. . . continued from My PPD Story . . .
When the baby arrived and the surge of post-pregnancy hormones washed over me, I felt at peace for a brief moment. I was happy in my little life, content with my wondrous family and the breath of fresh air a newborn brings into your home. That is, until the PPD crept back in, poisoning my life once again. What once came easily, naturally – parenting – I started to do on auto-pilot. An empty shell robotically fulfilling my duties as Mom… feeding, burping, bathing, diapering, cleaning; repeat… sitting through monotonous songs and repetitive nursery rhymes and brightly colored, too-loud toys. I was a robot at my best; a monster at my worst.
Soon, I began to detach even further, separating myself from my children whenever possible. Too often relying on Netflix to entertain them so I could retreat into my dark, lonely space, away from the family I created, the family I am more convinced everyday needs to be free of me…
It’s a cycle that has grown all too familiar: Meals for the kids become whatever I can grab and dump on their plates without exerting much effort. I swallow my guilt and shove nutritional concerns aside as I open another “veggie pouch” for my 4 year old. I have no desire to cook and I certainly won’t feel like cleaning after we eat. Well, after the kids eat, anyway. My appetite vanishes with my motivation right about now. After dinner, I’ll skip their baths, “just one more night” because I don’t have the energy to wrangle, undress, rinse, soap, rinse, play with, dry, and re-dress three children right now. This wash-up will do just fine.
When morning comes, I skip getting them dressed because now it’s actually late afternoon and really those PJs aren’t that dirty (we just put them on the night before last… or was it the night before that?). We aren’t going anywhere today anyway and didn’t we say last night that we would do baths tonight? I skip the story and the song and the sweet good-nights because honestly, I just want to be done with the day. Please go to sleep. Shh! you’ll wake the baby… No, you don’t need another glass of water and you’ve already gone potty 4 times! Get back in bed. Shh!… Lie down, don’t move and please be quiet. Shh!!!… Damn it, that’s it! Back in your bed, now! Just lie down and SHUT UP and leave me alone!!!
Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I know it’s not your fault. Mommy doesn’t feel good, but I’m not mad at you. It’s not okay for me to talk to you like that and I feel bad for doing it. No, I don’t know what’s wrong, baby, and I don’t know why Mommy cries. But I love you and thank you for hugging me and please, sweet baby, please get some rest. Yes, I will, too.
I’m not sure exactly when I started seeing my depression reflected in the lives of my children; I don’t know if I noticed it in their disheveled appearances or if I felt it in the baby’s cry as she suckled at a dwindling milk supply, hungering for nourishment I could no longer provide. I do know I missed it in the voices of loved ones who expressed their concern: at my constant scolding/yelling/punishing the kids; my desire to remain secluded in our home, where I barricaded us from the rest of life; my lack of interest in… anything. I’m not even sure I saw it in my uncharacteristically dirty house or my unkempt, overstressed and angry self. But eventually, I spotted it in my kids; I saw it in their eyes, I heard it in their words, I felt it in the way they treated themselves and others. I noticed the reflection of my lowest and worst self, glaring me in the face and growing stronger each day. And I hated what I saw.
At first this realization upset me. I was failing at the one thing that I have spent my life training for: from caring for my younger siblings to working as a nanny to studying early childhood education and child development in college, my entire life experience has prepared me for this mission. My life was a dream come true, one I only dared to imagine in the innocence of my youth. Yet, here I was living it for real – and I was wasting my time by dwelling in the throes of life rather than reveling in the abundance of it. How did I let myself get here? And what in the hell am I going to do about it?
. . . to be continued . . .