Winter of discontent

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It happened about 3:00 every day that winter…well, after we brought the baby home. Just as the winter light shifted directions from midday to midafternoon, the panic set in. When the sun crested the top of the sky, my mood peaked as well, and as the day faded, my hope did as well. It was the winter of my discontent…the winter of my postpartum depression.

It’s been five years ago…right now my darling daughter is asleep on the couch, worn out from playing in the snow today. But as the sun made it’s same transition today, I was taken back to that dark, hopeless time of my life.

She was a tough little baby, sensitive stomach, acid reflux, RSV and hospitalized at 7 weeks. And there was her two and a half year old brother who needed attention and affirmation as well. And there was the snow…so much snow for our mid-Atlantic region. 14″ the night she was born, five more snowstorms before spring arrived. It was a long, lonely, frightening time.

I couldn’t sleep when she slept because my nerves were so jacked up. I couldn’t eat to produce milk for her because I had no appetite. I knew I was supposed to hold her, love her, caress her, but it was all so superficial. I didn’t feel anything but the anxiety. My skin tingled, my hands shook, my weak arms trembled. Everything was too much.

I loved my son. I loved my husband. We had finally found our groove of life. My teaching job was challenging, but it was fulfilling. And then it all came to a screeching halt when the baby came. No more routine. No more plans. No more life-as-usual. Everything was new and hard and painful and stressed. I worried that she didn’t eat enough because I couldn’t produce enough milk for her. When she did eat well, she gave it all back to me like a volcano. Unlike my son’s infancy, this one was ‘hands on’…she wanted to be held, while I stood up, not rocked or swung. There was no break. I just wanted a break. I wanted normalcy to return. I wanted the sun to shine, my son to run free outside, my daughter to be happy, and me to stop shaking.

I had a friend who had been through PPD, whose assistance I sought after my son was born. She called her doctor and got me an appointment ASAP. I got on meds, I talked it out. I talked to the nurses in the hospital when D was admitted with RSV. They brought comfort, especially one respiratory therapist who admitted that, even with her three children, she ‘never liked the baby stage’. Wow! Talk about a light turning on! The open admission that a MOM didn’t like the baby stage. I just listened while she explained how she felt, and my heart began to melt. Spring began to arrive to my cold spirit.

It’s real…postpartum depression is so real. It’s a horrible cloud that blocks the joy of the infant months. But there is help. Praise God, there is help. I prayed, I read the Bible, I had prayer warriors praying for me…but it was the meds and the therapy and the talking to people who had been there that really helped. I wouldn’t have hurt myself or the kids, but I don’t know how long I would have dragged myself through that gloom if I hadn’t had intervention.

If you or someone you love is having baby blues, talk to them. Ask if they want help from experts. I regret the loss of joy during those months with both of my children. But I will never regret the steps that I took to repossess my own life so I could enjoy what came next.

I still notice that time of day when the winter sun shifts its direction through my kitchen windows. It brings a pang of sadness to me when I recall the shivering, panicky mess I was. But, I heat some water, make some tea, and thank God for the rays of sunlight he brought to my path during that time, and I vow to make the most of each day I have now.

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