17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Post-partum Depression?

The first week and a half of my daughter’s life I felt feelings I never anticipated would accompany the birth of a child: I felt loss. At first, I didn’t identify it as such. I was really weepy and emotional each night of those first few days. I figured it was fatigue or overwhelming joy at having her here. After a few nights, the feelings were markedly sad, accompanied by a subtle sense of loneliness, like someone was missing. It was so powerful one night that I had to get up from the dinner table with my parents and husband to check on her in her crib—just to make sure she was still there. I literally broke down in tears when I saw her, I was so relieved to discover she hadn’t left.

Over the next few nights, I realized that I was mourning something. I missed those early days of her life. I missed how she smelled in the hospital—a smell that matched the smell coming from my body every time I went to the bathroom--a smell of fresh, clean, life-giving body fluids. That smell was gone, replaced by her baby bath soap or lotion. When the time came to throw out the medicines I had been placing on the stitches holding my tear together, I didn’t want to. They were another sign of her birth, of her entrance into the world, of the fact that she used to be inside of me.

I realized that I was mourning the loss of my pregnancy. I had lost something. I had lost an incredible closeness with my child. I had lost a presence inside of me. Ironically, when I was pregnant, I rarely felt a sense that there was a personality inside of me. Of course, I felt her move all the time; I felt like I had someone with me all the time. But a lot of women describe feelings of connecting personally, emotionally, perhaps spiritually with their children while they’re in the womb. I never felt anything like that. I was so anxious for her to be born, because then she would be present. Now that she was present, I felt I had lost her—or if not her, something.

The feeling has largely passed. But sometimes I even miss feeling that sense of missing something. She’s almost a month old now and my days are full of trying to figure out how to get her to sleep, when I should feed her, how to get those tiny diapers to actually stay on her small hips. Those first few days of her life were so glorious—sublime in a way—a cocoon (to quote Michelle) of soft colors and quiet sounds inhabited only by us. And that sense of loss was part of that brief time. So I miss it.

Has anyone else felt this? Or heard of this? Is this, in any way, a typical part of the post-partum experience? Has anyone had other experiences with post-partum depression?


  • I definitely experienced many emotions those first weeks. Some brought on by hormones, some by exhaustion. I wouldn't say I ever dipped down into depression (completely normal) but I honestly attribute that to the fact I had some great help those first weeks. Mostly, I just felt overwhelmed and overworked with my new role. I didn't have much perspective that life WOULD get better and than my daugher would someday be so wonderfully enjoyable!
    posted by Anonymous Amber at 4/30/2006 10:48:00 AM  

  • Sunny - I think that Chloe wrote a post on post-partum depression. I remember reading somewhere that whenever you feel the "baby blues" think back over the past few days and figure out how much sleep you've actually gotten. Usually there is a correlation between the two. That was very true with me. I didn't experience what seems to be true post-partum depression, but I did cry A LOT... holding my baby, feeding him, putting him to sleep. Sometimes I was surpised that my eyes could produce that many tears! And I didn't always feel sad... it was almost like my body was cleansing itself of EVERYTHING. And I usually realized that I had hardly slept the night before, or the night before that, or the night before that.... I don't know if that helps, but realizing that I needed to make extra time to sleep to meet both the emotional and physical needs of my body really helped. That's when you give the baby to your DH and hibernate in your bedroom... well, at least until the next feeding.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 4/30/2006 02:31:00 PM  

  • My daughter is five days old today, so I'm in over my eyeballs right now. It's funny, with my previous two children, I knew there would likely be more, so I don't think I noticed things the way I do now. This child is most likely our last, and I find myself paying more attention to the tiny little things that mark the earliest days of life.

    I particularly relate to what you said about smells... the fresh, clean, new smell of life is very keen to me right now, and I wish I could hold onto it, but I know how fleeting it is.

    While I don't think I have experienced true depression with any of my babies, I have had a big dose of the Baby Blues- I cry at the drop of a hat, anytime, anywhere. And by #3, I know it's totally normal, and have made peace with it- I kind of even like having the latitude to cry anytime I feel like it. Also, I know it will pass. Just like the sweet smells and the umbilicus falling off. You are not alone...
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 4/30/2006 03:53:00 PM  

  • Sunny, I did not experience ppd and just a little baby blues but only with #1. I know I have been lucky in that respect. I also had really good babies, and I imagine adding sleep-deprivation to crazy collicky babies has got to be a VERY dangerous cocktail.

    But the sense of loss resonates but in a different way. I remember with baby #1 (Pukey) I didn't recognize her as her own seperate entity for a week (maybe 2). I had a hard time calling her by the name I had given her. I was more likely to conjure up my name instead of hers when I looked at her. She sort of felt like an extension of myself, like I had just grown a third arm. Isn't that weird? It didn't make me have sad emotions though, just left me thinking...wow that is totally weird and so totally unexpected. It eventually wore off.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 4/30/2006 06:29:00 PM  

  • I, for one never felt the loss you describe. I am a weird one that can't wait for the baby stage to pass. And I definitley don't remember the smell of any body fluids with any amount of fondness. But I did feel sadness post partum and I definitely cried A LOT.

    I think a most post-partum depression includes a feeling of loss of some sort. Sometimes it is the loss of your former self/life. It could be the loss of being pregnant (hey, some people really love it!). The loss of each day might become especially relevant to you as you watch your baby grow up too quickly, or it may just be that you feel at a loss as to what to do with the new little one.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/30/2006 09:09:00 PM  

  • Sunny, thanks for your post. Post partum emotions are different for every woman just as every baby is different. Unfortunately, you have no idea how your body/mind/soul is going to react to the enormous change of childbirth and parenting until you are in the thick of it. Sleep deprivation adds another layer and before you know it, you're doing things like checking to make sure your baby didn't jump out of her crib and leave the room :) What you are describing seems perfectly typical of the post partum experience.

    I never had that feeling of loss you describe mainly because I didn't enjoy being pregnant - get these people outta me! I had one day of severe crying on day 6 or 7 of child #1's life and some crazy thoughts about "What if I accidently kill the baby" that lasted the first few weeks. That was it. I was perfectly fine by the time he was about 3 weeks old.

    But I had for REAL post partum depression with child #2 and it took 4 months for me to recognize it. The only way I can describe it was a complete inability to cope and a lack of will to try and cope (check out the post I did on post partum a few months ago - we had a good dialogue on that one).

    You seem to be very tuned into your mind and body right now and that is good. If it's any consolation, my kids are now 3 and 19 months and I still have days where I just want to cry...and its not from depression, just lack of sleep and feeling at a loss of what to do with these people I have been given. Unfortunately, once you become a mother there are always days like that :) Keep checking in with yourself and if things just don't add up, talk to your doctor - don't let it go.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 4/30/2006 10:13:00 PM  

  • I have had PPD with two of my 4 babies, it is much different than baby blues. I can identify with your feelings of loss in some ways, yet it is still different. Don't let anyone try to convince you that only a cholicy baby will cause PPD, it just doesn't help much. I have had really good babies and the depression has come along with it. With my 2nd child I did nothing and suffered for 11 months. With baby 4 I decided to do something about it after strange anxiety. That anxiety is much like what you mention about checking on her to be sure she was alright. If those feelings increase you may have PPD.
    PPD screen tets
    That is a link to a great test to screen for PPD. My pediatrician uses it and you must be very honest with the answers. Do not feel ashamed if you have it, it is just your body trying to adjust to all the hormones inside you.
    posted by Blogger Tigersue at 5/01/2006 02:33:00 PM  

  • Sunny, I appreciate you sharing your feelings with us. I think I understand what you are talking about. Honestly, I don't remember my exact emotions in those first few weeks, only that I was incredibly "fragile" and cried a lot. Most of what I remember is feeling entirely inadequate and wondering why I had ever decided to do this in the first place. But more to your point - as weeks passed and suddenly Max stopped doing something that he had done so often before, I did mourn the loss of those little things. When he suddenly stopped doing his "bird mouth" when he wanted to nurse, or didn't make all his grunting noises, it was really sad. I think I knew intellectually that they change quickly and that it doesn't just mean gaining new habits and skills, but losing old ones. But emotionally, I wasn't prepared to face my baby "growing up" from day one. I still feel that way.

    And I am one of those strange people who likes being pregnant. I didn't feel the "connection" that you mention you also don't feel, but I did like the visible evidence of my motherhood, the ever-surprising "skills" that I didn't know my body had. (Hey look, i can grow a human! And get strange marks on my body! And if you put the remote on my tummy, it will bounce when the baby moves!)

    I think any change can bring about a sense of loss and mourning for what we've left behind. And that's fine and healthy, and you need to let yourself feel it so that you can move on and enjoy what is yet to come.
    posted by Blogger marian at 5/02/2006 11:04:00 AM  

  • Sunny,

    The two times I have seen you since you gave birth, I have been so impressed with how "in the moment" you are as a mother ...meaning you are incredibly intune to your baby and her needs as well as yourself. I guess the downside is that you will feel every loss....the upside is that every joy and step in her development will be amplified...

    It is so exciting to see....makes me want to push the "rewind" to experience it more fully again with my boys. It seems like I was always worried about something....will he sleep tonight? will I sleep tonight? will he nurse ok today? will we be able to afford to send him to college?
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/02/2006 05:55:00 PM  

  • Sunny, Like Jen said, I think it is wonderful how you can be so in the moment. I feel sad now and a little sense of loss as my kids continue to change and grow--like Marion mentioned. Anwen is really starting to talk now and is pretty much toilet trained and in some ways it is fun and exciting and in some ways it is a little sad that she will never be a baby again. But it is also amazing to watch our relationship change and grow as she gets older too.
    posted by Blogger Brandolyn at 5/02/2006 09:23:00 PM  

  • Sunny--

    At the risk of being the only non-mom to comment in this thread (I think) I'll jest let you know how delighted I was to see you and Brian so singularly focused on Astoria. I don't know if I've ever been with a couple caring for such a young baby, but your constant care touched me. I wish I had insights to offer, but I've never been through anything like it so I have precious little to say. As the last two commentators have observed, I believe your complete engagement in your child's life will bring both deepend sorrow and deeened joy. No doubt, you will find joy more exquisite than anything you've known before.

    Astoria is lucky to have such a mom.
    posted by Blogger tyler at 5/07/2006 06:53:00 AM  

  • This is very interesting site...
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    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/29/2006 08:29:00 PM  

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