Almost 30 years ago I suffered….no, that is not the right word…I was PARALYZED by postpartum depression. It completely engulfed me and I had no clue what was happening until it was almost too late. By the time I figured it out I was so depressed that it took months of therapy and bottles of antidepressants to make me feel whole again. I will never forget how I felt and how confused I was at the time. I was supposed to be on top of the world, instead I was struggling with demons I did not even know existed. The broken window was my catalyst to get help. This is my story….If you are going through anything remotely similar, the most important things to remember is that you are not alone and help is available.
Note: The text does contain some profanity.
The book was flying from my hand before I realized that I had picked it up. The large window – original to our cute but tiny, starter home – reacted with the force. The interior panel resembled cracked ice – the layers and layers of paint like glue keeping it from falling apart entirely and sprinkling the carpet with glass.
I was nauseated.
I was scared.
Nothing I could dream up could sufficiently explain away a broken window.
I tripped? Hardly.
A bird hit the window? Not likely.
Relief washes over me.
I am crazy. Am I crazy?
Is that a question?
No….the broken window has to be a big clue that something is wrong with me. Right?
I begin to cry and only then realize I’m not alone.
Her little tear-stained face was red, and she looks confused. Standing in her crib, wee hands clinging to the railing, her oversized cloth diaper drooping – obviously saturated.
Stupid cloth diaper. How many times had I poked myself with a pin while trying to wrestle this square wad of cotton flannelette into something resembling a diaper? What was I trying to prove using cloth diapers? A diaper pail in the bathroom does not proclaim, “I am mother earth”.
I can hear her breathing, her worried eyes searching my face for something. Reassurance? Comfort?
Not yet a toddler, but Amy had always been wise beyond her….months?
I was a failure.
I couldn’t satisfy her.
She never slept.
My tears increase, my face scrunching up into a truly “ugly” cry. I am sobbing, shoulders heaving, barely able to catch my breath. I slide down the wall until I am sitting on the floor, knees against my chest. My post baby tummy and breasts sandwiched together – my 5 foot frame make it difficult to wrap my short arms around my knees. I sit awkwardly.
The unbearable sadness that I had been feeling for months was leaking out of every pore like a horrible cheap perfume.
Do you remember the perfume Jean Nate? I hated that perfume.
This paralyzing sadness leaching out of my skin was best described as having “undertones of disappointment with top notes of failure to meet expectations”.
It was difficult to describe what the weight of sadness feels like.
“How do you feel Judy?”
“Funny you should ask! Well…..I feel like I have a suit of heavy armor (steel not aluminum) with a scuba diving weight-belt wrapped around the middle. Every few days or weeks, another weight is added until finally I crumple into a heap”.
“Oh Judy….you exaggerate so!”
I could hardly stand it anymore.
This isn’t living.
It had overtaken me and now everyone is going to find out because I broke the stupid window.
“Why did you throw the book?”
“Because I was pissed off”
“Why were you pissed off?”
“I am always pissed off”.
My textbook version of baby blues had morphed into a black cloud so heavy and thick that I could hardly breathe!
I wanted to tell everyone to FUCK RIGHT OFF but getting angry took more energy than I had.
I was too sad to be angry.
I was completely and utterly empty.
“Judy….you broke the window? How did you break the window? Are you crazy? Who breaks their own fucking window?”
The tears had stopped falling, and my eyes were now red and puffy, my sleeve wet with snot, my face flushed.
The crib squeaked.
Right…..I wasn’t by myself.
I turned my head.
My wise little girl was sitting Buddha-like on her massive soggy diaper, leaning her forehead against the wooden crib slats, staring at me….her breathing steady.
She loves me. She hates me. She needs me.
She is smarter than I am.
She can read my mind.
Maybe she is thinking, “Whatcha doin Mum?”.
No….she is probably wishing “How do I arrange a do-over? I didn’t sign up for this shit”.
I am wishing the same thing.
The sadness had snuck up on me, clinging to me bit by bit, like mold on a wheel of cheese.
I angered easily, had no motivation, couldn’t think, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t lose the baby weight, felt like a failure…..I could go on and on.
My kid WOULD NOT FUCKING sleep either.
Looking at her I whisper, “What do you want from me?”.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to think!
I love her.
I know I do.
I love HER so incredibly much, but this mother thing is really difficult, more difficult than I could ever imagine.
I don’t even have ownership of my brain any longer. My thoughts are crazy thoughts. My dreams are crazy dreams.
I should be happy.
“Judy…..don’t should yourself!”
It makes me giggle. I heard that once, “Don’t should yourself”.
I guess its true.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It rhymes….kind of.
“When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall” Now that is some sick shit.
What kind of brain comes up with stuff like that?
I mean….have you read the lyrics? The goddamn cradle falls! The baby FALLS!
OUT OF A TREE!
How long have I been sitting here?
It is getting dark out.
Shit. The window really IS broken.
Nothing has changed.
Maybe it has?
I feel like something has shifted, something inside me has broke free.
Maybe just a little bit?
Oh Amy…..I sure love you, but holy shit….no one told me it would be this hard.
No one said that my dreams would take me on a journey of vivid, brilliant colours and feelings. Some nights I wake up afraid of what I had seen in the depths of my imagination.
Can you smell a dream?
Some nights I swear my dreams smell horrible.
Is this what it feels like to be dead?
She loves me. She needs me.
Don’t call me crazy. It isn’t kind to use that term.
Deep breaths….deep breaths.
Who am I gonna call? What do I say?
I am hurting?
I lost control?
I broke a fucking window?
Judy! It could have been worse! What if you had…..
Hurt someone. Hurt myself. Hurt her?
I hate MYSELF, but I don’t hate her.
She loves me. She needs me.
Big. Blue. Eyes.
She has the most beautiful blue eyes and she is staring at me right now.
I lean closer.
I can feel her milky baby breath warm upon my face.
What is she thinking?
Does she think in words yet? No…. she thinks in feelings.
Hungry. Happy. Sleepy .
No. For Christ sakes…..never ever sleepy.
What feeling does she have right now?
Pity? Does she pity me?
Okay, let’s think about this. Make a list.
- I need some help
- I must get some help
- I don’t want to feel this way any longer
- I need to tell someone
I look away – staring contest over – Amy wins.
Oh Amy…..how did you get so smart?
You love me and you need me.
I love you and I need you.