My Postpartum Depression Story
When Brandon and I first became parents, it was bliss. My pregnancy, birth and transition to mothering Eden was wonderful, easy and fun. I loved being pregnant, I loved giving her birth, I loved having a baby and I loved watching her grow! Our nursing relationship was easy, she slept well from the start, she was pretty easy-going, stayed healthy and just generally joined our family with no problem. Bottom line, I loved being her Mama! Sure, we had rough days. I even cried sometimes. Usually on those days, I just needed a nap, so I took one!
When I became pregnant with Theo (after a year of trying), I assumed life would just continue on and we would simply add a person to it. I assumed this new person would assimilate themselves into our family just as Eden did. I assumed my pregnancy would make me feel beautiful and womanly and powerful just like my pregnancy with Eden made me feel. I assumed I would continue to love motherhood. I assumed my heart would grow to include this new person and I assumed I would continue to love my job as a stay at home Mama.
This new baby was so wanted! I loved him from the first moment I knew he was coming. My pregnancy with Theo was rough, though. I had a lot of pubic pain (due to Symphysis Pubis Disfunction) and I required weekly trips to the chiropractor for adjustments just so I could walk. I spent a lot of time on the couch and caring for Eden really became a burden. Looking back, the depression may have even started here.
Theo's birth was extremely fast and it felt almost violent. It took me a while to process, I couldn't think about it for a while or write the story. When Theo was 5 days old I got a call from the pediatrician. He called to tell me that Theo's newborn screen came back with an abnormal level for Organic Acidemia. I had to go that day to Lab Corp to have his blood drawn for a test the lab lady had never even heard of. The doctor told me to stay off the internet until the results came back in a week. Seven cruel and grueling days. Of course, I did not stay off the internet. What I read there confirmed what I heard in the doctor's voice. If Theo had this, it would be bad. Really bad.
So, that week, I began to make the choice to stop loving Theo so much. I needed to be prepared for the possibility that he would die sometime before his 5th birthday (likely sooner). At the end of the week, The doctor called me and said the result was "inconclusive" and the state geneticist wanted us to repeat the test in a month.
Really? A month? By the time we were sure Theo was going to be okay, he was 7 weeks old. I had not bonded with him. I did love him, but in a guarded, caregiver sort-of way, not in that fierce, mothering way I loved Eden as a baby. On top of that, Theo was a cryer. He cried All. The. Time. I never knew what he needed. I never learned to interpret his cries and nothing I did helped. He didn't sleep at night, he cried. He didn't nap in the daytime, he cried. He nursed pretty well. That was really the only thing that bonded me to him. I could feed him.
Because Theo wasn't sleeping, I wasn't sleeping. I still had to be Eden's Mama, though. I still had to care for the little screaming creature that never slept. I still had to keep house. I cried all the time. I called Brandon at work to tell him I can't do it. The only thing I ever wanted to do was sleep. I stopped wanting to do anything that I used to want to do. Sometimes I felt a little bit better after a good long nap. Sometimes I didn't. I indulged thoughts of falling down the stairs with Theo in my arms, of driving into a tree, of just leaving and not coming back.
In November 2009, when Theo was 5 months old, we put our house on the market in order to pursue purchasing our dream home in the country. House showings and kids don't mix well. Add to that 2 dogs, and that equals massive stress! Then, in December, our dog Boomer was diagnosed with cancer. I continued to cry all the time. So did Theo.
I believed that this was my new reality and let myself believe that I just wasn't trusting God enough. I prayed that He would sustain me, that I would get through the day without breaking, that nobody would die. I never wanted to hurt Theo or myself, but I completely understood how parents could shake their baby until it died. I understood how a Mama could drown all of her kids in the bathtub. As I type this, I can feel the despair that was my daily cup. It is a scary place to be, but even scarier to think about now that I am on the other side of it.
I invited a lot of people over. If you spent time at my house during Theo's first year of life, I thank you. You helped more than you know. Just living was tough, being alone with my kids was unbearable. Finally, shortly after Theo's 1st birthday, my husband asked (again) if I thought I was depressed. He had asked before, but my answer was always that I just needed to sleep. I'm a birth educator and a doula. I know what postpartum depression looks like! Don't I?
This time, though, I was honest.
I got on the internet and stumbled upon the Postpartum Progress website. I saw The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Plain Mama English.
It took my breath away. It was like the author was reading my mind. I read it to Brandon and was a little bit surprised at his reaction. He was surprised to hear that this was how I was feeling. I realized how isolated and alone I was in my head and how abnormal this was for me. I usually share everything with Brandon! I made an appointment with my midwife and began a low dose of an antidepressant.
Within 3 days I knew just how bad off I had been. I began to feel like myself again. Fear and sadness no longer dominated my life. I began to be able to pray again for things other than my own survival. I began to see Theo as a wonderful (though extremely high-needs) little person. I began to work toward healing the damage my relationship with Eden had suffered. Little Eden got yelled at a lot during that year. She often asked why I was crying. She tried to make me better by freely giving hugs. She tiptoed around me and became more independent than ever.
Sometimes, now that I am better, I wonder how I kept all of this inside. How I could appear to be functioning normally? How could I have not recognized that this was not normal? I wonder if I could see it in friends if they were in denial themselves. I wonder how many suffer in silence.
Please, take the time to go now to Postpartum Progress and familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of PPD. Don't let someone you love suffer.