And now the rest of the story…
I had my first daughter at the age of 25. I was married, had a job, a house and a dog. It’s what you do next, right? I read every book on pregnancy, and could tell you everything you ever wanted to know about heart burn, constipation and all the other disgusting things that happen to women when they are making a human. I didn’t once think about reading materials that might prepare me for taking care of the actual baby. When I had Natalie, I was ridiculously unprepared and totally clueless. You’d think that with 40 weeks notice, I would have planned something other than cute bedding and outfits. Little did we know, our life was never ever going to be the same. We left the hospital as parents. People assured me this was a good thing. I wasn’t convinced. After months of crying, puking and piles of disgusting diapers, I was at my wits end. I was filled with sadness, anxiety, and a bit of anger that I had been given the “evil” baby. Surely, it was her. Everyone else loved their babies. Why was I convinced that mine was Rosemary’s Baby? I brushed all these things off of course, because who really talks about this stuff anyway? I had no control over any aspect of my life. My tiny dictator was in control, and I just figured that was what it was like to be a parent. Since I had no clue about emotional health after baby, I didn’t once think that maybe the way I felt wasn’t normal. I didn’t know how to fix the problem, because I wasn’t sure I had one. Instead I focused on the things I knew how to fix. I chose weight loss as my number one priority. I started running and eating real food. I felt great. I figured this meant that I was right, there was nothing wrong, and all the bad days were behind me. Time for baby number two. During the early months of my pregnancy with Jack, things were rapidly changing in my husband’s life. We disagreed on a pretty important decision he was making, and I took it personally, very personally. Things got worse between us, and I got more self-destructive. Instinctively I turned to the things I could control. Eating, running and cleaning my house. I believed that if I could control these things I would feel better. During the final months of my pregnancy with Jack, letters were sent from my midwife to my doctor regarding “suspected eating disorders and OCD.” I had an ultrasound days before Jack arrived to ensure that he was OK, as I hadn’t gained sufficient weight. I was very, very sick, but I wasn’t ready to admit that at the time. After Jack was born (healthy and happy), things went from bad to worse. I suffered severe panic attacks, was unable to think about anything but cleaning my floors and eating as little as possible, while running until I dropped. The morning after Jack was born, I was on my hands and knees polishing my wood floors. I was obsessed with keeping them perfect. Day 5, I was on my treadmill attempting to run. It didn’t work out and I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital afterwards. So obviously, things had spun out of control. I am stubborn as hell, and I don’t care that people are telling me that I’m suffering post-partum depression and need medication. In my head, what I need to do to fix this is exercise more, eat less and continue on. That’s how I fixed everything before. I don’t need help, and I sure as hell don’t need to see a doctor. Looking back, I feel sad for that poor woman. At the time I got nothing but people talking about me, questioning my abilities as a mother and downright being assholes to me. Instead of being helpful, people were being hurtful. So, I kept on, and on and on. I started to become extremely fearful of almost everyone and everything. At night I’d sprint in terror from our bedroom to the kitchen to warm a bottle for Jack, sure that there was someone outside watching me. I had a serious problem, a husband who was sick and tired of it, and basically no one who understood what was going on. Eventually I went and saw a few doctors, a few therapists and even a naturopathic doctor to try to fix the problem. I refused to take medication and refused to admit that I was wrong. I had given up. Months passed and finally I got a referral to see a doctor in Kingston regarding the depression that was destroying my life. Again, this was the wrong place for me. I spoke with a few of the doctors there for less than an hour, and in that time I was given the diagnosis of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), OCD and possible Bi-Polar. Now let me tell you this, when a doctor talks to you for an hour and then brings up lithium, you need to run your ass out the door. I am so thankful that no matter how “off” I was, I wasn’t stupid enough to accept that.
Surprise! I’m pregnant again. I’m good with this. I am escaping the symptoms because I’m caught up in trying not to vomit 25 times a day. I’m eating healthy, I’m not feeling sad or bad at all. At this point I’m sure that it has passed. In my mind, I’ve done my time, and now everything is fine. My little girl is born, and surprisingly I STILL feel fine. Six weeks later, I can feel it coming again. This time, I don’t hesitate to start my search for help again. I have 3 kids under the age of 5, now is NOT the time to be sick. I start seeing a therapist in the area, who specializes in Post-Partum Depression. This woman changed my life. In all the years of hell, not one doctor or therapist even came close to doing what this woman did for me. She taught me to save myself. I trusted her, and I followed her directions and somehow after 10 months of work, I made it to the other side. She told me that I wasn’t insane, but just a woman who had three babies in four years, who had been suffering from PPD the whole entire time. I wasn’t bad or wrong or anything but a normal woman. I was in the right place and I was ready to put this to rest.
What does this have to do with my kids? Everything. I am the centre of their world. For a long, long time I was very fragmented. During the first few years of their lives, they lived with someone who could barely take care of herself, let alone them. They saw and heard things that they shouldn’t have. I do feel very bad about those things and I always wonder what kind of repercussions those few years will have on them. But I’m not making room for guilt anymore. It was what it was, and it is what it is now. Yesterday I had a parent teacher conference with Natalie’s teacher. Aside from the “Natalie is doing great,” one thing stuck out for me. One sentence. “Natalie is just a good person.” That right there means everything in the world to me. That’s what I want for my kids. I don’t care if they become self-made millionaires, or find the cure for cancer. I care about whether or not they are good humans. Maybe my struggle with depression will not hurt them, but teach them to be better people. I overheard Natalie tell her brother that it is wrong to laugh when someone is crying. I’m proud that she knows that, and is willing to stand up and say something. I’m also proud to say that she more than likely learned this from me. This glimpse into how it all began, how I had a rough start to this whole motherhood journey, is a very good way to introduce my family. We’re loud, crazy and a bit offensive at times, but we are damn good people, even in our darkest days.
Ok, I promise we’ll move on to lighter, more humorous posts. I just had to get that out there.