martha's vineyard community services · early childhood programs · family center
Family Matters is prepared monthly by the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center, a program of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services
funded by grants from the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund and the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
"What’s wrong with me?"
Our daughter was born in the winter, right on time, fast delivery… She was a very planned and very wanted baby.
We were so excited, nervous, but it was the right time in our lives. I felt great. I exercised everyday, worked and went to school all during the pregnancy. We had a room all ready for her, a beautiful baby shower, everything you could imagine plus two families backing us up. I kept thinking it was just going to be our same old lives, but add a baby to it.
In the hospital, the feelings started to stir, so exhilarated to have this baby, yet I had pangs of uneasiness, fear and a nervous stomachache. I remember when my milk came in I thought “I don’t want to do this.” These feelings were totally involuntary, gripping me. I tried relaxation techniques and positive thinking.
Leaving the hospital I felt panic, just really, really scared and uneasy. I had absolutely no feeling of happiness, but I had my brave smiling face on. My mother came over and brought a few things – a teddy bear, a framed picture - I remember so clearly feeling sick to my stomach, very emotional but in a BAD way. After she left, I put those things in the closet because it was too much – I felt a huge build up of fear, totally overwhelmed by a feeling of “Oh my God, I have a baby, I’m a mom – I’m not SUPPOSED to feel like this – have I made a mistake?” That scared me.
You are told in the winter months not to bring the baby into social settings for about a month because of flu season. I felt trapped, I was bleeding, my hormones were a mess, my cheeks were so hot and physically flushed, my nipples were exquisitely painful – and I didn’t know what I was doing, or even if I wanted to be doing this at all. Meanwhile, my baby was sooo good. She ate every 4 hours and did not cry very much at all. I remember telling my mother later on, it’s everything but the baby…
I felt like I was grieving for my old life, who was I… Everything seemed different. I had trouble making decisions. That was a big one, from small stuff, like when to take a shower, to big stuff. I felt in a bubble – really isolated – afraid of my own feelings. I felt foggy – blurry vision sometimes. I had no appetite. I remember taking sips of water with my food because the anxiety level was so high I wasn’t producing enough saliva. I did NOT want to talk on the phone – was lonely but didn’t really want visitors. I had the constant feeling this is a mistake.
At the very same time, life was going on as normal. I loved my baby, was taking good care of her… but suffering on my own, in silence. It felt like relearning how to do everything. How to cook, when to clean, take a shower, watch T.V., when to go to sleep, how to get into the car, grocery shop… all of these simple tasks were the cause of great anxiety.
At the baby’s six week check up, her doctor asked how I was, and I described a little of what I was going through. He was very understanding and reassuring. I could try medication. The question of whether to take medication or not caused a whole new wave of panic for me.
The people at the women’s health clinic are so wonderful. I would call there with the stupidest of questions, feeling very embarrassed and needy. I was having panic attacks. I felt ashamed. Picture a duck calmly floating along the water, unseen it’s legs are kicking furiously beneath, that was the state of my life.
Days turned into weeks then months. I missed feeling like myself. I missed my husband and the way our life had once been. I exercised – took care of my daughter, myself, my husband and tried to keep things light and normal. Gradually I learned a new sense of normal. At about four months I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My mother told me “Life, is just a series of adjustments” and she was right.
Today, that time in my life almost seems like another life. If there is a message of hope, it is that Postpartum Depression, all the yucky feelings, is NO indication of how you will feel later on or how good of a mother you will be. It is a reaction to a huge hormonal shift and life change. Remember you are not alone; you do not need to suffer alone.
The author enjoys life as the parent of two young children. She lives and works on Martha’s Vineyard. She hopes her story will encourage others who experience postpartum depression to reach out and get help.
February Activity Schedule
2/1 Yoga for Parents (4 weeks) – 11:30-12:30 p.m. – Family Center Pre-registration required - 508 693-7900 x288
2/1 Open Playgroup every Tuesday 3:30-5:00 p.m. – Family Center
2/2 Messy Playgroup 10:00-11:30 a.m. - Family Center
2/5 Open Playgroup 10:00-12:00 p.m. – Family Center
2/10 Waiting Parents Group 7:00-8:30 p.m. – Family Center
2/12 All Families Touched by Adoption Playgroup 10:30-12:30 p.m. – Family Center
2/14 The Roots of Happiness 2 with Jeanine Fitzgerald
5:30-7:30 p.m. Pre-registration required - 508 693-7900 x283
2/15 Playgroup Cancelled
2/15 Bullying with Jeanine Fitzgerald 6:00-7:30 p.m. – Chilmark School
2/16 Exploring Positive Guidance in Portuguese with Jeanine Fitzgerald 12:00-1:30 p.m. Pre-registration required - 508 693-7900 x283
2/17 Gym Time 10:00 – 12:00 p.m. Edgartown Boys & Girls Club
2/19 Open Playgroup 10:00-12:00 p.m. – Family Center
2/21 Family Center - CLOSED
2/24 Gym Time 10:00 – 12:00 p.m. Edgartown Boys & Girls Club
2/24 Family Potluck Supper - 5:30-7:00 p.m. - Family Center
Ongoing activities at the Family Center
Open Playgroup every Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday 10 - 11:30 a.m. & Tuesday 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Baby’s First Year every Monday 3-4:30 p.m. & Thursday 10:30 - 12:00 p.m.
Dads Playgroup every Tuesday 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Postpartum Depression and anxiety are very common – and very treatable
Depression and anxiety around childbirth can affect any childbearing woman, regardless of race, income, culture, age or education. There is no reason for women to suffer silently at home. If you or a family member is experiencing sad, weepy, guilty, isolated, angry, resentful, exhausted, anxious feelings, mood swings, appetite changes or other changes of concern contact your primary health care provider or call 508 693-7900 x283.