Friday, May 15, 2009

Emotions

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I really feel quite inadequate to write a post on emotions. Other than the postpartum time in my life, I have no trouble keeping my emotions under control. I am a very even person emotionally. I think my logical side has a lot to do with it. I am not easily offended. I readily recognize that everyone has a different perspective based on life experience. I believe most people want to be good and aren't looking to damage other people in any way--I give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that no one can make me mad or upset; only I can allow that to happen. Etc. etc. etc.

When my husband and I were first married, he walked around in a constant state of stress. It turns out he was waiting for me to blow. He is the only boy in his family, with three sisters. He is really, really good at avoiding common things males do to upset females. Not to say his sisters and mom are crazy people who fly off the handle; they are just females. My husband was just waiting for me to get upset over something.

The funny thing is that I am a blunt person. If I am upset about something, you will know it and you will know it in a frank manner. You will hear it from me directly. My husband was waiting around for me to break down about being upset over something, and I wasn't upset in the least. I tell him his talent for dealing with women is wasted on me :) The poor guy was well equipped, and still had to learn a whole new way of communicating.

I tell that story just to illustrate that I am just an even emotional person. I have never understood how people could get emotional. Of course, life (or as I would call it, God) has a way of helping you understand things. You gain experiences to help you relate, sympathize, and empathize with people.

Growing up, my Mom would often tell me how lucky I was that I was a happy person. I was lucky that I didn't have to deal with depression. My Mom and sister both have experience with it. I have never understood it, but I have been around it.

Then comes postpartum life. By the time Brayden was born, my husband had accepted the fact that if I had a problem with something, I would talk to him about it. During my postpartum time, however, I morphed. I bottled emotions up. When he did or didn't do things that I wanted him to, I said nothing and instead just got more and more irritated with him. It took me some time to realize that I was the one being different. We talked about it all. I don't know that we ever really recognized that I was different because of hormones. We thought motherhood had affected me, but not necessarily that hormones had anything to do with it.

After Kaitlyn was born, I again clammed up. I found the isolation of being housebound difficult. I am a social person and an extrovert. It made me very sad to watch my husband and son leave to go do something. I was happy that Brayden had someone to do things with, but it made me sad to miss out on it. We again talked about things, and everything was good and back to normal when postpartum was over.

After Kaitlyn, I did recognize emotions. I was stressed out. I had no appetite. I had a panic attack while in labor with her. We had lost a baby boy between Brayden and Kaitlyn, and I lived in constant fear that she was going to die any day.

Before McKenna was born, my husband and I had it all figured out. We talked about all of our pre-conceived notions. We knew what I needed to be less emotional. My husband is the type of guy who wants to go out and work on stuff after a new baby arrives. He wants to fix up the yard and house to be the best it can for the baby. He wants to go shopping and run errands because he wants to help out and doesn't know what else to do. After Brayden was born, I saw this behavior and assumed he hated Brayden and didn't want to be around us. After Kaitlyn was born, he reacted by starting work on an elaborate playground for the children (which, by the way, is awesome), but I just wanted some company!

So, the third time around, we knew what we needed. We knew how each other reacted and what each other needed. My husband knew I needed him around to talk to. He knew he needed to force me to rest and take it easy. He knew I needed to get out every so often. Things started off really great. I was taking it slow. My husband stopped all projects and stayed inside helping around the house and just talking to me. It helped that it snowed a lot :). I was calm and completely unemotional. The first two weeks were heaven.

Then work happened. We are thankful my husband has a job and is needed at work, but it was bad timing for an emergency. He was needed at work. He had to work longer hours every day. As Easter weekend approached, he was told he would be working the entire weekend. Not only did we have Easter plans, but Kaitlyn's birthday celebration and lots of family coming to visit. I was overwhelmed at juggling my three children with little break and preparing the house and food for visitors with the three kids--including a two week old!

My parents were great to help where they could, but my Mom was foaling out her horses (she had 8 babies since McKenna's birth) and couldn't get away much. My husband's schedule continued on with Saturdays and late days. He also was finishing up his semester working on his Master's Degree, which included group projects, presentations, studying, and tests. All around, it was a busy time. This went on for several weeks.

And my emotions were not so even anymore. What was wrong with me? Why was I so able to cry at the drop of a hat? Things weren't so bad. McKenna has been such an angel baby (what a blessing!). There was nothing I could ask more of her. Brayden and Kaitlyn were really good. They are good children. I was just emotional. And there was little I could do to change it. That is what bothered me. And then I had days where I was superwoman, and this was all too easy. What? Did I mention that I am an even, logical person? The logical side of me kept telling myself to get a reality check, but my emotional self (didn't know she existed) wouldn't listen.

As I mentioned in one of my Newborn Summary posts, I was re-reading Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. At the height of my emotions (week three seemed to be the worst), I happened to be on page 227: The Many Moods of Mum. Hogg discuses the many moods swings of early motherhood. Hogg says that mom will experience many moods, all within one day possibly, definitely one week. Here are some moods she broke down:
  • This is Easy: You are calm. You are happy. Things couldn't be better. Yep, I felt this way often. After all, I am the Babywise Mom. I can handle it.
  • Am I Doing This Right?: Anxiety. You worry that you are doing something wrong. The slightest bump in the road sends you into a panic. Yep, I felt this way, too--even in the face of no problems. I had my moments of worry. Though I will say that I had them a lot fewer times this postpartum period than my first two.
  • This Is Really Bad: This is your last child, you are sure of it. You can never do this again. Why did you want to have a child in the first place? Things were good! Yep, felt this way too. I never wondered why we had a child in the first place with McKenna, but I did with both Brayden and Kaitlyn. With McKenna, there have been many thoughts that three kids is good. I don't know how many children we will have for sure and do not believe there is one right number for every family to have. Three might be good. We might have more. We don't know right now. Logical me tells myself postpartum is not the time to decide. But I do have a good friend (mother of 6) who tells me that she pretends every child is her last during postpartum. It helps her make it through :)
  • No Problem, I Will Fix It: You are smart. You are capable. You will fix it! I actually don't think I have felt this, surprisingly enough because I am smart and capable! ;)
  • The Book Says: You search books and books looking for answers. You make lists and lists. You refuse anything that could disrupt routine. Yep, I have been there too. This is a fine line. You want to ensure consistency. You need to make some sacrifices for your baby. But you don't have to shut your life down forever. It is also good to turn to books...just not too many. Every book is going to have different advice. Look until you find what you are looking for. If you look too much, you are going to confuse yourself with the millions of opinions out there. Remember that your schedule is to serve you, you don't serve your schedule.
As Hogg points out, some sadness is definitely normal. I think that is the message to take home. Expect to be emotional and irrational. But also be aware of the line between depression and the blues. Be really honest with your doctor about your feelings. He/she can help you know if what you are experiencing is normal or not. Talk to good friends and family so you can have a gauge if you are having normal blues or something more. I have found when I talk to other women about my feelings, they relate. They remember those feelings. I have a good friend who always tells me she appreciates my honesty. She had her first baby 13 months after Brayden was born. She tells me that my honesty about my feelings and emotions helped her through it. You will be surprised that other people have felt the same way.
Depression is not something talked about a lot in the US culture. It is getting to be more out in the open, but I think many people are ashamed of it. If you are depressed, you need help. Seek it. It is no different than having high blood pressure. There is no shame in getting the help needed. You aren't broken in some way. You just need some help.
If it is "normal" blues, there are things you can do to help. One is knowing yourself. What makes you happy? Is it one on one time with your spouse? Is it words of affirmation? Is it physical affection? Know yourself and be sure those around you know so they can help boost you up when you are down.
Another is to eat well. Also, get as much rest as you can. I hate that suggestion to new moms. Get rest? That is why I say as much as you can. Have a time of day you take a nap each day so you can be as rested as possible. Go to bed early. It is a short time period. You can get back to staying up later soon enough. For now, take care of yourself and let yourself recover.
Also, get out of the house when you can. Grocery shopping can suddenly become a thrill! Go outside. Get some fresh air and sunshine. You need to get in touch with reality. Staying cooped up in your house can start to make you frankly a bit crazy. Getting out every so often can remind you what life is about. What is really important.
On my worst day after McKenna was born, my husband forced me out of the house to go for a walk. That walk did wonders for me! Hogg recommends Mom take long walks.
Do your best to enjoy this period. A good friend of mine says it is too bad that women have to be emotional after having a baby because it makes it harder to just enjoy the moment. A reader of this blog also made this comment. I think by being honest with yourself and those around you, you can be better equipped to enjoy the moment. I have had my emotions since McKenna's birth, but I have acknowledged them and have enjoyed her as a newborn far more than I did my older children. Part of it is age and wisdom (yeah, I am only almost four years older...but motherhood adds wisdom to your years quickly!). A lot of it is honesty all around. The more we can all be honest with ourselves, we can be honest with each other, and we can stop being so secretive about the emotions we feel after having a baby.
For me, at 6 weeks postpartum I literally woke up and felt 100% better. The night sweating stopped (how annoying is that!?!?!?!) and my emotions returned to being my emotions. My husband even called me one day to tell me he hadn't left work on time and led me to believe he would be home about an hour late. As I was talking to him, he walked in the room--30 minutes early! My husband loves surprises, and while he doesn't lie, he will say things and do things to trick me and make the surprise that much more surprising. I gave him the look (yes, he gets it too :) ) and told him he was taking a big risk tricking me like that. He smiled and said, "Yeah, but you are okay now." By that he meant that I was back to myself, and I realized he was right!
At some point, the emotions calm down and you can either get back to normal or get to your new normal. While you are dealing with the emotions, get the support you need and ask those around you to be patient. It isn't fun, but it is part of the process :)
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18 comments:

Michelle said...

Thank you for this post! I plan on writing about my experience on my blog as well. I think it is so important to talk about it! Glad to hear things are going well now.

trishconway said...

I am so glad that you wrote this post - thank you for being so open and honest! I was completely unprepared for the post-partum emotional rollercoaster and it hit me really, really hard. I think it was a combination of hormones, my natural ability to stress out easily, and the fact that my baby was born during the most dreary part of winter, but I was not myself for weeks and weeks. There were peaks and valleys - somedays I would feel normal, and others I would be curled up on my bed sobbing and not know why. It was so awful. I think I finally started to feel like myself again around 3 months. 5 months later I am really doing so much better. But it makes me sad because instead of enjoying my first baby's newborn period and having fond memories, I look back at those first weeks and literally shudder! I am looking forward, though, to the next baby because I know to expect it and hopefully will handle it much better - and be able to enjoy it more. I agree with you - we moms need to be more open about this! I don't want to scare my friends who are expecting their first, but I also don't want them to be blindsided like I was. I think we can easily have a beautiful idea of what new motherhood will be like, and it can be difficult and guilt-inducing when reality and fantasy don't quite match at first for some of us!

LC said...

WOW...I felt like I was reading about my life for the first 6 weeks of my DD's life. Thanks for sharing...also, your hubbie sounds a lot like mine...he even surprised me in a similar way...and thanks for your blog and yahoo group. A lot of us are benefiting...now I know I am not alone..lots of other mommies with similar challenges and issues!

Jenna said...

So true and something that people don't talk about much. A lot of people talk about PPD but not about the 'baby blues' which lasts a short while but is horrible! I had them bad with my first so I thought it was just a first-time mom thing and surely it wouldn't happen with my second. Week 3 after my second the emotions hit HARD. And it took my and my husband by surprise. I guess you can never really be ready for them and now I'll just expect to be crazy for the first few weeks next time! And I'll warn everyone around me.... :)

Jennifer said...

I love how your husband and you are so open and honest. I smiled when you talked about how before McKenna was born, you talked and thought you had it all figured out. Isn't that just the way life goes?

I feel like I was able to escape a lot of the baby blues because I had so much help. Between my husband taking off work and my mom and mother-in-law coming in from out of town, I was only alone during the day with my baby for three days during the first three weeks. Their help got me to where I was physically and emotionally ready to handle everything. And that was only with one baby! :) I think a lot of moms have challenges because they do try (or have to) do everything themselves.

Thanks for a great post!

Val said...

Amen! oh those PP emotions. I couldn't get a sentence out without crying. Glad to hear that things are starting to improve, hang in there :)

CO Mom said...

This is such a great post. No one can tell you quite how you're going to feel after having a baby. Such tremendous joy mixed with so many other emotions. Thanks for sharing. I especially loved the "night sweats" comment - I thought it was a "me" thing and that I was going through early menopause. It was gross! My poor husband nearly froze to death in the middle of summer! :)

Kyle, Amanda, and Tobias said...

Haha, I love the "after all, I am the Babywise mom" comment! Nice to know even the Babywise Mom has tough days too :)

I didn't truly experience this roller coaster of emotions the first 6 weeks, but I have had depression for going on 14 years and had severe problems with my thyroid after giving birth so I understand.

I'd like to add for anyone who doesn't feel better at the 6 week mark or who feels fine until then and then "goes crazy" that it's not uncommon either. I cried every night for months because my son was sleeping in the next room and I was terrified he'd stop breathing. It was completely irrational but the fear was very real nonetheless. After 6 months my anxiety turned into depression, which was not fun but at least I was back in familiar territory! Now things are finally evening out around 11 months postpartum, just in time for me to get pregnant again, lol! So for some the postpartum period continues through the entire first year, it does take that long for hormones to regulate again.

Wenona said...

This post was really good. I am not so good at controlling my emotions and wish I was better at it.

I have been reading through your posts about dropping the morning nap, and I know I have commented before, but this last week has been so weird for us. Our son is 12 months and he still takes 2 naps a day. But lately, he is taking at least an hour to fall asleep for each nap and even bed time. He's not crying or being "bad", he's just playing in his crib and doing other things. He wakes up at 7:30 and I try to get him down for a nap around 10 and then again in the afternoon around 2. I am trying to lengthen his wake time but it doesn't seem to help. Do you have any suggestions for me or should I try to cut out the morning nap for a while to see if this is the problem? He is such a happy baby and he will always fall asleep on his own, but it takes forever where it used to be I'd walk out of the room and he'd be sleeping in under 5 minutes every time.
I want that back! lol

Thank you

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Michelle!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome Trish. Wonderful thoughts!

Plowmanators said...

LC, Thanks and you are welcome!

Plowmanators said...

Jenna, I know, you expect it, you warn, and yet it is still hard. It is just a hard thing to go through, and like Trish said, it is too bad that we have those feelings instead of being able to just bask in the wonderful things about newborns.

Plowmanators said...

Jennifer, I think being alone really does make it harder!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Val!

Plowmanators said...

CO Mom,

Aren't those night sweats the worst?!?! A problem for me is that I can't fall asleep unless I am nice and cozy...then the middle of the night comes along and I am super hot!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for your comment Amanda :)

Plowmanators said...

Wenona,

The best advice I can give is to just relax and not worry about it. You can experiment with waketime length, but don't drop the morning nap yet. He is happy, so just roll with it :)

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