The 'baby blues' are pretty common; all those hormonal changes after delivery compounded by the added stress of caring for a newborn can make any woman anxious and depressed. For 8-20% of woman however, postpartum depression can occur. PPD is much more serious and requires medical treatment. Unfortunately, women who have had preemies are at higher risk of PPD, as well as have shown symptoms common with PTSD (as described in a nice NYT article PTSD and the NICU).
I am trying my best to be proactive and prevent all that. I already feel more 'hormonal', which is to be expected. Not only am I dealing with recovery from a c-section and having my girls in the NICU, I am also recovering from two months of bed rest, a period that was full of anxiety and left me deconditioned with muscle and strength loss. Now my anxiety is focused on the girls: their daily health status, their physical development, and their cognitive development. There are so many cognitive ramifications of being born too early, and there is no way to know at this point what is in store for us. Even now we don't know the best way to optimize that development. Which creates even more anxiety.
Heidi, one of our NICU nurses talked glowingly about Heidelise Als, a research at Children's Hospital Boston, whose work focuses on the emotional and cognitive development of the premature baby. I have already skimmed her work and plan to read more of it; as a neurobehavioral researcher myself, I find that kind of work very interesting, and personal now as well. As she says, preemies are at risk of many neurobehavioral disorders later in life and what we do NOW can certainly impact the future. I worry about this: what kind (if any) special needs we will need in the future, how we will be able to cope with that, etc. The fact that the girls are breathing on their own and have not yet experienced any brain bleeds or other major events is fantastic. But there are so many other things to think about as well.
Which is why I am trying to be aware of these possible consequences, yet not focus too much on them. I am trying to live outside MGH and create enough distraction in my 'other' life. I know many preemie moms who live in the NICU, and while that is certainly fine, I do not think it would be healthy for me. Constantly worrying about the girls only hurts me, and thus indirectly Zev, Jason, and even the girls themselves. Instead, I am trusting that they are in the best of care and sometimes the best thing I can do is to take care of myself. Which includes going out and being social, spending quality time with Zev (which I haven't been able to do for months) and be sure to enjoy the holiday season that is now upon us. We went to a Channukah party last night, and another one tonight. It was wonderful seeing people I haven't seen in months thanks to the bed rest. It was wonderful spending time with Zev and enjoying his company (he really is a dream of a toddler). And it was wonderful being out with my husband and sharing that joy. I am trying to make a point to do more of this and laugh a little every day.
But I miss the girls. I feel horrible that they are in the hospital. I know it is not my fault that they are there, and I know I did a good job in keeping them in-utero as long as possible. I wish I could have kept them longer: they deserved to be able to gestate as long as possible. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. I won't berate myself with 'what ifs': I did the best I could under the circumstances. And now I have to do the best I can under these circumstances.
I'll be honest: it is tiring to be so "strong". I have had so many people tell me how strong I am being. But it is tiring. I don't get much of a break right now. But at least I now have practice in thinking: one day at a time, one hour at a time, and this too shall pass.