In continuing a theme, of things we don’t talk about as mothers. I want to take a second to talk about postpartum depression (PPD). With my first two babies, I didn’t have PPD, I have pregnancy depression. Pregnancy depression is awful. It makes it hard to get excited about the baby and hard to do things like decorating a nursery. With my first pregnancy, my pregnancy depression left me so anxiety-filled that I was riddled with worry over my husband’s safety at work. I would spend most days checking the police scanner facebook pages to make sure nothing crazy was happening and would be waiting by the phone for him to call me and let me know he was on his way home. With my second pregnancy, I cried all the way through it thinking about how my oldest wouldn’t be the baby anymore. I worried about how Tempest would like her sister and was concerned that we made a mistake by having more than one kid and not being able to give them all the attention.
But in both of these cases, there was an endpoint. The point I knew was coming when I was faced with the same depression for pregnancy number 3. I knew if I could just hold on hope for a few more months, the anxiety and depression would fade away. With birth came relief.
That did not happen the third time. Instead Birth and postpartum sent me into a downward spiral of one of the most terrifying times in my life. I had given up on everything.
It started small enough. I was already depressed and anxious from suffering from pregnancy-induced depression. After I gave birth, I was expecting it to go away. I waited in the hospital to feel that rush of happy that I had felt with my other two births. It did not come. I noted that unlike the last two births, this time the hospital I was at let me get no sleep at all. There were a number of people in and out of my room. The longest stint I had without seeing a nurse or dietitian or lactation consultant was 2 hours. Which happened once. Most of the time there was less than 20 minutes between people coming and going. Checking my blood sugar. Checking baby. Checking me. I was exhausted and I knew that when I got out of there and back home it would be better.
It wasn’t. When I got home that rush of happiness didn’t come. Instead, My anxiety increased. There were no longer people coming in and out of my room, and we are lucky that our children sleep a significant amount when tiny (Opal was sleeping for 5-hour stints at 4 days old). But I still wasn’t sleeping. I was staring at a tiny baby, concerned she would stop breathing. I worried constantly about her. I couldn’t sleep. I worried about our other cuties in their bedroom. Where they too hot? Too cold? Breathing ok? I couldn’t sleep. I would drift off for moments at a time but wasn’t actually sleeping. The girls were waking up at their normal time. I couldn’t function. I was feeding them whatever they could find and bring me. Whatever I could do to make them happy and leave me alone. There were days the girls wouldn’t even eat one real meal. We were surviving on chips, candy, pepperonis, and beef sticks.
My Muscles ached. I was still bleeding. At night I was still holding myself up to walk. My legs were giving up. My mind had already. I was as close to autopilot as I could be. Any effort to pull myself out of it only made it worse.
And the most gut-wrenching, rock-bottom feeling of all. I hated everything and everybody. And I really mean HATED. I was so angry. I was sad, yes. I was anxious, yes. But the Anger I never expected. I typically do not have a lot of anger. I get frustrated and sad, but not angry. But now I was full of rage. Full-on white-hot rage. I hated the house and how messy it was. I hated Tim’s work. I hated my body for how tired I was. I hated my midwives and my hospital experience. I hated my husband. You should feel sorry for him. I was 100% full on bitch. I am lucky he didn’t walk away. I just wanted him to leave. I did not want to see him at all.
And the very worst point for me, I hate my kids. I could not handle any bit of complaining, whining, or yelling. I couldn’t even look at them without feeling frustrated. I just wanted them to sit and play quietly (something that does not happen ever with two young kids with Sensory processing and ADHD). I wanted them to be asleep just for some peace and quiet. I did not want them to talk to me. I couldn’t handle them asking for one more thing. It wasn’t because I didn’t feel the same love I always had for them. Or because I was actually angry at them. It was because I knew with every request they made, I was disappointing them more and more. I was failing as a mom every time they asked me to get them lunch and I couldn’t. I hated myself.
I suffered way too long. It was a couple weeks before I realized this was a serious problem. A few more before I knew that my efforts to get outside or sleep more were not going to change anything. And a few more before I would actually reach out for help.
I suffered almost 7 weeks before I asked my doctor for help. It shouldn’t have taken so long. But it did. And it did because I waited until my check-up appointment. I didn’t feel sick enough, worthy enough, strong enough, to call and discuss my feelings with my doctor. Making a call specifically for that was terrifying to me. Plus it was another “to-do” that I just couldn’t do. I have no doubt that if I had a midwife like I did with Tempest, I would have gotten help sooner. When Tempest was born, my midwife was back at my house the next day, then again 3 days later, then a week after birth, and again 2 weeks after birth. She had planned to be back at 4 weeks (but we were in the hospital with pertussis). She would have noticed my significant mood change. And even if she didn’t, it would have been easier for me to ask for help or ask if I should wait to try medication and when we should consider it. But I didn’t have that this time, I had wonderful midwives, but they were following standard protocol. They were there for the wellbeing of my baby. But that sometimes made me feel like I was just the vessel that you protect.
I finally did get help. I am still struggling with PPD. I am still on medication. But reaching out for help was the biggest thing I could have done. I still feel angrier than I used to. And I have a much shorter fuse. But I can feel myself getting better. I can take care and have fun with my children again.
PPD is a serious problem. The CDC estimates 11-20% of mothers will experience PPD, 80% will experience baby blues. You are not alone. The more stories we share and the more we understand this is ok. Whatever you are feeling, it is ok. and there is help and support out there. Until the healthcare system improves, you will have to make the effort. But do it. Do not suffer. And if you know someone who has had a baby, go visit. Bring food and leave your judgments. Ask how they are doing. Really listen. Offer to go with them to the doctors or help them in whatever way you can.