Dogs, Stockings and Milk Cows
Favorite Farmer and I recently welcomed our fourth child, Cora Jane, into our family and it’s already hard to remember what life was like before her (mainly because we can’t remember anything due to the hurricane surrounding us, which is what some people would call our everyday life). With each progressive baby, the amount of information the obstetrician and pediatrician tells us gets more limited. Apparently with four kids under the age of seven, doctors assume you have a good idea of how long it will take you to be able to walk without shuffling after delivery and how many poopy diapers you’ll be changing daily. Of all the things they fail to mention, the one thing they increasingly bring up is depression awareness. They’re not just asking me about it, it’s now protocol with every woman after giving birth.
When we had Colter seven years ago, they mentioned “baby blues” in a passing comment once. Fast-forward to today and “stress and stress leading to depression after having a baby” has been mentioned more times with this delivery and after-care than it was with my last three babies combined. Between Cora Jane’s check-ups, my six-week follow-up and everything in between, I’ve been asked about the possible presence of postnatal depression at least seven times and I’m guessing I’ll be asked about it once more when Cora Jane has her two-month check-up next week.
When I went to the doctor last week because I was having heart palpitations that kept me up at night, I was less than shocked when the subject of stress came up. At first, my immediate reaction was to say that couldn’t be it because I didn’t feel any more stressed than normal but as she kept talking, she started to sound like the teacher on Charlie Brown. She faded into the background and a scene from home starting playing in my head: the dog running from window to window, incessantly barking when the 4-wheeler started up to feed the heifers, the same dog that until recently only came inside to sleep at night but because of a leg surgery can now only be outside on a leash for six weeks. Another snapshot of home, me sitting at the sewing machine madly tried to finish a stocking for Cora Jane (and maybe one for Benjamin who had been borrowing mine for the past two Christmases) before Santa arrived. Another—this time I was sitting in the chair nursing the baby for the umpteenth time while reading a book to Benjamin. I was wondering why that ordinary memory popped up but then I remembered how our two-and-a-half year old had leaned over and told me I should find a milk cow costume because I “spend a lot of time milking that baby.” And there it was.
While I didn’t feel any more anxious than normal in dealing with our ever-chaotic day-to-day life, added pressures seemed to be piling up. I’m pretty sure we stress people out when they see us coming (I see your looks in the grocery store), how in the world could it not be stressing me out? In the end, the doctor seemed to think it was more of a dehydration/need to eat more type of problem. I, on the other hand, knew I could use more water but judging by the fudge and Almond Roca I had been eating wasn’t too worried about being stingy on the food front and was more concerned about making things a little less crazy at home.
When I got home and told Favorite Farmer about my epiphany, he immediately asked if I thought it might lead to something more serious, and if there was anything he could do to help. He was there when I dealt with a bout of postnatal depression directly following Colter’s birth and knew that it wasn’t something to mess around with. I assured him I wasn’t headed in that direction this time but was grateful he was willing to bring it up.
Speaking from experience, it doesn’t take much for the feeling of having too much weight on your shoulders to shift into something more damaging and destructive Sometimes it’s so slight it’s often times unrecognizable. Of all the industries in the world, farmers and ranchers have one of the highest rates of this disease per capita, which isn’t surprising since the pressures of being a producer in today’s world seem to be endless. Until recently, depression had been a faux pas subject in the rough, tough, male-dominated world of agriculture but thankfully it seems as if stigmas surrounding depression and who is allowed to be depressed are lifting. I hope people continue to realize they shouldn’t be embarrassed about reaching out for help when the feeling of hopelessness and poor self-worth becomes too much to handle and that loved ones aren’t afraid to offer that help, either. If you or anyone you know could be suffering from depression please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-233-4357.
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