I am 24 years old. I am holding my brand new daughter in my arms after a long recovery from a crash C-section. When I first saw her after she was wrenched from my pelvis, I thought she couldn't possible be my child- all of that dark hair, her face red with the rage of birth. Now I am looking at her face and she seems to have accepted her fate in a world of air and swaddling cloths. She doesn't really cry much. She is complacent and only mewls like a cat. She is beautiful, only I cannot see that.
My husband and I have been in the hospital for three days, held captive by midwives and nurses who are convinced that I can have this baby " naturally". I am convinced that any way to get a seven pound human out from the depths of one's body is either never going to seem natural or is natural enough to satisfy me while in the throws of the agony of bearing this child. I can remember begging for an epidural. I knew, six hours into my labor, that this was not going to end well. I never got that epidural, I never got the care I had talked bout with my midwife before the birth and I was right, 40 hours later, things have not ended well.
I sewn back together from hip to hip. There had been hurried talk about breaking my pelvis since my daughter was "stuck". I guess I was a sufficient pusher after all, even when I thought those last meek grunts were pitiful. The gurney rocked like a ship about to capsize as they finally culled her from my disasterized womb. Now I am being told that I will have to stand up and walk soon- it's part of the healing process. I am sure that my guts will spill out.
I have wandered around in my boozy mind in the recovery room- what the nurses call "resting". I have not slept for three days. I have been a drifting puppet as they have brought my daughter to me for nursing. I receive her in my arms and put her to my breast while they poke around her suckling mouth, making sure that it is being executed properly. I am concentrating on not letting my arms go flaccid- I am just not all there. The tears of joy that movies prescribe upon these first days with my newborn have not come. In fact I have felt nothing. I am untouched.
In two days, I have been up and around. I have nursed my daughter and learned to care for her umbilical cord and change her diaper. Everything is on schedule and going as planned except that suddenly, in the time it takes a sparrow to take flight, I have gone insane.
My daughter lies in her transparent hospital issued bassinet. She is beginning to puff and stretch about in the way I have learned means she will cry soon. She emits her creature noise and simultaneously I hear the familiar voice of someone I have not seen in years. Who told my step father he could come here? I am frantically jerking my head back and forth in search of him. I still myself in order to hone in on him. I follow my ears with my eyes. He is exactly where my daughter lies. He is my daughters voice. She opens her mouth, but he speaks. He tells me he will never leave me, he will always be a part of me, he is born unto me.
It takes only that to send my hand to the nurse-call button. My skin is rippling with squirelly animals beneath. My mouth is open,, my throat is ignited- I am screaming. My husband is alarmed as he watches my face warp into malicious, spitting disarray. He rushes to the bassinet- a protective instinct as I scream at the nurse to get "it" out of my room. I have been tricked. This is not a baby. He has come back for me....
In 1994, post-partum psychosis was not a headliner. In fact the hospitals on-call psychiatrist sent me home with a huge bottle of zanax and never told me to stop nursing. Considering that that nearly killed my daughter , I would say that not a whole lot of thought was put into what was occuring. I am not sure the doctors had much to work with. My experince happened just on the cusp of discovery- just before one woman drowned all of her children after experiencing similar symptoms.
Technically, I snapped becasue of hormones. I had an extremely long and intense labor and very little support. My midwife failed me in every possible way. My hero is the doctor who finally came along and reprimanded her and had me prepped for surgery. I know though, that what really did it was these things in combination with a false sense of security. My husband was a God-send of a man who cared deeply for me. He was my prince who snapped me up from the very first day we met and took care of me. He was stable and patient. He was everything I did not know existed and I became lazy about doing my therapy. I put down half-read self-help books and took up the facad that I was now whole. I felt happy because of him- something I had never known. But, no matter how much kindness he extended and how much stability he created, nothing would have kept me from this post-partum crackup. There were demons to be exorcised and unfortunately my beautiful daughter had to take second seat to visits to the emergency room, outpatient programs and days when I was so drugged that I slept endlessly. All the while, her father missed work or brought work home in order to be able to care for her. Our agreement upon conceiving our daughter was that she would be raised at home. We had the means to make that happen and it feel within our morality. He sacrificed to make good on our agreement. He made a quick study on diaper changing, feedings and overall coddling. He gave her safetly and comfort when I simple could not. He did all of this with very little idea as to why I was the way I was. In the years that followed we learned a lot about post-patum psychosis. More than that I learned that my work was not done-my demons not excorcised.