I wrote previously about my postpartum unease. It was a very frustrating time, even though it didn’t last long. Usually, I think most people would consider me an “up” person or quite happy-go-lucky. For this reason alone, my “down” times are particularly troubling. Of course, we all have those days/times when we feel the weight of xyz or just don’t have it in us to be “up”.
I kept feeling myself spiraling downward and couldn’t figure out how to come back up again. Me! Shouldn’t I know what’s going on and how to fix it? Haven’t I read enough birth books, seen and talked to enough new mothers? But I didn’t. I wasn’t even sure if what I was experiencing was still in the realm of normal or not and I sure as hell couldn’t articulate it.
My husband called me from work often to make sure everything was okay and sometimes I said yes when it wasn’t. He would come home to children who needed attention and a wife who was crying. I feel for him. I know he was concerned and unsure of what to do. We talked and talked, with him asking questions and me trying my best to actually answer. One afternoon, he came home early and asked how things were going. That day, I was able to articulate:
“I feel like I’m in the ocean holding onto a rock. I can see the shore and you’re there with all my friends, but I can’t get to you. Some days, the waves are crashing against me and some days the waters are calm. Sometimes I am holding the rock well, and other times I feel like I’m slipping off the rock.”
“Call the midwife,” he says, “I’m worried about you.”
I didn’t call her though. Yes, I knew I should call, but I couldn’t do it. It was so hard to admit that even though I had help and support, I was having a hard time. I mean, really, what in the world do I have to complain about? What I DID do was draft an email to my close circle of friends saying what was going on and asking for help, some kind of help, any help. I saved it and decided I would send it in the morning.
In the middle of the night, I mentioned to my husband that I was cold and that my boob hurt. He immediately thought mastitis (having been my nurse through several bouts with our last child), and he was right. By morning, it was bad. I had a fever and incredible pain. If you’ve never had mastitis (a breast infection) before, it’s like having a really bad flu plus the breast pain. It took a few days before I started feeling even a little bit better, and five full days before I could function again.
While I was sick, though, something happened. I was lying on the couch, unable to do anything other than nurse my baby and feeling like complete crud when I realized that maybe I was coping better (when I wasn’t sick) than I thought I was. Those days when I really couldn’t do anything gave me the insight that I was doing way more than I knew. Sure, my house wasn’t clean and I wasn’t going many places and my kids were watching TV until their eyes went googly, but we were all OKAY and surviving.
The first day I felt completely “normal” after the mastitis happened to be my 6 week postpartum checkup. My midwife noticed that something was off and asked before I could say anything. I told her how I was feeling, through tears, and true to the Midwives Model of Care (as well as the compassion/loveliness that is this particular woman), she came over to me and comforted me. She hugged me and listened intently while I spilled my fears, my shortcomings, my everything. When I was done talking/crying, she acknowledged that those were a lot of feelings and that they were not fun to have. We discussed supplements that might help, but I have to wonder if just the very act of telling someone other than my husband what was going on inside me was enough. It was like a weight had been lifted. When we left her office that day, I swear the colors were just a bit brighter, the sun a little warmer and my heart a little lighter. I was finally coming out of the dark.
For practical purposes, here is what helped me to feel better:
1. Telling my husband how I felt, even when I wasn’t sure or couldn’t exactly say. I did this both for my benefit and to keep him apprised of any “warning” signs.
2. Writing out a plea for help to my circle of support (I never sent it, but writing it helped me articulate my feelings a little better).
3. Getting really, really sick. Obviously, I don’t recommend this as a healing option…but perhaps there’s another way to realize just how much you really ARE doing. Make a list of everything you did in a day and post it somewhere you’ll see it.
4. Talking to someone other than my husband, preferably a professional with potential postpartum issues, such as my midwife.
5. Rescue Remedy, as needed.
6. Being super vigilant about taking my supplements, including the encapsulated placenta. I doubled up for a few days, then eased back down again when I felt better.
7. Adding in Evening Primrose Oil twice a day. I noticed an immediate improvement upon adding this supplement into my daily regimen.
8. Making sure to eat and drink enough. This one is MAJOR! I’ve noticed that my temperament can be directly related to how much I’ve eaten/drank that day.
9. If possible, napping at least once a day. With three other children, one of whom is a very active toddler, this isn’t always a reality, but I can usually lay down at some point during the day…even if it’s just lying quietly reading a book.
10. Get some me time, preferably at least once a day. Some days, it’s a shower alone ~ I stay in as long as the baby and/or water heater tolerate. Other days, it’s staying up just a bit after the little ones go to sleep ~ I read, journal, or play on the laptop.