Pigpen & PPD

Last month, my birth story won Thordora’s Pulsate Olympics.

This month, the topic pertains to the Postpartum Crazy Race. I wasn’t planning on participating. Mainly because I never was treated for postpartum depression, which seems to be the main purpose of Thordora’s topic choice. However, she has recently posted that the entries for this month are few and far between, so I’m going to say something.

I’m going to tell you about my pregnancy and postpartum period with Pigpen. And I’m not going to put it into nicely flowing paragraphs. I just don’t have time for that, but I will ALWAYS have time to openly and honestly share my experience with others. You all should know that virtually everything during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a variation of normal.

Ahem.

I became pregnant with Pigpen only a few months after my first abortion. Einstein was only 10 months old. I didn’t want another baby. B didn’t want a baby. I was still living with my parents. Neither of us were working. We weren’t in a position to be having another child. I wasn’t in a position to be caring for the one I had. And yet, my previous abortion loomed over our heads. I knew that someday I would want another child. I was afraid of ruining my chances of a healthy pregnancy with another abortion. I thought about the doctor who had shook his head at the patient before me who had been in for numerous procedures. I didn’t want to be that girl. I buckled down. I would marry B. We would figure it out. I would deal with the pregnancy like a punishment. And I did. For 5 months I hid my pregnancy. I was embarassed. Unmarried and with a small toddler. I couldn’t believe I had fucked up again. It was humiliating. I wasn’t excited for another baby. I already had a baby. What the hell was I going to do with another one? I kept telling myself I would quit smoking. I never did. Every evening I would come home from work and finally have a long awaited cigarette, away from the gawking stares of the public. And then I’d smoke pot. Every night. Every single night I’d smoke, and I’d convince myself and B that it was okay. In the womb, Pigpen was quiet. There were days that he wouldn’t move for 12 hours at a time. B and I moved into our own apartment and we struggled. We fought like crazy. He cheated on me. I sobbed and I hated life, and I found myself looking at adoption ads in the classifieds. In my third trimester, I looked for clinics that would perform late abortions.

Pigpen was born six days after the new millenium. A “Y2K baby.” His birth was easy, medicated, unfeeling. I was wheeled out into the courtyard shortly after for a cigarette. I had no desire to breastfeed him. Less than a week after trying to nurse, I gave in to the bottle. Besides, I couldn’t quit smoking and somehow the thought of breastfeeding and nicotine was even more despicable than smoking through a pregnancy. I had gained an enormous amount of weight, never having lost some of the baby weight from the first pregnancy. I was huge. I felt disgusting. I sat at home with a newborn and a high needs 18 month old. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store. My toddler wouldn’t walk on his own and so I would balance him on my hip and carry the infant seat in my other arm, sweating and cursing all the way to the doctor appointments. Our baby was born with RSV. He made several trips to the ER in his first month of life for breathing difficulties, no doubt tied to my prenatal smoking habits. When I think back on it all, it seems like a flatline. Total apathy. Ambivalence. I just felt…nothing. Pigpen was amazingly calm. He slept through the night from Day 1 onwards. He rarely cried. His cry was so unfamiliar that it would cause us to stare in shock. He slept 18-20 hours per day. We started propping his bottle. He became a fixture, sitting in the bouncy seat or the swing, a bottle propped with a rolled up receiving blanket. Sometimes I would forget that he was even there. B would come home from work and go hours without even glancing at the baby. He didn’t know how to treat an infant. He was only following my lead.

It only took a few months before I started to describe the feeling of “the walls closing in around me.” The apartment literally kept growing smaller and smaller until I felt suffocated. We packed it all up and moved. Little by little, I began to feel better. The space began to open up and everything inside didn’t feel so tight anymore.

It wasn’t until Pigpen was about 18 months old that I spent time with him. Just me and him. I clearly remember pushing him along in a shopping cart, and looking at his smiling face and thinking “Oh my God, I love him. I fucking LOVE him!” The bonding process began. A year and a half late, but fierce. Partly because of the guilt, I spent a great deal of time babying abd favoring him. But also because of his sweet and happy personality. Yesterday he turned seven years old, and his smiling face, quirky demeanor and loving spirit has been a constant source of sunshine in my life.

There will always be regrets about the way I treated my pregnancy and Pigpen’s babyhood. Just like any other bad decision I’ve made, I’ll always wish that I had done things differently. It’s never fun to have regrets about things you have done or said to your children. But just like every other regret in my life, it served its purpose. It taught me, changed me, and molded me into a woman who can empathize and relate to others in a non-threatening manner.

It wasn’t until many years later that I began to suspect that some of the issues I had after Pigpen was born could have been more than just situational depression. I wish that someone else could have had the same suspicions and come to my aid before things had spun out of control. I can only hope that my experience will make it possible for me to notice any red flags in other mamas.

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1 Response to “Pigpen & PPD”


  1. 1 Louisa January 10, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    If that aint Pregancy and postpartum depression, honey, I don’t know what is.
    Self medicating, apathy, active dislike… That’s what my depression looked like too, except I just handed my 6 week old to a baby sitter and went back to work 10 hrs a day. It wasn’t until he was about 15 months old that I realized that I did care…
    Thanks for sharing.


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