Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Grieving

I think I may be depressed.

The daily crying jags were a clue, of course, but at first I chalked that up to late-pregnancy hormones. In the past week I've alternated between feeling really energetic and nest-y (in an anxious sort of way) and feeling horribly weepy and inadequate, which I figured was normal.

But now...now, having survived four months of bedrest (and two months of restricted activity before that), having gotten through one of the saddest, loneliest, most miserable times of my life, now, with the end of it all within my grasp, all I can focus on is grief for what I've lost. Six months of my life, which I know in the grand scheme of things isn't very long, but still--gone. My ability to prepare the kind of home environment I want for my baby--stupid things, like curtains and artwork and a dresser that doesn't make her clothes smell like chemicals and even a chair to sit in while I hold her. My ability to do even the simplest things for myself--laundry, cooking, making the damn bed.

More importantly--my friendships, which in my heart are irreparably damaged by my resentment at how I've felt alone and abandoned this whole time. In the past couple of weeks I've suddenly been getting all kinds of calls and emails asking how I'm doing, how I'm feeling, and all I can think is, "Where the fuck were you two months ago when I was alone and scared out of my mind and needed you? My mental and physical health, which have deteriorated from four months of sitting indoors, unable to cook for myself or exercise or breathe fresh air or look at a goddamned tree or anything other than the same four walls day in and day out. Even my marriage has suffered--I resent my husband for being able to walk out the door, for working long hours and leaving me alone, for being able to enjoy life, for not truly seeming to understand how miserable I am. (He thinks, or hopes, that once the baby is here I will feel so much better. I am terrified that I won't.)

And oh yes, my ability to take joy in my coming baby. Beth wrote about this too. Yesterday I had my apartment cleaned--one last scrubbing before Bat Girl arrives--and the young woman who does our cleaning (a recent luxury, indulged in, of course, because I can't clean myself) said to me, "You must be so excited to be so close to having your baby. I can't even imagine--it must be like the anticipation from the best Christmas and birthday and everything rolled into one." I stared at her blankly and said something like, um, oh, yeah. The truth is, I feel no joyful anticipation. I want this pregnancy to be over, oh god do I want to not be pregnant anymore, but rather than looking forward to having my baby at last, I am filled with fear. I find it impossible to imagine that I will be any good at this. What if I don't love my baby? What if she doesn't love me? How could I possibly be anything other than a spectacular failure at breastfeeding? What if something I did or didn't do during this pregnancy has irreparably damaged her? What if I do something terribly wrong and something happens to her?

This morning, for example, as we were lying in bed, my husband remarked that it had been pretty cold in the apartment the night before, and we might need to get a space heater for the baby's room. My thoughts immediately spiraled into an out-of-control maelstrom of anxieties--but what if the room overheated and she died of SIDS? on the other hand, what if she got too cold and froze? What if being too cold or too hot makes her sluggish and she doesn't wake up to feed and she starves? What if OH MY GOD I WILL BE THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD----

In my better moments, I know, intellectually at least, that everything will work out somehow, that I am a competent person and I will not break my baby, that someday soon I will be able to go for a walk, snuggle my baby in the park, taste sweet freedom. The fact that some part of my brain can still understand that is how I know that I'm not too far gone. And yet, when I try to express my fears and sadness and anxiety to others--my husband, my mom--and they just say, "Oh, that will never happen," or "Oh, it will be fine, stop worrying," or "Oh, you'll feel better when the baby comes," it is exactly the wrong thing for me to hear. It fills me with rage and helplessness. And a feeling of, what the hell is WRONG with me, then, that I can't seem to shake this off?

And to the well-meaning person who emailed me a few months ago from this blog, saying, "At least be glad you're pregnant! I'd give anything to have what you have!"--I mean this in the nicest possible way, but: Shut up. I already feel guilty enough.

I don't want to be sad like this anymore. I'm so afraid that the sadness will take over and I won't be able to enjoy my baby. And after everything I've been through, that would be the saddest thing of all.

13 Comments:

Blogger TeamWinks said...

I wish I had some bit of wisdom that would make you feel better. I wish I had a magic wand that could fix what hurts you. I wish I had a crystal ball that could show you your future. However, I have none of these things. Keep your chin up, and know that you aren't the first person to feel this way. You are stronger than you think you are!

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

It feels like an eternity right now but you're right, it is an eyeblink in the grand scheme of things. This doesn't make it any less traumatic obviously. The hurt will be always be there but time will give you a wider perspective.

Think of any 6 month time in your past. There are many events that steal time from us. It's not lost, it's just not how we would have chosen to spend the time if we had absolute control over our lives.

Most of all, don't expect yourself to feel a certain way. One of the biggest dangers of the baby blues is the perception that you aren't feeling or acting the way you are supposed to. There is no textbook for motherhood. Having a baby is hard, plain and simple. It's not all about joy and excitment. There's frustration, fear, pain, anger, resentment, sadness and mourning. People rarely talk about this aspect.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Just like you, your baby is a unique person. Having preconceived notions as to how she'll behave or anything is one of the most likely things to make you feel like you're not doing "well". I know you've been growing her for almost 9 months now, but there's a "getting to know you" period after a baby's born. She needs to get to know you, you need to get to know her. I guarantee that she's not coming out and saying "Gee, mom didn't pick me up the second I squawked, so she's a bad mom." She'll be figuring out how to communicate with you as much as you will be with her. Just try to listen to her as much as possible, but remember that it's like learning a new language--sometimes a cry starts to sound familiar quickly, other times it takes weeks before you can figure out "OK, that one means she's hungry." Just give yourself that time without judgement. Do it for yourself.

You've had a horrible time. Life dealt you a shitty hand, there's no question about it. It's probably making it worse for everyone to say "Oh, pregnancy's the easy part...parenting is the hard part!" They're not right. They're both difficult (and your pregnancy far more so than most), but they're also both different.

Pregnancy has been very, very hard for you (which is entirely different than you being bad at pregnancy). That doesn't mean that being a mommy will be. They're so different that they really can't be compared.

What I will say is that as soon as BatGirl is here, don't let yourself get trapped in the house. Quite frankly, you've had enough of it! Take her out the day after you get home, even if it's only to sit in the car while your husband drives you to the drugstore for some Lansinoh for your nipples (one of the best things for breastfeeding, BTW). It's too easy to not take your baby out because they're "too young" and then build it up into something so huge that you become afraid of it. Be as mobile as possible. It'll be hard at first, particularly after a c-section, but do it. Take a walk to the corner and back with her in a stroller, even if she's sleeping. Anything so that you don't feel trapped either by your house or a routine.

ElectricLady, I'm so sorry you've been through hell with this pregnancy. It's certainly not fair that you went through so much to get pregnant and then so much to stay pregnant, and to have it try to take your enjoyment away from BatGirl. I want you to be able to enjoy her as much as possible.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Crystal said...

I just want to say that everything you are going through and have gone through is totally normal. I went through the exact same feelings - all the anxiety over my pregnancy, worrying about a repeat miscarriage, having a bicornuate uterus which made me worry about pre-term labor, plus the possibility of having to have a c-section when my baby stayed breech until late in the pregnancy, being GBS+, and a variety of other things. In the end everything went fine and I felt like I had worried like that for nothing. It was such a huge waste of energy. You will probably experience some of this same depression after the birth. I think it is just hormones and being so wrapped up in everything that is going on. It gets better by about 6 weeks PPD. At least after the baby is born you will be able to get out and walk around. Don't even worry about not being prepared at home. All that baby needs is you! She won't care that things aren't perfect. In fact, she won't even be awake most of the time in those first weeks.

Hang in there. You are not alone and at least some of these feelings are because of hormones! They will go away!

2:02 PM  
Blogger May said...

Wow, you are so right. Everything you said was completely spot on. I can empathize with all of it, having been through a very similar experience. I guess all I can offer you is to say that you seem to be able to identify what's going on very well, and I think that will help you get through this next transition as the baby is born. Cindy was right-- having a baby is hard, and the hormones are going crazy and your joints hurt from all the bedrest (seriously, 16 months later I still have joint pain) and no one in the world really understands because they haven't been through what you have.

Erin already summarized exactly what I'd say regarding the transition to having the baby. I had a horrible time with the breastfeeding but you've already got lactation support in mind so you've done what you can there. My only other bit of unsolicited advice (assvice?) would be to make a resolution to yourself that if at your 6 week postpartum checkup you still feel depressed, that you'll talk to your Dr. about it. I ignored it and worked through the depression on my own, and in hindsight I now feel like I lost a lot of the first few months of my daughter's life to my depression. I didn't really connect to her or enjoy having her until she was about 4 months old. My good friend had her baby 6 months after I did, and she said watching me try and get through my depression unassisted is what made her agree to take antidepressants at her 6 week checkup, a decision that she counts as one of the best she ever made.

Hopefully this won't apply to you at all, but I just thought I'd put it out there. I think this is another one of those things that lots of people deal with that no one likes to talk about. Everyone is worried they'll be a terrible parent. Everyone struggles to adapt to being a new parent. It's hard, and people are ashamed to admit that they found it hard. I try and tell people about my struggles in the hope that I might spare someone else from being as ashamed as I was.

That said, I certainly hope that you have an easier time, because you sure have been dealt enough lousy hands already! There's NOTHING wrong with you. You're doing a wonderful job of dealing with exceptionally difficult circumstances, and I'm confident that you will continue to do so if need be.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Rachel Inbar said...

I think it's good that you're in touch with what you're feeling. The most difficult time in my life was the first 18 months with my IVF-FET twins. Of course I was thrilled to be a mom & everything, but I was so over-extended with them (not to mention the fact that my (now ex-)husband "dropped out" when they were about 3 months old) that the only way I can explain it is that there was no "me" left. I didn't have time to do ANYTHING for myself. What I regret most from that time is not getting more help for myself and my decision to keep them home with me for as long as I did. It took me a really long time (several years) to recover - time to get back a lot of what I felt I lost during that time & time to figure out how to avoid ever running myself that far down again.

I hope that you're able to forgive & forget so that you can renew the friendships you valued in the past. Some people just aren't cut out for what you needed in terms of support and as abandoned as you felt then (or feel now), it might be easier to have those friends now during your happy times. During my (ugly, scary) divorce there were plenty of people who disappointed me, but I'm glad I was able to let it go & share the happiness of my new life with them. I hope that my friends would be able to forgive me even if I disappointed them sometime... Especially if you're feeling depressed, good support is really important.

I think you'll be great with your baby. There's an excitement at all the changes in your life - dressing your baby with new clothes all the time, taking out new toys, lots of positive attention, etc. Hopefully you'll be able to take her out for walks soon and before you know it, it'll be spring and the weather will be nicer too...

Take care of yourself :-)

4:07 PM  
Blogger K77 said...

Sending you loads of hugs, this is all part of the IF bullcrap I think. Our bodies can't get/stay pg, we can't give birth vaginally, why the heck would our bodies bother with breastmilk and mothering instinct? I am hoping the feeding and all the rest goes much better than you are expecting right now. I believe IF and a shitty pg would be risk factors for PPD so might pay to be aware of that. You so don't need this to be any harder than it already is!

BTW I was just bitching to DP the other night that if I go through IVF and it works, it's still not freaking over because of the UU.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Watson said...

Hi there,

How I wish I had some brilliant advice to share with you, but alas, I got nothin'.

I cannot imagine what this has been like for you, I'm just so sorry it's been such hell.

And it has been hell. My heart just breaks reading your posts.

I guess all I can say is that you're more than entitled to all of those feelings, the sadness, depression, fear and anger. All of it!

I don't think anyone can imagine what it's like to lose six months of time like that, and not feel completely supported by friends and family.

I wish I could promise that once you have the baby, everything will change for the better. And eventhough I hope for that, of course I can't predict what your future holds.

Just know that a bunch of us are out here in cyberspace rooting for you, promising that you're totally justified in all of your feelings, and praying for you that things improve.

{{HUGS}}

6:11 PM  
Anonymous BrooklynGirl said...

You have a right to grieve--don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I didn't have even a fraction the complicated pregnancy you had, and yet I still found the whole thing so upsetting...there I was pregnant, but still not "normal." Never normal.

I will say that the first few month with The Boy (and let's be honest, even now), were hard and that I felt horribly guilty every time I even thought of complaining. But there it is: parenting is tough (and it's no less tough just because you struggled to get there).

Hang in there.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Thalia said...

I think the main thing you could do is to tell the people around you to stop telling you you'll feel better when the baby comes, because that doesn't help right now and in fact is making you feel worse. It sounds like everything you're feeling is normal and horrible, and we wish we could take it away from you, but we can't so we're just here, supporting you.

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Kath said...

Oh, sweetie. How I wish I could come over and give you the biggest hug right now. You've been through so much with this pregnancy that all those negative feelings -- all that trauma -- has to be dealt with. And it's understandable, though difficult, that's it's all coming out now, when the end is in sight and you're no longer in danger of premature labor at any second. It's as if you've been carrying the world on your shoulders and now that you've been able to put it down for a second, you are finally able to scream in pain. My poor dear, all I can say is, I do hope things get better for you very, very soon. Thinking of you with affection.

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Meira (comments AT voirdire DOT org) said...

I think you hit it on the nose with 'grieving' -- it's not been the storybook pregnancy by any stretch of the imagination. It's completely understandable that you would feel resentment and need to mourn a little. (Ofcourse, it would feel so much better if you could just 'walk' around like Pollyanna being all positive and shit, but how the hell is that supposed to happen with all these ragin hormones?!?!?)
The 'too cold' vs SIDS thing always preoccupied me,too. One comfort was realizing that if our thermostat was set to 63, the coldest it was going to get in our room was 60, and the babes did have clothes on and were swaddled, so there was no way they could freeze to death. I really had to realize it was NOT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE before I could calm down. And one day I "over-dressed" them and they slept much better, and then I knew if I got really desperate for sleep, I could take that 'risk'.
And just an FYI -- for me, I felt the need to seek out anti-depressants when the twins were 3 weeks old. I asked for Zol*ft, it's safe while nursing -- and it helped a lot. So much so that if I ever get pregnant again, I am starting it before I go in the hospital for delivery. Just something to consider, if you feel like things might be getting out of hand.

10:10 AM  
Blogger MoMo said...

I wish there was something I can do or say to make you feel better...we all have the fears that we will be bad parents or that we won't be good at it. But just always remember that you are trying your best and you are a loving mom. No one is perfert at this--we are all learning as we go along. There will be good days and bad days and just take one day at a time. Give me a shout whenever you need someone to talk to or vent. I am not an expert, but I know how you feel. Sending you a big hug!!

8:22 PM  

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