I have been following a blog for a few years called A Cup of Jo. It was THIS post that made me first aware of the possiblity of a different type of postpartum depression. Medical professionals are now aware of the change in emotions that can happen when a new baby comes home. There are studies, medical professionals are on the lookout, and more and more women are talking about their experiences with what's commonly called Baby Blues. But not much is understood about a similar form of depression that occurs during weaning.
THIS article was posted in The Huffington Post in February, 2012 which mentions a study published in the Journal of Women's Health in November, 2011.
From the Huffington Post article:
"We don't have the data that measure oxytocin levels with breastfeeding and weaning. It's certainly plausible that losing that is going to make people feel physically bad, independent of any cognitive sadness they're experiencing," said Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OBGYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina and one of Meltzer Brody's co-authors.
"Research on pregnancy has been focused on the effects of pregnancy on the baby," she said. "The mom kind of disappears from the radar."
I feel lucky that I didn't have a bad case of the Baby Blues when Harper came home. I was still working for the first 9 months of her life, and although I felt extremely guilty for being there, I believe having those responsibilities helped me by staying connected to the outside world, giving me the opportunity to "re-meet" my baby at the end of each work day, and by venting frustrations with my completely supportive co-workers.
I was aware of the possibility of depression associated with weaning from the A Cup of Jo post. I put off weaning, postponing over and over. I started running, knowing weaning would be soon, in an effort to boost some natural endorphins. And then, when Harper was 17.5 months old, she was ready to stop, and I was okay with her decision.
There were some positive side effects. She would routinely wake up 3 or 4 times a night, not because she was hungry, but because she was in the habit of eating - so I started getting sleep. Yay! She had been showing an interest in using the toilet for several months, and after weaning stopped, she started using it once or so a day. (I don't know if these things are related, but the timing was uncanny.) She started being more comfortable spending periods of time by herself, reading, or playing, or by helping me with chores.
And all the while I felt/feel like I was/am a different person.
I get angry very quickly. I feel overwhelmed and unable to do basic things, like pick my child up when she's crying, or make lunch, plan my day. I interact less with her. I find excuses to leave the house to be alone. I can't stay focused. I forget what I'm working on. I cry spontaneously (most recently, I couldn't reach a box on a high shelf). And it took a long time to say anything to my husband.
One night after putting Harper to sleep, he asked me how I was, and I finally told him. How it really happened was this:
Husband paraphrased: I don't want you to take this the way that it sounds, because I don't want this to be a commentary on how I perceive your body, because I think you're beautiful, but you haven't been going to the gym. (I had been going 5 times a week for three weeks, and then nothing for 3 weeks) Are you ok?
I was a mess. I couldn't look him in the face. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had so much guilt...I couldn't even describe why! My body hurt. My heart hurt. I have never been one to ask for help, and now that I finally was, it hurt to ask for help. The amount of effort it took to say, "I cannot do this anymore" was gut wrenching. And he wasn't aware it was so bad. He had NO IDEA I was battling with any of this. But he was supportive. And we decided on some things that we could change. And he has been great.
About two weeks ago I finally shared my feelings with my sister while we were on our weekly skype date. And after I felt a bit better.
I talked with my mom, and after I felt a bit better.
I talked with my friend Trisha, and I felt a bit better.
I shared with my doula trainer, and I felt a bit better.
And because of all that "better" I'm a post about it. So you know, and the world knows, and when I get through this I can look back and see what I went through. And when Harper is older, and if she wants to read this, she will know that parenting is hard, but there are all these other things that are hard too, and no one can do it all. And no one can be everything. And sometimes people need help, and asking is hard. And receiving help is hard. But honestly is important. And trying to do our best though all things is important. And I'm trying to do my best. And I'm getting help. And I love you Harper, and all you mom's who are going through this too, you are loved, and you are wonderful, and you are strong, but you can't be it all to everyone all the time. I can't be it all to everyone.
I'm not through it. I'm not writing this looking back saying to you, I did it so you can do it! I'm sharing this now. This hurts now. I'm getting help now. I cry now. I have guilt now.
I talked with my mom this morning, and I feel better. I know I will talk about it more and I will feel better then, too. I need to keep running. I need to keep working on my goals, or at least remember I have goals. I need to accept help.