emotional breakdownBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

Remember that part-time job I got, that thing that was supposed to make PPD easier to deal with? Yeah. Not so much.

The first week of my job was fabulous. I caught on quickly to the old-fashioned cash register and handwritten ticket system. The manager was totally cool with my need to pump milk every few hours, too. Baby had a few rough first days at daycare, but I expected that, so I wasn’t too worried.

That first weekend, we both got sick. And sicker. I called in to work Monday, said I needed to take baby to urgent care. My manager totally understood. We got some amoxicillin for baby and I figured I’d just power through whatever was afflicting me. I managed to work the rest of the week, but things got worse.

My daughter’s favorite daycare lady had just gone on vacation. Baby’s world was completely rocked for the second time in two short weeks, and she started exhibiting “boundary issues.” I felt like the daycare director was talking about someone else’s kid when she explained how my daughter wouldn’t interact with other toddlers, wouldn’t be happy in anyone’s arms and wouldn’t eat or drink.

“The only way she wants to play is alone in a crib. If we put her there with a few toys, she’s okay for awhile.”

For serious? She was talking about my child like she was some kind of pint-sized psychopath. I didn’t understand. Just weeks ago I’d seen my daughter gently touch another baby and give hugs to big kids at the mall play area. She normally loved following kids around on playgrounds, giggling and staring open-mouthed in their wake.

Then, work started scheduling me 30 hours a week—way more than I’d ever agreed to. My serving job was supposed to be secondary to my writing, and at this point, my manager wasn’t being clear with me about when, if ever, I’d get a regular part-time schedule like I was promised upon getting hired.

Meanwhile, baby and I just got sicker. I combated the disappointment that my breastmilk wasn’t all-powerful liquid gold after all. And I combated the irony that I had finally quit smoking cigarettes again and was rewarded with a vicious cold.

Then there was the catalyst for my worst depressive episode in a long time. One morning I was walking my daughter down the hallway to her classroom and she started to whimper. She barely talks yet, so when she does say a word, it demands my attention. She did her “milk” sign, and followed with a low-pitched “mama,” pleading with me not to leave her there.

I clenched my jaw and handed her off to a distracted daycare worker, then I said goodbye while she screamed. I choked back tears during the long walk back down the hallway. That day I beat myself up for being the worst mom ever and wondered if this thing was going to seriously damage my daughter down the line. And for what? So I could fake a smile and bring food to people and just barely make enough to cover the cost of childcare in the first place?

Days later, serious shit went down between me and my husband. We determined we could no longer afford the beautiful house we’d been planning to build this summer. After an especially heated argument, I went so far as to look up the number for the Missouri suicide hotline because, goddammit, I didn’t know what I could be doing differently.

I had quit smoking. I had started doing yoga daily and meditating myself to sleep at night. I had been reaching out and venting to my closest friends. I had been telling myself I was strong, capable and balanced—and I wasn’t giving in to the false comfort of tears. I was doing everything in my power to stay sane, and it still wasn’t enough.

All I could think was that if I hadn’t gone and selfishly obtained this job, my husband would be happy, my daughter would be happy, and I wouldn’t have this horrible guilt and this horrible cold. I had naively thought this job would fill a void. Instead, these changes had deepened it.

We all went to urgent care again, and I found out I had a sinus infection. Baby got more amoxicillin, I got an antibiotic. I took an entire week off work to regroup. I napped each day and did the bare minimum of dishes and laundry while baby spent a few hours in daycare.

When she was home, we read lots of books and nursed whenever just like when I was a SAHM. And I took one of those days to have a coffee date with my husband. He almost seemed like a stranger to me as we chatted, uninterrupted, for hours. And when we were all together, we took a day to really clean the apartment. I hadn’t realized it until we were done, but the chaos and grime had really been weighing me down.

That week was just what I needed. My husband and I relearned how to communicate. I started to trust my daughter more, to really believe she had the strength to adapt to daycare. I relinquished control a little bit. I also worked up the courage to communicate with my restaurant job, and they were more than happy to schedule me just one day a week so I could have room for my family and my writing.

I can’t say with certainty that everything is stabilizing, but I can say, after nearly four weeks, whatever monster cold/sinus infection we were afflicted with is nearly gone. This may seem like a little thing, but right now it’s huge. It may seem like my improved mood is a result of my fading sinus infection. But I’m inclined to believe it goes the other way, too, that taking time to nurture myself and my home and my relationships gave my body the strength to heal.

(photo: Tang Yan Song / Shutterstock)