When was the last time you had a good, long cry in the shower? Me, I had one this morning. Sometimes it's just what we need, isn't it? You see, I have a confession to make. (Deep breath here.) I have struggled with debilitating postpartum-depression since Charlotte was born. I've done my absolute best to keep it a secret from everyone (including clients, sigh), except a few close family members and a couple of friends, but that's proving to be more difficult than I thought. I'm not one to make my blog a sob story and I don't want any "poor you"s. I'm an optimist. I don't like to push negativity out into the world. I'm all for keeping it real, of course, but I still have to keep my negativity in check. I want this to be a positive, inspiring place. I know you don't care to read all my dirty laundry, but you must know that I have a basket of it here and there.
In any case, PPD is a very frustrating experience. If you've never suffered from it, it can be very hard to understand from the outside. And if I'm being honest, it's very hard to understand from the inside too. It affects everything in your life. Home. Work. Family. Your self-esteem. It's hormonal, emotional, psychological, and physical. Post-partum depression makes you feel so ashamed of yourself for feeling the way you do.
Here's the thing. I'm likely THE most grateful person you'd ever want to meet. I've been blessed beyond measure. My three kids are healthy, incredibly smart, strong and gorgeous (yes I said it, they are mine and I can brag if I want to). Parker is so funny, and the brightest boy I've ever seen. He makes us all so very proud. Lila is the most thoughtful and helpful child ever. I don't know how I'd make it through a day without her. Charlotte is truly the sweetest baby ever born. She smiles all the time and she is an absolute joy day in and day out. I get to wake up every morning next to the man I love more than life itself, and whom I still think is pretty hot, even after almost 14 years together. We live in a cozy house in Florida and can visit the Gulf Beaches within 20 minutes, anytime we darn well please. I am fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living, and to do it from home. I am able to be with my kids more than most working moms I know. I have a Savior who loves me and forgives me on days when I'm not as grateful as I should be. I have a circle of sweet, caring friends, who would do anything to help me if I just told them what was happening.
Yep. I have a rough life, don't I?
See, this is what makes it so frustrating. And isolating. And seemingly unfair. I do love my life! I just want to... run away from it, most days. Does that make any sense at all? Call me ungrateful, but I don't think I am. Hormonal is more like it.
I'd been through PPD once before, after Parker was born. But then after Lila, I was perfectly fine. So I thought I'd be safe the third time around.
But I was so wrong. Despite a beautiful natural birth experience with Charlotte, I struggled with managing three kids once I got home. What is it about that third child? I had it all planned out, all organized and ready. But she was born two weeks early. And nothing worked out the way I'd planned. She was born on the first day of second grade for Parker. And since we all were still at the birth center, he had to skip his first day. My husband wasn't able to get off work that week because another employee was out on medical leave. So the only day he was home with me was the very day Charlotte was born. Just thirty-six hours after giving birth, I was loading our baby and our three-year-old into the SUV and driving to the bus stop to get Parker, myself. Chris worked late three nights that week. I developed mastitis. Charlotte wouldn't latch on properly. I missed Open House at Parker's school, and didn't even meet his teacher for at least two months. I yelled at the kids more than I care to admit. I cried constantly. The house was a mess. I couldn't find anything, and neither could the kids. I all but disappeared from The Creative Mama (thank God for Bree). All of our family lives out of state and I made it painfully clear that I wanted the first few weeks alone with "just us". I desperately needed a break from the revolving door our house had been that entire year, but in doing so, I shut out all offers for help. I went back to work teaching workshops just six weeks after the baby was born, and that was entirely too early. I never really got that "break" that maternity leave is supposed to provide. But when you're self-employed, there is no short-term disability. Maternity leave = no pay. But since Charlotte arrived early, and I had worked up until the very last minute, I still had orders to place and prints to deliver during my entire maternity leave. Bitterness and resentment set in, along with exhaustion and complete mommy-brain. Even the max dose of Zoloft (which is, as I understand, the only type of antidepressant you can take while nursing a baby) wasn't quite enough. I just shut down. Some days I just want to sleep, eat, nurse my baby, and cry myself back to sleep. Rinse. Repeat.
I am likely the unhappiest, most grateful person alive. Now how about that? At least I finally get to say I live a "balanced" life, right? (Sorry, that was a terrible joke.)
And then I read Tara's freeing post about feeling like she's just existing and not living. I read Hayley's blissfully honest post revealing that she doesn't do it all (and that no one really does anyway). Yesterday, I soaked up Alison's encouraging post about why she runs, and the good it does for her. (I love to run too, and I miss it so much.) So then I have another good cry in the shower. Only this time, my husband walks in. He's usually not home to see my crying episodes. I know I look a mess. Wrapped in a towel with mascara streaming down my face, my eyes red and swollen, and wet hair dripping onto the bathroom floor (well, what few strands that haven't fallen out since I gave birth to Charlotte). He asks me to sit down and tell him what I'm feeling today.
And I do. I just break down. Tearfully, I tell him how much I just want to disappear and melt into the floor. How I'd run away in a heartbeat if I knew that it wouldn't affect him and our kids. And instead of hugging me, instead of telling me it's going to be okay... he tells me to get my rear end out the door.
"Well, then RUN. Put on your shoes. Just go run away for thirty minutes, or an hour. Run your stress out. Then come back."
Did I mention how much I love that man??
See, I'm crying again. I told you PPD was frustrating.
But I will get through this. Today, I really ran. I tied up my Asics and put the pup on his leash, and we took off down the street. I want to kiss my husband when he gets home and tell him how much "running away" actually made me feel so much better. I didn't get the runner's high today (I'm still painfully out of shape), but I did breathe some fresh air and I am on my way to finding my center again. Finally. I have hope. Just in time.
Tomorrow I will put on my running shoes again. And I'll keep running away until I don't have to run away anymore. I'll eventually run for the sheer love of it again.
Have you struggled with postpartum depression?? I know I'm not alone, and I plan to share more openly about this in the future, both here on my blog and over at The Creative Mama. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments, or email me privately, if you are suffering silently like I
am was, and want to get this off your chest. And as Hayley and my midwife so eloquently put it, "give yourself some grace." I'm learning to give myself a little bit too. It's hard, but just like running, I guess we need to take one step at a time, right?