Friday, January 13, 2006

I've come a long way, baby.

After Jacob's morning shower, he had a 4 pm bath. Long story, not worth telling. He was thrilled to get in the tub. It was the first bath he's had in probably months. It's just so much easier to toss him in the shower. It takes less time and makes considerably less mess. As soon as I threw open the shower curtain to reveal the tub, I was washed over by memories. The memories came faster than the water flowed into the tub. Too fast, almost. Too vivid, also. From the bathtub I removed the infant tub, put some random baby bath toys on the ledge, and added the soap and water. Jacob was thrilled to jump in. And I could do nothing but remember. After Jacob was born, I went through severe postpartum depression and anxiety. What should have been the best months of my life - the long wait to be a mother was over! - were anything but happy, anything but cheerful. Those months were most certainly not peaceful, or relaxing. I hid my symptoms and my sickness very well, even from my husband. Strangers knew nothing of the madness that took over my mind. Nathan, my husband knew something was wrong, but he had no idea what was going on, or how to help me. When he came home from work, his instinct was to take over parenting duties for me so I could have a break. He at least knew I needed that. But while I desperately wanted a break, there was no way I could take a break! I'm a mom! Moms do not stop! Nursing moms never stop! Every now and then, Nathan would offer to bathe Jacob each night. I rarely let him. I still do not understand why I was so protective over my job as "bather of the baby". It was our time, I guess, Jacob and me. We were both fairly calm each evening during bath time. Today, I sat on the toilet seat and watched Jacob play in the tub as he sang to himself and splashed water all over the room. I don't think I have given Jacob a bath since I have recovered and felt well again. I kept thinking that the last time I was sitting here, with Jacob sitting there, doing this...the last time, I was not ok. And I remembered. I held the small, round music box to a baby mobile I pulled out of the tub just minutes before (how did that get in there?). I turned the dial around and around. Instead of hearing the soothing lullaby, I heard the memories of my own tears. I remembered crying for hours a week, sometimes hours a day. I cried while I nursed, cried when Jacob wouldn't nap, cried while I watched TV. I cried while cooking, cried while we took walks, and cried every morning when my husband left for work. I did lots and lots of crying. And while it now seems so long ago, today, while I held the music box, I could hear the tears again. I put away a half-used bottle of lavendar baby lotion. Nathan never liked that scent. Every time I put it on Jacob, Nathan said we'd turn our son into a sissy. Well, eighteen months into Jacob's very rough and tumbly life, there isn't an ounce of sissy in him. I smelled the lotion, and I remembered lying Jacob on a towel every night after his bath. I would use the lotion to first rub down his stomach, then his arms, before going to his legs. Finally, I would slather my hands in lotion and rub Jacob's feet. That was his favorite part. Even at eight and ten weeks old, I would rub Jacob's feet and he would sigh like he was getting rubbed down by a world famous masseuse. Today, when I remembered the lotion massages we shared each night, I momentarily stopped smelling lavendar. Instead, I caught a whiff of the three-day-old body odor from a new mom who couldn't move enough to even get in the shower. I remembered being so paralyzed by saddness, fear and guilt that the smallest daily tasks seemed difficult or impossible. I took Jacob out of the bathtub, and while rubbing him down with our new thick, plush towels, I couldn't feel the softness that I expected. For a minute, all I could feel was the memory of the guilt, the shame, the darkness, the anxiety, the inadequacy, the hopelessness. And that's when I started to worry. I had not felt these feelings, had these memories, for months. Am I having a relapse? Am I not better anymore? Instantly, I knew I was fine. I wasn't having a relapse, I was remembering. Remembering keeps the past with us just enough to remind us what we've learned and how we've grown. I need to remember. I don't like to think about how terrible those months were; who would like reliving a vivid and painful hell? But remembering helps me know that I'm doing just that - remembering the past - not living in it. It makes the fact that I'm better feel real to me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm all the way better. The depression is gone for now. See how I don't say it's all the way gone? For now. Forever? Or for now? I still deal with some anxiety. Once in awhile I worry that I'm just biding my time until another huge attack. I think I might always have a faint shadow of that following me around. At least I know how to manage the anxiety now, how to stop it in its tracks and not let it get out of control. After I dressed Jacob and we left the bathroom, I didn't have to wonder anymore if I was better. I know I'm better.

3 Comments:

At 1/14/2006 04:35:00 PM, Blogger Julie said...

What a beautiful post. I read your comment on bek's site and had to check out your blog since we share the same name. I've never had PPD, but I've struggled with clinical depression for over a year now. Depression is not fun stuff, and it's hard to explain it so someone who's never had it. I hate it when people say things like, "Can't you just snap out of it?" or, "Well, if you were just righteous enough you wouldn't feel this way." Comments like this make me so angry. I could go on and on...but I won't. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your thoughts.

 
At 1/18/2006 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

hey--i had hideous PP OCD/anxiety after my first baby. it's so weird how all-encompassing it is--and even though you know what it is, the identification doesn't help that much.

i've felt much better after medication and now i have two kids, but there are always weird memory triggers.......i couldn't bathe my daughter alone for months! i was afraid i'd let her go under the water and not save her. how weird is that? totally weird...but it had nothing to do with me. i'm rambling. anyway, i hear ya!

 
At 1/18/2006 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Julie said...

Seriously, your two comments are big to me, ladies! I think I "suffered in silence" for so long because I was so ashamed - I didn't think anyone else had ever had the symptoms that I was dealing with, and never to that extent! I still think that ppd and pp-anxiety is something that is not talked about nearly enough. I keep thinking that if the symptoms and solutions (for me, counseling and meds) were talked about more often, people wouldn't have to suffer as long, as badly, or as silently.

 

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