Basket. Dropped.

My friends AB and Eliza (I believe) introduced me years ago to the phrase “dropped my basket.” I always liked how it made somewhat light of the serious act of going a bit crazy.

Irish people and southerners and their dark humor.

Dear friends, this week I dropped my basket all over the place.

I won’t go into the gory details, suffice it to say, though, that Tuesday evening, after having failed the postpartum depression screening so fantastically huge, and learning our little girl has colic in addition to reflux, I acted like a very foolish, though clearly not-in-my-right-mind, individual.

The signs, of course, have all been there. Even if you look at this blog, the signs of postpartum depression have all been here – and if you would be so kind, don’t reach out to tell me that you suspected something was wrong all along or even just once.

Here is the truth:

There hasn’t been a day I haven’t cried.

There hasn’t been a day where I felt genuinely happy.

There hasn’t been a day where I didn’t in passing wish I hadn’t had a baby.

There hasn’t been a day where I didn’t think some relatively dark, sad things.

I have been irritable and without hope. I have been angst- and anxiety-ridden. I have been sad.

Here is the good news:

Since crashing and burning on Tuesday, we have done the following:

I’ve gotten loads of sleep.

We’ve secured our parents (give it up for grandparents!) to each come over weekly to give me a break for a few hours so I can sleep some more.

Had a long talk with my father, who by virtue of his pep talk, helped me give myself permission to just put her down if she’s safe, fed, dry and just generally inconsolable, and instead take the time to shower, do my hair, eat, whatever it is I’ve been putting off because Abigail’s cries have been more than I can handle and I put off everything else in order to keep from hearing them. Mom needs to take care of mom to take care of everything else and I’ve been piss-poor at doing that.

My midwife is working on a list of local resources for me, so I can secure a therapist to visit weekly and get back on the road to…whatever it is I’m on the road to/for.

Since then, I felt hopeful. Yesterday, I didn’t cry once and for the first time, when I left the house without her, I found myself missing her and excited to see her when I got home.

I can’t begin to explain how life-altering it was to realize that the handful of times I’ve left the house by myself since she was born, I never once really wanted to go back. Last night, after dinner with my girlfriends, I was so happy to go back to her.

I never once thought about hurting her, or myself, though I sincerely believe that had I not broken down on Tuesday, and had Scott not helped me secure an immediate plan of attack, those thoughts would have eventually found a way to nestle themselves into my brain.

I believe the sleep has helped me tremendously. I believe knowing that a few times a week I’ll get a break has given me perspective. I believe knowing that I’ll soon receive professional help has made my current head space seem less like my new reality, and for me,  just an unfortunate side effect of having a baby that we’ll treat and manage.

My friend Shelane last night mentioned that having a baby alters completely how you define yourself, and holding on to the last vestiges of that person before the baby, at least in the beginning, is Sisyphean at best. I knew having a baby would change things, and I welcomed that change. I wasn’t prepared for the all-encompassing demand that came from being a mom, taking care of a newborn, and just how quickly I’d need to adjust. From the small things – making sure there are enough clean burp cloths – to the big things – looking for signs that she’s in pain from the reflux – I honestly didn’t realize the demands of a newborn baby, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

All that was me felt pushed out forever, and in its place was a screaming, fidgety, pooping, eating, sleep-sucking little girl who needs me more than anything. I simultaneously resented this but at the same time have taken that task so seriously that common sense went flying right out the door.

This is part of depression, I know, but there you have it.

My dad mentioned that babies were never a part of my life, and that’s so true. Knowing that babies just cry, and that colicy, reflux babies cry even more, is enough for some people not to spiral but not me. Since getting some sleep and some hope, I haven’t once felt fidgety or on-edge about her cries. They’re just cries, and our pediatrician has already given her the cleanest bill of health possible, so better I go ahead and just put her down, give her the chance to fuss and maybe sleep, and then, you know, sit here and write something at my blog.

She’s sleeping right now, by the way.

Everyone – and I mean everyone – has told me over and over again that it gets better. And each time I read that I cried. I believe, without a doubt, that hearing that, over and over again, helped me even more. I can’t thank you all enough for being a part of that life raft for me.

If you are where I am, and make no mistake, I know that some shuteye hasn’t cured me completely, don’t wait. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Everyone who is volunteering to help you? Let them help you. Get a plan of action in place. I am sad that it took an act of stupidity for me to get my ego out of the way long enough to ask our families to help on a permanent basis and amazingly, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed because of it. Everyone needs a break – don’t take as long as I did to ask for one.

Get help – Katie mentioned the Fussy Baby Network in the comments of my last post. In Chicago they have in-person visits but they offer a nationwide telephone service to help parents.

Get sleep – not only do you need to get out of the house and not have a baby on you, but you also need to sleep. When people come over to take care of the baby, use it to sleep. Ask someone to take the baby for a night so you can get a full night’s worth if you don’t have a partner who can help shoulder the load.

Long-time – and I mean long-time, like back in 2003 – readers may remember that I suffered from some pretty awful anxiety at one point in my twenties. After therapy, a change in my diet and an introduction of exercise into my life, I was able to manage that anxiety to the point where I forgot I have a bit of a predisposition to it. So, at this moment I’m not entirely surprised by this turn of events.

Plus? That labor and delivery did not set me off on a positive path. It didn’t. That wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I honestly believe that – as my doula mentioned later – I went from experiencing the normal pain of labor and crossed over to suffering. Much of that triggered something chemical, as all birth does, and I never really recovered from it. I thought about this long and hard this week, and all I remember is at the end, lying on the operating table, arms pinned, shaking uncontrollably, not really caring about seeing Abigail, and only wanting to sleep.

Instead, I ignored those feelings and headed to the recovery room to breastfeed. I still think that was a good call, but it set me on a path of thinking that the right choice was to just trudge on through and not voice what I needed.

Live and learn.

“Live,” being the operative word.

I have no good way to end this – we’re off to the pediatrician now, and then to the midwives. I promise to keep updating here, to not let this be the last I talk about this. And I really, really hope that if you need help, you get help, too.