Media is a bitch! Yes. This is how I open my “Happy 5th Birthday” Mommyblog-ish post. Media is a bitch!
When you get pregnant there is an influx of expectations that are suddenly thrust at you. There are supposed things mothers are supposed to do and supposed to feel. Suppose if a woman didn’t feel and do those things? Well, if she listened or put any stock in what media and hoards of women say, she’d burst on the scene of motherhood already feeling like that “not good enough mother.” I’ve written before about the relationship I had with my pregnancy with Isaiah. We were at war, my body and I. Isaiah was an unexpected pregnancy after years of being told I was infertile. I was in the middle of making my life awesome (so I thought) and KA-BLAM! it was a boy. Upon preparing for Isaiah’s arrival I felt deeply deeply ashamed of the kind of mother I already was. I spent the first two trimesters faking my way through happy, because once a woman is pregnant she is supposed to be happy- of course. I felt depressed, overwhelmed, unprepared, unsupported, and confused. I bought in to what the books said, what other people said, and what the damaging inner voices whispered.
After Isaiah was born I was severely depressed. I was a whiz at breastfeeding, but my lack of education about breastfeeding and lack of support meant trying to figure out my colicky baby alone. Garrett was clueless and I was angry. I was great in school, but sharp, smart, and talented aren’t always the best arsenal against the breaks of motherhood. Today I’d say empathy, intuition, and an utter trust for your body and its ability are powerful tools of pregnancy and motherhood. Also humility… though I don’t know if I’ll ever master that one.
It wasn’t colic. The poor baby was getting too much foremilk… I had a supply that could feed a small nation. He screamed and lurked his body. He kicked and whimpered. He wouldn’t sleep unless he was in the Moby wrap. My self-esteem faltered, I was sleep deprived, not eating well, and emotionally bankrupt.
We moved to our current home when Isaiah was 6 months old. The stress of a move, school, abusive friends, and coming to terms with a new body and a new baby took its toll
One night, while Garrett was at work I bathed Isaiah. He screamed and fussed in his normal fashion. He seemed to get overstimulated at the slightest thing. Looking back, today, I see that he was responding more to the anxiety I carried in my body. I sat him on my pillow on the bed wrapped in a towel and sat in front of him. I put lotion on him and cried. I was exhausted, so very tired, and defeated. As I looked his chubby body over, a black spider crawled over his torso. I grabbed Garrett’s pillow and hit him with it. I could feel my hands grip the pillow hard and my heart beat in my chest. I held the pillow down tight. Have you ever had one of those moments where you look at something and then you find that you’ve been staring into space for a second or two. That is how this felt. My hearing came back into focus and I could hear the muffled wails of my son and I looked down to see his feet flailing from underneath the pillow. I quickly took the pillow off him. There was no spider. I started crying harder. I grabbed Isaiah and thrust him into his crib.
I immediately called Garrett. “I need help,” I wailed. Garrett came home immediately.
The next day I went to see a psychiatrist. Over a period of a year I got the help I needed. I made a full recovery, but the diagnosis still lingers.
I had Postpartum Depression with Psychotic features.
And this is why the media sucks. When you say “psychosis” or “psychotic features” people immediately think Norman Bates. They think evil uncontrollable serial killer.
I had a break with reality. I hallucinated a spider and lost control and thankfully, I was able to snap back into reality before I suffocated Isaiah. Having a degree in psychology helped me to understand what had happened… to get help quickly. Because of the media and the “motherhood myth” I still carry shame from having suffered from PPD and Postpartum Psychosis. Instead of understanding that many women face these issues everyday, I have felt (in the past) the need to hide what I experienced. I believed, “good mothers don’t have Postpartum Depression and Psychosis.” People are even more accepting of women who survived Postpartum Depression, but when you say “psychosis” some get a look in their eyes. Maybe it is confusion. Maybe it is fear.
I have survived so much in my life and I am proud to say Isaiah and I survived this together.
Isaiah turns five tomorrow. The years following my episode with PPD, Isaiah and I worked hard to bond. We did bonding exercises, massage, and spent a lot of time re-learning each other. Isaiah taught me that humans are so resilient. We are capable of coming back from so many difficult things. I wondered if I’d ever love Isaiah like a mother is supposed to love a child. It turns out… he showed me how to love him just the way he needed. Today he is my emo kid. He is deeply intuitive, expressive, and SO funny.
Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet boy! Look at how much he has grown!