loved me and wanted the best for me. I was also within close reach of medical professionals. At no point did anyone suggest medication. There would be side-effects, I guessed, but more than that, they didn’t want to admit that I needed help with something that so many women did effortlessly. My family did not believe in using medication. If I had a headache, it was questioned if Tylenol were really necessary, maybe the headache would pass on its own.
And sometimes it did.
And so did my feelings of desperation. Thousands of dollars in, one lactation consultant finally liberated me and told me to embrace the bottle. “You’re not doing anything wrong,” she told me. And I believed her.
The memories of the postpartum period faded. I returned to work. My daughter was cared for by a babysitter that we trusted, and my parents, and when they were visiting, my in-laws.
And then my son was born.
And I no longer spoke to God.
I knew that I had to take matters into my own hands.
I told my husband that I knew what was going on. I knew that our babysitter and his parents who were visiting for the birth, and my parents too, were all conspiring against me.
I told him that I wasn’t yet sure where he was in all of this, but I was choosing to trust him.
I hoped he wasn’t in on it.
I hoped he wasn’t in on the plot to take my baby away from me.
I don’t remember what he said. On a regular day, he is a man of few words. But I do remember that I had a similar conversation with my parents, accusing the others, but not them. I wanted to infiltrate their plan. I wanted them to know that I knew and that I would not put up with it. I wanted them to understand that I would never let my son out of my sight.
The hospital called to check on me. How was I doing, they asked, explaining that it was a routine follow up call.
So great, I lied. I knew what I had to say. I’d read The Yellow Wallpaper in college; I assumed they had ways of dealing with women like me. They knew what crazy looked like and I wasn’t going to play the part.
I took my baby to my workplace to tell my boss that I would not be coming back. I just can’t, I cried on his couch. I can’t leave my baby. And my boss, who had five children of this own, said to take some more time. “Take the full three months,” he said, extending my maternity leave by three weeks, since I stopped working three weeks before the birth.
Things happened after that. We went on a family vacation with some friends and I cried a lot. We came back and my daughter started school. Then it was September 11 and my three-year-old daughter and I saw the first plane fly over our heads, much too close, I’d later realize, as we were going to school. I saw grief around me that I couldn’t have imagined before.
And my postpartum story ended. I went back to work. I started to feel better, to feel like myself again.
But I still think about that time a lot. I still think about how the time that should have been so happy for me was so heartbreaking. And I know how lucky I am to have survived.