The dilemma with having one baby is the discussion that inevitably follows: when to get working on baby number two, then three, four, and we’re in Utah, so five.
My husband, Brian and I are constantly doing the math as if we are solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, charting it out on some old chalkboard.
It may take a month to get pregnant, so should we start now? What if it happens fast and I have another winter baby? What about school, and what if you get laid off, no health insurance for my “pre-existing condition?”
We feel like it’s time to get working because every time Scarlett sees a fellow small human, she drunkenly swaggers up to it, points her chubby finger and squeals “ba-BE.” Brian then gives me a look that says, “Get your loins ready, she needs a sibling.” He must think babies saunter out of my uterus ready to play Hungry-Hungry Hippos and cut each other’s hair.
Brian is ready, Scarlett’s ready, but I’m dragging my feet and they’re starting to smoke. That giddy enthusiasm I had with my first is gone, replaced by nerves. The memories of postpartum depression still prey on me whenever I relive the first few months of Scarlett’s life.
For many, the depression lasts a couple of weeks; for me, it was all winter. Although I found joy in Scarlett’s smile, nursing and her spastic baby movements, I hated not having a routine or a buzzing newsroom to direct. My job was gone, along with any free time. I couldn’t even look at my body or blistering acne. Those cheerful feelings teamed up with intense anxiety and guilt. Oh, the guilt! Am I good enough? I’m a terrible mom because I don’t take her anywhere. Is she getting enough stimulation? Could Scarlett have ADD because I’m watching too much TV?
As brilliant as my child is (and she is brilliant), Scarlett never asked about my feelings. She never gave me advice, like if it was time to fork over 150 bucks to get my roots dyed. But, I wasn’t alone. Brian was home every evening, my dad came in the morning, my grandmother lives a block away and stopped by daily with a hot cocoa. This thing in my brain warped what I really had and it nearly cost me Scarlett’s babyhood. I remember clearly the moment that pushed me to get help:
The dull glow of my bedside lamp is the only thing to light our room. My baby balances on her domed tummy, trying to keep her head up. Brian lies next to her, rolled on his side. Dad and baby play their first game of copycat. Scarlett lifts her big head, he lifts his ginormous head. She plops it back down; Brian follows. A giggle. For about a minute, I watch this game of up and down, up and down. My world finally comes into focus. Already lifting her head, rolling over and playing games; my Scarlett will only be a baby for five seconds, and I’m missing it.
The next morning, I slithered out of bed and headed to my OB-GYN. We shared in a conversation filled with laugh-crying, a step away from totally losing it. She told me I was normal. Man, was that good to hear, NORMAL! If the PPD continued, I could go on medication, but give it time. The doc also advised me to talk to everyone about how I was feeling and get out of the house. A chance to just whine was just what the doctor ordered, literally. I left her office feeling better knowing what was wrong with me, what needed to be done, and that I wasn’t a bad mom for feeling this way.
If you’ve had a baby, you most likely felt this way at some point. If you know a woman who’s had a baby, you know a woman who has/had postpartum depression. The Harvard Medical Institute says between 5 percent and 25 percent of new mothers will suffer from PPD. That’s millions and still a low estimate, in my opinion.
Mothers can still be diagnosed with postpartum a year after childbirth, and sadly, it can last just as long. But, we mamas aren’t alone. Some may need medication, some therapy, and some mothers like me just need time.
If you’re walking around like a ghost, missing those copycat moments, talk to someone. There is help. Don’t be embarrassed, you’re not a bad mom, you’re NORMAL. It’s just how these beautifully sadistic bodies work.
I will never be the Boy Scout of motherhood, but I want those moments that make the tears, frustration and fear all worth it.
It took 300 years and some of the most brilliant minds to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem.
They found that a certain simple equation has no solution. If that’s not a metaphor for life …