Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In The Pit

This is the post nobody ever writes...

Regarding parenting, there are plenty of people who've told me, "It's hard," "It's a blur", "It gets easier," but only a few have actually gone into detail about what specific aspects they found hard and the thoughts and feelings they had at the time.  It's almost like there is a sense of shame and it's taboo to admit that sometimes those thoughts descend into a very dark place.

Right now I feel like I'm in a slimy pit of despair.  On a rare good day I get false hope that I might just be scaling the walls of that dark place and will one day feel sunshine again - real, strong sunshine, not the paltry little bits I feel at the moment.  But then everything falls into a heap again and I can't stop crying.  I can count the days I haven't cried since Rory was born on one hand.  Mostly the tears run non-stop.

To be honest, some days I love him and others I wish he would just go away and never come back. Then I feel so sorry for him because he's so little and helpless and I tell him, "Bubba, I'm sorry.  I want to be a good mum to you."  I thought I was missing most of my heartstrings, but I must have more than I thought because his crying really gets to me and I end up crying too because I can't take his pain away.  Some days I think I'd never hurt him, but other days I can really understand why some mothers drown their children in the bath and self-medicate.  My mind has entertained all sorts of possibilities. There is a real lack of people who will admit to this.  Mostly there is a fear that if I admit it to some mothers, they'd just give me a horrified glare.

I miss my old life terribly; the life where I had time to do things, where I could end the day feeling like I had actually accomplished something other than keeping Rory alive.  Where I was good at something instead of feeling like I'm failing.  I guess I was just happy with it being Duncan, myself and the animals.  I never felt like I needed children to complete me. 

I haven't been to our home church since before Christmas.  Duncan took Rory last Sunday so I got a few hours of precious sleep.  He said after the service all the women descended on Rory to cluck over him.  It's nice that people care (I can't fault our church for that), but I would have found it overwhelming.  I'm not dealing well with crowds of people at the moment, and there is great pressure to say that everything is going well because that's what people want to hear.

People with no children who go on about easy it is, how life doesn't change all that much, how babies are so 'portable' make me want to scream.  The best visitors have been the ones who've brought meals, washed dishes, changed nappies, held Rory so Duncan and I can eat dinner, and offered a listening ear.  They're the ones who don't expect us to roll out a red carpet and offer cake...they BRING cake.  This is in comparison to people who stay until 11pm on a weeknight when Duncan has to work the next morning (I just announced loudly that I was going to bed, hoping they'd get the hint), who don't understand why we won't answer the phone during feed times or when we're napping, or who keep asking when we're coming to visit THEM!  It's like they think Rory is some kind of celebrity and Duncan and I are nothing but his managers who have to cart him around to whoever wants to see him next.  Not likely!

Before I had Rory, I had a childless person bitch to me about mutual friends with kids and how they 'aren't making an effort with the friendship'.  I said to this person, "Hello!  She's just had a baby!  Give her a break!"  That person is probably bitching about me now.  Duncan said, "Don't worry about it.  Let them."

'Accept all the help you can get' is the most ridiculous advice ever!  Not all 'help' is helpful.  My mum has been here supposedly 'helping', but all she has done is cause more stress.  We've never had a good relationship, and I'm sure the amount of arguments we've had is causing Rory to be even more unsettled.  Every day I ask her to leave!  I would rather battle it out on my own.  A good friend told me she completely understood how some people cause new mothers more stress than the baby does.  Before she came, my mum said she would just do whatever we wanted and wouldn't offer 'advice'.  What a load of crap that was!  It has been exactly the same as it was in the lead up to the wedding.  She criticises every decision I make and if I ask her not to do something, she undermines me by doing it anyway.  I'm at my wit's end!

All of this is on top of Rory having an ear infection plus wind and feeding issues.  We have an appointment with a lactation consultant tomorrow and if she can't help us, I'm really considering giving up breastfeeding.  He'll still get breastmilk (I have an electric pump), but just not from the breast.  Each feeding session is an absolute nightmare and I don't need the stress when there are other ways he can get breastmilk (he takes a bottle far better anyway).

Then when Rory was just over two weeks old, I hurt my back bending over to retrieve a DVD out of the DVD player.  I was in agony; Duncan had to help me into bed and get me some painkillers.  I went to the doctor who was far more concerned with my mental state than my back.  I had to go back to be assessed for postnatal depression (which I already feared I had), but the second time he saw me, I was having a good day and he thought I wouldn't need medication for now.  Well, things went dramatically downhill after that and I felt the worst I'd ever felt (I'm sure part of it is connected to having my mum here.  I don't think it's a coincidence that I had a good day on Sunday when she wasn't here).

I know it's considered 'normal' to have a hard time in the first few weeks, but I still feel so alone.  I know some people have far more difficult babies than Rory, but I still feel so alone.  I know I'm not alone in my head, but I FEEL alone.  Maybe others have it far worse, but I feel like my plate is full, and I could never cope with any more than this.

The culture of silence has to be broken.  Mothers joke that they wanted to throw their child against the wall, but nobody admits what they've REALLY considered doing.

All I can do is ask God to help me, trust that He will, and pray that one day I'll come out the other side.

A quote from Up The Duff which so perfectly captures how I've felt:

I was so tired in those early days I thought it would never end.  I cried towards the end of every day when fatigue started to overwhelm me.  We discouraged visitors because rather than offer help, so many seemed to need attention.  The visitors who were really helpful were the ones who would pick up the baby or otherwise make themselves useful around the house.

All at once I felt lonely, but too tired to make an effort to reach out to friends.  It seemed like I was living in a fog of fatigue, robotically waking, feeding the baby and trying to sleep again; like some kind of demented wet nurse on Valium.  Beck told Des to make me go outside for a walk in the afternoons so at least I knew which was day and which was night, and that there was an outside world.  It helped a lot.

I've got to try to go with the flow.  Eddy is waking up every 4 hours, which is not too bad compared with some babies, but I am still absolutely stonkered from lack of sleep.  Not only do you have to live day by day, but sometimes hour by hour, without looking forward or back.

Marg described the first few weeks as 'falling through the day' and she had her sister and mother to help.

Breastfeeding is easier than it was in the beginning, but Eddy still has a lot of trouble attaching...The scar and pain from the caesarean make everything harder, including finding a good position for breastfeeding.  I need two pillows to balance him on, and how to feed him insouciantly and - arrgghhh - in public is a complete mystery to me.

His 'wind' is still bad and he cries and cries inconsolably after all the daytime feeds, really screaaaaaming in the ear of whichever parent is holding him: it's extraordinary how loud a baby can yell.  It's so hard not being able to take the pain away, and hard to remain patient with the crying.  Yesterday I found myself raising my voice in frustration and saying angrily, 'Shut up!', which is about as useful as saying, 'Act your age', and as soothing as a death-metal song.  Luckily I get hold of myself, stop raising my voice, and just end up crying as well....But nothing really helps.  I just have to keep saying, 'This will end, this will end.' (pages 415-16)


Libby said...

Love Kaz Cooke for keeping it real. And you for doing the same. How about you go and chat to the GP again - is there a counsellor in town at all or a phoneline you can call? Or a child health nurse? Even if you don't go onto meds straight away your post is telling me it would be great for you to talk to someone professional about everything going on. I will pray for you.

Hope the lactation consultant is helpful. As amazing as breastmilk is, your mental health is more important I think.

My friend had a baby last year and she had similar thoughts as you have entertained and she definitely found it helpful to tell someone (her husband, me and then later a counsellor who we advised her to see who was fabulous in helping her change the way she thought). Get it out in the open air with a trusted person can really help.

Praying you find good help and that you feel less alone.

PS I used to go outside when the crying got too much - as long as I was sure that baby was fed, clean nappy and just crying because they were tired/grizzly and safely in the cot/bassinet I went outside for ten minutes and I couldn't hear him and that was good.

Amanda said...

I was going to say that I wished I lived closer but really, that doesn't help at all. Thank you for being so honest, you have said what most of us dare not say. I'm praying, that is the most help that I can offer from here. I know what you mean about others causing more stress. Stress will also not help with breastfeeding as success is meant to happen with relaxing (huh!!). Maybe Duncan needs to put his foot down and just tell her to go. She will get over it.

Milika said...

Hi Sarah,
I'm a random from Qld who's been reading your blog for over a year.
Often it encourages me in my faith, regularly makes me think deeply about life and friendship and sometimes makes me laugh.
Sorry, I've just been a lurker for a while.

This sounds like a tough season. I am praying for you, Duncan and Rory. That you would continue to hold to the one true God, that you would would with patience and love settle into family life together.

Thanks for ending the silence. I have a couple of friends and sisters-in-law, where we had a code text. If I received the text, it meant 'come over today, before I throw the baby out the window'. Take action - see the GP or counsellor again. Do what is best for your family.

Keep perserving with love. Broken sleep makes everything worse.

But then, I'm a friend who has no kids.
Thinking of you,

Sarah said...

Thank you everyone and welcome Milika (thanks for coming out of lurkdom to leave such an encouraging comment, I appreciate it).. I know there's no way out but through this. I actually feel like I haven't been honest enough and that that post only scratched the surface.

I wish there was a counsellor nearby, but being in the country I fear my options are limited. I would prefer a Christian counsellor, but I doubt there's one available (made all the worse by the fact that I still can't drive for a couple of weeks).

Amanda, I so wish Duncan would tell my mum to leave, but he won't because he wants to be the peacekeeping son-in-law and he admitted he thinks I can't cope on my own and that I might do something to hurt Rory. Now I have a mother and a husband who have no faith in my ability to be a good parent. Makes me feel really great...not! Well, it all came to a head last night. After another showdown she is finally leaving. If she thinks I'm going to beg her to stay she can think again! I feel like I have no good options.... I either put up with her, have a clean house but go mad, or I flounder on my own.

I'm already looking into getting some hired help for the next two weeks....even it costs me my last cent.

Deb said...

The first six weeks are really, really, really, really, really, really demanding. I remember thinking each time that I felt like I'd been run over by a cement truck. When there's no sleep and every feed hurts and the crying drives you mad and your hormones are still all over the place - it is DREADFUL! So please don't feel that it's only you that can't cope or that you are doing it wrong somehow because it IS really, really, really tough especially if you are recovering from surgery and having feeding troubles and a baby who's had an ear infection!!!!

But - light at the end of the tunnel - for most women and most babies (not all of course) the time between 6 to 8 weeks usually brings a bit more calm and sanity. The worst will generally be over. I know that probably seems like a million years away but it will come.

I think it sounds like a good idea to have the house to yourself for a while. Some people love help but I always found I did better if I was just left to sort it out myself for a bit without the pressure of other people "watching". Not just your mum, but other visitors who are tiring you out might be able to be kindly persuaded to hold off on visiting for a while. Have a few polite phrases up your sleeve like, "The lacatation consultant has urged me to rest more so we have to limit visitors for a bit" or "Rory has had an ear infection and needs some extra TLC for a bit" or "My recovery is taking a bit longer than I thought so I'm trying not to over-do things". When you "blame" someone else (particularly a health professional) for not being able to visit or have visitors it makes it easier to say no. Before too long you can get back into friendships and is just a time to muddle through without the pressure of other people's expectations.

Remember that tribe in PNG? Nobody expected anything of that mother until the end of six weeks! The house will still be standing in two months, albeit a bit grotty and over-run with washing. Seriously: BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Major surgery plus having grown a human plus living with no sleep is a huge undertaking and people who can't understand that can just be ignored for a bit.

Praying for you and hoping things pick up before too long. P.S. with my later babies, I found they would sleep better in the day time if they were a little bit upright rather than flat on their back in the cot - like a baby rocker or something like that. Might not work - just a thought.

Wendy said...

Sarah, what a cry for help! Praying for you now as I type. As someone who's worked in rural health care, I know a little of the challenges, and my heart goes out to you and others like you. I did some searching and found this interesting WA website for families struggling with mental health issues related to childbirth. It seems to have some useful information and links on it:

By the way, I doubt your husband doesn't have faith in you. He's just probably never seen you not coping like this before and doesn't quite know what to do. He probably doesn't realise how difficult your mum is making it. he is right, though, that you should be careful about becoming too isolated, though your mum obviously isn't the right person to help.

Dear Father, help Sarah to know that your hands are underneath her, holding her and her family up at this time. Help her to know that you love her and won't let her go for any reason. Show her that you have a way through this and even though she might not feel she can hold onto you, you are carrying her.
In Jesus name I pray.

Mark Edwards said...

as a watch your wife go through this, and don't really understand it all the time. There is so much pressure on being a mum, and the whole Christian culture thing places added emphasis on that.

All I would say is, you have a beautiful baby, with a superb name. And you will get through. You will.

If you get the opportunity to leave Rory for a short time, to go shopping, have a coffee...walk the dog...take it. and enjoy it. He needs you to be rested and healthy. So you taking a break is good for him!

Also...he is your baby. Not your mums, not your MIL's....yours. You are responsible for him, therefore, you get to decide how to raise him. Advice is okay, but its up to you whether you follow it or not, because ultimately, he is your child.

Sarah said...

Thanks everyone.

Deb, yep I totally agree about the bouncy seat being really good. At times Rory has slept better in it than he has on his back in his cradle. Unfortunately that was one of the things that my mum was criticising me for and she just went on and on and ON about it.

Thanks for that link, Wendy. I will check it out.

Karen said...

Oh, Sarah :(

I have been working for the past two days so I've only just seen your post. I don't have anything to add to what the other ladies said (I agree with Deb, those first six to eight weeks are awful and then it really does seem to improve after did for me anyway) but I just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you and praying for you right now. I'm so sorry to hear you've been having a terrible time.

Thanks for being so honest and reaching out. And do remember, "This will end, this will end." Because it really does :)

Off to read your update re seeing the lactation consultant now.