During the day she would nap for 45 minutes at a time. (By the time my second daughter was born and several months later, as I synchronized their nap times, I was sure to almost ALWAYS nap while they napped.) However, with my first daughter I found this more difficult to do. All I had was a 45minute period of time to myself. Could I really use it all up in sleep? I wanted to clean, cook, do laundry, and also read, play my guitar, or call one my sisters, my mom, or a friend.
She was still waking up several times each night. The more tired I felt the more nauseous I felt during my first trimester. I remember doing everything I could to not throw up as I walked into her room in the middle of the night, to comfort her, nurse her, or later on hand her a bottle and make my own way back to bed.
I weaned her during my first trimester, when she was 10 months old, because I felt like nursing was draining me. When my husband and I went on a trip with our baby girl while I was in my first trimester we tried giving her a bottle once when she was very thirsty, but had to stay in her car-seat. She took it right away and was happy. That was the beginning of weaning my daughter. I felt very sad about this because I always hoped to nurse for at least one year, and ideally two. However, each time I nursed I felt like my life was being sucked out of me. I literally felt like I had nothing left inside. My body was too exhausted from getting pregnant only 7 months after giving birth the first time.
Although I felt guilt about weaning my daughter at such a young age I could only live up to my ideals so much. My ideals were way too high with my first daughter, and that ended up backfiring in more ways than one. So, out of desperation I weaned her. I’m sure this helped my body, as I was now supporting only a pregnancy and not the production of milk for my young daughter as well. She was already eating a lot of healthy food at this point, so we kept the bottle mostly for comfort.
To make a long story short for me exhaustion and lack of self-care were the core physical reasons for my postpartum depression. Emotionally there were other underlying causes such as marital conflicts I was not able to face for quite some time as well as unconscious feelings around the lack of parenting I had from my own mother and father as an infant. I was only able to enjoy my children to a certain extent. The rest of the time I felt overwhelmed and angry with them. The true turning point in my depression was when I admitted to myself that I was so overwhelmed that I wanted to run away. The first step on my road to recovery was admitting this to myself, and admitting that I could use some help. Below I outlined some of the steps and resources that helped me get out of a state of depression and denial, to feeling happy, healthy, and able to enjoy my two precious daughters.
Things that helped me with my depression
1) Realizing (Oh, I’m really not myself). Sometimes pushing through life and being hard on yourself can cause you to miss what is actually going on for you. Paying attention to your inner state of affairs requires a certain amount of self-awareness and self-compassion. When life is feeling a little too hard try your best to slow down and check-in with yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now? What is really going on for me right now?” I was so scared of the answers to those questions that it took me about a year to even ask them.
2) Accepting (I can’t be perfect. I need help too sometimes). We all need to accept different aspects of our depression and its causes. For me I had to accept that I was not superwoman. I had to accept that I needed time alone, time away from my children and self-care. I had deep feelings of shame and guilt about wanting time away from my children. But because I suppressed this need for so long it had become more intense, and my desire was to run away from my life and my responsibilities. Such feelings and thoughts were scary to me and I was not able to recognize them due to the fear that I may actually act on them. But only once I was able to say them out loud and to accept them I was able to see the true needs behind them. I needed to learn how to take care of myself, in addition to taking care of my children and my husband. They needed me to learn how to do this for their own wellbeing. I had to reach bare bottom to truly realize how much my family needed me to take care of myself.
3) Talking (Therapy, friends, husband). Talking through my feelings was very helpful for my healing process. Because I was so ashamed about my feelings therapy was a safe place for me. My therapist helped me understand the needs behind my feelings and then I was better able to translate what was going on for me to my husband and my friends. My husband always begged me to take care of myself but I needed to acquire a new set of skills. I needed to learn how to take time for myself in the midst of being surrounded by the needs of my family. Over time I slowly allowed my needs to gain volume and become as loud as the needs of those I loved. I began to recognize that over my first year of parenting I had in essence lost myself. When my daughter had a need my own needs disappeared. I was not denying my needs, but I could not even sense them. In addition, as my daughter turned 1 ½-years-old she needed clearer and firmer boundaries. However, I would lose myself in her tantrums and have absolutely no compass as to where I stood and how I should set a boundary for my daughter to help her. I slowly gained this skill with the help of therapy, support and guidance from my husband, and my daughter’s strong and clear need for structure and direction.
4) Eating well (Cutting down sugar). I’ve always been a person who self soothes through eating. My strength is that I love vegetables and healthy foods. My weaknesses are sugar, especially in the forms of chocolate and ice cream, and generally over-eating. Exercising has always helped me feel more in touch with my body, move emotions through my body, and be able to better listen to my body’s messages of hunger and satiation. (See #6 below to read more about how exercising and dance helped my healing process.) When I took my healing into my own hands I did my best to cut down on processed sugar products and ice cream. It is still a constant process for me. Even today I often find that after a stressful bedtime routine, when I’ve finally gotten all my children to go to bed, I go straight for the sugar, even if I had a very satisfying healthy dinner. Sugar is addictive. I have many times made the goal to not eat sugar for three days in a row. After the third day my cravings are always gone and I can keep going, as long as my mind is set to it, and not eat sugar for the rest of the week. I find that my energy level is more even and I have a greater sense of peace and patience when I don’t eat sugar. The issue of over eating is usually taken care of naturally when I’m taking care of my other needs for emotional wellbeing. However, it too is a constant process for me.
5) Sleeping (Thank God for day-care and for my mother-in-law). Sleep is hard to come by when you have babies and young children. Daycare was a lifesaver for me, because it allowed me to take an afternoon nap while my daughter was there. It also taught my daughter to nap for longer than 45 minutes at a time. I am deeply grateful for my mother-in-law who paid for my daughter’s daycare. When my second daughter was 10-months-old she was waking up every hour to nurse. We invested in a sleep-consultant and that too was a lifesaver. The sleep-consultant helped us understand what we were doing and guided us every step of the way. I was still learning how to not be enmeshed with my children and the sleep consultant further assisted me in this lesson. She clarified my children’s developmental needs and potential around sleep. She was reassuring and responsive. She helped our whole family get better sleep.
6) Exercising (Dance and Nia). Exercising is hard for me to do when I’m tired, or extremely sleep deprived, as I was for a couple of years after the births of my first and second daughters. However, I took two different movement/dance workshops when my second daughter was about 1-year-old. Both of the workshops felt like medicine to my body and to my heart. I learnt that I must never stop moving my body for long. Now I know to push myself to exercise even when I’m tired. As I mentioned above, this also helps me be more in touch with my body and to eat healthier and better tune into my body’s signals of hunger and satiation. Moving my body is probably the number one medicine for me. It aids in healing any emotional turmoil or upset I may be experiencing. Dance is especially medicinal for me and feeds my heart in a way nothing else does. Movement has been a #1 priority for me ever since that time in my life.
7) Relationships (With my husband). One of the factors that contributed to my depression was some difficulty in my marriage at the time. Facing these issues and addressing them was essential in my healing. We went through some therapy together and we did a lot of complex emotional work to help us have a healthier relationship. This work penetrated my life deeply and influenced every relationship in my life. Every marriage, even the most loving and tender one has its ups and downs. I highly recommend that every couple get through the hard stuff sooner than later so that you can move forward and deepen what you share.
If you have ever had something help you get through a hard time in life please leave a message below and share your medicine with others whom it may be useful for.
~Blessings of true friendship, community, support, healing and celebration~