When I originally decided to quit my job and be a stay-at-home-parent, I woke up every morning feeling so unbelievably lucky that I’d get to spend another whole day with Lu. I would rock her to sleep and whisper in her ear about her how much I loved her and couldn’t wait for her to wake up so I could see her again. When she went to bed, I’d sit on the couch and look at pictures of her, miss her, ignore even The Bachelorette. I had nothing but stalker-level love for this kid.
It’s not that I didn’t love her last week, I couldn’t. I woke up last Monday morning in a full-on bell jar, sobbing from the very first moment I lifted her out of her crib, filled with total and suffocating dread at the thought of getting through another week with her. I couldn’t help her, couldn’t parent her, couldn’t give her what she needed (hugs, milks, love). I cried while getting her dressed. I cried making sure we had extra diapers to leave the house with. I cried all the way to my old psychiatrists office, where I said OH MY GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING HELP ME.
Feeling like I was dying would have been preferable. Instead I felt the coupling of dark, self-consuming depression with the thousand pound guilt of wanting desperately to take care of Lu and not being able to. She felt foreign to me and I resented her. I left her floating in outer space and fell into a black hole somewhere, ripped apart by gravity. It was like simultaneously failing and dying, with a splash of shame for good measure.
My psychiatrist did a couple of very helpful things. She said, this is a crisis and you need to treat it like one. Call your mother and tell her you need her to come here right away. And probably you need drugs.
I left her office and called my mother, still sobbing, from the car. Lucy was in the backseat. She dropped everything and drove to my house, three hours away. While she drove here, I desperately texted friends, said please someone help me get through the next three hours. It was unfathomable to me that I’d be alive when she got there (not because I was suicidal, but because I was unfathomably lost). I called my midwife who asked if I thought I was going to hurt myself or the baby, and I broke down at the question. That is the worst question anyone has ever asked me.
When my Mom got here, she held the baby while I walked around in a zombie state crying into a roll of toilet paper. It went like that for a couple days. I cried because I was debilitated by depression, and I cried because I needed to want to be a mother.
On Tuesday night, Lu got sick for the first time. She projectile vomited into my lap, which I responded to by sobbing. I stayed up all night staring at her, in a panic that she would die from this. I fed her Pedialite in a bottle and cried some more. I played a lot of Candy Crush and hated myself.
The other thing that happened that night was that my IUD started to fall out. I couldn’t walk or lie down without the metal wires poking me, which, are you kidding me, universe?
Please just imagine me at this moment, walking around the house at 2am in a really wide I’ve-been-riding-a-horse-for-10-hours stance, sobbing into a roll of Charmin with milky vomit in my hair. You’re welcome.
Wednesday morning I went to a psychiatrist. We spoke at length, and I left her with instructions to get blood work done and a prescription for an SSRI. I also called my midwife, who was not in the office that day. I told her that waiting one more day to get the medieval torture device out of my vagina is not an option. She took it out.
Maybe I’ll feel better now, I said. I’d heard that some people have strange reactions to IUDs. She told me that was extremely rare.
Within 24 hours of my IUD removal, I felt almost completely back to my old self. I got up in the morning and cleaned my house, got dressed, brushed my teeth. WIthin 48 hours, I felt perfectly normal, totally restored. I woke up on Friday morning feeling happy, competent, cheerful. I stood over Lucy in her crib at 7am, smiled, and told her that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get another whole day with her.
In retrospect, my bad days started right after I had the IUD installed. They got worse the longer I left it in. I’ve felt like my old self ever since they took it out.
I don’t want to be naive about this. There may still be other stuff going on. I’m staying on an SSRI in case I’m having some weird hormonal swings, or this is still PPD masquerading as a few good days. (But please, let this be over, let that have been it).
But man, I’m pretty sure it was that IUD. Fuck that IUD.
Thank you for all of your letters of support. Thank you for texting me during those 3 hours I thought I was dying and the week that I was in really deep. Thank you for the Turkish saffron and the Lisa Frank velvet art. You guys really know how to make a girl who couldn’t love herself feel like there were people out there picking up the slack.
Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is ask for help. Take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Tell your friends you need them. Let your Mom take care of the sick baby while you lie in bed crying. It’s important to let other people take care of you, even when you feel like that’s your job now.