I've been feeling really crappy lately. I'm not sure when it started. I was feeling okay for awhile, or maybe I was just too busy and worried about Caroline to notice. I also kind of assumed that it was just a situational thing, because I had to make such a big adjustment in moving from school to staying at home, and all the other changes having a baby brings to your life. And, you know, it's pretty isolating to stay at home with a baby when all of your friends are either far away or in an intense dental program... and none of them are even thinking about having babies of their own.
It wasn't just that, though... ever since we brought Caroline home from the NICU, I've been having nightmares. Horrible dreams that she's dead in the bed with me. I wake up several times a night from the same dream, digging frantically in the blankets for her because I'm convinced that she's in there. And I think about the NICU and the midnight transfer in the ambulance all the time. I still cry about it every day. It was a traumatic experience, for sure, but still feeling like this just doesn't seem normal to me. I was hoping that all this would go away with time, but it just... hasn't.
So, I was going to my OB today anyway because I was having an issue with my IUD. I brought up my concerns with the nurse practitioner and she left the room for a long time. When she came back, she told me that the OB on call wanted me to go to a psychiatrist across the street, and that they could see me immediately. I went over there, feeling kind of like I had done something wrong and lost my recess.
I talked to the psychiatrist for a long time, over an hour. When she was done asking me questions (questions that included things like "can you tell me today's date" and "what do apples and oranges have in common"... ummm... I'm not that far gone, lady), she put her clipboard down and said:
"I think you have post-traumatic stress disorder, and moderate to severe postpartum depression. You went through a very traumatic experience, what with having your new baby in the hospital in uncertain condition, right in the middle of a mess of postpartum hormones and physical pain. You've had to continue struggling with her health and weight gain, and to give up breastfeeding for a much more mechanical, demanding way of feeding her. You're continuing to torture yourself with all this pumping in order to try to live up to this unattainable ideal that our society has of the perfect mother, who gives her baby breastmilk, no matter what. You had to suddenly leave your program and all its activity and human interaction to stay at home with your baby, with no friends who understand what your new life is like. On top of it all, your pregnancy was unexpected, you say you were an anxious person to begin with, and depression runs in your family. How could you not be depressed?"
Well. I have to say, she heard me. It felt like a huge weight was lifted, that somebody understood me. I've sort of brought it up with Tyler and my mom, but Tyler just said "she's healthy now, why is it still bothering you?" and my mom just gave me a look that I couldn't quite read. So, it was such a relief just to have someone tell me that it was okay to feel sad. In general, I try not to think about any of that, because I don't have time for self-pity and it doesn't do anything for me anyway. But clearly ignoring it isn't helping, so I have to try something else.
She suggested that I start two medications, check in with her over the phone while we're in ND, start counseling once we get back, and quit pumping. I told her I was fine with all of that except the pumping, and that I just can't quite do that yet, I'd feel too guilty. She went over to her desk, handed me a picture of a really pretty girl about my age, and said "this is my baby. I had to quit breastfeeding her after one month. And you know what? She's fine. She's great. How you feed your baby is just one tiny part of being a good mother. You've done everything you can for four months... do what's best for you, but also know that maybe it's time to give it up in order to focus on all the other very important pieces of the puzzle."
So, that might be happening in the near future, I haven't decided yet. All in all, I'm so glad that I said something to the nurse at the OB. Maybe the medication will help me feel more like myself. All I can do is try it, right? So... wish me luck!