Romper

My Postpartum Depression Made Me Reject My Baby

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

When I gave birth for the second time, I not only gave birth to my first son but I also welcomed back an illness I thought I was long finished with. I'd read about postpartum depression signs in the doctor's office and in parenting magazines, and I understood that it happened to new mothers, yet I didn't think this would ever be something I'd deal with. I assumed that dealing with my depression was long behind me. It was something I struggled with in high school, secretly, behind closed doors, but as I grew up, I felt as if I also grew out of my struggle of depression. As an adult, I was happy and thriving. After my first birth, I felt so happy, I couldn't begin to fathom what postpartum depression after having your child would feel like. I was elated and just grateful she had arrived safely.

Then my baby boy arrived much sooner than we expected — two weeks early, to be exact. When I called my doctor to let him know I was still in labor after he'd sent me home the night before, he told me to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. I was going to have my second cesarean section, and my doctor wanted to make sure my water didn't break before I could make it to the hospital. But I didn't leave immediately. After we got off the phone, I called my mom who was five hours away and told her that I was most likely going to have my baby that day. Then I cleaned my house and got my daughter dressed to go stay at a friend's house. When we dropped her off on the way to the hospital, we stopped to see friends who were having a breakfast meet up.

My life was about to change — again — but this time felt different than it did when I gave birth to our firstborn. And by the time we actually arrived at the hospital, my doctor was operating on someone else, so I had to sit around waiting. But I finally felt ready to meet my son.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen
I'd look at my daughter and know she was mine. With Beck, I didn't feel that.

I got the chance to meet my baby shortly after he was born. He didn't cry as much as his sister, which made me nervous, and I didn't get to hold him again for a few hours. I felt like I was losing it, sitting and waiting for my nurses to bring him to me. But he had low blood sugar, so his doctors were checking him, drawing blood, and making sure he was stable. When he finally did make it back to me, our first night together was rough. He cried so much that my husband spent the night rocking him. He latched so easily when it came time to breastfeed him, but I didn't want to feed him. I begged the nurses for a bottle, but they shamed me into trying to breastfeed him again. I kept looking at his face, knowing it was beautiful, but not being able to actually feel that way about him. I missed my daughter, but she couldn't come into the hospital because of the ongoing bird flu at the time. By the time we came home, I was ready to settle back into the routine of our lives. Only now, we had a new normal to adjust to.

In those first days home I'd just stare at Beck as he laid in his swing, confused about where he fit in. I'd look at my daughter and know she was mine. With Beck, I didn't feel that. In my heart, I felt something completely different for my daughter than for him. I loved and adored her, and I wanted to feel that way about my son.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen
I'd given birth to him, carried him in my body for almost 40 weeks, but he was still such a stranger to me. One night as he laid in bed between us I looked at my husband and whispered, "I don't know who he is."

Over the next few weeks, grandmothers visited and so did friends. It felt like a fog of well wishers, but I just wanted everyone to leave and to leave me alone. I just wanted to be with my husband and my daughter. And I wanted to understand why I couldn't connect with my baby boy. I'd given birth to him, carried him in my body for almost 40 weeks, but he was still such a stranger to me. One night as he laid in bed between us I looked at my husband and whispered, "I don't know who he is." He is advice was to give it time, to let myself adjust. But I feared I wouldn't.

I worried that I'd grow to hate my baby, and that made me cry. I'd hide in the bathroom afraid I wouldn't learn to love my son. I watched my husband snuggle him with so much love, his older sister, constantly sitting near him making sure he was OK, despite only being 14 months older than him. Why couldn't I feel anything for him?

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

I stumbled upon an article that talked about postpartum depression, and it highlighted so many of the things I was feeling. I wasn't alone in my anger surrounding bringing a new child into the world, or the distance I felt from everyone . I cried with joy, with relief, and with excitement. I felt like it was finally going to be OK, that I was going to love my son. Perhaps I already did, I just couldn't feel it yet. A few months after I realized that I probably had PPD, I made my way to a therapist, who confirmed what I was feeling. She comforted me with assurance that it wouldn't last forever. That just like what I'd read online, it was perfectly normal for women to have this experience after birth. Slowly my fog began to lift, and I started to actually see my baby boy, and what I saw was beautiful. My depression lingered, and to be honest, it's never never actually left me. Thankfully though, the fear and dislike I felt for my son in those early days has.  

As he's grown up, Beck has become my shadow. He slept beside me until he was 2, always cuddling my face. I was his lovie, his everything. And even though he's 6 now, he still curls up on my chest, close enough to hear my heart and be rocked to sleep. He looks just like me. In the middle of the night he comes in just to kiss me and tell me how much he loves me. I still hold him when he goes somewhere new for the first time, and last year he even asked me if, on the first day back at school, I'd hold him when he met his first-grade teacher.

Part of me feels as if I might be making it up to him, making up those first few weeks where I didn't want to look at him or be close to him. But the other part of me is just enamored with him. I look back on our beginning and am so proud of where we are now.

I love him so much. It hurts how much I adore him.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

My ex-husband says that I coddle our son and that I don't discipline him enough. He worries that I let Beck get away with too much. Part of me feels as if I might be making it up to him, making up those first few weeks where I didn't want to look at him or be close to him. But the other part of me is just enamored with him. I look back on our beginning and am so proud of where we are now. Depression is a scary beast, one that made me numb to things back then, still makes me numb to things even now. To this day, I've been afraid to use any medicine to help me cope with my depression. I've used special food diets, exercise, and sleep as natural coping methods. There are moments where I feel as if I'm way too far on the edge, and I believe that eventually I may rely on medicine, but not yet. I'm just grateful that I can feel every bit of love that I have for my children, especially my son.