How things are still bad

The other day I advertised that I was doing “so much better,” and that is true. Still, there are ways in which things are bad.

I knew I wanted to introduce this post with these two sentences. Now I am at a loss.  I’ve been staring at the screen for the last 10 minutes trying to figure out how to proceed. There’s so much to say, and it’s all so much harder to put into words.

For the last couple months I’ve carefully considered how much of my joyride with postpartum depression to disclose. There are things I just cannot share. They’re too personal. These things make me look bad, or crazy, or both. Or maybe they don’t, but I’m still too sensitive to invite judgement.

Yet it’s important to me to remain genuine. I want enough of the ugly to shine through in case someone else suffering from postpartum depression stumbles on my blog. I want that person to feel a little less alone. For God’s sake, I want a little something good to come out of this mess.

So how about this for starters? Remember when I casually mentioned that I have intense anxiety over Ruby’s developmental progress? Let’s talk some more about that.

Obviously I worry about whether Ruby is meeting all her developmental milestones. But not because I worry about a little delay. I worry that she will never acquire a particular skill.

Lately, I’ve fixated on her vocal development. She just doesn’t seem especially vocal. I remember her cooing some a few months ago, but now she mostly only grunts or grumbles when she’s tired. She doesn’t ooh and aah like my cousin’s baby who’s two months younger. So I worry. I worry that she won’t learn to make consonant sounds and that she won’t start babbling.  I worry that she won’t say her first words or begin forming simple sentences. I worry that she will never talk.

We were giving her a bath the other day. My husband was singing a narrative of the operation when it hit me. Straight in the gut. I felt immediately sick to my stomach. I could feel my blood pressure rise, and started to sweat. What if she never sings? Singing has been such a huge and influential part of my life. What if she is never able to sing?

This is just one example. As soon as she learns how to do something I fixate on the next milestone. What if she never talks? What if she never walks? What if she is unable to form relationships?

I can’t picture her as anything other than a 5 month old baby. I can’t imagine her ever playing on a playground, going to school, driving a car or getting married. I don’t let myself because I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment. What if she never does these things?

The worst part is I have pieced together a way in which it will be all my fault, should any of these what ifs come to be. The guilt is crushing. I feel as if I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for everyone to realize what a horrible mother and person I am.

The only way to be sure I am not horrible is for her to develop normally. Something that will take years and years. I have, in essence, fabricated an endless anxiety loop for myself. If I take a step back and survey the damage, I actually have to applaud my genius.

18 thoughts on “How things are still bad

  1. I read this post in tears. I felt the same way, oh those many years ago when my first was a baby. I remember thinking (and wailing out loud to my husband on more than one occasion) that every single thing I did – EVERYTHING – would have some enormous impact on the baby’s future. It was almost superstitious, the way I felt that holding him in one position versus another would somehow influence whether or not he would be fit to be President someday. Now, I can see that a lot of my fears were…well, crazy. PPD does that and it’s hard to see beyond it, but I promise it gets better. “Bad” mothers are the ones who don’t worry about anything and since you worry more than your share, you’re obviously a great mom.
    Now here’s my practical advice: have Ruby’s ears checked. My youngest was a quiet baby and I didn’t find out until he was 18 months old (and still not speaking) that his ears were so full of wax that he was essentially deaf. The mommy guilt on that one was awesome, just so you know. But he’s fine now and sometimes I actually wish he’d stop talking. 🙂

    • Oh no! I didn’t mean to make you cry! Believe me, I do enough of that for everyone! Most of me recognizes that a lot of my fears are, in fact, crazy. Unfortunately enough of me doesn’t…

      Did your son respond to loud noises and voices when his ears were full of wax?

      • He did, which is why we didn’t realize anything was wrong. Though looking back after the fact, we realized that he preferred very loud noises and he would put noisy toys right up to his ear. At his regular check-ups, the doctor never mentioned anything about wax. When he wasn’t talking by 18 months, I insisted that we do *something* and the first step was the audiologist, who discovered the problem. The good news was that the fix was immediate and very simple. We still (12 years later!) clean out his ears with warm water about once a month.

        • Hmmm…I’ll ask the doctor about it at her next check up. I know my ears periodically plug (with wax) to the point that I can’t hear.

  2. Very interesting post. For my own selfish reasons I wish you’d tell every single detail of what you’ve gone through because, being my father’s daughter I am fascinated by other peoples issues and problems. In a good way. I can read non-fiction books like “A Million Little Pieces”, “Prozac Nation”, and “Unbearable Lightness”, ALL day. I love it. So, if you feel like writing a book someday, I’ll be the first one to buy it.

    Also, it’s interesting to me that you have such a logical mind that should tell you that Ruby will definitely learn to talk and walk and meet her milestones as most babies do. It’s heartbreaking that PPD can rob you of the happiness that every milestone should bring.

    • Sorry for dangling the carrot of secret issues and then not sharing… I hate it when people do that.

      The logical mind thing is interesting. I think it’s actually a hindrance in my case because I find ways to rationalize through irrational things. And then I trust my own thought process over everyone else’s. I feel like I would be more inclined to trust, say, the doctor, if I didn’t have as much faith in my own critical thinking skills.

  3. Oh Laura 😦 The worry and guilt are so hard. Just know, though, that things will work out. I worried about every milestone and then everything happened seamlessly. I had the exact same worries about speech: I was constantly asking the doctor about it and I really felt like she was behind and wasn’t talking at all. Then, suddenly, at about 15 months her language just exploded. Now she talks non-stop 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. Every time we hear someone else’s struggles we feel less alone.

  4. you are not alone, we worried and worried over our first of three. In fact, she nick named herself :”the crash dumbie” you will figure things out as time goes along. oh and, just the other day, my second (now a teen…esh) was giving me the business. I thought to myself “and to think I could not wait for your first words”

  5. The dreaded “mother’s guilt” is such a powerful emotion at the best of times, then throw in PND and my goodness, it’s overwhelming! I can relate exactly to how you feel. Infact, I have a blog post currently sitting in my draft folder titled, “Postnatal Depression: “I did this to him!”” It is all about an epiphany I had in therapy regarding the incredible amount of guilt I was layering upon myself. In relation to EVERYTHING that was going on for the little man. And I still haven’t written the post, because the feelings every time I try to do so are still too raw. You may have just given me the courage to do it! p.s. I’ll be sure to link to you post if I do! x

    • I hope you do write that post because I would love to read it. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with THE GUILT yourself. I know how it feels… Often my therapist will ask me how I’m feeling, especially when I’m particularly emotional. Lately I’ve taken to answering with, “BAD.” I hope your epiphany has enabled you to let go of some of the guilt. Something I’m still working on.

  6. I know the kind of friend you are, and Ruby is lucky to have you. I’m sure that there will be things that you will handle less than perfectly because, well, you happen to be a human being. But unless you wanted to pass Ruby off to some kind of robot thing (which I’m pretty sure would not be better, given that you can actually love her instead of just assimilating all the information on the internet to provide the “optimal” care recommended by assorted websites), she’s in the best place she could be.

    • Thanks for your kind words Erin. You always seem to pop in with support when I’m going through a tough time. It means a lot. Hope everything is going well in your world.

  7. I am happy you are sharing this – like you said, if someone else is having similar issues and needs to relate, and also, I hope it makes you feel somewhat better to get it out there.

    Did you have anxiety issues before Ruby was born? Were there any techniques you learned then that may help now?

    • I did have anxiety issues before Ruby, although I’m operating at a whole new level now. Unfortunately I don’t think I ever learned coping strategies because the anxiety would always pass on its own. So now I have my work cut out for me.

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