My history with depression is somewhat documented on this website (here and here), and before Leta was born Jon and I talked at length about what we would do if I slipped into a postpartum funk.
That funk is here, and I’m not so sure I did a simple slipping into. I’d call this more of a full-fledged belly flop.
For the past several weeks I feel like I have been fighting a losing battle. I’m doing everything I know how to do to cope with feelings of hopelessness and frustration and an overwhelming sense of failure. But the cumulative loss of sleep and genetic predisposition toward depression totally body slammed me last week, and I’ve spent the last seven days crying and wanting to puke.
I experienced a few days of intense postpartum blues during the first two weeks of Leta’s life, but they subsided and the weather got better and my body healed and soon I found myself getting out of the house and putting make-up on every day. The sleep deprivation was hard, but everything else was manageable because Leta seemed to be a relatively easy baby.
Almost everything I’ve read says that a baby’s fussiness peaks at about six weeks of age, and when Leta turned six weeks I almost threw a celebration because I thought we might be out of the woods. But Leta became fussy at six weeks, and her fussiness has only increased with each passing week. She has recently rejected all my attempts to establish a schedule, and we’ve spent most of the past week soothing her incessant screaming. She screams for hours every day.
By the end of the day she is so tired from not sleeping that she’s too frustrated to eat. Then she becomes too hungry to sleep and she just lies there screaming. I thought I might be eating something that was upsetting her, but my diet hasn’t changed and she eats ravenously in the middle of the night. But I fight her to get her to eat during the day.
My daily life feels like torture. I struggle to make it from hour to hour. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve been trying to find the humor in all of this, and keeping this website has been therapeutic in that regard, but I can’t ignore these feelings any longer.
There are many things about parenthood that I understand intellectually. I know that this period of her life is only temporary and that things will eventually get better. I know that I am a good mother and that I am meeting her needs as a baby. But depression isn’t about understanding things intellectually. It’s about an overshadowing emotional spiral that makes coping with anything nearly impossible.
I can’t cope with the screaming. I can’t cope with her not eating. I can’t cope with the constant pacing and rocking back and forth to make sure she doesn’t start crying. I am sick with anxiety. I want to throw up all day long. There are moments during her screaming when I have to set her down and walk away and regain perspective on life, because in those very dark moments of screaming I feel like I have destroyed mine.
The anxiety robs me of any sleep Leta allows me. Every day as the morning turns into afternoon I start to get sick at my stomach with the prospect of what the evening brings: screaming and feeling totally helpless, my boobs filling up with milk that she won’t eat.
Most of the literature I have read about depression medication and the breastfeeding mother indicates that the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the possibility of the baby receiving small amounts of the medication through the breast milk. I also think that it’s more important that my daughter have a mother who can cope — a mother who isn’t sobbing uncontrollably during diaper changes — than it is for her to have a mother who is too proud to admit defeat.
I am throwing up my hands here. I cannot do this unmedicated.
This is not a decision I have made lightly. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on concerning postpartum depression in the mother and how it affects the development of the baby. I’ve talked with my doctor and friends who have experienced the same debilitating feelings. Going off depression medication a year and a half ago was so awful that I didn’t ever want to have to face that nightmare again. For the past several weeks I have been silently whispering to myself Fight this! Fight this! But I lost the fight about seven days ago.
I’m really scared.
I’m scared that the meds won’t work. I’m scared that the side effect of fatigue combined with my already near deadly sleep deprivation will render me as useless as I am off the meds. I’m scared of what this all means.
But I really feel like I have to do something about this hopelessness that I feel. I want to look back on this time fondly and remember her smiles, not her screaming.
I’m telling you this because many of you have sent me your stories about how you’ve struggled with this disease, and I think it’s important to be honest and let you know that my struggle is ongoing. This whole motherhood thing is not easy. I am having a hard time.