baby blues

If you’ve read Andrew’s birth story, you know that I was a little more nervous throughout my entire third pregnancy than I was in previous pregnancies.  I think that a lot of my nerves perhaps stemmed from my difficult experience with No. 2 post pregnancy.  Her pregnancy and birth were, by all means, textbook and without complication {read Caitlyn’s birth story}.  Easy conception, born one day late, four hours of labor, natural birth, born big and healthy…I really couldn’t have asked for more.  It is what happened after she was born that wasn’t quite so picture perfect.  

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Caitlyn was born in March of 2010.  That year there was great concern in our area of the “swine flu” spreading.  For that reason, children under the age of 16 were not allowed in the hospital to visit.  At all.  For any reason.  While I knew this fact going into delivery, I wasn’t completely mentally prepared to be cut off completely from my firstborn {who was almost five years old at this point}.  The birth of her sister was the biggest thing that had ever happened to her, and she didn’t get to experience any part of it.  I remember sitting in my hospital bed the morning after No. 2 was born.  I was holding her, staring into her angelic sleeping face.  Daddy had gone to take a shower, there were no nurses or doctors around, and I had no visitors.  Without warning, tears were streaming down my face.  I can feel the intensity of my emotions like they were yesterday.  I SO wanted Samantha to be there.  I could picture her climbing on the bed to plant a kiss on her sister’s cheek.  I felt like I was being robbed of those moments.  I felt anger toward the hospital and sadness for myself, that I couldn’t be with both of my girls.  I even planned it all out in my head {irrational, emotional, hormonal thinking}…  Samantha is tiny.  She’ll fit in an overnight bag.  Eric can just bring it to me and we’ll sneak her out for a quick visit.  The hospital kept Caitlyn and me a day longer than they normally would have because they couldn’t get all of the screenings done and the paperwork together on a Sunday {the day I should have been released}.  I remember the anger.  I was furious with the hospital.  I just wanted to be home, to be with Samantha.  “Just enjoy your time here.  Relax!” they told me.  As if I could possibly relax with nurses buzzing in and out every hour.  Had I been thinking and feeling rationally, this would have been no big deal even though I truthfully feel that the hospital is anything but relaxing.  It did mean a little more alone time with baby No. 2 and I didn’t have to worry about cooking…but I wasn’t thinking rationally.  I was emotional, and tired, and very sad.

When we finally got released from the hospital it was a beautiful, hot March day.  I was so excited to head out and be on our own with little No. 2.  Eric dropped the baby and me off at home {after a brief detour through In-N-Out’s drive through} and then went to pick up Samantha from preschool.  I will never forget the smile and the love that poured from Samantha as she walked in the front door and saw Caitlyn for the first time {It’s a love that I see grow more and more as the years go on, for although the girls are five years apart, they are inseparable and absolutely love one another}.IMG_0751aIMG_0759a As Samantha gazed down at her new baby sister I studied Samantha’s face.  The little girl, who not three days before, had been my baby.  My tiny little preschooler.  She suddenly seemed SO big.  Her eyes were big.  Even her cute little nose seemed so big.  I wasn’t prepared for that.  I can’t really describe it, but it was just so completely strange to see my baby as such a big girl.  In a way I felt like I no longer knew her in the same way.  I loved watching her with her little sister, but I didn’t like feeling like she wasn’t my baby any longer.  I was not prepared for those emotions, and again I felt sad.

From there, things got harder for me.

I was not prepared to share my time and attention with my two girls.  Yes, prior to Caitlyn’s birth I thought I was prepared.  I read about introducing a second sibling.  I talked to Samantha about it.  We read books together about it.  We prayed for her new little sister throughout the pregnancy.  Honestly though, no matter what I did, I don’t think anything in the world could have prepared me for the emotions I felt after Caitlyn’s birth.  After Caitlyn was born, I had one week with my husband home.  Caitlyn slept a lot.  Samantha spent mornings at preschool, and then we would spend afternoons as a family.  Eric made meals, and I felt like I was starting to adjust to life as a family of four.  After that week, though, I felt like my world crashed in around me.  Samantha started Easter Break.  My mom {a great emotional support for me} went out of town.  Eric went back to work and soon after, out of town.  Even surrounded by my two beautiful daughters I felt so completely alone I cannot even begin to tell you.  I felt alone.  Alone and guilty.  I remember the guilt I felt that whole week.  Guilt that I wasn’t spending enough time with No. 1.  Guilt that I should be up doing more instead of wanting to sit down and rest.  Lots and lots of guilt.  I was used to spending every bit of free time with Samantha and now she had to split that time with Caitlyn.  I was not prepared for how sad that made me.  Samantha started doing sneaky things while I was feeding Caitlyn each day, and I felt worse.  I felt like it was my fault.  I felt badly for not giving Samantha the time I thought she deserved.

And then Caitlyn started to cry and it all got even worse.  When I say cry, I don’t mean it like she cried because she was hungry or because she was tired or because she was wet.  She cried for no reason at all.  No colic.  No upset stomach.  She would just cry.  All the time.  Inconsolably.  And so, I did all I could do to cope.  I cried too.  A lot.  All the time.  Sometimes it was silent tears streaming down my face.  Sometimes it was huge sobs.  Sometimes I was holding my precious new baby gazing into her face and my tears would land on her perfect little cheeks.  Sometimes I would have to lay her in her crib to scream for ten minutes while I went and took a hot shower.  And cried.  Walks usually make me feel better.  I would take Caitlyn out on walks.  She would scream the whole way.  I would put her in her infant carrier and swing it back and forth, back and forth.  My back would ache and my arms would ache, but I didn’t care if it meant 10 minutes of silence.  It was awful.  Often at night the only way we could get her to sleep was to strap her in her car seat and drive her around for an hour.  Many times I remember thinking that I would have kept driving all night if it meant no more crying.

I hardly had any visitors.  When you have your first baby, people assume you have no idea what you’re doing {and let’s be honest, you really have NO idea!}, and they show up with gifts and meals, help and support.  By the time No. 2 rolls around, however, people assume you’re an old pro.  I guess I was, although it HAD been five years, so I did feel very rusty!  I had no meals brought in.  No afternoon guests to break up the long days at home.  I felt very alone.  It didn’t help that none of my friends had kids.  I felt like no one really got me, or understood my place in life.  I felt like I had no one to talk to.  I felt like I would be judged instead of understood.  Even when I knew someone was coming over to visit, I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy their company.  I worried constantly that Caitlyn would cry.  Why?  I don’t know.  I was hormonal and emotional, and right in the middle of the baby blues.

Once I realized what I must be going through, I researched and researched baby blues and postpartum depression.  While I never had any negative feelings about either of my kids and I never wished I would have had only one child, I knew I was sad all the time and that no matter what I did I couldn’t stop crying.  Despite my feelings of sadness and hopelessness, I loved both girls with all my heart.  They were the bright spots in my day {yes, even my crying Caitlyn}.  My husband was wonderful, and helpful, and loving.  Even then, I couldn’t help counting the days, wishing Caitlyn would get older so things would get better, feel more normal.  I worried that my feelings of sadness wouldn’t go away.  That I was depressed.  That this cycle of being alone, and the crying, and the hopelessness, and the guilt would never, ever end.

And then they did.  Completely.  Suddenly.  Out of no where.  One day, about four weeks in, I realized that I hadn’t cried that day.  That I didn’t feel the need to cry.  That I was, in fact, happy.  I was exhausted, yes.  Caitlyn still screamed all the time, I was still figuring out how to get two kids ready and out of the house on time, and did I mention that I still wished Caitlyn would stop screaming and just TAKE A NAP {which she didn’t do consistently or well until she was over 6 months old!!!}, but I was okay.  I was me again.  I didn’t cry anymore {except at Samantha’s preschool graduation…what a sap!}.  I didn’t feel guilty.  That phrase, it’s the quality of the time you spend with your children, not the quantity took on a new meaning to me.  Maybe it helped that Caitlyn stopped screaming on walks and I could actually get out of the house.  Maybe it just took that long for my hormones to balance out.  Maybe my body and emotions were just in shock after only having one child for a full five years.  Maybe I finally just built up enough courage to go out and do things and not worry if I had a crying baby with me.  I don’t know.  All I know is that when, sometime after Caitlyn was born, I read Brooke Shield’s book, Down Came the Rain, I felt completely thankful.  Thankful that it didn’t get that bad for me.  Thankful that there is someone out there letting women know about postpartum depression.  While I only struggled with the blues, and not full postpartum depression, let me tell you: It’s a really scary thing.  You can’t control it.  No matter how much you want the feelings to go away, they just don’t.

So yes, I feel like my nerves throughout pregnancy No. 3 were justified.  Were they necessary?  Not at all.  Because of what I went though, I was prepared for the intense emotions after Andrew’s birth.  Amazingly, I never felt guilt after he was born.  I felt peace and joy and love.  The girls got to visit him in the hospital the day he was born and I just felt joy.  I didn’t feel like the girls were too big or that I wouldn’t have time for them.  I felt happy.  As we came home, I felt like I was able to balance all three kids and spend time with them in ways that fit their different ages.  I included the girls in all of my baby routines {diapering, feeding, bathing…}.  I didn’t feel hassled when I had to get three kids ready and out the door.  It didn’t feel like a chore.  I was, and still am, happy to do it.  For me, adding a third was…and I hate to say it, because honestly, nothing with kids is easy, you just adjust and get used to your new life and your new normal, but I’ll say it anyway… it was easy.  It was fun.  It was full of joy.  It was happy.

I can now look back on the month after Caitlyn was born and feel thankful for it.  It allowed me to appreciate every single moment of my post-pregnancy life with Andrew even more than I ever thought possible.  In some strange way it also  made me feel extremely close to Caitlyn…like we went through hell together and survived and we’re the only ones in the whole world who really know what it felt like.  It’s crazy.  I look back at the pictures from that first month with Caitlyn and I look so happy.

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It is amazingly scary how personal and how deep inside the feelings of sadness can be in a mom going through baby blues or postpartum depression.  I am so thankful I made it through quickly and really got to enjoy the time with Caitlyn when she was so tiny.  As much as I wanted time to pass in those early weeks, time really does go by way too quickly!

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