And the Depression Fog Rolls In… How to Cope?

I want to be an organized, has-her-shit-together mom for my son. But let’s face it, just because I managed to squeeze a 7lb human out with relatively minimal complications doesn’t mean I suddenly am I sane, stable individual. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

I’m sitting in my one bedroom apartment living room watching my son finally in a good mood, on his back, in the little empty carpeting in the room, cooing and laughing, looking at… something? It’s nearly 7pm and I don’t know where the day went. We did a lot of me not sleeping as he snacked on my breasts and slept on me. When I tried to put him down for a nap in his pack & play he, as always, freaked out. I put a pacifier in his mouth and he spit it out, then started fussing, then started screaming. And repeat.

Exhaustion has new meaning with a newborn. I’m so grateful that I bailed on my plan to go back to work after 6 weeks and with my depression was able to get a disability extension (something I didn’t want to have to do, but I give up) and I have an extra eight weeks, plus another six that will be semi paid that is usable next year, and six weeks unpaid if I want them. The amount of stress I’ve dealt with just managing the guilt and logistics of orchestrating my maternity leave has been immense. I still don’t know how I’m going to go back to work, and then take my 6-12 weeks off throughout the next couple of months. While those weeks are “job protected,” the time in between them is not… which means my company could decide to let me go before I get to use this time off. I hope they don’t, but every single day I will be extra paranoid that I have to prove my worth and then some to maintain my employment…

That’s not good because I already feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, as always. I mean, I am in a better spot in this job than others I’ve had before… but I’m by no means in the clear. I’m scared, and much more scared now that I have a kid. We have a cushion and all, but I need to work. I need to work full time for a long time to afford being a mom. And while I WANT to work, I also want to see my child grow up. I don’t have a choice either way. It’s challenging to hang out with other moms who are changing their minds about going back to work and deciding to quit their jobs and stay home. I don’t want to do that, but then again, part of me does. I can’t, and so that makes it an easy decision for me. But being that I can’t, I also can’t lose my job. And my husband get so annoyed at me when I constantly say I’m going to get fired–and I know that’s not the most productive thing to tell myself, but I just feel so lost and hopeless. I’m almost 35 and I haven’t the faintest idea how to do my job well. Fortunately my boss seems to like me, but that can change at the drop of a hat. If I make her look bad, even by accident, even if I try my best, why would she like me anymore?

Being this exhausted is not ideal for returning to a job that I don’t know how to do. I’ll just hang in as long as I can… which may be months and may be years… and try to save as much as possible. But I’m on a whole different wavelength of reality than my husband right now, which isn’t good. He earns $85k a year without benefits, and I’m making somewhere between $170k and $300k, and I carry the family benefits as well. If he lost his job, it wouldn’t be great, but we could survive. If I lose my job, that’s another story.

The stress was added to this week when I found out it’s unlikely I can qualify for term life insurance because of my history of depression. That’s plenty to be depressed about. I’m not sure how much life insurance I should get, but I was thinking a $3M policy… $150k for my son’s college, plus 30 years at $300k of salary. I could probably do less than that, but it doesn’t matter since I can’t qualify. I’m screwed because I tell my doctor that I occasionally think about killing myself. How am I supposed to get help if I can’t tell my doctor things like this when they ask me? Thank goodness we have a ban against refusing healthcare for pre-existing conditions these days (though who knows if that will last) but life insurance has no such rules. I feel like such a failure for my son and my family.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how to get into a routine of being a mom. I want to give my son a good childhood, I want to engage him and help him develop, and right now I’m not working and my husband is, so that’s really on me. But we barely sleep at night… I’m lucky if I get 4-6 hours of non-consistent sleep which isn’t even good sleep because of my son’s grunting and whimpering. It’s getting. little better but it’s still not good, and it won’t be for a long time. How on earth will I be able to be a great employee on this little sleep? I’m already daydreaming about the catnaps I’ll take in my office parking lot at lunch after pumping.

I’m not complaining here because this is a choice I made, and I’m so lucky to have more time off and protected than many other women in this country. And for now I only have ONE kid to take care of… I can’t imagine what it’s like with more than one (though I’d like to have at least one more when I’m ready–and by then maybe I can do the stay at home mom thing for a year or two? Wishful thinking.)

My kid does get to stay home with my husband’s parents while I’m at work and not go off to a daycare at this young age, which would be much harder. Still, I’m missing the opportunity to be my son’s mother, or that’s how it feels. But, then again, as I glance at him now fussing on the floor, clearly over this once nice position for solitary play time, coos, and giggles, I also think how grateful I am that I will be going back to work and that this isn’t going to be my full time life. So clearly, I’m torn. I just don’t know how to do both, or even this alone, but I’m going to have to figure it out.

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2 thoughts on “And the Depression Fog Rolls In… How to Cope?”

  1. Oh, friend! I know how you feel regarding the motherhood and being torn about work! I have 2 girls, 2 and 4, and the first one is high needs. She has sensory processing issues and cried soooooo much when she was little. It. Was. Stressful! It still is, but is easier. I’m writing to encourage you, that you are in the thick of it now. Those first months can be so hard and feel isolating and never-ending. The leaking, sore breasts with painful breastfeeding, engorgement and mastitis! The sleep-deprivation-caused insanity! The PPD. Oh, the PPD! Girl, hang in there. My youngest is two, and I promise, it gets easier. First at 6 months, you might think, “I think this is a little easier!” Then at a year, then 18 months, then at 2 you feel like you can keep the house a little cleaner and get a little more done. And, now my babies are no longer babies! No more cuddles from the oldest! : ( Now she argues! : ) Also, if you are making up the $300k/year, you sound as if you have marketable skills, so you should be able to find another job. Where are you living? We live in the heart of Silicon Valley and our expenses, not trying to cut expenses, are usually around $85k/year, so I would think if either of you lost your job, you would be able to make adjustments and survive. Things have a way of working out, one way or another. : ) Hang in there! I also had PPD, though I didn’t have it diagnosed. There’s no harm in seeing a LMFT and pay out of pocket when you need a little extra encouragement and not have it on your insurance for mental health maintenance. There are also some online services that might be cheaper. Best wishes!

    1. Thanks for the note. I too live in the heart of Silicon Valley… if I lost my job it would be very challenging as my husband makes $85k a year with no benefits and pays consulting taxes on that. I wish he made more but now he’s taking care of our son too so I can’t push him to get another job. I spend too much so I could def cut expenses but not by enough to not work. My skills are strange and not marketable. I’m fortunate to have the job I have today but unless I can keep it for another 2+ years I won’t be able to find another job. I’m scared out of my mind. I do see a therapist and it helps a bit but going back to work will be very hard. I like working but I just don’t feel right in my career. I’m lucky to have a boss who believes in me but he thinks too highly of my abilities and I’m constantly feeling like I’m letting him down. It’s going to be so much worse when I go back from leave.

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