Let’s talk for a minute about baby blues. If you never experienced it, I am very happy for you. If you have (or are), I was right there with you, sister. And it sucks.
Before delving into the fresh hell that is baby blues, I would like to briefly tell you about the journey that led me there. Overall, I believe that I had a fairly uncomplicated birth. I went to the ER, two weeks before my due date, concerned about excess swelling in my face. (Now, if you have been pregnant, you may have experienced water retention, too. I had blown up like a giant water balloon throughout my pregnancy, but my face — for some blessed reason — remained untouched until this point.) The nurse tested my urine, which came back with high levels of protein. She told me right off the bat, “You are preeclampsic and you are going to have this baby today!” I was thrilled!
Then I panicked. Wait, what? Oh, crap. What does it really mean when you are preeclampsic?
Yes, I read the flyer about preeclampsia, given to me by my gynecologist during my first trimester. But have you, by chance, also read that flyer? Nausea. Yeah…had that throughout my pregnancy. Dizziness? Yep, started during my sixth month, when the journey to my classroom on the second floor (I teach high school students) seemed more like a trip to Mount Doom — heat and all. Swelling? Ok, you’re joking right? If these are the symptoms, what pregnant woman is not preeclampsic?
Some joking aside, I should say the only odd symptom I started to have was that I noticed my eyes started to hurt anytime I would look at a screen (much to my disdain, as Facebook and Clash of Clans were my favorite ways to unwind at the end of busy teen-fueled day). And, as I mentioned, the swelling in my face. (As a side-note ladies, if you are currently pregnant and you think you might have preeclampsia PLEASE don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or the ER. You never know!)
So, after receiving the news that I was preeclampsic, I was only given a couple hours to digest the fact that I was going to have this baby (ready or not here he comes!); I was prepped for a c-section and by 3:15 pm, my tiny son was born.
That word probably best sums up my reaction to that day’s events.
Now, you may possibly be thinking that my previous statement about having an “uncomplicated birth” sounds false (preeclampsic can, after all, have dire consequences). But I have to say, I never experienced one contraction. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I did not have to agonize over the pain of pushing out a child nor have the long, long hours of torment that so many of my fellow mom friends describe. So, in my eyes, it could have been worse! (Not to diminish anyone else’s experience with a c-section — every woman is different. My mother, who also had preeclampsia and a c-section, would argue this).
After four mind-numbing, hazy, whirlwind days in the hospital, my husband, my son, and I left the hospital to live happily ever after…
And now, cue the tears.
Enter baby blues. When I began experiencing baby blues, I didn’t actually know that that was happening. I recall sitting in my front room on day two of motherhood, looking at my thick-haired boy, Theo, and feeling…empty. Soulless. At the time, I largely contributed it to the pain meds (hello Narco!) and lack of sleep (does any mother sleep well the first night home with a newborn?).
While both of those may have been contributing factors, I didn’t grasp the extent of my situation…Or, rather, I didn’t want to consider that I had baby blues.
Why? After all, it is well documented that “approximately 70%-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child” (American Pregnancy Association). Heck, just Google “baby blues.” You know what search result pops up first? The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline. Even Google wants you to understand the gravity of this state — baby blues is serious my friends!
And maybe that was why I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Because it is serious. I was a new mom with all the fears, anxieties, and to-do lists that many newborn mothers have. I was still learning how to breastfeed. I was discovering facts about babies that I wish I knew prior. (Like, for example, that it is OK for your baby’s feet to be cold… I seriously thought my baby was freezing the first night until I came across Parent’s online article “12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Babies” — I highly suggest this article for first-time moms!)
I was also thinking about the laundry I wanted to finish. (I know, I know, my mom-friends yell at me for this one. It took me about a week to fully let go of my compulsive cleaning tendencies.) Not to mention, the physical healing. (Ugh, even my choice to shower abated for a while due to the sensation that my insides wanted to fall out of body…sorry if that was a bit too graphic, but c-section recovery is miserable.)
The thought of having to do all of those things and manage baby blues was something I didn’t want to take on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a choice. Like many mamas out there, the baby blues is not a decision we make once our little angels leave our bodies. Nope. It just happens. (And it’s worth noting that some moms have depression during pregnancy, not to mention those mothers who have severe postpartum depression. If you are suffering from this, I send you love, and I encourage you to seek support if you haven’t done so already. You can visit Postpartum Support International to find local support and help.)
Perhaps another reason why baby blues was something I dreaded, was because I had struggled to combat depression for many years prior to pregnancy. Mediation. Yoga. Food moderation. Journaling. The thought of diving headfirst back into a pool of depression –which could last weeks — was something I didn’t know if I could handle with a newborn.
But again, it’s not like we have a choice.
On top of the general misery brought on by baby blues, another challenge it can sometimes create is having to explain our situation to others who may not fully understand our current state of mind. Enter my husband.
My husband is a very kind, loving, funny, and supportive person who didn’t, at the beginning, fully understand my depression. Yes, he has seen me depressed before, but not at this depth. And this did not make the first couple weeks easy.
I have to stop here for a second, because I want you to know that I am not endorsing minimizing any efforts to combat baby blues to appease someone else — may it be a parent, spouse, sibling, friend, or anyone else. That shit is real (oops…here is your late warning that this post may contain cuss words), and don’t be afraid to admit it and share it. Period.
Looking back over those first few arguments with my husband, however, I have to admit that I was very one-sided. (I mean, can you blame me?) Again, I am not sorry for how I acted (baby blues can destroy every aspect of your life), but I do regret not considering my husband’s perspective during this tumultuous time in our lives.
Just like me, he was a new parent with similar concerns and frustrations. In addition to being a new father, he had recently started working a new, stressful job as a supervisor at a multi-million dollar biotech company… not to mention that he was also attempting to help care for a deeply depressed wife. In a way, I think my husband had his own form of daddy blues, which I didn’t realize until months later. As his best friend, that is something I wish I could have changed back then.
All mothers are 100% entitled to address baby blues any way that helps them get through it. And if my husband and I choose to have another child (I mentioned in my other blog that Theo is really working hard on being an only child), I will still exercise that belief. I also want to remember, however, that husbands may be struggling with their own “daddy blues” and that my husband may equally need help finding solutions to those frustrations. It may not be easy, but it is definitely something worth fighting for.
Today, my baby blues are only a memory (albeit a vivid one), and my husband and I are still working on balancing the challenges of parenting. But we will get through it. This journey will continue to change both of us, altering our lives in ways I may have not thought possible before. And I welcome it all… for better or worse.