>>I don’t want to be presumptuous nor hurtful, so please ignore me if I’m out of place, but…
You did undergo a majorly negative emotional experience and also don’t have as much time to bond with your baby as usual, and I’m concerned about the potential of PPD creeping in. I am positive you know the best ways to abet it and I’m not here to tell you that, but with all that is going on, please watch out for yourself too…not just the health of your baby.<<
Firstly, I appreciate the concern!
I’m in no way an expert about postpartum depression – far from it. But I’ll share my thoughts about this here, because it is something I’ve thought about for the last few weeks. Why for the past weeks? Because I’ve had a lot on my plate recently and I think these things can dribble over beyond the birth experience in how they affect you if you aren’t consciously dealing with them.
As mothers we can’t just take care of everyone else. At a certain point we’ll just collapse physically and/or emotionally if we can’t find space for ourselves. This is something I was very consciously trying to attend to, to find space for me to take care of myself. I was talking with a friend who shared with me her thoughts about how crucial fun is, especially for people like us who are so responsible that we consider checking off everything on our ‘to do’ list to be the most fun thing about our day! :)
Yesterday she sent me an email in which she followed up with our recent talk, and shared her criteria for fun: 1) it feeds your soul; b) it empowers you; and c) there isn’t a goal. What’s fun for you might not be fun for someone else. My husband plays tennis, guitar and draws – all of which are renewing for him but not one of those things would be fun for me. If I sit in front of a waterfall by myself for an hour, that’s my ‘fun’ – not what you might think of when thinking of fun as it’s typically defined, but it definitely meets the three criteria.
For me, it’s ‘fun’ to have time to myself. That’s why my hospital vacation was so valuable for me at this time. These last few days have been invaluable in processing the birth and finding a lot of inner peace. It’s been very renewing to have time to myself and that’s why I haven’t answered the phone hardly at all and have told anyone who wanted to visit that I really would rather be left to myself for now. It’s been great! Even my husband wasn’t here after the first night, until he came to pick me up yesterday (before we knew I’d be allowed to stay another day).
People sometimes tell me how positive I am, so this next point is one that I also try to be conscious of. I think a person has to be very careful about being positive versus putting on a happy face for the world and being miserable inside. You really have to be honest with yourself about who you are and what your limitations are. There’s a lightness inside when you’re feeling positive. When you’re putting on a happy face, it’s more like you’re weighted down by smiling because you know that you’re fooling everyone else but really inside you’re miserable. I don’t feel I have to tell everyone around me how miserable I am but it’s not a value for me to pretend to be what I’m not.
Physically, I’ve been loading up on B vitamins because that’s an important preventive aspect for PPD – I’ve been taking two heaping tablespoons of brewers yeast in my milk every morning leading up to the birth (don’t have it here in the hospital), in addition to herbs, rescue remedy (for the trauma), and other vitamins.
As far as bonding with the baby, it’s been amazing being at the hospital with just him, and getting to sit and be with him for hours without interruption. There’s no pressure or expectation of how much I have to be with him or how I should interact with him – it’s my experience to have in the way that’s meaningful to me. I can stand over his crib and talk or sing to him, or massage him, or give him a kiss – or none of those – and it’s all okay. If I just sit next to him without touching him or talking to him, it’s okay. If I rest my head on the side of his crib and fall asleep holding his hand, it’s okay. It’s been another renewing and relaxing aspect of being at the hospital – I’m here as his mother because I want to be, not because he’s screaming to be held or changed or fed and I have to do it. I don’t have to do any of it; all of those things can be done by the NICU staff. But they can’t be his mother and love him like I do.
Last night I was with him when the nurse suddenly said to me, “Your baby loves you, do you know that?” I looked up and asked her why she said that. She pointed to the monitor and she said, “Look at how his breathing gets better when you’re here.” I didn’t know what numbers on the monitor corresponded to what, so she showed me how his oxygenation level went all the way up to the maximum when I was with him. So it looks like we’re bonding pretty well even if I’m not nursing him. :)
I’ve been thinking about how to manage the transition back to home. After being gone for four days – and I’m hardly ever gone more than a few hours – I’m anticipating a lot of emotional intensity on the part of the littles, and just because the older kids are older doesn’t mean they don’t have some emotion to me not being around. I’ve made the effort to physically rest earlier in the day so I’ll have energy to actively be with them, and also thought about some special ways I can be with them each one on one.
This birth experience definitely had some strongly negative aspects to it, but I haven’t denied my feelings to myself about it, or suppressed it or not felt the sadness of the difference between what I wanted and what I got. I’ve been resolving it inside myself. And you know what? Sometimes you get powerful help in putting things in perspective. Yesterday the baby in the incubator right next to my baby died – he was born the day before my baby. The day before another baby died just an hour after she was born. I feel like a very lucky woman to have my gorgeous baby boy. And that’s not just putting on a happy face.