Saturday, May 20, 2006

then there's the other part

I think that postpartum depression and I are eyeing each other from across the room. I think it's trying to buy me a drink into which it's slipped a terrible roofie. That's the other part, that I haven't so much talked about.

I want to talk about it.

In my post about Finn's birth, I didn't get to the real hard parts. The real hard parts had nothing to do with physical pain. The first, and the worst, was during the second half of my cesarean. The first half - where they were pulling Finn out - was no problem. I was oddly relaxed, sort of bordering on euphoria. When Dave and I first heard his little cry from the other side of the blue curtain, I can't tell you the sweet shock of it. There was really a baby in there, ours, and that was his particular voice we were hearing for the first time. Dave went to go be with the baby, and since they wouldn't let my midwife into the operating room, I was left alone for the part where they put me back together.

That's where it started to get bad. I felt this horrible growing pressure on my chest that crept up to my neck, and it got heavier and heavier until it was all I could do to keep breathing. I tipped my head back to open my airways as far as I could, but it required 100% of my concentration to keep air coming in. The anaesthesiologist came over every couple of minutes to tell me that I was all right, and then he'd go back to chatting with some other man in scrubs. But I was truly scared about my inability to breathe. I felt wrong, like a fish struggling on land.

Dave came over, radiant and thrilled, and asked me if I wanted him to bring Finn over. Until the day I die, it will squeeze my heart terribly that I said no. I was having such a hard time breathing, and I was afraid that it would be so thrilling to see him that I would die on the spot. So the first time I saw Finn was on my friend Morgan's digital camera, when I was exhausted and blissed out of my mind on my dilotid drip in the recovery room. That detail has become unbelievably loathsome to me, seeing him first in that little camera square. And I can't stand how many people saw and held him before I did.

Then I was rolled in to see him in the neonatal ICU three hours later. I could barely stay awake to meet him, my eyes were rolling back in my head. I felt like this useless, grinning rag doll, scarcely related to him. Why is his wasted fourth cousin thrice removed being rolled in to see him? it felt like. Everything was bright and surreal and disappearing before my eyes as I kept falling asleep and dipping into tiny dreams.

The physical recovery from my c-section has been slow and tough, and as a result Dave has been Finn's main caregiver. Finn sleeps on Dave's side of the bed because once I'm reclined (I still can't lie down all the way) I can't get up to a sitting position by myself yet, so I can't respond quickly to his needs. Breastfeeding has been terribly difficult for us - five lactation consultants since his birth, anyone? - which is a wicked big can of worms. I'm pumping my milk most of the time, and having him at the breast when I feel the verve for it. When a feeding goes well, it's glorious. When a feeding goes poorly, it feels primally bad, concentratedly bad. I feel like I have nothing to offer him, that I'm a dud. I'm sobbing, he's sobbing, the atmosphere is crackling with tension.

I resent anyone but Dave who's able to love and enjoy Finn in a full, physical, lighthearted way, because I can't do it yet. And I'm jealous that Finn will gaze at Dave, right in his eyes. Now that he's just beginning to smile socially he's even given Dave some beautiful grins. But Finn looks right past me, or will fix on me neutrally for a few seconds and then move on.

I thought it was tough trying to remain graceful in labor. That was nothing. Trying to remain graceful and positive and loving now is taking more strength than anything ever has in my life. Bitterness is constantly rising in my throat, and I have to endlessly choke it back to bring my baby the clearest, best atmosphere I can muster.

Postpartum something may be brewing, and I find myself often in the fight for light. That's the other part. It's not always like this -I surface frequently, feel peace and joy and hope. But I'm teetering.


Christie said...

First, congratulations on your beautiful baby. What an angel!
Second, as I read this post I felt so many painful memories come flooding back. Even though it's been two years, it still breaks my heart to remember how miserable and resentful I was during the first few months of my daughter's life. I had a very similar birth experience: emergency c-section (3 weeks early and breech), a horrible start to breastfeeding, and mind-numbing sadness. Fortunately, I seemed to bounce back from my c-section fairly easily, but that was the only easy thing. I was lucky enough to stay home with my daughter for three months before my husband and I switched roles. Unfortunately, everyday of that time I slipped further and further away from happiness and the rest of the world. It was a downward spiral of guilt, sadness, and misery. I will always regret that I didn't reach out sooner for help and those precious days are just a blur of confusion and crying. But I did finally emerge, thanks to an understanding husband, a helpful doctor and good anti-depressants. We finally got the hang of breastfeeding (although I never had an abundant supply), and continued until she was almost a year old.
I guess what I really want to say is, don't hestitate to ask for help. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but I'm glad I did. At your baby's next check-up, talk to the doctor about you. Take their little depression test. It may be just the baby blues, but maybe not. Either way, it does eventually get better. Take care and I'm sending healing thoughts your way.

DL said...

Thank you for sharing this Tina.

It sounds very very hard.
I am glad you are sharing and that you are not resenting Dave because i could see how that could happen and if it was me in your case, that would certainly happen.
Get the support that you need and there is no doubt that Finn has the bravest , most beautiful mom in the world.


ketchummccabe said...

Tina Tina Tina
Our culture does not allow for recovery!! You had major surgery, a huge swing in hormones and new overwhelming feelings, aw, fear, pain, pride, to say nothing of your biggest enemy.....sleep deprivation. The hardest thing to come back from is a c-section after long labor. Many patients get infections. It takes 6-8 weeks to get the breast feeding thing down, you and Finn are learning, glad you are going to Lactation consultants. A true lack of milk is rare and they know all the tricks for Finn to latch on. If it doesnt work there are wonderful formulas, this is something i think we women do to each other, make you feel a failure if you can't or aren't breastfeeding. Finn has no clue that you saw him first via photo, sounds like your epidural was rising too high and effecting your breathing so the anesthisiologist gave you something to relax your breathing, also made you sleepy.
I agree with Christie, there is medication to help you from spiraling further downward, Zoloft is safe with breastfeeding, and you probably only need it for a few months. You are going through a mourning period of what you had originally imagined your labor, delivery and breastfeeding would be. Now that it has turned out very different you need to react to the reality and wish it could have been different. Go ahead, we all do but don't hesitate to take medication for this hurdle. What Finn does know is that his needs are being met, food, warmth, and love, that is what Finn knows. So Tina, welcome to motherhood!!

YogaLia said...

Oh man. Just...what a beautiful entry (not easy I know not nearly as poetic in real life as it is in words. If only if only). And such beautiful kind words from those above. It all just made my heart get all swelled-like. All I can say, on a subject that is waaay out of my range of experience, is that, though we only met briefly, I would bet that Finn is probably one of the best loved babies around. You just glow with it. Love. And I would bet that he feels that from you, even when you're down. Babies are way smart like that.

(Sending you much love from NYC)

Eve said...

Oh, Lovely Tina! Things will only get better, I promise. I wish I could just swaddle you up and burp those negative feelings right out of you! :)
I think most new moms that read this post will be thinking "YES!!! THAT is IT!!!" We want so much to be PERFECT for our babies, and can often rip ourselves to shreds in the pursuit of this. I guess it's our newly post partum enlarged and ultrasensitive hearts that do this to us.
But, you know, I'm sure that to Finn, you ARE perfection, even if you don't feel it yet. You are home to him. (I mean, GEEZ, I love ya, and I don't even KNOW you!)


girlysmack said...

I have been reading your blog for about a month now, and this particular post gave me goosebumps. I made my husband read it, too, and he was like "That is exactly like you were when Sadie was born!" I also had a c-section after crazy long labor and then had a lot of trouble breastfeeding. I think now that it was because I didn't see my daughter until 5 hours after the delivery and by then she was very sleepy and not interested in eating. People told me that might have gotten us off on the wrong foot, but I didn't believe them, until I had my baby boy in February. He was an elected cesarean and I got to hold him immediately after the surgery. I wasn't even planning on trying to breastfeed after such heartache trying with my daughter, but he latched on instantly and seemed to know just what to do. I was so shocked!

I remember feeling like such a failure with Sadie. I couldn't even feed my own child. I remember wanting to throw in the towel after a while, but not wanting to deprive my daughter of the best start in life just because I was tired and miserable. Total strangers would ask my husband if "we" were breastfeeding! When he went to pick up our birth announcements at the stationery shop where I worked, the girls asked him how the breastfeeding was going, and he sighed. I cried when he told me that they said, "Then tell her to stop and give that baby some formula for God's sake!" It was so wonderful to hear that some people, at least, would not judge me for giving Sadie some Enfamil! And once she was on the formula, she stopped crying so much and sleeping a lot better. My daughter has always been extremely healthy--no allergies or ear infections (knock on wood) and her weight has always been perfect. Whatever you decide will be the absolute best decision for Finn because you are his mommy and you love him so much you are mentally killing yourself over him already! And after this, everyone will be making you miserable over when and where your baby sleeps, how much and what you are feeding him, whether you work or stay at home, etc.

It is so hard to remember that after such a painful (physically and emotionally) experience you are suffering from post-traumatic stress. I remember feeling almost resentful towards Sadie at times because I was so tired and so sore, and she didn't even know who I was. I could have been anyone. People would say, "Oh! She's looking at her Mommy!" and I would think, "No, she's not. She's gazing at something over my left shoulder." None of the books I had read or the moms I had talked to had warned me that I might not fall madly and immediately in love with my own baby. I felt like something was wrong with me, that I was a horrible mother because I would look at her and feel no connection whatsoever. "When is this baby's real mother going to come and claim her?" Falling in love with my daughter was a very gradual process.

You will get through this. I know everyone says that and it sounds so trite, but it is true. Suddenly, one day, you look at your baby and you realize that somewhere along the way everything changed from absolutely horrible to perfect. You were just too busy surviving to notice!

Good luck and please keep blogging! I know I'm a complete stranger, but I am really enjoying following along with you on this crazy ride.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, you can't make me cry like this right before I have to go to court, people do not take me seriously as it is, much less when I am all red-faced.

1. Get meds. Do it right away, you will regret every moment that you wait.

2. Bathe Finn. Studies have shown that the touch and warm water make the oxytocin flow. Touch him, bathe him, and look into his little eyes all the while.

3. Let go of the past the moment it is over. I mean that in the most deeply spiritual way possible. No matter how things are going, remain int he present moment with your family. No matter whether things are funor not, you develop a deep connection with someone with whom you share the present moment.

Your experience was what I was most afraid of happening. I so wanted to have my baby at home, but I had "advanced maternal age" (they say it like it is a disease), some gestational diabetes, and a really big boy. My ob wanted to preschedule a c-section.

I decided to at least try at home, like you did. I was so afraid of being in a hospital helpless, everyone else running the show, and me rendered immobilized by the epidural and drugs.

When Jackson was born, he was blue, with the cord wrapped twice around his neck. I am stunned at the risk I took to have him at home naturally. I shudder to think how it could have gone.

But you know what, Jackson is FINE!!! FINN IS FINE! Survival of that harrowing birth experience is something in itself. They are some kind of tough guys.

Just like girlysmack sez,the thing about post-partum depression is that it may actually be a form of post traumatic stress disorder (which is defined as a disorder caused by the experience of a life threatening situation while completely helpless to help oneself-sound familiar?)

You will be ok, get meds, maybe try a session or two of EMDR. You will be able to nurse all the time in no time, just keep pumping.

Your honesty is beautiful.

(egg) said...

Oh, The Puppy --

I am so glad you are blogging and talking about this. This will be a gift for you to solicit others' experience and a gift to others to read about yours. The main problem I see here is that we (as a people) don't have a way to openly and honestly talk about these slightly uncomfortable subjects, and then we feel alone. Which is the worst feeling in the whole world.

You are not alone, and of course you know that. You know have all our love. And when you need more than that; when you need someone who has gone through it before to tell you you aren't crazy or a failure or whatever ... it looks like you have that too.

Oh, all my fierce love is heading your way.


Adam Szymkowicz said...

thanks for writing about this. PJ is right. People are ashamed and afraid to talk about these things. Thanks for putting it out there. Much Love.

YogaLia said...

Oh my, can I just say, though I've already commented once here I know (is that allowed)...I need to just express such admiration and appreciation for the women who have been writing in for you...I just. It makes me proud to be a girl.

Anonymous said...

Tina - don't be afraid to ask for help. I had a surprise section after a long labour and then, when my baby was 10 weeks old, my mom died. My best friend. 6 days after her funeral, I rolled our Jeep (black ice) and was hit by another car. Yes, the baby was in the car and he, miraculously, was fine. A 4-day Hospital stay for me and then back home. 2 months later, I realized something was wrong - I couldn't make decisions,I just wasn't happy. Loved the baby, but I wasn't myself.

For me, counselling made all the difference. I came to realize that I -could- control some things; the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that had been dogging me gradually cleared.

Please look after yourself and talk to someone. The sun is there - you will find it and this time will become a memory.

hpmelon said...

My husband and I always say that having our kids opened a wound that will never heal. It felt the most raw at first, and then we figured out how to deal with it. But there are moments where the wound seems to gape and bleed again and we wonder how we are going to bear the pain, and amazingly enough we find a way.

I am so sorry to hear about your troubles. I remember sitting with a friend a week after she had her baby and stroking her hair while she nursed to help relax her. I watched as she wept while nursing her baby, knowing I could do nothing to take away the pain, and knowing that she would come out okay and that she would master this part of motherhood soon. Those first several weeks are so fleeting but the light at the end of the tunnel is not visible. It sounds like you have a wonderful support system and I am sure they will help you through. I am wishing you blessings of peace, health and harmony.

adrien-alice said...

oh my god everyone. thank you--thanks Ms Galavant, and thanks everyone for talking about what actually goes on. I don't have a kid, I'm terrified of it, actually, but it's only shit like this that could ever give me the courage to do the impossible, to face down what sounds like the most vulnerable you can ever be. So thank you all. Seriously. And Tina, you don't know me from Adam, but that doesn't mean there's not the moment in my day when I think "maybe there are new pictures of Finn, looking ghandi grounded or wrapped up like a little mole (an animal for which I have a serious weakness)".

who says the internet is tearing apart communities?

Boliath said...

Oh sweetheart, I'm sorry to read this but not surprised. I had a c-section too and freaked out when the spinal reached my chest, I couldn't feel myself breathing, lost the plot completely and they sedated me! I wasn't even awake when they took my son out, first I knew was when his dad was sitting beside me holding him, they woke me up and he said it's a boy - I thought - where did you get that child? The next couple of hours are very blurry, i know I cried because there's a picture, I know he nursed a little because the midwife and the nurse fought about when that should happen, I had freaked out again - dear gods I'm rambling! Sorry I really wanted to tell you that I relate completely, I didn't know who he was for a couple of days, I felt cheated like his birth had been stolen from me.

It's a rocky road, a profound change deep in your soul, a new life totally dependent on you, huge adjustments... from the little I know of you from this blog, I know that you are loving and caring and ready to love this baby. It will get easier, I know everyone says that but it's true really it is. Do what you need to do for yourself, for Finn and his Dad, adjusting to the chaos of a newborn is tough on everyone, batten down the hatches, cuddle up and concentrate on emerging when you're ready.

With apologies for the assvice and strong well meaning vibes through the screen to you,
Bo xx

Anonymous said...

I feel so badly for you.

During my first c-sec I was so convinced that I was going to die, I muttered the Lord's prayer over and over again until I was just sort of mumbling gibberish. It was neatokeen.

I'm so sorry you had a rough time and that you're still having some trouble. The adjustment really is, as someone else says in comments here, profound and the whoremoans don't help anything. Meaningless, but true, to me at least: parenthood gets better every day, especially once you get past the boneless chicken newborn stage and get some sleep and can walk more than ten feet without hunching over and groaning.

Regarding nursing, do what you can and keep yourself and your son healthy. I think if you can muddle past the [sometimes screamingly, agonizingly, bloody effing painful] first six or eight weeks, you are home free, but what matters most is a happy mom and a healthy kid.

Your son is beautiful. Be well and feel better.

Anonymous said...

Commenting again: someone said to bathe your son. I will assvice it up a notch and say to bathe with him if you and he can stand it.

I did this with both kids with the Husband perched on a stool by the tub to take the bebe and do a towel wrap so I could get out while holding a slippery infant.