It was probably around 3 am. I was sitting on a rocking chair that squeaked, desperately trying to nurse a baby that was using whatever small amount of food I had managed to swipe one handily and eat from the cupboard that day. I stared at my husband, fast asleep silently wishing he would wake up and take her from me, that he could feed this infant who did little else than scream, feed or poop during the day. But that didn’t happen. Snoring, he only shifted himself to a more comfortable position, probably in my spot.
Somewhat full, my 14 day old daughter drifted off to sleep. I had no reason to complain, she was a relatively good baby aside from those unexplainable fussy times. Born 4 days past her due date, she came into the world in two hours, much like her older sibling, Grace who was nearly 3. I distinctly remember staring at that beautiful new face, our Poppy girl. I was almost bursting with love the night she was born. I didn’t even sleep, just sat awake and watched her the entire night. I did the same with my eldest too, not quite believing the gift God had given us while also wondering, “now what do we do?”. Unlike my first who happened to be born via emergency c-section, we wanted to leave the hospital immediately after Poppy was born. We only spent 18 hours there, but we were far more confident this time. Assured in our abilities as parents and missing our other babe. After healthy checks for both of us, we were discharged and left to begin life as a family of four.
Under the care of a midwife I was feeling pretty good. The thoughts that had plagued me during pregnancy of fear and doubt and insecurity seemed to ease off. Grace loved her new baby sister, and seemed to want to help with her. My husband returned to work and I didn’t experience the baby blues that I did with my first. Nursing was difficult, as it was with my first and we struggled to figure it out, my poppy and I. But we kind of did. Kind of. I remember it was around the 7th day of us being home, my husband had returned to work and I had begun this odd pattern of watching her. You see, my oldest had colic – the kind that left her screaming non stop for 6 hours, and my husband and I trying to bounce, ssh and rock her anyway we could just to get her to stop. It was part of the reason I lost the baby weight so fast. But it was also the biggest reason behind the post partum I developed.
You see, when you have a baby that cries for the majority of the day and you’re alone, there isn’t much time to recuperate from an emergency c-section (after complete dialation to 10 cm, ouch!), nor do you have time to really feed or bathe yourself. Items not only important to maintaining your basic health, but also to your entire mental stability. I had dealt with prenatal anxiety prior to Grace’s birth. Being anemic didn’t help either. But after completing the risk assessment at my practitioners office (we used a maternity clinic at the hospital) I was deemed only to be “watch and see” type of risk and sent on my merry way. That test is helpful, and has probably helped a lot of women, but when you’re the type that hides it well, that test does little to get someone like me the help they needed.
When Grace was 4 months old I knew something was wrong. Being diagnosed as CF at birth (Cystic Fibrosis) and then to have it recalled, we knew the doctor who delivered my daughter well. We had several appointments to determine that the positive result was in fact negative and saw her often for issues with Grace not gaining weight (apparently common in children who carry the CF gene, which is why she tested positive on the newborn screening). I told her about the issues I was having; sad, isolating myself, consistently worried about germs infecting the baby, lethargic. I didn’t want to do anything. Sure I took Grace out the odd time, but it was hard each and every time. This wasn’t the life I imagined when I daydreamed about being a mother. Eventually I was prescribed some anti-depressants and sent on my way. Seems fine right? End of story? No. You see, in my diagnosis of PPD, I had also developed PPA. Postpartum anxiety. What was one of my biggest triggers? Pills. Needless to say, I couldn’t take them. I tried, I tried so hard. Filled the prescription, put it on my counter with good intentions but I could never get myself past the point of opening that bottle. Googling didn’t help either and the horror stories of medications gone wrong on the internet was the metaphorical nail on my pill journey’s coffin. I wasn’t taking any of that.
Fast forward to my daughter being a year old. My maternity leave from the Surrey School District had ended and I needed to prepare myself (and Grace) for the return back to work. We researched daycares, put out a ton of money for one we deemed “the best” (aka the least anxiety inducing) and set the daycare trial date. Grace adjusted as well as one can after being with mom and mom only during the day for a year. She cried, I cried but we gave it a good go, my girl and I. But as much as I looked like I was doing what most other mama’s do, and do so well I wasn’t managing at all. I began taking days off. Luckily we had a generous sick day package through our union and you bet I used all of my days. I even took some unpaid. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Grace, of being around people I didn’t love as much as her. I would try and take her to daycare and literally turn around, make some lame excuse about her having a cold and then swoop her back up into my arms again. We’d head home. To our safe place.