If there’s one chapter I could erase from late in life motherhood, it would be my encounter with postpartum depression. These days I love being a mommy more than I ever could have imagined; but it wasn’t that way in the beginning.
You see, pregnancy had come as a complete surprise. And although I knew that becoming a first time mom at 46 would be a big adjustment, it was an exciting and welcome surprise. I looked forward to my baby’s arrival with great anticipation.
But within days of Adam’s birth, postpartum depression (or “PPD”) took the joy out of his arrival. Instead of blissfully bonding with my newborn, I was overcome by thoughts and feelings beyond my control. And when I saw a character on a TV comedy fantasizing about throwing her newborn out the window, I didn’t laugh.
I actually felt relieved! I realized I wasn’t alone.
Women with postpartum depression are highly unlikely to act on these thoughts, but they’re disturbing nonetheless. We’re led to believe we’ll bond instantly with our newborn and that our maturnal instincts will guide us. I’d really bought into that story. After all, that’s how it worked for the other moms I knew. So what was wrong with me?
I hope that I can spare other new mothers what I went through or at least prepare them for what PPD is like. So allow me to share my story…
What’s Age Got To Do With It?
Doctors consider “advanced maternal age” to begin at 35. I delivered my son at age 46.
Naturally, in my forties I had less energy than I’d had in my twenties and thirties so running on a sleep deficit was taking a bigger toll.
Adam was up at sunrise every morning for over a year and awoke every two hours through the night for his first five months of life. Even when he napped
my baby made weird noises in his sleep that would jar me awake.
Starting at 5 months, we began to tally up some nights with no awakenings, but it took ME almost a year before I could stop MYSELF from waking up every two hours! The little guy had programmed me too well.
For sure, being close to menopause wasn’t helping my sleep quality either.
Hard Labor, Long Recovery
A difficult labor and delivery has been shown to contribute to post partum depression. I labored for 18 hours and had severe pain for the final few hours that the anesthesioligists couldn’t control. The grand finale was an emergency C-section. So, even with 6 days to recover, I did NOT leave the hospitial with a hop, skip and jump in my step as promised by my obstetrician.
Recovery at home took many weeks. At first I couldn’t even sit up in bed without help. My mother had to move in for a week, followed by my mother-in-law for two more, just to help me get through those first stages of healing. I wasn’t used to having house guests and now I had two in rapid succession as well as a brand new baby!
The Past Predicts The Future
Depression was part of my past. I’d had episodes since my teens. But now, a therapist had to help me find a medication that would relieve my symptoms and wouldn’t reach the baby through my breast milk. It took some trial and error to find the right one.
Inability to produce breast milk is also cited as a cause for post partum depression and boy oh boy, did I have my challenges! From low milk production to mastitis, from breast pumps for enhancing milk production to cabbage leaves for tapering off, my adventures ran the gamut.
The profound changes that parenthood brought into my life were the biggest factor in my inability to adjust. Suddenly my well-ordered life wan’t mine anymore. It was ruled by a tiny little person with endless needs. I was afraid to leave his side for more than a minute. What if something happened? I felt trapped!
I’d have to say that a lack of experience played a big role too. After all, I had rarely spent time around babies or little ones. I’d never babysat, and had no younger siblings. Heck, I’d never even changed a diaper . So, was I prepared in any way for becoming a new mother at 45? Not in the least!
Although my husband and I had looked into IVF and adoption we had decided against both. I simply felt I was too old at 43 to take on all of that. Had I not become pregnant at 45, I would have remained ambivilant about motherhood forever.
For me, pregnancy was a happy accident, a serendipity.
In time, I did recover from my depression. Today I’m thrilled to be a mom. I can honestly say I never been happier! But it was almost a year before the depression lifted and I could begin to enjoy my new role as a mommy!