By Krisa Bruemmer of Neon Krisa
When I was pregnant, I felt overwhelmed by what seemed like the inevitability of Postpartum Depression. It was mentioned in all the classes I took to prepare for labor and my first baby, which was all terrifying to me. My doctors emphasized the likelihood of this depression, while downplaying most of my other concerns. And as my due date approached, my friends and family members with kids seemed to all confess at once that they’d secretly experienced this depression while holding their perfect newborn children.
I was already worried about things like I COULD DIE. Or something could go wrong. Or my husband could panic. Having to add to all that the idea that I might look down at my perfectly healthy, happy baby and cry and feel awful and depressed and hopeless or worse seemed like too much. I’d worked so hard to stay positive and to push aside my fears. It didn’t seem right that I was being told I was probably going to lose it anyway.
I was irritated about having yet another thing to worry about, but I wanted to be prepared. When my daughter was born, I held my tiny 6-pound baby and tried not to panic about every, single thing that could go wrong with a person that small. And I waited, terrified, for the Postpartum Depression to hit me. But it never did. I guess I was lucky. Then I got annoyed that I’d spent so much time hearing about and stressing about something that never even happened to me anyway.
Two years and three months later, I decided it was time to stop breastfeeding my daughter. Violet suddenly seemed so big and so strong and so talkative. And although I’d been fine with her being attached to me in one way or another for so long, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was so tired of being climbed on and poked at and drunk from and touched, not to mention growing her inside of myself for almost a year.
As the holidays were approaching, Violet tried eggnog and went totally bonkers for it. I was so excited to tell my husband I’d discovered the magic potion that was going to help detach her from my body. And as soon as I relaxed into the idea of my body becoming fully mine again, I slid into hard-core obsessing about things I’d been so careful not to let myself stress about – like my body, and food, and exercising, and sex, and my career (or lack thereof), and that one girl who’s somehow skinnier now than before she had a baby. And then I kind of lost it. For the whole holiday season, it felt like every irritation I’d ever experienced was brought into focus. And it all mattered. And it all needed to be dealt with right away.
I wondered how I had become someone who lives to sweep the kitchen floor after all my education and life experiences. And why couldn’t my husband just listen to me and try to understand why I was upset instead of obsessing about my tone? And why, after hardly crying for years, did I suddenly have tears gushing out of me with no notice at all?
One afternoon I put my daughter in her high chair and went into her room to cry alone for no reason I could figure out besides just needing to cry and not wanting her to see me upset. As I sat there with tears streaming down my face, I felt like I was in some after-school special, or like I was my 14-year-old self again. And then I got annoyed with myself for not being able to just hold it together and be thankful and look at the Christmas tree and embrace the joy.
No matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of the negative emotions, they just kept coming at me. And I kept swinging all over the place. One minute I felt okay, but then my husband would ask if I could do some laundry or something and for some reason that RUINED EVERYTHING.
Then one night he said he wondered if maybe I was experiencing some seasonal depression. And all those Postpartum Depression warnings came back to me. I wondered if weaning after breastfeeding my daughter on demand every day for over two years could have something to do with my emotional state. So, I Googled it. And OMG, it’s a thing! And then I read blog posts about it for an hour and cried – shaking, sobbing, bawling crying – because I felt so relieved to not be completely losing my mind or turning into someone who’s always going to feel angry and irritated and disappointed and sad.
That relief was quickly followed by annoyance. Nobody ever told me this might happen, not even in the Intro to Breastfeeding class I paid for. And it makes me angry, too, that yet another thing is being demanded of my body yet again, more than three years after I got pregnant.
If I had known this was coming, and if I had warned my husband the way I did about the Postpartum Depression that never hit when our daughter was born, we might have dealt with it better. I’m pretty sure I would have dealt with it better. Knowing there’s going to be an end to the intensity of difficult feelings, at least for me, makes them so much easier to talk about, and think about, and try to get through.
So, if you’re breastfeeding, or if your friend or sister or whoever around you is breastfeeding, keep in mind it might get a little weird when that journey comes to an end. And I’m going to keep reminding myself that none of us who are raising children are living just to sweep the floor, no matter what my brain might say to me in the darkest, most exhausted hours of my insomnia.
This post was originally published on Neon Krisa.
About the Author
Krisa Bruemmer is an over-educated, former world traveler who used to speak multiple languages. She is now living mostly happily with her husband and 2-year-old daughter in the woods and the rain in Washington State, trying to be some kind of writer.