It was the perfect storm. I was gathering all of the ingredients needed for a classic case of postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. Previous history of depression…check. Pregnancy achieved through Assisted Reproductive Technology…check. Traumatic delivery: inducement, followed by 30 hours of labor, followed by emergency c-section…check. A life altering experience surrounding the birth: my grandmother died the day our daughter was born…check. One would think that the nagging feeling I had all throughout my pregnancy, but was too scared to voice, that feeling of “holy s**t/what have we done/am I sure this is what I want,” would have been a big red flashing warning light. But, no. I kept telling myself that voice was not my reality. This is all I wanted for 8 years. How could I be scared now??
In a previous post, I wrote about a feeling of Christmas morning…the excitement, the thrill, the pure joy. That feeling was certainly there in the few days following the birth, and of course, has since returned. But, for approximately 2 months (which felt like forever at the time), I was in a very bad place.
If I had to pick one trigger, I think it would be that nursing was not going well. My daughter had lost weight and was down to 6 lbs when we left the hospital. At her first weight check, she was still going in the wrong direction. We had to use a tube for supplemental feeding. It was in these moments that I felt the gravity of the mothering “situation”. This child was mine forever and would need me forever and would be hungry forever and would need a diaper changed forever!!!! Ha! I was in a black hole of baby drama. But the hole was so deep and dark that I could not see any light, ever, for the rest of my life. This was how it was going to be FOR-EV-ER. I wanted my old life back. I did not want to hurt myself or my baby, but I would not have been unhappy if someone would have just come and taken her away. Crushing anxiety. Ready to call 911 anxiety. How and why was this happening to me!?
My husband was amazing during this time. He should have won an award for how good he was with that newborn. Equally amazing was my mother, who was mourning the loss of her own mother. She stayed with us much longer than anticipated, and I can never thank her enough for that. I knew I was in a pickle (major understatement) and knew I needed help. I called my doctor one night at 9:00 PM, had an RX not long after that, along with a plan for therapy. I had to stop nursing because of the medication, but formula feeding worked out great for everyone involved. Things did not get better overnight. It was a roller coaster of emotions from day to day, but we were heading in the right direction. For me, it felt better to tell anyone who asked what I was going through. I could not hide it. I felt better if I was outdoors, so we walked everywhere! The stroller was my lifeline to the outside world. I focused on the little things I could do to feel healthy and happy; I needed to give myself time to adapt to this new normal.
It was a momentary lapse of reason. It was also many moments, then, and now, of guilt and sadness…for missing out on those precious first few days/weeks/ months. But, as my therapist reminded me, those moments are really not that enjoyable for any new parents! I had to remind myself that much of what I was feeling was normal for a new mom; I was not alone!
This post is difficult for me to wrap up nice and neat. My experience with PPD is a subject I could go on and on about. There are so many feelings and thoughts I have about that time in my life; the words could take up a book! My advice to anyone going through this or having been through it: reach out, talk, ask for help. Know you are not alone and are not the first, nor the last, to feel so horribly. You may be suffering in a different manner; the spectrum of PPD is vast. Just know that the joy will return and the light will shine again.