I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 19, 2009
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I read every online birth story I could find. I giggled about women who’d rushed to the hospital thinking their water had broken, only to find they’d actually just peed in their pants. I was mesmerized by the tales of emergency c-sections and water births and epidurals that didn’t work and three-day long labors. And I loved the moment at the end of it all, when the baby was placed in the mother’s arms for the first time and she looked down at her child and experienced an overwhelming, unconditional love. I couldn’t wait to experience that moment for myself.
Except that I didn’t.
My daughter was born without incident, cleaned off, swaddled, and placed on my chest. I gazed down at her and felt… well, relief that she was healthy and that labor had been relatively easy. Love. Definitely love. And eagerness to begin caring for her.
But I didn’t have that Moment I had read about and seen in TV commercials, in which time stopped and the light softened to a heavenly glow and my baby and I looked into each others’ eyes and felt It. The instant connection? The eternal bond? It just wasn’t there.
And I have to admit, I was disappointed. Secretly, in my heart of hearts, I suspected something was wrong with me. But I sure didn’t tell anyone. After all, this was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life.
I took my daughter home and began caring for her. On the outside, I was relatively calm but secretly, I was terrified. The tiny creature I held in my arms was my responsibility and the pressure I felt was enormous.
And it was all so different from how I thought it would be. Even though my daughter was latching on correctly, breastfeeding was excruciating for the first couple of weeks. Also, I still wasn’t connecting with my daughter the way I thought I would- Caring for her was, well, boring. All diapers and nursing and rocking to sleep… No magic.
Worst of all, strange and terrible thoughts were invading my mind, usually late at night. I’d wake at two a-m to change my tiny daughter’s diaper in our bathroom and as I held her, I’d imagine dropping her, hard, on the cold tile floor. Gory images of the results would run through my head on repeat play, torturing me.
While I knew deep in my heart that I would never do anything to hurt her, the fact that those thoughts of “what if I did?” were running completely unbidden through my mind really, really bothered me.
Today, I still have a clear memory from that time, of some logical part of my brain standing back from the scene, assessing all that was going on during those late-night diaper changes and thinking, “You’d better not tell anyone about this, because they will totally take your daughter away from you.”
And so I kept it to myself. I faked the bond with my daughter that I didn’t feel. I faked being the perfect new mother. I faked and faked and faked and over time, as my daughter began responding to me and smiling and cooing and as my post partum hormones began to ebb and fade away, I finally found that connection I was looking for. Eventually, the gruesome images that had haunted me when she was a newborn faded into the distance, becoming a secret I resolved never to share with anyone.
A full two years after my daughter was born, when my strange emotions were a distant memory, I read this post. And I realized that what I had experienced wasn’t at all unique or crazy. It was documented. It was widespread. It was a symptom of post partum depression. Here are excerpts from both the post and some of the comments that followed…
When my daughter was tiny and helpless and newborn, I was afraid to walk by the butcher block on the kitchen counter while I was holding her. I was afraid that my body would involuntarily pull a knife from the butcher block and use it to hurt her. And I was terrified. I didn’t know at the time where these wild thoughts came from, but I know now. I was suffering from postpartum depression.
For me, it was the balcony. I was scared shitless of our balcony.
For me, it was the stroller near traffic. What if I just. let. go?
…for me it was the landing on the top of the stairs. I was terrified that I would toss him over, or that I would trip and fall and he would fly out of my arms over the railing.
For me, it was the car. What if I swerved into oncoming traffic? What if that other car jumped the light and smashed into our car? What if Kaitlyn were killed? I dreamed up scenarios where I had a nervous breakdown and had to go to a special hospital where I wouldn’t speak to anyone for months.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was to find out, even two years later, that I hadn’t been alone. In fact, I was far from alone.
Afterward, I wrote about my post partum experience, but I did so on another website. I was pregnant again, and afraid of the judgment I’d face if I wrote about it on this blog. A few weeks ago, I came across that post. It was vague and apologetic. As I prepared to have another child and possibly face the same emotions I had after my first, I was obviously afraid to visit the subject with too much intensity.
I realized as I re-read that post that it was time to write about what I went through again, honestly and in a place where everyone can read it.
Because if there’s one mother or mother-to-be out there who reads this post and as a result, realizes she isn’t alone in her feelings, and that her doctor has certainly heard what she’s experiencing before and won’t think she’s a monster if she seeks help, then it’s worthwhile for me to share what has always been my deepest, darkest secret.
Today, I look at my children and I don’t think anyone will ever love them more than I do. Because I had spoken out to my husband about my post partum emotions (thanks to the blog post I had read), when they hit with my son, I took them in stride. I knew they would pass. And when I didn’t feel an instant connection with him at the moment of his birth (in fact, he cried and screamed so much when they brought him to my room that I remember wondering how soon I could send him back to the nursery without the nurses thinking I was a bad mother!) , I knew to give it time. Infancy simply isn’t my thing. I’ve enjoyed both my children more and more with each passing year, and I suspect it will remain that way until… puberty. Ahem.
With that said, if you have a story you’d like to share about post partum depression in the comments, I hope you will. I notice that posts like this one (and this one and this one) are read over and over again through the years, as women Google the subject and end up here.
I don’t want a single one of you to go through what I did, to feel so terribly reprehensible and alone.
Not when, as it turns out, our numbers are legion.
Not when there is help to be had.