Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Guiltiest of Mommy Guilt

Mommy guilt.  We've all heard of it and if you're a mom, it's likely you've experienced it at one time or another.  It makes you question your ability to parent and can quickly make you feel like you are sinking in the vast hole of "not good enoughs".  But there's a different kind of mommy guilt that many women experience for months to years at a time; postpartum depression.  If you've ever read a new mom book, or pamphlet from your doctor, or  "20 things to know after giving birth" blog it's probably mentioned there and sounds a little something like this:
"Your hormones will be everywhere.  You will probably cry. A lot. It's normal. But if you feel like you are crying more than normal talk to your doctor, it may be postpartum depression and that's okay too."

Ummm...what?  I appreciate the "that's okay too" portion of this often watered down message, but you just said it's normal to cry so don't worry about it but also maybe you're not normal so if you can discern between the two, while also being sleep deprived, then at some point down the road maybe talk to your doctor.  

I remember during my first couple of months with Zilla, I would come across a blog about mommy guilt and I would hope to read something to make me feel normal or connected to these women who were writing.  But then they talked about all the guilt they felt because they didn't make their baby's food from organic fresh vegetables like Pinterest told you to.  And all I could think was the guilt I felt when another new mom would talk to me about how "absolutely wonderful it is! Isn't it?!" and all I wanted to do was run away and hide.  Or the guilt I felt when my first few hours away from Zilla I started crying because I felt guilty about not missing him, because that's the way I had been told I was supposed to feel.  Or the guilt I felt after I ran into the bathroom and screamed louder than I knew was possible and punched the wall.  That's the guilt I felt, but no one was writing about it.

And I get it.  It's taken me a year after lifting from my fog to sit down and feel comfortable sharing this story.  Well, comfortable may even be a stretch.  But I know a lot of new moms to be and while I pray it's not the journey you take, if it is, I want you to know you are more than okay; you are not alone. 

I'm not going to sit here and tell you how to diagnose yourself with PPD, because I'm not a professional in that area.  Rather I'm going to encourage every mother to talk to your doctor about the emotions you are experiencing.  Whether they are happy or sad.  Talk.  No more asking, "are the emotions I'm feeling significant enough to bring it up?" Yes. The unfortunate reality is that many doctors will even give you the same answer you'll find in the blogs "it's normal but if it's not then let me know."  I remember going into my 2 week check up prepared to talk to my OB about how I was feeling when the nurse asked me in the middle of the populated hallway "are you experiencing postpartum depression" right after asking me if my bleeding had stopped, as if it was just one more thing on the checklist and I would have no problem not only knowing if "yes I have diagnosed myself with a mental illness" but announcing it to every other person sitting in the hallway.  Needless to say, I shut down and never brought it up.  

So what to do if your doctor is no help?  My second suggestion is to talk to your significant other, family, and/or close friends about the emotions you are experiencing.  Again, happy or sad.  Even better, talk to them now (if you're still pregnant) about signs you might want them to look for and how they can best help you if they are worried about you.  You're in a better place now to make this decision than when you're a new mom and someone is telling you, "hey, you should see a counselor" instead they can say, "hey, remember when we talked about this before?  Maybe we can go together and just get everything checked out."  They will be an excellent objective gauge of your normal.  I think this is what got me through my stage.  Hubskie knew something wasn't right and, more importantly, knew that I was not going to ask for help.  So he called on our troops and they came a running.  I think there was maybe one day a week where I didn't have someone come by to spend time with Zilla and me.  And slow day by slow day and long month by long month we got through it.  Looking back, I 100% believe I should have talked with a professional because there were a lot of lingering issues I dealt with up until about 9 months.  And even writing this post now there's a tear drop or two that will fall every now and then.  

If the idea of talking to those close to you makes you squirm or you are simply feeling alone, reach out to a counselor or even to me!  I'm happy to hold another mom's hand, even if it's virtually, as you get the help that is available.  

I think more than anything what I want whoever is reading this and crying or sighing with the relief of camaraderie, is to know that PPD does not mean you love your son or daughter any less.  This was always my fear and so I always felt I had to prove otherwise.  But even when I wasn't happy I was so in love.  I know this because I never ceased to try breastfeeding when it was hard, never stopped swaddle/sush/sway/sucking instead of letting him cry it out, never stopped waking up at 2 am to feed him again, never stopped reveling in those moments where he smiled (and I smiled!) and never stopped trying.  You'll find your "never stopped" too.  You'll experience those authentic moments of joy and love for your baby that no one could ever understand.  They may be different than mine,  but just find it and hold onto it.  Even if it's as simple as you never stopped breathing.  Good for you, you made it another day, now give someone a call. Because I do not doubt that you love your child as much as the mom who breastfeeds while leading the yoga group in the park and neither should you. You are a great mom! 

Here's the article (also this website is full of resources) I read that sparked me wanting to write about this.  When I read it, it was the first time I truly felt I was not alone in the experiences I had. 
And here's mine, taken on Mother's Day

“When this picture was taken I was experiencing postpartum depression. You can’t tell by looking, but I spent most of my first mother's day looking for places to be alone so that I could cry and trying to will myself to put on a smile for a few more hours.” 

Know that it will lift, especially with self care and possibly treatment.  Know that it will not ruin your relationship with your child.  Zilla and I are besties these days and there's no looking back!