Baby Blues: I Had â€˜Baby Bluesâ€™ Before I Had PPD
Though this series is called Baby Blues, I know firsthand that the â€œbaby bluesâ€ are very different from postpartum depression. The baby blues, says Mayo Clinic, is a short-lived emotional rollercoaster that the majority of new moms experience, while postpartum depression is a longer, more severe form of depression. Thatâ€™s one way to describe it.
But thatâ€™s not exactly how it was for me. I did have the “baby blues,” for sure. But when my daughter was born, I didnâ€™t just feel blue–I felt like every shade of the rainbow, all at once, in explosive Technicolor on LSD times a million. Those period-related mood swings I had back in the day had nothing on this. This was, somehow, deep sadness and elation all at once.
I was a blubbering mess after reading about a mom whose infant son was hit by a truck and launched out of his stroller (he survived, so you know, in case any of you are going through baby blues right now and youâ€™re about to jump off a bridge because you just read that sentence). But I also broke down every time I looked at my sleeping newbornâ€™s dainty little lips, or her microscopic fingernails, or her chest rising and falling in uneven breaths.
Baby blues hormones didnâ€™t just mess with my mind, either, they messed with my body. I was constantly warm. No, Iâ€™m sorry, not warm, but burning the hell up. Pouring out sweat like some inane SNL character. And this was in December. Having my daughterâ€™s body glued to me didnâ€™t help, either. I got many a stink eye from strangers for not putting pants or socks on my newborn even though she was right against my body in a Mei Tai carrier. They didnâ€™t understand! My daughter would overheat and DIE if I put socks on her feet! I wanted to go up to these strangers and grace them with my surface-of-the-sun presence, send a few Fahrenheits their way so theyâ€™d direct their meanmugging elsewhere. Instead I just obsessed over it all. Questioned my mothering and vented to my husband. Blubbered some more.
I have good news for most of you, though. The intensity off the baby blues tapers off. There finally came a time when I could read a depressing piece of news somewhat objectively, when I could appreciate my daughterâ€™s beauty without breaking into tears. There even came a time when I could sell outgrown baby clothes to the secondhand store without feeling like Iâ€™d just sold one of my own vital organs!
But a new feeling settled in, a feeling I now understand to be postpartum depression.
The difference between baby blues and PPD, for me, was the feeling of going numb. If baby blues was like ecstasy, PPD was a vegetative drunkenness. It was like my real self had taken up residence somewhere in the sky and was sleeping while my body carried out daily tasks. Make a lunch, drive to the park, unload baby. Smile here, nod there. I used to bring my daughter to my grandparentsâ€™ house every Friday, where we would all gather with my mom and eat snacks and chat. At some point, I became nothing but a baby-delivery vessel. My family was probably interested in my life, in what I had to say, but I wasnâ€™t.
In retrospect, the main thing that triggered my PPD was my attempt to live a lifestyle that didnâ€™t suit me. Essentially, I was trying to be my mom. Where my mom was creatively fulfilled putting all of her time and energy into motherly tasks, I could only feel fulfilled putting that energy into my writing. To me, motherhood wasnâ€™t an opportunity to perfect my sewing skills or develop interesting crafts and games. It wasnâ€™t a career, it was a roleâ€”something that would always be an essential part of my life, but not something to build a career around.
Iâ€™m not a doctor, and everyoneâ€™s personal situation is different, but in my experience baby blues was just a short-lived acid trip of emotions. And I can verify that baby blues goes away on its own. But depression doesnâ€™t, and if you think you may have PPD, you have to make changes. That may mean seeing a therapist, getting more alone time, or resuming work again. Whatever coping mechanism you choose, it may not fix everything, but I can assure you from the other side that itâ€™s definitely worth a try.