My Experience with Postpartum Depression
Posted on September 23 2015
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness site to access resources and learn more.
I mentioned in my previous post that my youngest was born in October. I was so excited when I realized my 12 week maternity leave would mean I was off work through the holidays. I pictured the dozens of Christmas cookies I’d bake, and cozy, quiet afternoons with ample reading time while I snuggled a squishy baby on the couch. My oldest was born in February and was an easy baby overall, but I was so afraid to take him anywhere or do anything. What if I have to nurse him? What if he cries? I didn’t trust myself so I didn’t do much of anything. This time will be better, I told myself. This time, I know what I’m doing.
How naïve I was.
From the moment he was born, my life transformed into a series of whirlwind events. The highs got higher and the lows got lower. We arrived at the hospital and my water broke immediately off the elevator. I was barely into a room before he was born—less than two minutes from the time we yelled for help until he was here. They didn’t even know my name and had to guess at the arrival time because no one had looked at the clock. I had that “birther’s high” and felt like superwoman. I danced around the room and took a shower. My first labor was two days of torture but this one was a little bit fun and oh so spontaneous. He latched on, ate well, gained weight, and we were all healthy.
My joy didn’t last long. At three days old, we spent a night in the Children’s ER for a suspected bacterial infection. My baby, who still seemed like a stranger, needed an IV. It took three teams of people two hours and six tries to get one in. The only vein big enough was in his skull. We were eventually sent home and told everything was fine, but I couldn’t believe any of it had happened. He cried all the time. I couldn’t comfort him because it didn’t seem to matter what I did. None of the tricks I figured out with my older son worked. I felt lost, and like a failure.
I had always been a list maker, so I started making lists. Lists of things I wanted to clean, lists of things I wanted to do, lists of people to call, email, or visit. Lists of things to buy off Amazon. Pretty soon the lists felt overwhelming because nothing could be crossed off.
At five weeks old, he had a 104 degree fever, and we wound up in the hospital for two days, admitted this time on an infectious disease floor. He had another IV, catheter, and a spinal tap. I cut out dairy because I realized it broke his skin out in a rash and made him scream from gas pains. All those Christmas cookies I planned on baking? I couldn’t have any of them. No butter on a Thanksgiving roll, no ice cream or Friday night pizza. We were prescribed Zantac for reflux and told he would eventually grow out of the crying-for-no-reason that the medical community lumps together and labels colic.
It was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, and I was trapped inside, feeling increasingly helpless. I loved the weekends because there was help available, but the crying baby eventually made his way back to me since he cried least in my arms. He still cried, just not as much. I felt trapped and incredibly guilty, because I was supposed to be happy.
I went back to work and had more lists. Work task lists, daycare supply lists, grocery lists, it never seemed to end. My first two weeks of work, he refused a bottle, so I had lists of websites and resources to scour for ideas.
Life still happened, but it was getting easier, albeit slowly. There were a few ear infections mixed in, and some other maladies, but we seemed to be doing better than just surviving.
I was getting worse, however. I heard babies crying in my head when I was alone, or in the shower. I became convinced my husband didn’t love me any longer and was going to leave me. I couldn’t sleep and instead paced the house like a caged animal while all of my terrible thoughts took over. I would sit down at the computer to write someone a letter but I couldn’t sit still, so my words became as fragmented and chaotic as my thought processes and attention span. I required constant reassurance. Not many knew the severity of my situation, so the small circle of those offering support felt heavy themselves. Everything was because of me, and my fault. For months, every time I drove, I thought of jerking the wheel into the direction of the concrete barrier on the highway.
I eventually found professional help and tried to turn my list making into something positive. The recovery has been long and slow going, but instead of being overwhelmed by things I couldn’t do, I began writing down all of my fears. I made a conscious effort to write things down and leave them there, which was incredibly difficult to do. Just close the notebook and walk away. My brain felt so clogged with frenetic energy, it had to go somewhere. One night, I filled two entire pages with everything from the seemingly ridiculous “I’m afraid my children will be taken away because I’m an unfit mother” to “I’m afraid one of them will die.”
No one could convince me my thoughts were not true. In fact, every time someone tried to point out how unlikely something was to actually happen, I became angry and frustrated that no one took me seriously. That no one was listening. I spiraled down further.
For someone used to solving problems and being organized, postpartum depression hit me like a brick wall. It’s been a learning experience, and a journey of self-discovery—cheesy as that sounds—and I’m still working on it.
I raised $850 for the climb out of darkness walk on June 20 of this year to raise awareness of maternal mental health.
Thankfully now my lists are (mostly) back to ones of fun things I want to do with my boys, or books to read. But every now and again I have to go back and clear out the bad. And now I can cross speaking out about my PPD experience off my list, so thank you for reading.
Need help? There are resources available! One of the first places I found was Postpartum Progress. Check out http://www.postpartumprogress.com/about . You aren’t alone.
This guest blog post was written by Amanda Cahill, mom, friend, and Limelife Planners supporter. Please share and repost this blog entry with your friends! All we ask is that you give credit to Limelife Planners and the post author.