Archive for Psyche stuff

On postpartum depression

It takes a village to raise a child.

I see this phrase a lot on birthing and parenting blogs, testament to the fact that everyone with children needs help from time to time. We turn to family, friends, experts – Jonty and I didn’t wash Isaac for three days after he was born, until someone showed us how. Our tribe and its collective wisdom is there when we need to learn new things.

But my tribe is scattered. Singapore, Scotland, Spain, Sss-London. Always at the end of a phone line, but not necessarily on hand for a cup of tea and a hug.

This isn’t to say I’m alone and destitute in Singapore; Isaac has a rockin’ little hamlet contributing to his up-bringing. But we lack the knowledge of bigger numbers (and different generations) and the past seven months have been lonely and tough at times.

Hiring a nanny was supposed to make it better. Someone who knows lots about babies, someone to give me a break when Jonty’s work means 12 hours alone with the little fella. I had a list of indulgent things I was going to do once the nanny came: yoga, massages, pedicures. But it didn’t work that way.

I used the breaks from caring for Isaac to sit alone in my room and feel sad. I’d guessed I was struggling emotionally for quite a while, but I hadn’t really had the time or space to recognise it. But there’s no denying it now, my brain chemistry is baffled by its current predicament and that means it’s time to go to a doctor and get help.

When mothers struggled in the 70s the solution was to view their children through a valium haze – the wrong end of a telescope keeping life at arms’ length. Today the drugs are kinder, less intrusive, so here I am, prescription in hand.

It takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes you need Prozac too.

Raw

“I hate you,” I hiss through clenched teeth, while he wails back at me.

I feel instantly guilty, and hope he didn’t hear, but the words still came out.

His crying unravels something deep in my soul. I want so desperately to fix it, to make it stop, but at the same time I resent the cries for even existing. If they could be sucked back into the void, and that meant taking the baby with them, so be it.

I tell Jonty in the morning that I’d fantasised about running away in the night. I’d imagined finding someone who could love Isaac and take care of him, and I’d give him to them and just run and run.

The confession opened the floodgates and I’ve been crying ever since. I know these feelings are normal, I know everyone struggles at first, but I feel so desolate; so small and full of fear.

The pregnancy felt so easy, everything fit into place and made me strong. And the labour and delivery even more so. I’d never felt more aware, happy and certain of who I was and how I fit into the world.

Three weeks later I feel the exact opposite. I thought becoming a parent would be the same – not that it would be easy or I’d be perfect at it, but that it would feel right, feel like something I was meant to do.

I knew there would be sleepless nights and lots of feeds, but I was prepared for the physicality of it because that would fit into the framework of my new identity. I would be A Mum, and those are things mums cope with.

Except I don’t feel like a mum at all. I feel like a lost little girl who cries when her baby cries because she doesn’t know what else to do.

I can’t understand any of the things he tries to communicate to me. I constantly second-guess myself. I feel like any way I respond to him is wrong, and worse, I worry that my poor responses are somehow damaging his development or making him more likely to get upset.

I don’t know where to go from here, except to see if I can find some help. I need to know that I’m responding in the right ways to him, or I need someone to show me how I should respond if I’m doing it wrong. I need to know that he’s normal, that he doesn’t cry more than other babies, and that he’s going to cry less with time.

I need to rediscover my self-belief. I know it’s in there somewhere still, it always is. I need to dig it out and dust it off and let it make some of the decisions, instead of letting self-doubt continue to call the shots.

I need to take a deep breath and look at the sunshine and the new day and my new baby and *smile*.

Even if it’s only a half smile, tears still quivering at the corners, it’s a start.

Yes, you can.

How not to have an open relationship. Go read this Stranger article first, so the rest of this post makes sense.

I don’t agree that a relationship can’t evolve from one state to another if those states are determined (by whom?) to be too different. Shrews and warthogs share a common ancestor – all that separates them is a tiny handful of gene mutations and many, many years.

Time. This is the all-important factor, wherever the relationship is heading. In a situation where one person wants to be poly and another is set against it, you either have the conversation and possible separation now, or you say “Maybe we’ll be poly in the future”. If the anti camp still feels the same when the future arrives, you’ll likely separate then instead.

But… time does change things, not least warthogs and shrews. Sometimes when a person says “Yes, but not now,” they really mean what they say. Rather than assuming that means “Not ever”, patience, understanding, baby steps and a willingness to pick yourself up from the falls can help you reach a place where things really have changed.

I know cos the boy and I lived it. “One day” was the point we worked towards for many years. It wasn’t a case of “No, no, no” followed by a day when we stripped off our clothes and tripped naked through fields of third parties. Rather we got there in small steps.

Things didn’t always work out the first time, but that didn’t stop us trying again once more magical time had passed. Things didn’t always go at the pace I’d like, and yeh, sometimes I was impatient and bratty about that, which was hurtful. But I never doubted that we wanted to get to the same place, and that certainty plus a belief in the parts of our relationships that didn’t involve a poly label, meant the invested time kept ticking by.

Eventually enough of it had passed that our relationship looked very different. To labour the evolutionary metaphor, we changed to become adapted to the environment we’d chosen to live in. We’re red in tooth and claw, baby, and raring to go.

And having talked specifically about change at the macro level of monogamy or polygamy, I think there’s a pretty important message in here about change at the micro level of day-to-day happiness, however you structure your relationship. If you don’t accept that the first is possible, you are presumably more likely to overlook the second.

By accepting the small changes that happen daily, you make your relationship reflexive and responsive. You’re far less likely to look up one day and wonder where the warthog reading the papers came from.

The slut: quantified and qualified

Every so often I realise people’s assumptions about me don’t match reality – I guess this happens to all of us. Most recently it took place during a conversation with a drunken other about numbers of conquests.

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Sex dream

Woke up from a torrid dream in which I kept trying to kiss a friend of mine. I would put my arms round her and lean in, quite forcefully, and she would twist away and shout at me to stop.

I felt rejected and frustrated, and kept trying to force myself on her (IRL she’s someone who’s a mixture of comfortable and coy about that kind of thing). Back in the dream, she and her boyfriend then tied me by my wrists between two poles.

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Our baby has flippers!

26-30 days post-ovulation

And skin, apparently. And a wee heartbeat. And the fucker’s making me fucking suicidal.

The mood swings are tough. Tougher than the nausea, though thankfully there are touch points that remind me this ISN’T depression.

Depression for me becomes 24/7. I can smile though it, but it’s always there. The bad feelings become background noise – I hear them whenever I listen, and the desire to submit to them is strong – but life limps alongside as best it can.

There is no such constancy with the bad feelings I have now. They flare up bright and strong and unfamiliar and utterly derail me. I have moments when everything stops and I’m completely lost, flailing for a handhold – the sense is definitely one that’s desperate and grabbing.

But they’re over quickly and then I’m ok. The happiness in between is real, not a smile papered over the cracks to keep people distant. Adjusting to the choppy nature is hard, as is not panicking when the waves hit me but I think mostly I can deal with it.

Amazing that such big differences can be wrought by such small changes in chemistry.

Disclaimer

Received wisdom says you don’t tell people you’re pregnant during the first three months, because the chance of miscarriage is highest during this time (~80% of miscarriages occur during the first trimester).

This is psychological advice, of course, although people treat it like it has mystical, medical relevance. I understand that if I post on facebook or tell everyone in my office I may find I have to respond to countless congratulations with an awkward “Actually, we lost it.” That would be unpleasant so I’m choosing not to share yet in those settings.

But I also realise that facing pain and social awkwardness is my decision, not something a doctor can prescribe against. In simple terms, the post below is supported by the fact that if I do miscarry, writing here will be one of the first things I do to figure out my feelings.

Hopefully it won’t come to that, although I’ve been freaking myself out googling fertility stats. For my age group, 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies fail. Gulp. That’s much higher than I expected. In my favour: I not skinny, I’m not obese, I must’ve stopped smoking the minute I conceived (because it made me feel sick, our bodies are smart!) and for every 20 balls of cells that don’t make it, 80 go on to grow fingers and toes and force their way into the outside world.

Of course, all that forcing comes with its own set of worries… *frantically does kegels*

😀