Friday, July 08, 2005

Jealousy & PPD

I've come to the conclusion that Post Partum Depression stems from the growing realization that you won't be sleeping anytime soon, and resentment towards a husband who is getting his full uninterrupted 8 hours.

Sure, there's biological reasons for PPD such as the drop in hormones and probably some brain chemicals. And there are many contributing factors such as increased isolation, change in life, and significantly greater responsibilities. There's also the body's refusal to drop any more weight, the dark stretch marks, soft belly, too tight clothes, and unfamiliar chest, with all the accompanying self flagellation regarding said disappointing body. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to a little rest.

Right now I'd probably leave my husband for a man who offered to help me unpack from the weekend and watch the kids for 2-3 hours. Why can't there be some mandatory eternal courting by the chivalrous knight that evolves into something we really need and not the flowers or box of chocolates (although either is always accepted)? Does any man know the power of such actions? There is no greater aphrodisiac for a woman with a small baby than a few moments to rest and collect herself. Not every night, let's not talk crazy talk, but just once in a while.

I find myself taking long showers just for the relaxation of it all. Time to be alone, with hot water and the inability to hear anything outside the bathroom. The key is to lock the door, and to actually find time to do it. So I begin to resent my husband for taking his shower every day after work as it is his default and any other priorities (like child or baby) have to wait until this important task is accomplished. If only my showers were held to the same high regard. It is hard for me to imagine for myself the luxury of a daily shower. Once I got in there, I might not come back out. Good thing our jetted bath tub is out of commission. It would be an irresistible siren.

I feel powerless to take care of everything in the household. I can't get to my laundry or the kids' laundry, and while the kids have plenty of clothes, I am nearing the bottom of my short stack of non-maternity clothes I can squeeze myself into. Today I'm wearing workout clothes and won't be working out. There are also those suitcases, physical reminders of all that I'm unable to get done. One from the Arizona trip and two smaller ones from the trip to my mother's for the 4th. While I can understand having to unpack myself, why is it my job to both pack and unpack the children? When do they become our children?

And I guess that is the crux of it all.

Yesterday Matt asked me about my proposed trip to Arizona next week. After all that occurred last week, I still haven't bought the tickets, yet I would really like to go, and really should go. I have to be there for 2 days, one of which is his normal day off. During that time his parents will be visiting. He asked what I was going to do about child care for my trip. I? Why is it I have to make the babysitting arrangements when we are both going off to work? But I didn't answer him with this very logical question. Instead I calmly stated that I will be simply going to work. Much like he does every day. Just going to work and assuming that someone will watch the children. So with a big sigh, he said he'll take the day off. I didn't ask why his parents couldn't watch the children. And I didn't acknowledge his great sacrifice. Afterall, he doesn't recognize any of mine.

Is it wrong to constantly count the hours of sleep your husband gets? I can only go to bed after Jack's last meds at 11pm, then getting up every 1 1/2 to 2 hours for feedings. The nightly dance of the comatose mother, hearing the baby fuss, reaching my hand out blindly until I hit the touch lamp, balancing myself on my side with the boobie angled just right so that he can feed while I close my eyes, unable to sleep but not awake either. This morning the alarm clock woke me only to find that dear husband left without changing the baby. Jack's bag is an inflated balloon, tight with a night full of gas, threatening to leak toxic waste over all my bedding. Is it any wonder that I'm a little cranky? And isn't calling it PPD just a way to deflect any responsibility off the husband for how the wife is feeling?

Many women experience PPD, and I did before starting approximately 2-3 months after the birth of my daughter, exactly where I am now with Jack just turning 3 months old. I can feel the undertow grabbing my ankles and trying to pull me under. It hasn't taken over and it's not constant, but I can feel it threatening. How can I be sad when I finally have my babies? And why should I try to blame everything on everyone else? I need to break out of this box and just get things done. Yet, it is not that easy. There are other priorities, and there's something that keeps me from making it right. I can't put a finger on it, and I'm fighting against it. Maybe a nap would help or a walk or some unpacking, but I'm just too tired. Nothing serious here people, just trying to fight off the blues with a little anger and jabbing commentaries towards the person I love. I guess that's my "go to" in times like these.

While trying to fight off tears, I wonder why he doesn't recognize my bitterness for what it is? He didn't before either. Only Valerie did and after a month she flew in and saved me. How? She talked to me, made me laugh, helped me tackle some of those impossible tasks which were my daily defeats, and took me out for a day away from the baby to have some fun. She can't do that now. And I know that my husband, despite both my subtle hints and outright statements, can't figure that I should have any issues with tiredness or sadness, or figure that I need any help from him. He's not a Randy Yates, but part of me wants to start crying hysterically while punching and kicking him and yelling at him for not trying to help me when it's so obvious that I need him. My calm outward appearance hides my need for him. And because he doesn't see it, and because he doesn't help me, I slip further towards that black hole, and my tongue turns sharper towards him. Even when I flat out tell him I need help, he doesn't hear because he responds that he is so tired, and drags himself off for another 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber.

On the other hand, maybe I'm right. Maybe my PPD is just the manifestation of that growing resentment towards living in the same household with someone who gets all the same joy but minimal change in life or responsibility for our children. And even if it isn't the cause, it still doesn't seem fair.


Anonymous Lisa said...

I'm so sorry you're feeling bad. I wish I could wave a magic wand and tell you the secret of getting more from Matt, but I can't because apparently I'm married to his twin. Our boys are 11 and 8, and he STILL calls staying with them "babysitting."

I did find that it helped somewhat to tell him EXACTLY what I wanted him to do. If the baby needed changing, I would literally dump the baby in his lap and say, "Change him." Then I would walk away before he could protest.

And this quote:

There is no greater aphrodisiac for a woman with a small baby than a few moments to rest and collect herself.

made me laugh, though, because on the RARE day that the baby was asleep by 7:30 p.m. and the housework had been beaten down to a managable mess, I would sit down, sigh, and say, "It feels good to just SIT here and do nothing" my husband would say, "Wanna go do it?" Aphrodisiac, my ass. :)

Anyway. . .I'm sorry you're so down. Here's hoping it gets better!

11:15 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I've been reading your post for a while, and your experiences inspired me to start one of my own. You're a remarkable woman and I am truly in awe of all you have been through and all you continue to accomplish.

I wish for you to get some quality sleep and feel content. That said, here's some assvice I hope you won't hate too much.

Definitely communicate to Matt how you are feeling, what you are thinking and why you are thinking it. He can't read your mind and he's not going to start, no matter how apparent you think your needs and wants are.

You have explained that shower time is terribly important to you (and it truly is). Not only does it get you clean (which is nice), but it recharges your battery. A shower has become a mini spa treatment. Would it be possible to take a shower when Matt is home, for him to tend to his offspring while you take your necessary shower - just as he does? When he says that he's tired, can you tell him "I understand that you've had a long day and you're wiped, but so am I yet I keep going and will be up several times in the middle of the night to administer meds and feed Jack. So with that in mind, I'd really appreciate it if you would..." If push comes to shove, you can always add, "I really do get that you're tired, but I'm going to need you to do...[fill in blank]. That wasn't a request. I need your help to raise OUR children."

I was raised to believe that you never put yourself first. The needs of your family need to be met first, then you take care of yourself. Years later, I reiterated this to a very wise woman who I respected immensely. She said that was the worst advise she'd ever heard. She said you MUST fulfill your own needs first. Once you do, you will be happy and content to meet the needs of your husband and family. If not you will harbor resentment for your husband and family, which will continue to compound day by day. You will become a miserable, bitter martyr - of your own making because you didn't make sure your own needs were met. (Naturally I don'y mean you, specifically - it's a general 'you').

Going though PPD must be awful - please get the help you need. I don't subscribe to the Tom Cruise School of Medicine; more than excercise and vitamins are necessary to treat PPD. I don't want to see you so unhappy and struggling just to get through the hours.

I hope this wasn't too over the top. I just want for you to be happy, but I know you've got so very much to be getting on with. I cannot even fathom how you do it, plus you find time to post. Jeez louise!

Hang in there, and talk with Matt. I wish you the most pleasant evening and a delightful weekend. Be well!

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh- how this rings a bell! Thank you for putting into words many of my feelings for the first 2 1/2 months of my daughter's life. Even the most kind and caring of husbands, like mine usually is, don't always get it! Having a newborn is such a big adjustment for everyone, unfortunately we as moms just have to deal with it and keep daily life plugging matter how exhausted we are. I wonder why this is....I guess it has something to do with the maternal part of us. Anyway, I agree that you need to talk to your darling husband and tell him some of what you wrote here...better yet, show him this entry. I should practice what I preach and get myself ready right now so I can step out- by myself- as soon as hubby walks in the door tonight, but I won't. I hope you get that long shower. Maybe make him a list...that might work!
At 5 months we are all doing much better...and the lack of sleep is less debilitating. Take care of WILL get better.

3:12 PM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

I'm sorry you're in the valley right now.

Maybe my PPD is just the manifestation of that growing resentment towards living in the same household with someone who gets all the same joy but minimal change in life or responsibility for our children.

Is there some consolation in thinking that maybe this isn't true? When my Small Boy rolled over front to back and back again for the first, I called my husband at work to tell him. He was upset that he had missed it. And this past week, while my husband was off in military service, the Boy mastered balancing while sitting - he can sit up and play for short stretches. Again, the husband missed this milestone. Is there any consolation to be had in thinking that yes, you are getting the bulk of the work but you'll get the bulk of those firsts, those moments, too? Or do those moments seem far away and fleeting right now?

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Menita said...

Ah, spousal resentment.
I've been mulling over a post about this for some time now, as my version of PPD largely centers on resenting how good he has had it in comparison...
I've tried what Lisa says, and it does work. The trying to talk and getting him to "get it"...not so much.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I didn't know better, I would say we are married to the same husband! He thinks every cry can be fixed by bringing baby to me for nursing. Sorry, sometimes it's a diaper, too hot/too cold, gas, burps, or just plain cranky! Grrr.

Also, why is it my job to handle all nighttime wakings, except once in a while he does it and then I'm supposed to be extremely grateful??

(Our third child is 6 weeks old right now, and I haven't had two hours of sleep together in quite a while.)

In all seriousness, in the past whenever I have become totally fed up with my husband over childcare stuff like this, and finally work up the nerve to talk about it with him -- I discover that he has been completely in the dark. My subtle hints are too subtle for him. He is invariably sorry, and in some cases has felt I was "hogging" the baby. As if!

Anyway, just wanted to encourage you to share your feelings with your husband. Unless he is a complete jerk (seems unlikely) it will probably help.


9:28 PM  
Anonymous alex said...

This sounds like a tough one. I wish I had some advice but of course I do not and would not give any. Just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you. Hope you get some sleep soon.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have so been there. And having child (or two)that needs extra care, and being the gatekeeper to all of that mess just piles it on. We're past those rocky infant times and it's easier the older they get.

Communicate until you can't anymore. Be direct. I had to be. After all was said with my beloved, he said he couldn't read my mind...

What I say to myself about 100 times a day: "Remember, your air mask first."

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I agree with your commenter above: Print this entry out and give it to him to read! ... Well, maybe I am a bit cranky and sleep deprived myself (currently 5 wks pp), but I still think you deserve (and should demand) that blessed shower and a little bit more equality when it comes to kid responsibilities. And if he's not hearing what you're saying to him, your thoughts outlined in black on white might better get his attention. I myself am more terrified of that coming-apart-at-the-seams feeling (like your very self is dissolving) that signals PPD than most anything else. Though I think your resentments are valid (and not the crazed ramblings of a pp mom), I also think the lack of sleep, etc. could easily blossom into full-blown PPD. I hope it gets better for you!

5:46 PM  
Blogger HomeFireBlue said...

Oh, oh, OH, I can so relate!

I could have wirtten your words about the shower. A luscious moment of bliss: warmth on a tired body, gentle massage of the spray, the white noise of the water in that small space ... ahhhhhh.

It's the only few minutes I get alone with my own thoughts.

I hope you feel better soon.


3:17 AM  
Anonymous Kez said...

You know what you said about crying hysterically, kicking and punching and yelling? Do it. He'll get it then. Sometimes they need a meltdown before they'll act. Believe me.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Meh said...

Can so relate. Sorry you are having a tough time. It gets better. As you know.


5:52 AM  
Anonymous Robert Carnegie said...

Look after yourself; especially if you are really in PPD rather than having a bad day or two - and it can be difficult to distinguish depression from a few bad days together - then that's something to see a doctor for, and get pills if necessary. A new baby is unbelievable hard work, even without Jack's problems; you're running a household, you're holding down a job; division of labour between you and Matt is no one's business but the two of you, but you need an explicit bargain that both of you can live with - and depression is an illness, one that has to be taken seriously - although I have seen doctors that claimed not to believe in it. They're wrong. If need be, go to your doctor sooner, not later, because if you get pills then they take time to kick in.

The suitcases are a bad sign, can you make a point of dealing with them?

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Juliet said...

My little one is 7 weeks old and I couldn't have said any of it better myself!! You said exactly what I feel everyday! It's amaazing marriages surivive having children!

5:13 PM  
Blogger L said...

I feel like this is something I would have written myself. Only not as eloquently. heh

There are so many factors that affect a new mom. The combination of a million different, foreign challenges just heighten my sensitivity to things. The lack of sleep alone practically sends me over the edge. My daughter is now sleeping through the night but when she wasn't I felt like a co-sleeping prisoner chained to the bed. I would be stuck in bed trying to nurse her to sleep while my husband sat on the couch, checking his email and eating ice cream.

My husband and I finally had a really serious talk about our situation about a month ago. I think I just had alot of expectations of him but never actually expressed them outloud. I just figured that if I knew what to do he should figure it out as well. Of course, figure it out meaning "do it My way!"

We are still working on sharing the baby duties. It just takes alot of effort and communication, as annoying as that sounds. (and as annoying as that IS, sometimes)

I told my husband about this post and am going to make him read it. I think this will give him a better understanding of what I've been feeling for the past months.

I hope things get better soon.

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