For January's Pulsate Olympics.
I suppose the feeling of abandonment started in the labor room, when Kerwin left me to go talk on the phone as the Stadol wore off. It continued as he slept soundly for eight hours, snoring away on the little cot in my postpartum room, as I attempted to cope with being sliced open from hip to hip and having a new little person to take care of besides. I couldn’t get up from the bed, and the nurses shook their fingers at me and said “Don’t you fall asleep with the baby in your bed!!!!” so I was up until 2 AM, hopped up on morphine with my beautiful new baby, who I couldn’t stop kissing and smelling and trying to get latched on properly, while I tried in vain to call to Kerwin to wake him up to put Freyja in her plastic bassinet, and the one response I got was, “Leave me alone, I’m sleeping. I was up early.”
Really? I was up at the same time, and I had major surgery plus 12 hours of labor today. But you sleep, honey. You just go for it.
I finally had to call the nurses to come and get Freyja at about 2 AM, said I needed a little sleep, but please bring her back when she woke so I could feed her. They came back at 4 AM with a little bottle of soy formula and one of those supplemental nursers, the one that you have to tape above your nipple. She told me, “Your milk hasn’t come in yet. Your baby is hungry. You have to give her this formula. You just fed her two hours ago and she’s hungry again, you’re not making enough milk.”
Everything, EVERYTHING in my brain was screaming that this was wrong, I wasn’t supposed to have milk yet, just colostrum. Breastfed babies need to eat about every 1 and a half to two hours, this is normal. However, my baby was crying louder than my brain could handle, so I let them tape the little tube to my breast and let her eat the nasty soy formula (never to this day do I understand why it was soy formula). They took her away again.
I was awoken again at 6 AM by the family practice doctor that was on call for Freyja’s doctor. He was nice and smiling, said I had a perfect baby and that her regular doctor would come to see her on Monday before we were discharged. I fell back asleep and the baby was back at 8 AM, with the young morning nurse who had GIVEN HER A BOTTLE OF FORMULA without my permission. I just nodded numbly, I didn’t even know what to say to that. Getting mad was no use, I had no backup from my snoring husband.
I had visitors intermittently the rest of the three days I spent in the hospital. Kerwin, however, went right back to work on Sunday morning. He came on Sunday night for a couple of hours, then went home to “clean”. He also worked Monday (when the hospital records woman came in and was beastly to me and caused me to cry profusely, refusing to believe that I was married because my last name was different from ‘the baby’s father’) and went his first day of college classes in the new semester on Monday night as well. Thankfully, his instructor told him to go be with his wife and new baby instead of spending 3 hours in class. I didn’t even get any flowers.
When we came home on Monday night, there were dishes and laundry everywhere.
Want to guess who ended up doing all those dishes and laundry 4 days after major abdominal surgery while trying to not become sleep deprived, shower every day, and take care of a newborn (who, thankfully, was VERY mellow)? Yeah. That’d be me, because he was right back to work (regular FT job plus being editor of the college newspaper which caused more than a few incredibly late nights) and college classes. I don’t know if it’s even fair to blame him for abandoning me. We were pretty broke and needed the money, but I also needed the support that I never got. All of my family lives within a 20 mile radius, and nobody called to offer to come and sit with Freyja so I could sleep, or help me with housework, or just come and visit to keep me from going batshit crazy. Nobody called at all, except my folks. Granted, my folks both work full time as well, and my mom took a week of vacation over my due date, which was two weeks too early.
The crazy thoughts started coming about two days after we got home. I kept telling myself that it was normal to want to put Freyja in her carseat, strap her in, and leave her out by the road for somebody else to come and take care of. After all, I was having no trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much, and that was the major harbinger of PPD according to the books, magazines, and websites. I didn’t have time to be crazy, I had too much to do being a new mom with an absentee husband. I was neurotic in checking on her to make sure she was still breathing, feeling incredibly guilty that I wished she just didn’t exist.
I tried to make up for the thoughts by cuddling her and singing to her, and loving on her all the time. I wanted so desperately to feel that “bonding” that all the books talked about. I really wanted to feel differently, and I knew what I was feeling wasn’t right, but I had no words to ask for help, nor did I feel that I would be worth my salt as a mother if I did. At least I had a husband who did what he could when he was home. Lots of single moms did all of this on their own, and no complaining. What right did I have to complain, or to ask for help, or to admit that I was really having a hard time?
Thankfully, my physical recovery from the caesarean birth was textbook. I took it easy as much as I could, I slept when Freyja slept except her morning nap, which I used to shower (to prove to myself I wasn’t crazy, I showered daily and was meticulous about my appearance and clothing) and hop online to get some form of socialization.
I still don’t know how I got through those first few months, much less the first six weeks. I lied on the PHQ at my six week postpartum appointment. I didn’t want to admit that I was weak. I didn’t want them to call CPS and have Freyja taken from me because of my horrible thoughts. I didn’t want to go to the psych ward. The fear of those interventions was crippling, and so I couldn’t admit my problems and concerns.
I am terrified to have another baby, because I hear that PPD gets worse. My words to Kerwin on the subject the other night were, “I’m scared to turn into Andrea Yates”.
I still think that I’m a terrible mother for thinking what I did when Freyja was so tiny. When people comment on how wonderful she is, or how smart, or how pretty, I feel guilty, because I couldn’t see how wonderful she was when she was a newborn because my brain doesn’t function properly. I hope that someday I can get past it.