June 3, 2008

Last night, I snapped.

Yesterday was my first day totally on my own – husband gone from early ’til late, me alone with a boob-chomping infant and, for the latter part of the day, after daycare, a spirited toddler – and I just couldn’t do it. I made it until dinnertime and then – nips and nethers aching badly, infant squalling endlessly for more booby more booby more booby, toddler chucking her pizza to the floor, stripping off her clothes and embarking upon her own, unsuccessful, toilet-training regimen (a story that might be funny in another lifetime but cannot even be recounted here in barest outline because I will start crying again) – I snapped. Snapped.

Which means, only, that I ended up immobilized in the corner with infant fastened like a vise to my ravaged boobies, sobbing helplessly and uncontrollably while my beautiful and entirely naked daughter laid waste to our living and dining rooms. I stayed there and sobbed until HBF walked in the door and took charge. Then I went to bed – infant still clinging to tit with his gummy iron grip – and wept until I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t fling myself under a bus, I didn’t have quote-unquote intrusive thoughts – I just collapsed under the weight of the feeling, however misguided, that I cannot do this, not on my own. That however much a blessing is the birth of this most-beloved boy – and it is, truly, the greatest blessing – it is overwhelming. That however capable and sane I think I am, that capability and that sanity crumble under the weight of pain and stress and the awful, terrible feeling of maternal helplessness.

I know that these are extreme circumstances – I’m recovering from a physically traumatic childbirth, I’m struggling with breastfeeding, my husband is away from home for long hours, and I have a history of PPD – and that I’m doing the best that I can. I know that this is different from the first time, when I just got anxious and sad and huddled in the dark feeling lost and alone. I know that I’m not lost, that I’m not alone. But the painful difference, this time, is precisely this: I am not alone. As I huddle in the corner, infant clutched to breast, sobbing uncontrollably, I have a companion, and a witness: my daughter. Who understands that tears mean pain and fear and sadness. Who worries for her Mommy. Who, last night, in the fray, shushed her brother loudly, saying don’t hurt Mommy. Who asked, do I hurt you Mommy?

Oh, sweetie, it’s not you, you haven’t hurt Mommy; Jasper hasn’t hurt Mommy; neither of you hurt Mommy, not ever. It’s just… a special kind of Mommy-hurt… but it’s okay. Mommy’s okay.

Truth, and lies.


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    Amy June 4, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Zoloft is compatible with breastfeeding.

    If you were my best friend, sitting here telling me this over coffee, I would be putting your butt in the car and taking you to get some myself.

    I think you have PPD again. It’s not any kind of personal failure, it just IS. It’s a chemical disorder, just like diabetes. No shame, no judgment, just facts.

    I think you need to get yourself on a bit of Zoloft, give it a couple of weeks, and see how you’re doing then. It also gets easier and easier as they get bigger. Where are you? Is there someone who can be with you during the day?

    Hang in there. I’ve been there too – with PPD and two under two. THIS TOO SHALL PASS. E-mail me if you need to talk to someone who understands.

    Love to you,
    Amy @

    Kathy June 4, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I’m a lurker who loves your blog. I just have to tell you I’ve been exactly where you are – 2 years ago – with an infant and a toddler and the hell that is breastfeeding (well it was hell for both kids for me). I can tell you to hang in there, it will get better, which is true. I can also tell you that if you do hang in there, you are a much stronger woman than I because with both kids I threw in the towel with breastfeeding, my son after 5 weeks and my daughter after about the same. Be damned breastfeeding Mafia. A sane mom who bottle feeds is better for the whole family was my defense, if I needed one, which I really shouldn’t have. I know I’m venting a bit on your blog, but I hope it’s helpful to know you’re not alone!

    Minnesota Matron June 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Oh honey!

    My firstborn was so difficult. Like your guy, he demanded to nurse constantly – nearly every waking moment! I remember how shocked I felt at the loss of the simple physical ability to get up and use the bathroom or get a glass of water. Plus, he didn’t sleep. Needed. Minimal. Sleep. The pediatrician said that sometimes, some babies really do just need their 7 or 8 hours. Rare, but not unthinkable.

    Baby #2 confirmed for me that mothering newborns — infants all the way up through those first six or seven months — was not something I enjoyed. Sure, I loved my darling babies but loved them much more when someone else was holding them or doing all the work. The entire situation is completely tedious by nature.

    Even so, I went on to have that third baby so I could have three children!

    Like Amy ahead, I’d do something tangible in the real world. You need a girlfriend to hustle on over and give you a hand, period! Can you imagine having a friend to help with the cooking, cleaning and care — companionship during husband’s long work hours?

    If you’re one of HBM’s real life real people, get busy. She needs you.

    Allison June 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Reading these words made me feel like I am not alone. I am a first time mother to a beautiful baby boy who was born May 6th. I am blessed, I am in love- but I am overwhelmed. So very overwhelmed. Thank you so very much from the bottom of my exhausted heart for sharing this. It was something I needed to hear.

    ByJane June 4, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I echo Amy. Not in the experience realm, but in saying that PPD is a CHEMICAL DISORDER that can be “ordered” with medicine. Like diabetes. You are one brave woman, and your bravery is, to a great extent, that you recognize you cannot do it alone. So don’t.

    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Okay, seriously, I know one or two of you must live in/near Bomanville.

    Maybe HBM needs help, not pills? Or maybe both – what do I know, I’m no doctor – but some of us can provide the help that’s so needed.

    Some shuttling of WB to preschool or back, some tea and goodies, something to take the “it’s all on me” feeling away for a bit?

    Okay, the HBM telethon is over for now…but don’t make me come back with Jerry Lewis.

    anymommy June 4, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    It’s not you, you know that right? It’s incredibly hard to deal with a newborn and a toddler. Beyond hard, approaching impossible. And, it’s been what, two weeks, and you’re already on your own. I know people do what they have to, but that’s quick girl. My mom stayed for a month after my second birth and I still cried when she left.

    I’d say crying is normal (although needing help for depression is fine too). And, you know, letting small chomper cry for a few minutes is fine too. I was amazed by how much more I had to let my second baby cry. He’s ten months old and totally normal (okay, he army crawls and bobs for cheerios with his mouth, but otherwise, normal, totally).

    Cursing Mama June 4, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    I remember bringing my daughter home and adding a second child into the mix being so very mind numbing, body and soul draining; I went into survival mode and considered getting myself dressed a personal victory. It wasn’t a victory I achieved on a regular basis. You are not alone.

    Shash June 4, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    You know, I’ve never been to Canada before, and school ends for me on Monday of next week…. I could be persuaded to come up and help if you would like :)


    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    So many people I know have been where you are. I don’t know if it is PPD; I am not a doctor. I think a lot of people have your experiences after having their second child, even when they do not have PPD.

    I hope that your friends read your blog and come to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your older child. And it is okay to cry. I did a lot of it with my baby!

    As for breastfeeding, you seem to be doing better then most people in your situation would be. I am sorry that it is not going better for you. Take care, and rest when you can.

    catnip June 4, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I’m not a doctor but this doesn’t sound much like PPD. It sounds like you’re just plain overwhelmed, and you have every right to be. Do you have a friend or some family that could come help out? I hope things get better soon.

    carrie June 4, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Oh, I would send you an army of helpers if I could . . . it’s going to get better. Trust me.

    daysgoby June 4, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Catherine –

    Could you let HBF bottle feed J for a little while? Just so you could sleep for 12 hours or so?

    I know it’s not ANYWHERE what you need but it would be a start.

    I send you love, and I wish I could help.

    Lady M June 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Oh honey.

    Would it be ok to give the baby one bottle a day? Somehow, just getting one break a day from the pain helped me so much, physically and mentally.

    Wishing you soothing thoughts for the young’uns and lots of love for everyone.

    Jaelithe June 4, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Ummm . . . I am certainly not going to diagnose you with a disorder or recommend any medication when you are, ahem, RECOVERING FROM A TRAUMATIC CHILDBIRTH, STRUGGLING WITH BREASTFEEDING, AND STUCK AT HOME ALONE WITH TWO KIDS.

    Sounds to me like you reacted perfectly normally, given the circumstances, actually.

    Hang in there, lady. And if you need to cry, cry. It’s okay.

    Your son will not remember you breaking down in tears. Your daughter will learn that sometimes mommies and daddies need help from big sisters, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Of course, please do, please do seek help if you think you are once again suffering from an imbalance on top of it all. But, really. It’s okay and normal to feel overwhelmed in this situation.

    Do you have any friends who could stop by to help, to take Emilia out to the park for a bit, or cook dinner, maybe? I wish I didn’t live so far away.

    Jenifer June 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    The first few weeks are extremely hard sometimes whether it is your first or not. I remember the tears, the power to do nothing sometimes. I think under the circumstances you are doing pretty well.

    Maybe try giving Jasper a bottle now and then (pumped milk or otherwise) to give your body a bit of a break. Just a suggestion from a Mom who tried unsuccessfully so very hard to nurse. I am not saying give up, maybe just give yourself a wee break.

    Mac and Cheese June 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm


    kittenpie June 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Oh, honey. I don’t know from real PPD, but I do know the sound of sheer exhaustion and frustration, and I can well imagine how even one day under current circumstances would be more than enough to do anyone in. It’s a lot to put on yourself to expect that now, so soon, so in pain, so tired, you’d be able to stand up to that without breaking down a little.

    I only wish I could come up and keep you company a bit more often in this early period. Are you coming down on Friday? and if so, can I take you back to our house for a bit after and let A. wreak havoc on our playroom while you sit and drink tea? My house is a mess, but you are welcome to some sitting time if you would like some. We can bring motherbumper or kgirl along, too, if you like.

    anniemom June 4, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Oh, HBM! I am hugging you, and hugging you! I felt much of what you described with baby #1, and I’m expecting baby #2 in October… but what I’m doing this time around, is getting an army of reserves ready. Zoloft? Sure. Friends and relatives to help? Yes. But most importantly, I’m getting zen with the fact that if I decide to go the way of the bottle, damned be the world. My kids need me, yours need you, and now is the time to do EXACTLY what it it that will lighten your incredible load. Take 10 minutes and think about what would give you a little solace, and do it. No guilt about what you did for #1 you must do for #2, I know that game as well. We are sending love and support. It’s time for you to take take take, so you can give give give.

    Love and more and more love from Nashviile


    Sass E-mum June 4, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Oh baby. This stinks. I remember sobbing in the shower with baby blues. Not sure that’s a patch on what you are feeling.

    Have a hug from me and hang on to your inner bad mothere.

    Candygirlflies June 4, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Oh, sweetie… IT WILL GET BETTER. And easier. Go very, very easy on yourself– you are just doing the best you can.

    Please DO ask for, and accept, help from those around you! You can’t do this all alone– you need time to rest and recover.

    If you don’t feel comfortable asking friends (and I know, I’ve been there– I felt as though it would be admitting “defeat”), then call your local health unit. There are some wonderful organizations out there who visit new mothers, and lend a hand.

    Always here for you if you need me– say the word. I can cook, and I deliver!!


    xoxo CGF

    Jenn June 4, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    When I had my third my lovely husband at the time picked me up at the hospital drove in the yard set the baby in the door and left to go to a friend’s 20 mins later my mother dropped off the other two and left, all three are 2 years apart, so there I was alone big fun ! Hopefully you will start feeling better soon and just remember you are not alone !

    Procrastamom June 4, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Oh god, I just relived all those feelings with you. I’m sorry. I remember this and I’m sorry.

    hschinske June 4, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Oh, honey, that sounds *awful*! Definitely get some help. What about a postpartum doula? or a plain old nanny? someone who can rock the baby and keep the clothes on your daughter while you get some rest.

    I had an extra pair of hands in the house for a month after my twins were born, and it sounds to me as though you’re having a much tougher time than I did.

    Heather June 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    It IS overwhelming. It is.

    I’m overwhelmed a bit too, with number 3. My oldest is at school during the day, only until tomorrow…then she’ll be home to fight with her brother. I’m certain I’ll feel like I’m going insane.

    I felt that way when my son was born and had a 2-year-old to take care of too.

    It simply takes time to adjust.

    And you will, and I will and we’ll look back and remember how hard it was, but how far we’ve come too.

    I’ve cried at least once every day since my little one arrived. It’s emotional anyway without the other stuff adding to it.

    hugs to you.

    Backpacking Dad June 4, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Oh, strong Catherine.
    Human Catherine.

    Oh, loving Catherine.
    Dreading Catherine.

    Oh, determined Catherine.
    Exhausted Catherine.

    Oh, mother Catherine.
    Mother Catherine.

    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 6:28 pm
    Mama Snyder June 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Being a mama is just so effen hard. I have been there, and some days, I am still there, although I took the babies off the boob several months ago. Breastfeeding was just TOO MUCH WORK for me, and I had to say no to something. My 32 weekers are fat, healthy and FORMULA FED! Only you can make the decision, but if formula makes you a happier, more rested, not in pain, mommy – how could that be a bad thing.

    Hugs to you – and to Emilia and Jasper, who are so lucky to have a mommy who REALLY loves them.

    Laura from BC June 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Hugs to you and your babies!

    Motherhood Uncensored June 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Okay so I’m an ass for not emailing you because EVERY TIME I sit down at the email I want to email you and just say “I’m thinking about you” — not because it’s the right thing to say or whatever but because I really truly am.

    I mean, as much think space that I have left, I spend it on you my friend because I know this is hard. I think we all can say this is hard and we feel the salty tears with you.


    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Sounds like you need to line up some scheduled help for the next few weeks/ months. There is no reason why you should have to cope with everything on your own. Hiring someone for a period of time would probably be the best option, as friends will not always be available. Get someone to take care of housework & laundry, watch your toddler and prepare some meals during the week and ask your husband to help out when he comes home. There is only so much a mother can do. Don’t beat yourself up about crying in front of your daughter. You will feel better as soon as you get things under control. I wouldn’t go down the medication route unless a doctor diagnoses PPD, but it’s early days yet. With the right support structure, a healthy diet with vitamin supplements and more rest, you should be feeling better soon.
    Hiring help is not a luxury, it’s a necessary investment.

    Trillian June 4, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    So sorry to hear everything is so overwhelming at the moment and I wish we still lived in the area so we could help!
    If you need personal chef services, we’ve used Marg Krewen (, she’s amazing and kind and her food is out of this world. Also, we can ask about a temporary nanny for you through Scooter’s old baby sitter. We just need to know what city you’re in. E-mail Mouse if you want us to do that.
    Know that we are thinking of you and hoping things improve rapidly!

    Christina June 4, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    It is hard, and you’re reacting in a totally normal way. If the baby’s age can still be reasonably measured in days, then you’re still suffering a huge hormonal change, along with trying to heal your body and cope with a drastic change to your family, your routine, your life.

    Just reading that gave me flashbacks of a year ago, when I was trying to manage much the same. It’s OK to cry, to feel like you can’t do it, and I promise it does get better.

    There’s a reason second babies learn things faster – it’s because they have to for mom’s sanity. You need to meet the base needs of each child, and then you must meet your needs, too. No one gets their “wants” until mama gets her needs.

    And you need to give yourself some TLC, too. He won’t remember if he cries for a few minutes because you really need the therapy of a quick, hot shower. And she can run around flaunting her nakedness for a little while so you can sit down and have a full meal. Housework can wait.

    I also know you have a bounty of wonderful blog friends who don’t live too far away. I’m sure some of them wouldn’t mind coming by to help out a little. You know you’d do the same for them, so don’t feel bad asking for some help.

    Hang in there. You’re in my thoughts.

    Hannah June 4, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I’m there with you, with my almost three year old and my seven week old. Yesterday was the first full day home alone with both of them. It was so much harder than I thought and I spent today thinking that I am not cut out to mother multiple children.

    I hear you. And wish I lived closer so we could pool our resources. Take up those offers of help that are coming from the other commenters. You need some reinforcements.

    scharfhunter June 4, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    oh, how i love you and i don’t even know you. but i have been in that scary overwhelmed and overwhelming place, and i only had one baby to care for…if tears from strangers can carry love from one mother to another, i hope you can feel my support and empathy in your heart. do whatever you have to do to be a sane and present mommy to your babies. not that you don’t already know this…you are, in more ways than i could ever explain without sounding insane, a particular role model in my pantheon of “mothers-i-admire.” and your honesty in this situation may have actually moved you to the center of it! kisses, love, and hugs from far away…

    The Estrogen Files June 4, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I know exactly where you are. I wish that I lived closer and was able to offer some physical support!

    Don’t be afraid to get some help, if needed, since PPD is a chemical imbalance, not a failing. I’ve been battling this monster for 7 years now. It does get better. Heck, even asking a good lady friend to come and stay is sanity incarnate.

    Meanwhile, like others have said, please take some time for yourself, even if it comes in the form of a hot 5 minute shower while baby Jasper bemoans his lack of boob.

    Hang in there. My thoughts and prayers daily.

    Veronica Mitchell June 4, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    My husband worked nights during the years my first three kids were born. Those long nights alone alone alone were so very hard. I cried a lot, too.

    Everything I could say, you know already: it gets better, you learn ways to cope, etc. But the most important thing to tell you is that though you are alone in one way, you are not alone in another important way. We know what it’s like. Our kids saw the same thing. We probably saw our mothers do the same thing when we were kids, and we don’t even remember.

    Your love is bigger than this moment, and that’s what your kids will remember.

    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I am delurking — I would suggest that you contact Public Health (they have nurses throughout ON who can come by and help out) or your doctor for some support. I sooo know where you are as I was there 6 months ago.

    Major Bedhead June 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Have you thought about just discontinuing breastfeeding? I’m a huge proponent of it, but if it’s adding that much stress and pain to your life, maybe stopping it, or, as others suggested, giving him a bottle or two throughout the day might help.

    Kris June 4, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    I have no advice, just my sympathies. Hang in there.

    Diane June 4, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Oh, I have been there, like so many other women here. My meltdown happened at the dinner table with my 14 m/o and my 2 week old and lasted almost 24 hours.

    Your reaction was completely normal and completely expected. Like major bedhead suggested, I decided to stop nursing for the sake of the sanity of myself and those around me who I love more than anything in the entire world. It was a terribly hard and disappointing decision and I hated myself for doing it. But I got over it and now several months later (my son will be 9 months next week) we are all happy and healthy.

    Whatever you do, know you are a good mom who’s trying her best, but if it’s at all possible, please ask a friend or family member to come over and help. Like they say, it takes a village to raise a child and you are still healing and need the extra support.

    Good thought are being sent your way.

    The Other Laura June 4, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    All the suggestions I wanted to make have already been made, so I’ll just say I’m thinking of all of you and if I weren’t in South Texas I’d bring over a lasagna and some garlic toast and do 14 loads of laundry and anything else you might need a hand with…

    If there’s anything I can do from a continent away, email me.

    Fairly Odd Mother June 4, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    HBM, I had the worst time trying to nurse my 1st daughter. She nursed all. . .the. . .time, cried when she wasn’t latched on and then, to top it off, failed to gain any weight. I gave her a bottle of formula at 8 weeks and she was the calmest I’d ever seen her.

    Many will say that I killed our breastfeeding relationship, but that isn’t the case. I saved it and saved me. She got formula and nursed too, albeit at a more manageable pace. My milk had time to come in, I had time to relax. I weaned her at almost 3 (and that is years, not months). That bottle, as much as I resisted at first, was the best thing I ever did for our breastfeeding relationship.

    Fairly Odd Mother June 4, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    And, I’m sorry I didn’t say this above, but hugs to you. Please believe in yourself and know you can get through this tough time. I’ll be thinking of you, pulling for you.

    Mrs. Schmitty June 4, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Oh sweetie, I am so sorry you are going through this. I can relate as my youngest children are only 10 months apart. It was so hard at times. I too suffered through PPD. Don’t be afraid to get some help for it. It’s okay.

    Hugs to you…you will find your way.

    Deb June 4, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    You don’t have to breastfeed. When I had my first child I had a terrible time trying to get him to latch on. This was back in the day when they kept you in the hospital for a week and yes, I’m that old. Anyway, I was crying and having a terrible time and this lovely old nurse said to me, “You can use formula.”

    I know that breast is best but you also need your sanity my dear.

    Is there anyone who can help you? A friend? A sister? Your mom? Two kids is hard, especially when you’re still so sore.

    As for your daughter seeing you cry, she’ll realize her mom is human and that she gets sad sometimes, that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. And it is okay to be sad, and yes, you wanted your son but babies are a time of monumental upheaval.

    Take care sweetie.

    Linda June 4, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I live not far from B-ville (and my loveliest, dearest, oldest friend lives there — in the older part of town, like you, I think) and I could offer some help, if you like.

    My now almost-five-year-old left me and my breasts ravaged for weeks. On top of that, as another commenter related, my baby had “low sleep needs,” as one MD termed it. She just catnapped for 20 minutes to an hour at a time *all day and all night* for a total of 8 or so hours in a 24-hour cycle. I was sad, miserable, sore and exhausted. Oh, and demoralized.

    I’ve been there. What can I do?

    Tory June 4, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I don’t know from PPD but I know about being (and see that you are) overwhelmed.

    I agree with some previous posters … anyone “real” in HBM’s life she needs you. I appreciate that you’ve recently moved so your “real” people may not be close by. I also remember when I was having surgery with a very young child I didn’t want to ask friends for help. It’s hard. Really hard. But people do want to help so let them. And if you can’t … hire someone to help. Or do both. This will pass but until it does you need help, deserve help and will benefit hugely from help.

    On the breastfeeding issues … we had to introduce a bottle to our daughter (second born) early because of my surgery (she couldn’t be with me in the hospital and my breast milk had to be dumped). Anyway, she has turned out to be perfect with a combination of breast milk and formula. My breast milk baby is also perfect. As a formula baby, I think I’m perfect. Do whatever you want/need to do but Jasper will be perfect with or without breast milk.

    Please accept virtual hugs from a stranger. This hard time will soon be just a memory.

    marymurtz June 4, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    You know how people say “Oh, it could be worse!”

    Liars, all of them.

    Hang in there, baby. I wish I could do more—if I lived nearby, you know, I (and dozens of the rest of us reading) would show up with food, magazines, distractions for your daughter, and do your laundry. We would.

    nomotherearth June 4, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Oh, friend. I’m afraid that I don’t have any answers for you, but I wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in the Snap. I’ve snapped many, many more times than it okay to snap. And as if the snap is not bad enough, but there should be guilt about the snap too? Can we muddle through this together? You are not alone. xoA

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