It never got to a point where I ever wanted to hurt my kids. There were moments, especially with a newborn Drew, living in that hell hole, that I thought about hurting myself.
On a few occasions, in utter desperation or frustration or whatever it is when no one seems to be able to pick you up from the puddle you've melted into, I took to hitting myself in the head with objects.
Never bleeding, never really hard, but enough so that the soreness of my head would take the sting away from my heart and make it visible. Bandagable.
But it was never enough to get me to my doctor or therapist or whoever else might have been able to tell me that I needed help. And it was never enough for anyone else to get me help either.
We're all on the look out for the crazed mom, standing on the edge of a bridge with her baby. But what about the mom with the crappy barely-metal vase in her hand, who gets herself dressed, plays with her kids while she wipes away tears, and goes on her not-so-merry way, bangs styled just a bit lower to cover her forehead?
What about the moms stuck in the gray area between "baby blues" and "PPD?" What happens to them?
What happens to us?
A few days ago I spoke with Dr. Myrna Weissman and the women behind Families for Depression Awareness about this very issue. The "gray" area that traps many mothers in an awkward place that doesn't warrant anyone getting them help but yet they really truly need it.
It's the breastfeeding and the lack of sleep and the shedding uterus and the stitches and the annoying family and the other kids and the guilt and the lack of sleep and the bleeding nipples and the crying baby that JUST WON'T FUCKING STOP.
And it's the pressure to do your best because you don't want to fuck your kids up from the very beginning because you just can't keep up.
For me, it was never about getting medication. It was never about getting a diagnosis. But I often wonder if I had seen someone and gotten some sort of "label" that maybe my husband would have been more understanding -- that I'm not just being a crazy lunatic mother because it's fun.
That maybe there's a bit more than that going on and one person can only bear so much.
What was made clear to me by Dr. Weissman was that there is still a gap between mothers caring for babies and mothers caring for themselves. It's an instinct to want to do everything we can for our babies, to give until we're just scraps of who we are.
And if we don't, then we're just selfish bitches, aren't we?
But the truth of the matter is, if we don't take care of ourselves, then we won't be around to take care of our kids.
If that means pumping one time a night (or mixing up a bottle of formula) so your spouse can feed the baby and you can sleep, then do it. If that means you can only breastfeed for six months and not 16 months, then do it. If that means leaving your screeching baby with your spouse, your neighbor, or your nutsy in-laws so you can get some respite, then do it.
Hire a post-partum doula, a maid, a cleaning person, a mother's helper, whatever it takes for you to maintain your sanity.
Eat take-out and tv dinners, so all you have to do is push a few buttons and put your feet up.
Forget the baby violin, toddler yoga, preschool karate, and whatever else everyone else thinks you have to do to make your kids happy and successful.
If there is anything I've learned from having almost three kids (other than the whole "smack in the head" thing doesn't work so well, except to continue my support of Tylenol) is that they need us as fully functional, happy and healthy human beings.
More than they need our breastmilk and our 24-7 undivided attention, they need us.
All of us.