Flashes of Understanding

worn green interior of an old train car

My hands ran over the surface of the baby swing, clearing off the layer of dust. It had been in storage for a few years. Only now, as I was pulling things out for a yard sale, had I seen and touched it again. What I felt, what I saw in my mind, made me pull back in shock.

Memories. Feelings. But not good ones.

I had expected happy, nostalgic baby thoughts to come flooding back. Not this. It is strange and uncanny, how much emotion an object can carry. An inanimate thing creating such a visceral reaction. Boggles the mind.

I am so glad that is over.

It struck me then, right there in my driveway, five years later.

Postpartum depression?

Or something. 

I was not right in the head, I do know that. 

Could it be possible?

I think back on that period now and the stress was overwhelming. I had a locum that was barely competent covering my new practice while on leave. Maternity was going to put my clinic tens of thousands of dollars in the hole. Then, I hired the partner from hell who made every day back a living nightmare until she finally left a year later. Family and social stresses were beyond measure. I remember how erratic and sometimes irrational my behavior was at the time but in the midst of it I truly believed that everything I was doing seemed reasonable and right.

Truthfully, I consider myself to be a fairly strong person. I never even entertained the possibility of something wrong with me emotionally. I am not weak. Nothing like that could ever happen to ME, you understand…..

Which then makes me wonder, who steps in to tell the doctor that she needs help? People around me thought I was crazy, I am sure, but no one took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, “Hey, you need help.” 

Would I have even listened?

And, just so you know, in case you were curious, I’m not talking about the colic baby. She came along after, but most definitely before I had “recovered” my faculties. THAT prolonged my issues for sure.

What had I been thinking, believing I could have two under two? How do women with twins survive? I cannot even imagine.

So.

Here we are. I am in a much better place now. Probably. At the very least I am less crazy and that is a thing of beauty.

Let’s see if I can get $5 for that baby swing… To be honest, though, I would be willing to give it away. I don’t ever want to see or touch it again.

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112 thoughts on “Flashes of Understanding

  1. My doctor friend had two children in quick succession and had depression for years. It was a nightmare trying to juggle the demands of her career as a GP, and be a responsive mother even with the help of a nanny. Don’t be hard on yourself, one in four people will have an episode of mental ill health in their lifetime. Join the club!!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. My favorite book has always been Jane Eyre. Now when I read it and get to a certain page and paragraph, all of a sudden I’m overwhelmed with anxiety bordering on terror – it was the paragraph I was reading when my ex held the shotgun to my head and told me he was going to blow my f-ing brains out. I guess even civilians can suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. We see so much in those who surround us, yet almost never have the ability to see within ourselves the good, the bad, the positive, the hurt and pain. I imagine that, as a health care provider, you would be much quicker to pick up on those around you and find it easy to overlook yourself, the one person who you should be paying more attention to especially in times of stress. I think about this for myself very often right now, partly due to so many of my blogging friends who consistently remind me with their words that issues don’t just crop up for others and that you have to look inward. I hope, as you place other items out for the sale that they evoke better, calmer memories. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Try asking $10. You can always go lower. As for having babies, I have a hard time understanding how they make life better, unless you can afford a nanny. I wonder what babies would go for, if sold at yard sales.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! It is funny. At the time I didn’t think it was torture or anything. No negative thoughts per se about the baby specifically. I genuinely enjoyed him. The colic period with my daughter was a different story entirely. I probably have some PTSD from that….

      Liked by 1 person

    • I probably was cut out to be a nanny; the little ones seem to gravitate to me for some reason. Some of them come to swipe my pen, inspect my bulging veins, read to me or check my specs. Others just climb on my lap and show me things. One reason I chose upper secondary classes in my teaching career was that I knew I could not keep the little ones out of my lap.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I was never depressed in the early years of the Irish twins, but I was anxious in a way I can’t identify with now. I was so busy and exhausted, which I suspect happens to most caretakers, regardless of any other factor. I do find so much of it is a blur. I write what I remember, but mostly, I remember aching bodily and feeling like a non-person.
    I don’t think you would have listened. I can remember my dr telling me I needed to relax more, take more date nights, get more me time, and at the time, I thought he was a lunatic. He tried. I didn’t listen.

    I don’t think we sold much in the way of baby things. We donated a lot. I really, really, hate baby things. Swings, saucers, playpens, boppies — hate them all. I enjoy passing through the store and smiling about how I don’t need any of that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I found that I had a ton of crap I never needed or used only once. Quite the industry built around telling us what we need to take care of our tiny bundles of joy. Buy this or you will screw up your child’s future chances forever. I love walking past that aisle, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This post struck home for me. My niece (the light of our life) is going through something similar but she only has the one little one,,,,who I take care of four days a week. She is a lawyer and her husband works long days so there you go. I sometimes want to shake them and say look how much you are missing but I know they have to learn for themselves. IF they don’t have another one…50-50…they might make it…not sure about me….ha!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Some professions make it very difficult to be a mother. I would love to see that change. I don’t think it is impossible to have both, but they system needs to change to make it possible. Starting with better maternity leave options

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  7. Fascinating story Victo – I assume it is true. I too have found that my emotional state in some situations is sometimes the opposite of what is generally experienced and expected. I have a theory about why that happens. How we perceive and interpret and react to sensory inputs is often determined by our “frame of mind” – an oft overused term that we take to mean emotional state. I believe that our brains have multiple processing centers, each with a different perspective on life (that part is proven). That said, I am sure that we have some sort of an oversight processing center that assigns which sub-processor gets to lead action and reaction and interpretation. It then “slaves” the others to this controlling center and allows them only to advise and not decision make. I have noticed that the “logic” center of intelligent people sometimes forces itself into control where it does not belong – i.e. smart people will sometimes try to approach ,say, love from a logical basis. Women with very young children amaze me. No matter the reaction of the child, the woman remains calm and understanding and accepting and loving. There are obvious limits to this -like a colicky child – but it is generally true. The patience of a woman with a young child is incredible – far greater than at any other time in their life. The sub-processor in control at this time is obviously driven by hormonal changes that often interfere in other processors – like creating “Mommy brain”, an inability to focus on non-baby related topics. This sub=processor sees the child as an incredible addition to the universe, one that could potentially change our world. It sees long term in a way that is emotionally accepted and produces a smart engaged adult. For those who have Faith, they will recognize this attitude – it is possible to tolerate an enormous amount negative input when one is motivated by the future.

    So, I think when a person has a large intelligence, that intelligence sometimes breaks into the controlling sub=processor and stages a coup – taking control in an inappropriate situation. That can lead to emotional confusion and contradictions when the response is negative while all around are talking about positive reactions. This “coup” generally means that it is time to get back to focusing on what the intellect does best – or it will continue to make one miserable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was responding to another commenter that I don’t remember having a baby as a negative experience, really. Perhaps my emotional response was less the baby and more due to the other crap? Whatever the cause, I am glad that period is gone. Meanwhile, I am done with fiction on this block for a bit. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, no! It just takes a lot out of me. All fiction contains elements of truth. To convey emotions well, you have to feel them yourself. That is exhausting and best done in small doses. πŸ™‚ You can check out my other blog for some fiction, but I really need to rewrite about half of it so some is cringeworthy….

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I suffered PPD that boardered on suicide. Twas terrible. 2 weeks of my life I can not remember. Black out sleeps. Emorional abuse. Trying desperately to keep my head above water while in all reality I was drowning with stones in my pockets. No one saw, until I realized it myself that taking a cabinet full of meds just to get some peace wasn’t right. Monkey was almost 3 months by then. I look at baby clothes and things and remember, “Holy hell I was such a mess…and those around me didn’t see it or chose not to. My Dr and nurse were the only ones who talked me off that ledge because they took the time to do so. Those Dr’s and nurses are few and far between because, like you, they are overwhelmed by patient load

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am glad that you were able to recognize and had a medical team that could help. Postpartum is difficult to catch by people around you because when you look frazzled and have that crazed look in your eye, it is “probably just the lack of sleep with the newborn”. It is easier for people to believe that. One mom when I asked how she was doing emotionally during a well child visit asked to switch doctors because she thought I was insinuating she was “crazy”. The discussion should be a standard, expected part of well child and post part in visits, but even physicians are afraid of making someone upset so they just don’t ask.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree about asking how mom’s are at well child and post partum check ups. The thing is that there is such stigma around so many things when it comes to mental health on all levels plus add in the unattainable “perfect mother” society, media and Hollywood all tote that we feel we can’t be “broken” after our baby is born. We have to have this “I love my child so much that I can’t ever imagine anything more perfect” ideal when in reality it’s “ohmygodimnotperfectmychildhatesmeicantsleepbecauseimworriedmybabywilldieintheirsleepimcoveredinbabyvomitandicantrememberwhenimasttookashower” to face that it’s shamed upon when we really say what we feel. Not too mention this thing where everyone gets their feelings hurt nowadays because of all kinds of petty bs about my rights this and entitlement that. GAH! I consider myself very lucky with my obgyn team that they were concerned enough to check on me further after diagnosis. (I remember that one mother who drowned her children after the birth of her 5th child and people were calling her a monster and she suffered from post partum psychosis. I remember telling my sister I totally get where she was at, and I thought my sister’s jaw broke. She was in a terribly altered state of mind, left to tend to her children alone while her verbally abusive husband had unrealistic demands about his family and she suffered in silence until she thought she was doing what was right. It’s a terrible price for all of those involved.)

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I understand this so well. Our work schedule had me playing a very active role with our daughter. My wife and I were ships that pass in the night at that age. It’s hectic, no arguing with that. It’s also expensive with all the stuff you need. Nature designed us to have children at an age when we can handle it. Having one at my current age would kill me.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Being a full time mom is very physically and emotionally demanding. With all the other responsibilities on your plate, I would be surprised it you weren’t all stressed out.
    Leslie

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can imagine being a stay at home mom has its own set of stressors that probably rival what working moms experience. Sometimes I struggle with compassion, though. The problem is that very few women, including myself, understand both sides of the fence. We simply have not experienced it. Motherhood is hard. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I can relate, associating my son’s first four or five years with my barely surviving. It was hell. In my case, I now know that part of my issue was hormonal (if I’d had a better doctor when my son was little, I might have gotten help years sooner- but when I brought up that I thought I might be depressed, she blew me off). And part of my particular struggle was having a special needs baby, before diagnoses. Glad you survived. I know it’s made you more attentive to your patients.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m pretty sure none of us listens until we’re pretty loopy. Doctors may be harder to tell for most people.

    Recently I sought help after a year or so of progressive crabbiness as life bore down on me. Everybody needs help from time to time.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I think it’s good you can step back and write about it now.
    When my kids were young, the working world was so much different. I could not do what I did then now.
    The work-family balance has only gotten worse in my opinion. But I’m at a loss for how to make things better.
    I liked my life as a mother much better than my life as an employee. From the comments, it sounds like I’m unusual in that. Having had the job of full-time mother makes me invisible in the world, and that is hard though. Because I freelanced from home, no one remembers that I was actually working full time too…(K)

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  14. Completely different details, but you tap into the madness I felt for more years than I care to admit raising kids. There was a point, where I felt like I suddenly popped out of an emotional Amazon jungle into the clearing. I was still standing…I was alive, still wasn’t completely sure where in the heck I was, but I knew I was going to survive as a parent…having already dealt with a run away teen, multiple family members on Zoloft, substance abuse as they got older, sexual assault of one of the kids, I could go on and on…I too have felt over the years my positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity gave me an edge on things. but I would hate to have to relive those years. Glad they all turned out as awesome as they did. Wasn’t because I knew what i was doing πŸ™‚ Thanks for listening ! DM

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Stress and more stress will make you feel crazy. But I think most women who have children and continue to work can identify with with you- I know that I can. Like you, I had my two in under two years but yours were really close. Don’t know how you survived that time.

    The fact is that you will probably feel nuts again when they are teens but I hope that you’ll be lucky. Just pray that they don’t have marital and health and accident problems when they become adults. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  16. It takes strength and courage to admit it when everything associated with the baby years wasn’t a pleasant experience. I view parents who claim to live their whole lives for their kids with a mixture of envy and incredulity. Kids are a pain in the ass, plain and simple, yet we love them anyway and do our best for them. Certainly there can be rewards, but they are hard-won rewards, and for some no reward at all. Good job, Doc, for fighting the good fight and winning.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Ok this post made me cry.
    I have two incredibly great
    sons.
    The pain I and my family
    suffered. PPD in the most
    barbaric form. I can’t put
    words to the suffering.
    I can say if you have a
    baby and nothing seems
    “normal,” pls get help!
    I did the recovery was
    long and torture for
    my young husband &
    myself., my Mom and
    all who tried to help
    when I could not.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I appreciate your honesty so much. My first was a colick baby for six months and a power spitter for the rest of her first year. After morning sickness the entire pregnancy, I don’t know why I wanted a second baby so much but I did. After three ectopic pregnancies and two miscarriages and oh so much fertility treatment, I was a hormonal mess. I feared the clomid would lead to twins and I had trouble handling one with colick. IVF led to a a surprise. Triplets. If people hadn’t signed up to help us, we would have lost our minds I’m pretty sure. Let me say, I understand when you say you’re so relieved to be beyond “all that” and I’m thoroughly enjoying life with my young adult children, ages 26 and three are almost 20. Praise Be! It was tough.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Working long hours taking care of other people and then coming home and taking care of children leaves little or nothing left. I remember having to be tough, and I was, but every now and then, I’d find myself sitting on the kitchen floor, crying from exhaustion and compassion fatigue.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I am so glad my children aren’t babies anymore. I found it so hard and exhausting and felt I lost myself for a few years. I also felt quite apart from my husband as my life was purΓ©ed organic squash and his was unchanged. I wouldn’t go back to it, and it’s something that needs said more often so more women feel it is ok to resent the drudgery.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I still feel guilt over my post-par tun depression. I was so ashamed not to feel the love I should have. I felt like I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. I still have flashbacks when I am around a new baby.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. At least they have a name for it now. At least it’s acknowledged. If there’s a name for it, it can be treated.

    Do men get postpartum depression? I wasn’t depressed but I was much, much happier after they turned 5-years old. Those first few years require mommy skills, which I have not.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I think all mothers have at the very least a tiny bit of post partum depression, even if they don’t realize it. I don’t think I had it with my first except that as I was weaning him and starting to feel a little strange, my brother killed himself and I sank into a very deep depression where all I could do was feed the baby (he was 9 months old) keep his bottom clean and dry. I don’t know how bad it would have been, either my depression or my grief, but the combination was crippling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you are probably right about all mothers experiencing some degree of postpartum depression. Grief is difficult at any time but especially at weaning time! I am so sorry about your brother.

      Like

  24. I didn’t feel all that stressed during the time that our girls were infants. I think my brain stepped up to the challenge. But now, when I get around other families with infants and toddlers, all I can think is, “how did I ever survive that?” And “I never want to go back there”.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Goosebumps. Your honesty kicks me in the gut (in the nicest way) every time. Oh, how many women relate to this?! My daughter had two babies 11 months apart. It. Was. Hell. We never discussed how hard it was – we just did what we had to do to keep her together, her marriage together, and the babies happy and secure. Her two are now 8 and 7. A third is 3.That 5-year-old baby carriage? We’d just throw it in the trash. :-0

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I’ve read 2 of your posts and need a break–so powerful and raw, gut-level genuine honesty. Incredibly good…I’m struggling to find an apt descriptor…stellar writing, bravo…I’m just overwhelmed.

    Liked by 1 person

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