I waited for the gush of joy, and I felt blank.
January 28, 2014 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Not just postpartum depression but intrusive thoughts about children can by absolutely fucking terrifying. Being a parent can be terrifying at the best of times but the psychological stuff that can manifest is just devastating. It amazes me how we ever made it as a species at times.
posted by Talez at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

And I said, “I don’t know. I’m dying,” before bursting into tears. I needed help.

He said, “I can’t help you. I’m not coming home for a year.”

Wow. There are a number of acceptable responses to that kind of plea, but I wouldn't say that's one of them.
posted by Valued Customer at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2014 [23 favorites]

Part of the problem is how hard it is for other people to recognize, refrain from shaming and blaming while actually trying to help a woman who has what is, after all, a not very unusual problem.
posted by Anitanola at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't understand the bit about the husband. It's a little cryptic.
posted by amro at 6:44 PM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

And any receptionist or clinician who doesn't know what post-partum depression is (really???) should not be in that position. Unacceptable. People die.
posted by Madamina at 6:47 PM on January 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

amro: Yes, I couldn't tell if it meant he was deployed in the Foreign Legion or if they were separating.
posted by steinsaltz at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2014

I wish that the end - the part where she got help - weren't so vague, but the takeaway which gibes with my own experiences of garden-variety depression is: friends are invaluable. Friends who have been in the hole and know the way out first and foremost, to be sure, but any friends will do in a pinch, as long as they can assure you that they're not going anywhere.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:51 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

After birthing one of her six children, in the sixties, my mother was wheeled on a gurney into an empty hallway and left parked there alone for hours without having held her baby, and suffering from PPD.

She said it was the worst thing that ever happened to her. Worse than the cancer, worse than the stroke.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:56 PM on January 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

While the problem is real I find this blog post to be annoyingly vague and cryptic. I, a single, childless, unmarried woman, don't feel like I have any better understanding than before I read it. It's all a little underwhelming.
posted by Aranquis at 7:07 PM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Being a parent can be terrifying at the best of times

I mean, no, not really. Terrifying at the *worst* of times? Sure. But definitely not the best of times.

As a man I guess I'm immune to postpartum depression but I've been through a lot with a pregnancy and a small child and I can tell you that sometimes things can be extremely overwhelming, and sometimes you just want to run away.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:17 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a man I guess I'm immune to postpartum depression

posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:20 PM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I mean, no, not really. Terrifying at the *worst* of times? Sure. But definitely not the best of times.

Maybe not for you, but that's a perfectly valid way to feel for lots and lots of parents. Hell, my Monsters are 22 and 18 and it's still occasionally terrifying, even when it's a happy situation. High school graduations, new jobs, serious steps in their relationships, Elder Monster is looking to move out...terrifying.

When Elder Monster moved temporarily out of town to take a resort job a few years ago, I was absolutely delighted for him...and a solid wreck for the whole three months he was gone.
posted by MissySedai at 7:26 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah; the husband thing is weird and vague. So weird that maybe it's just her being an unreliable narrator because of the PPD?

Or maybe that's just me hoping that the husband isn't an asshole.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:42 PM on January 28, 2014

I mean, no, not really. Terrifying at the *worst* of times? Sure. But definitely not the best of times.

My kid's eleven now. The postpartum depression passed. The terror, frankly, has yet to.

I feel like the psychological stresses of parenthood as a whole are frequently dismissed or not discussed. Postpartum depression is a big deal, deservedly so, and is (relatively) openly acknowledged. The stresses on your body, mental health, and sense of self seem to be shameful things that we don't talk about.
posted by MeghanC at 7:43 PM on January 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Jesus christ, that story is terrifying. Kids are in the near future for my wife and I, and every day I am just so fucking glad that I grew up in a household where mood disorders (and other topics relating to psychological wellbeing) were talked about openly and treated with the same weight and seriousness as physical illness. Between that and having to conquer my own mood issues, at the very least I have some confidence in my ability to hopefully ask the right questions and spot the telltale signs.

But just, holy shit, knowing intellectually and emotionally how insidious capital-D Depression is in its ability to rationalize itself as a "bad mood" or something that will just pass by itself (y'know, maybe, and with no respite from the suffering whether it does or doesn't) it's hard to shake the feeling that we're both looking at a draft card and hoping the number doesn't come up.
posted by griphus at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm also pretty horrified by the husband and wish someone could clear it up.
posted by discopolo at 8:32 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have no special knowledge there but my understanding from the reading was that it was a combination of both job travel requirements and intentionally unreliable narrator stuff.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:37 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

and it's still occasionally terrifying

I guess what I meant was, that it's not a case of, "even in the best case, it's still terrifying". Sure, sometimes you can be happy and terrified, but I don't know any parents who think that's it's just perpetually terrifying, moment to moment, every day since they've had a kid.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:40 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, in the comments the writer makes it pretty clear her husband pretty much abandoned her when she needed him.

I'm guessing it's not uncommon for some husbands to just not have the skills or empathy or care or whatever it is to help, I guess.

But thank God for girlfriends. I went through a pretty difficult breakup recovery last year around this time and had it not been for the love, care, and help of my best girlfriends, I wouldn't have recovered as well all on my own.

What a dangerous nightmare it would have been if she had not had her friends there. That husband seemed to have close himself off. I'm not sure I could ever forgive that, but I'm not a particularly forgiving person when I legitimately feel wronged.
posted by discopolo at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2014

What a dangerous nightmare it would have been if she had not had her friends there. That husband seemed to have close himself off. I'm not sure I could ever forgive that, but I'm not a particularly forgiving person when I legitimately feel wronged.

I hear ya.

My husband was raised in an environment where you just did not talk about mental issues. Ever. So he wasn't a lot of help when I started to seek treatment for what was eventually diagnosed as chronic MDD. He was very worried about stigma, and didn't want me to tell anyone that I was ill. BUT! For all of that, he didn't run out on me. (That would have led instantly to divorce court, I'll tell you what.) He just whined a lot, and left my friends to do the hard work of getting me through everything.

Honestly, I probably would have died without them there to encourage me. There were a lot of days were ODing on painkillers sounded great. The husband, in the in-between, has gotten on board not only with my treatment, but also with my refusal to hide my illness.
posted by MissySedai at 8:54 PM on January 28, 2014

Oh, in the comments the writer makes it pretty clear her husband pretty much abandoned her when she needed him.

I didn't get that from the comments. I got the impression that she just didn't want to share the specifics about her husband, probably to protect his privacy. Unfortunately all that talking around what her husband did kind of muddies up her point.
posted by sockermom at 9:34 PM on January 28, 2014

Without completely derailing - reading about her husband made me think he is military. For example, my husband who is in the Army has been away for 12 month deployments; this year between travel for work and deployment he is away for 10 months. Now, if you have a serious health problem the military of most countries will do what it can to get you back home to help out the family member with issues, but if she was yet to be diagnosed etc. it would not just be him blowing her off because he is awful but a 'I know you are having a hard time, but we both know that I am not home for 12 months so how are we going to deal with this?' type thing.

Or I could be completely wrong.

Like others, I found this a really vague and not very insightful article about PPD. Call me a cynic, but PPD is actually quite well known and acknowledged in a lot of places, is talked about a lot (even when I had my son 9 years ago in Australia the midwife and community health service were advising me of the signs and how to get help if I needed it, both before and after I had my child) and this is not really bringing something new or particularly 'brave' to the table. I feel for her - motherhood can be incredibly hard in the best of situations, depression is awful - but this article doesn't add much to the discussion. It is like the slew of 'motherhood is hard' pieces that started about 15 years ago that left many women going 'well, we all know that, what is your point?' As MeghanC alludes to above, there is a huge trove of writing about new motherhood, about how scary it is having a new baby, but there seems to be little writing about the ongoing stresses of parenting - that period when you should be over the new 'frazzleness' of dealing with sleepless nights and before the supposed terrors of dealing with a teenager - seems to be a big blank, when really it has its attendant terrors, fears and flat out mental anguish as well.
posted by Megami at 10:23 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

We experienced this after the birth of our second son. On top of that, we had to deal with a blockheaded, nosey public health nurse (arranged by the health authority to come into our home for the first few weeks after birth) who kept trying to maneuver my wife into a "one-on-one" meeting, out of earshot from me. I was terrified that this idiot of a nurse would set child protection services on us. Luckily the post partum episode passed, but it was very harrowing, and I do feel for the families that have to experience this together.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 PM on January 28, 2014

I work with a lot of people who, in order to keep their jobs, fly to another city on Monday mornings and fly back Friday nights, week after week. Heck, I'm in a hotel room right now as I write this, doing that schedule every other week. Sometimes people end up shipping out for months or longer overseas -- when I knew I had kids on the way, I jumped through major hoops to get flown back to the US after a three week overseas trip that was supposed to be extended indefinitely (and I quit the job after, specifically to be with my family.)

So I can see this happening for legitimate reasons, especially if only one parent is working, money is tight and local-only jobs are few (or in an H1-B situation.) I can also see a husband not wanting to be involved, so not trying to get out of those assignments...or even actively asking for them.

I would imagine, however, that if you have PPD, it really doesn't matter why, just that you're abandoned through no fault of your own, and that's a valid feeling no matter the cause of your partner not being there.
posted by davejay at 11:17 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been the asshole, but not before trying the best I could at 24 and still too ignorant to know how, really, to be a loving, helpful partner. Postpartum depression is...difficult, serious business, especially when trying for years, despite at the time dealing with grinding poverty, to get the person you love the help they need in a state that could give nary a crap about a mothers mental health.

After a couple of years of failing to be able to help fix it, I wore out and became the asshole.

I can't imagine how hard it must be to feel the need (constructed and biological) to be "the caregiver" yet also have to fight an internal darkness working overtime to drill their sense of self into a meaningless hole. The resentments, the anger, the sadness, rage. The fights. It's all too much to bear, really.

What I went through watching it happen has driven me to suicidal thoughts. I still can't imagine living inside of it, though I've spent more than a decade dealing with PPD and the fallout that comes from poorly treated PPD.

I feel for this woman. I've been that asshole. PPD is very real. Every woman suffering from it deserves help. Real, meaningful, trained for it, help.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:20 AM on January 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

This read to me more like a poem. This is her story about her PPD, written completely from her perspective with her emotions etched into every word. She's not being dispassionate here. I found it incredibly moving and deeply sad. Thanks for posting.
posted by h00py at 5:08 AM on January 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

At the worst of my PPD, my internal image of myself was a someone crouched down on a bare mountaintop, fingers dug into the rocks, wind and rain blowing, and praying I didn't fall off into the infinite black pit below. Suicidal thoughts were constant, and actually something I used to reassure myself; if it got too much for me, I could always find a way to die.

It was worse than anything I'd ever felt, mentally, worse than when my father died when I was 20. And it was incredibly isolating; my friends were all far away, I had no women around who could or would support me and my spouse was completely overwhelmed.

It was exacerbated by truly abusive treatment I'd received during my son's birth (part of it not dissimilar to what StickyCarpet's mom went through), and complications after that piled a lot of trauma on top of the hormonal upset. It also made me slow to seek help; the same people who'd run me through the meat grinder were the ones who offered me antidepressants, and I didn't trust them. It was a couple of years before I really got the help I needed.
posted by emjaybee at 9:31 AM on January 29, 2014

Ugh. The husband thing. I'm suffering from S.A.D. right now and my boyfriend has been completely wonderful (he also suffers from it too, so there's that). He hasn't ever made me feel like the crazy girlfriend.

Yeah. I'm really upset about the husband thing too, although I think it was a wonderfully written piece. Depression is so rough and I can't imagine going through it with a small precious human to take care of.
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:33 PM on January 29, 2014

I'm a post-partum depression/anxiety survivor. When she said it could last 2 years, yep, for me it did. That was because until the crippling depression hit, I/my husband/my doc had zero clue I was experiencing severe anxiety/OCD paranoia "omg my child is going to die." I was seriously talking with "someone" (angel, god, someone...who knows) anytime I was alone and seriously crying and pleading not to have my son die (he was born apgar 1 and had RSV at 6 weeks so those 2 incidences of emergencies w/ breathing didn't help anything). I slept on the wood floor in his room anytime he was sick. When he was well, I still did it. I wasn't eating for days beyond water and maybe one cracker. I wasn't sleeping for 4 days in a row--obsessing over cleanliness and making sure things got done and he was safe. He didn't sleep much and when he got his RSV and was sleeping so long the day before we took him to the ER, I thought it was finally the hump where babies sleep a lot. When I found out how sick he was, I immediately blammed myself that I could have "killed" our son by ignoring him--which flipped the switch to paranoia that he was going to die and I had to be with him making sure he was breathing every second.

The fighting with my husband was so intense, daily I was screaming about wanting a divorce. The stress got to him too so the screaming got bad with the both of us. Not a good environment for our son, which in turned, set the snowball of I needed to escape. I saw 4 lawyers---researched divorce and custody, went to extremes on finding everything possible on how to get full custody.

Then the anxiety after a year started to dip into depression. I watched our son on the floor playing and incredible guilt came over me because I didn't want to really interact with him. I knew I felt horrible and I didn't want him to see me like this. I didn't want him to know I was "crazy". So that snowballed into further depression.

All the while, I went to work daily, got up at 5, had some serious mystery physical side effects (unexplained dizziness, heart racing, hair falling out, etc).

The day I knew I needed help was when I took my son to the zoo by myself (after our marriage was suffering, my husband too never came home. It was literally I came home from work, he left. Weekends, he was gone. To this day I have no clue where he went).

I was at the zoo and walking him in the stroller. I realized I should be happy. It was a perfect day and all I could feel was incredible regret, sadness and suicide. I knew this was wrong. I should be happy for a beautiful day with my BABY. And I feel nothing but awful hopelessness. This was wrong.

I went home, told my husband, cried, and he said "just please try to see a therapist with me (marriage) and if it doesn't work out, then we can divorce. But try."

So we did. About 4 weeks worth of visits, I admitted that I needed to try some meds.

I'm on year 3.5 with my Prozac. It was a life saver. I love my son beyond words and enjoy everything about him. Our marriage is back on track. I'm not saying pills were the end all be all but I also had about 20-something years of severe depression prior to pregancy. Docs knew it. Never thought once that I would be high risk.

And due to all of that (on top of a few other reasons), we stuck with having only one son. I figured he was perfect and we went through hell. I wasn't about to go through with it again and have him older and more aware, see me break down. Nor did another child deserve it. But also, I didn't deserve it. I missed out totally on enjoying my son's infancy and it's sad. I will never get 2 years back to enjoy anything. But, I enjoy him now. And that's what matters.

I'm glad she got better. I don't wish it on anyone--post partum or those in a relationship. Depression sucks the big one.
posted by stormpooper at 6:43 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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