Baby Number 4, who we lovingly refer to as our Little Cannoli, is now more than 1 month old. I am surprised and a little bit glad that the time has gone by so quickly. Usually my first month with a baby is a descent into chaos and I feel like I spend the next year or eighteen months trying to put my universe back together. To have it go by quickly means that I haven't been lost in the time suck that is depression. (Whee!)I think this is due to several exceptional things.
* I'm still taking my Paxil. It was hard to remember to at first. I've been out of the habit and so I was taking it at weird times and missing days--which is a set up for disaster. But then I got an awesome tip: Put your meds by your toothbrush! You almost always remember to brush your teeth and if your meds are in the same cabinet you'll always see them and be reminded to take them.
* I've got a whole lot more knowledge. During the first few weeks, before the meds had kicked in, I had a few suicidal thoughts (no plans, just lots of negative thinking like I didn't deserve to live and my family would be better off without me because there is no way I would ever be able to be a good mom to this baby) but they were fleeting and usually disappeared if I took a nap. I know about the link between sleep deprivation and PPD so I could take action rather than get stuck in an unproductive mental/emotional thought cycle. I also had a fair amount of intrusive thoughts. Mostly violent ones, like every time I walked up or down the stairs I would see my baby flying down them and splitting her head open or breaking her neck. They were scary but I knew what they were (hormonal misfires in my brain) and could move on instead being consumed by them. I still have some of the intrusive thoughts--I've acquired a whole new repertoire surrounding actual glass glasses--so I'm not sure if I should up my meds or not. I'll ask my psych when I see her.
* I've had a whole lot of support.
I've had offers from both sides of the family to help out with the kids (even though they all live hundreds of miles away!). We got lots of meal from the ladies at Church. And close friends were sensitively checking in on my mental state--friends who had been there--which meant a lot to me. I'm actually still with my mom and dad and it is great. Being with them for the last couple weeks has alleviated so much stress from my mind. I've gotten more sleep and I've been able to conquer caring for all four kids in small bites. I just feel like I've had adequate time to acclimate to the whole situation and actually bond with my baby instead of feeling overwhelmed and destroyed. I keep telling my mom that this time has been such an indescribable gift.
Actually, this whole experience feels like a gift. I'm surprised how sad I am that this is my last little baby. I'll never have another four week old to nuzzle and smell and cuddle. And I always thought that when that time came I'd be glad because it would mean freedom was on the horizon. But I don't feel free. It feels like a loss.
I think some of my feelings of loss are me mourning my previous post partum experiences. Sometimes as I'm nursing or rocking the Little Cannoli part of my mind will go back to when Number 1 or Number 2 were babies and I'll relive those experiences. Part of me will be feeling the frustration of trying to get Number 1 to latch on, or more like the echoes of that frustration, and the other part of me will be so grateful that the Little Cannoli nurses so nicely and then I'll remember (or possibly rewrite) a moment when Number 1 was nursing well. And then the frustration melts a little and the memory loses some of its sting. I'm sure there's some sort of name for that process, but for me letting go of some of that is, well, a gift.
It's also a gift to see my older three, who I struggled with so intensely, being kind and soft and patient with the newest sibling. It reminds me that even if things were rocky when they were born their lives have been filled with love and that things are going to work out.
I'm not projecting into the future. After we get home from my mom's things could fall apart or they could be fabulous. Odds are life will be a mix of stress and fun and disasters and peace. But I'm not trying to figure those out. I'm just here, loving my baby and enjoying my kids. Because they are all gifts--gifts that I am just now starting to see clearly.