If you were fortunate to have a baby in the fall, there is a good chance
that your postpartum depression could be more severe over the holidays. Please
don’t wait to call your obstetrician. The holidays bring their own gifts of stress.
For many it’s a depressing time of year; a time we’re especially aware that there’s
sadness just beneath the happy smile. Postpartum depression is no joke. It’s not to be taken
lightly. Medical intervention is often necessary. Don’t suffer in silence! Your baby needs a healthy mommy.
I remember postpartum slowly creeping in after each of my five newborns
arrived. When our first daughter was born, I felt captive. My husband took me on a two hour ride, while I wept. “You are the sweetest man in the entire universe. I really needed to get out of the house.” You’d have thought the pumpkin carriage picked me up and I became Cinderella.
My first son projectile vomited for two years. He threw up every where. I was
young and researched every possible cause. One doctor told me, at four months of age, he was doing it for my attention. My son immediately puked on the doctor’s fancy loafers. He stopped when he turned two, magically.
My second son, had colic. If you can get through this colic stage, you will have earned your wings when you get to Heaven. He also gummed my nipples half raw. I was guilt ridden that I had to stop nursing when they got infected. Postpartum came knocking.
When the next child arrived, I wept again, but this time it was because of exciting
news. “Laundry detergent isn’t just a powder anymore,” I declared. “It’s in liquid
form now, too.” Tears rolled down my cheeks. “This is the best day of my life!” I
sniffled. My husband’s eyebrows crunched as he glanced at me strangely.
That was his clue that postpartum was settling in again. There were a few other
clues, as well:
Before the baby arrived, my hair was always blown dry and styled. Now I took a
shower every three days, if I was lucky. There was no time to blow dry anymore. A
high ponytail was my new look, every single day. Sweat pants were my formal
wear. There was no time for foundation and mascara.
My eyebrows were always perfect. Now it appeared a large caterpillar had taken
residence and created a massive uni-brow. This gave me a very angry, deranged
My expensive and favorite suede jacket had puke marks on the shoulders. I tried
everything to remove them, but nothing could break through those enzymes
breeding on my shoulders. I thought of sending the jacket to NASA, perhaps they
could breakdown the molecules and use it to glue the space ship together.
When my daughter was born, she refused to take a bottle. She would starve and
wait until I returned from work. If I called to check on her and heard crying over
the phone, my breasts exploded in a tsunami of breast milk. Breast pads couldn’t
contain the waves in my nursing bra.
When child number four arrived, I accidentally became obsessed with her
pooping schedule. I’d call my husband at work to report, “It’s going to be a great
day! She had a large, soft, nice, brown color poop just now. The yellow tint is
gone today.” I think I heard him gag on the other end of the phone. This is what
happens when you don’t get out of the house!
When child number five arrived, his two sisters were still under the age of three. I
was on constant watch as they’d try to load him into their baby carriage and fight
over who was going to push him. It’s a wonder he and I both survived those years.
Most of my daily exercise was chasing them to halt the carriage. At this point I
averaged three to four hours of sleep a night.
If the baby cried, the other two little ones immediately sprang from their beds to
see if he needed a walk in the stroller. Thank God the older two kids were down
the hall and slept through his cries. I was so desperate for sleep, I let them all
sleep in my bed: my husband, two little girls, a one hundred and sixty five pound
snoring English Mastiff, and a baby nursing at my breast. No wonder I cried half
My husband called my OB/GYN himself and made an appointment for me after
he walked into the living room to find me bawling and struggling to get my winter
boots on. I’d been watching animal rescue shows. I planned to drive to the SPCA
and fetch a few of those poor, sad, homeless animals. I had a pen and paper with
my new animal names written down. I also had a shopping list for everything I’d
need for a puppy, kitten, a ferret, a guinea pig with one eye, and quite possibly a
brown and white, miniature, pony.
My emotions were off the scale. He had to load me and the kids into the van for a very long drive to the ice cream store. A double dip, mint chocolate chip, cone calmed my animal rescue hormones.
My OB prescribed a low dose anti-depressant which lifted the postpartum
depression. Within two weeks, I found my old self.
During those two weeks, I started to take naps when the kids napped. My
husband offered to watch the kids while I took bubble baths. Even if they banged
on the bathroom door pleading to join me, I held firm. This was sacred mommy
We decided Saturday night would be our date night. Even if we stayed home, we
had candle light dinners when the kids went to bed. I’d set a blanket in front of
the fireplace and serve small fillets. We couldn’t afford to go out every week, but
we made it special. It was a cheap date, but it was “us” time.
My friends were also having kids, so we scheduled a “Girls Night Out.” Our first
few dinners, people in nearby booths left their tables. It seems not all people like
to hear about our breast milk explosions, diaper schedules, or hemorrhoid pads.
Eventually, the hostess gave us our own private corner away from the squeamish
customers. Even then, if a baby was in the other section crying, three of us leaked
breast milk. Our bottle feeding friends laughed at us. The best medicine is
knowing you are not alone with your depression. We laughed, cried and drove
home feeling lighter.
With a few changes and medication, the postpartum gradually lifted. It amazed
me that such a little baby could change so much. We’d stare into the basinette in
awe that we had made this baby and in the next breath we’d both say, “Now what
do we do?” The hospital didn’t give us a baby manual.
Babies, on the other hand, are like a puzzle. It takes a few tries to get things right.
Just remember, baby doesn’t know what the heck is going on either. It takes a
little while to learn how to become a new family. You’re all in this together.
You will get through this. Talk to your doctor and your friends. The sooner you
do, the sooner you’ll have the energy to enjoy motherhood.
If all else fails, meet me for a cup of tea. I’ll tell you about the toddler years. You’ll
need your strength!