Friday, April 28, 2017

Post-Partum Blues?

I'm starting to write this two weeks post-partum. Yes, baby Turbo is now two weeks-old and is able to squirm around to reach where he smells his sweet milk - it's a bit scary that he's moving so quickly and the assurance that I won't have to run around a little boy 24/7 for a long while seems to be evaporating.

I have huge fears of chasing a little boy around. Maybe I mentioned before that one of the biggest
problems i had with pregnancy was that it limited my mobility. I used to be able to hit 6 to 8 H&M stores in one day and while I was pregnant, and then it was difficult for me to hit two (yes I measure personal freedom by the number of h&m stores I can go to in one day.) In my last few weeks of pregnancy, I couldn't get myself to do much at all and was exhausted after venturing out into the grocery store.

But I still knew that whatever little freedom I was having during pregnancy, once the baby comes out, my freedom will more limited in other ways; i might be able to bend down and pick up that receipt from the living room that is somehow invisible to my husband's eyes, and have more energy (maybe) to go out, but having to lug a baby around everywhere I go, I realize i'd be limited to so much more.

What I didn't anticipate though, was the c-section limiting my mobility even further. Once you've been cut open horizontally from the outside, and then vertically on the inside, you're basically rendered to a bed potato for a few weeks, if not a month to two. The healing time for a c-section is about 2 weeks for your outside cut to fully heal and you can begin to walk around like a human being (in pain) and 4 weeks to be able to get a bit of your agility back (with lesser pain), and 6 weeks to be almost normal (with a little pain).

I'm now at 6 weeks in an attempt to finish this post and I am able to walk at my pre-pregnancy speed (or at least very close to it). Keep in mind I was a speed walker.

So the first two weeks after birth was an absolute nightmare for me and filled with a lot of crying. As a friend who didnt even have a c-section put it, it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Are things going to get better?

A lot of people attribute the sadness to post-partum blues, which is something seemingly caused by hormonal changes and some type of mental illness. Throughout the two weeks that I cried so hard, I hated the idea that I was crying because of chemical imbalances.

Think about it: After 9 months of suffering through things like nausea, plugged nose, constant vaginal discharges, itchy and/or painful nipples, peeing every 3 hours throughout the night, trouble breathing, trouble moving around, not able to bend down, fatigue, etc. etc. etc., what was next was a marathon of contractions and a watermelon passing through you, or a knife cutting you open, and finally, a baby is born, and you face even more pain down below, a crying baby that needs to be held or rocked and fed on the hour, diaper changes, cracked nipples, constant bleeding below making feel smelly and dirty, and anxiety from not knowing if you are taking care of the baby properly (ami holding the right? Am I hurting him? do i have enough milk? why am i leaking milk everywhere? do i need to wake the baby up to feed? why is it crying all the time? why is there a rash on his butt? why does he hate his crib? Did I buy the wrong one? am i holding him too tight or too loose? Is the diaper too tight or too loose? What is that black and green sticky shit coming out of his ass?)

And then you have a village of people telling you what you should do, with conflicting advice from each other, and from what you think is right or what you want to do. And that pressure of not doing things right and being judged for everything you do even when you don't want to do it.

Oh, and not to mention that you realize that your tummy is still big, but now it is flabby and full of stretch marks, and there's no baby in there to justify it and making it cute, none of your clothes prepregnancy fit, and you look exhausted and feel even more exhausted, but you simply cant sleep since the tiny human needs to be tended to all the time. The fear that you will never be desirable again hits you hard.

You, as the person you knew yourself to be, is no longer - or at least it feels no longer. It feels like not only do you not look like yourself or feel like yourself, you also don't have the time to work on going back to you again AND you also need to dedicate your entire being to taking care of someone else. You can't even go out.

The overwhelming combination of helplessness, undersirability, trapped from personal freedom, the weight of the responsibility of another human life, anxiety of the present and the loss of the future...

And you attribute the above to hormonal imbalance? I think not.

For me, all this was compounded by the intense pain from the c-section (I was on morphine and two other painkillers for the first three days, then two pain killers for the rest of the two weeks which didn't do much for me) (my insides exploded every time I coughed or sneezed or laughed), and my mother telling me i could not eat 90% of the things in this world according to asian confinement rules and all i am allowed to drink is bland soup or bitter herbal meds, and literally confined to my bed due to the pain. I have even less freedom than when I was at 40 weeks.

So I cried.

I cried when I felt pain from the C-section. I cried every time I needed or wanted to do something but couldn't. I cried when I told people or thought about my birth experience and remembered the helplessness.  I cried when the pediatrician reprimanded me for swaddling the baby except it was the nurse who swaddled him (swaddling is not allowed in france). I cried when the baby sucked on my cracked nippled. I cried when my boobs were engorged and milk was leaking everywhere and I didn't know when it was ever going to stop and if I might get masticitis.  I cried when I had to feed the baby having just come out of the shower because it took too long to shower in pain, and I was naked, fat, ugly, and exposed. I cried when my mom made me bland soup I didnt want to eat and I felt like I could die from hunger. I cried when I tried to change the baby and was told I wasn't doing it properly. I cried when I remembered all the intense travelling I used to do with Caleb that we can no longer do. I cried when I thought about the time when we would cuddle and hang out in bed all weekend.

I don't think the crying was unjustified. I don't think it was because I was hormonal. It was because I was in pain and am facing a different life in front of me where an entire human being is dependent on me and I no longer feel important. The baby is now important.

I mourned for the loss of my identity. I grieved for my life that will be no longer.

And then I stopped crying. At least stopped crying as much.

The pain from the nipples healed (though they are still sore and leak all the time). I learned how to breastfeed with better positioning (that first latch is still painful). My c-section began to hurt less (my insides still explode in pain with a cough). My belly is no longer as big (but still a pouch and just as flabby). I can shower faster (maybe not as clean). I am allowed to eat normal food (with some exceptions). I grew more confident with regards to taking care of the baby (with a lot of google consultation). The baby was no longer feeding every hour (every 2 hours on a bad day, every 4 hours on an extremely good day). I am able to go outside (though i am still limited by the baby's hunger and my fear of going out with a crying baby and having to change his diapers in public so I don't go out unless I have to and i miss it so much). I am getting more sleep than a lot of other moms because I have a wonderful mother who is in Paris with us for three months doing everything from cooking wonderful meals to being the main caretaker for the baby when I'm indisposed and my husband is at work (but sleeping 8 hours straight? yeah right).

So it got better, and my crying lessened.

It's not post-partum blues; it's the adaptation of the human psyche.

Yes, there are women who do have serious post-partum depression that need to be treated. If after two weeks, you still don't see light at the end of the tunnel, a doctor is needed.

But within those two weeks, let's not treat us like we are all sick and blame it on the hormones. Empathize with us and realize that having a baby is effing hard work and sometimes people cry when shit is hard.

It still is hard, and it will no doubt continue to be hard. But we are all adapting.

Is it worth it? I don't think we can put a value on personal freedom, just as we can't put a value on raising a human life.

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