This is a post that I have been debating on writing. I would start it, feel ashamed, and delete it. I have postpartum depression. For quite some time that was something that I was extremely ashamed of. I was embarrassed, and only told those that I felt I could trust with that personal information. I came to understand that postpartum depression is much more common than people think, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. I read a friend’s blog post about it, and her personal experience with it, and decided that I wanted to share my experience as well.
Depression is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. It is something that has had a large impact on me, and what kind of person I am. I never really imagined that pregnancy, and motherhood would affect my depression. Through out my pregnancy I struggled with my emotions a great deal. Once I had baby, I felt entirely overwhelmed. I felt like everything in my life had turned upside down, and I didn’t know how to turn it back around. The sudden onset of emotions was only inflamed by the fact that my son was in the NICU for a week. (To read more about the birth of our son click here.) I completely understand that there are parents out there who wish that their child could only be in NICU for a week. While I was there I saw teeny tiny babies, who had a long stay ahead of them. I have a friend whose baby was born twenty weeks prematurely. She was in the NICU for close to four months. I have no idea how I would have handled that, but I can say that my friend and her husband handled it beautifully. I am sure they had their moments, but on the outside they seemed so strong.
I had a problem with trying to appear strong. My husband was dealing with his own emotions, and I felt like I needed to be strong for the both of us. I tried so hard to have a smile on my face, and to take it one day at a time. For the first few days I tried to hold back tears, and feelings, but inevitably those emotions would come out in spurts. One minute I was fine, and the next I was flustered and angry at the whole situation. I would lash out at my husband, the nurses, the doctors, and they were all extremely patient and understanding. My mom was also with us for several days, helping out, cooking, cleaning, running errands, and allowing me to get much needed sleep. She was very sympathetic towards what I was feeling and completely understood what I was going through as far as the waves of emotions went. She told me that it was completely normal, even though it did not feel normal at all.
I logically understood that part of not being pregnant anymore meant that I would have strong emotions, but I also understood that they would pass. What I really wasn’t expecting was the numbness. For a week, when I wasn’t feeling overly tired, weepy, angry, and depressed, I was numb. I felt like I couldn’t feel. I also didn’t feel much of a connection to my son, and that really frustrated me. In my mind, he was my son, so I thought that I should feel this automatic deep bond with him, but that wasn’t the case. To be honest, I didn’t really start to feel truly sad and devastated at our situation, until day five.
It was a Wednesday morning, and my mom and I had driven to the hospital to see Jackson, and feed him. We walked into the NICU, and heard a baby cry. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. We were in the NICU, babies were crying all the time. This cry, however, sounded different. My mom asked me “is that our baby?” And while she did the five minute scrub, I ran over to my son’s room to see if it was him. I walked in to see a nurse attempting to give him a new IV because his last one had gone bad. It was literally the LAST day of his antibiotics, so he only needed the IV for one dose. So many of his IV’s had gone bad, that the nurse couldn’t find a good vein. For the first time in days, the five minute scrub was absolutely agonizing. I could hear Jackson crying and crying as they poked him, but there was nothing I could do. When we were finally done scrubbing, my mom and I got in to see him, and the nurse decided to give him a break. They had to start over again, and this time in his head. It was at that point, when he realized that they were going to be poking him again, that Jackson started to cry and cry and cry. In those few minutes I felt my heart break, and I started to cry as well. I couldn’t stand next to him and hold his little hand, and tell him it would be okay, because it was hurting me to hear him in pain. I had been dying to feel some sort of connection to my son, and it kills me to say that I didn’t feel that connection until he was in pain.
After that, I couldn’t wait for him to come home. I wanted him near me all the time, and I never wanted to hear or see him hurt again. Unfortunately, it would be a couple of days before he could come home, and my mom had to go back to Idaho. One night after my mom left, my husband was at work and I was home alone. I wanted so badly to be holding my baby, but I couldn’t. He was at the hospital. Part of me wanted to get in my car and drive to the hospital to see him, even if it was ten o’clock at night. I also felt extremely exhausted, and wanted to go to bed, but I hadn’t been to see my son at all that day. I started to feel so guilty over the fact that I hadn’t been to see Jackson all day, and that part of me didn’t want to. Out of no where I started to bawl. Not just crying a little bit, but uncontrollable sobbing. My dog was on my lap, doing his job, but it was only helping so much. I felt like I could not control the crying. Not being able to control my emotions really scared me, and that only made things worse. I finally gave in and called my husband at work. Of course he came right home, and I was still a bawling mess. The hardest part of that situation was not being able to control my emotions, not being able to stop the crying.
One thing to know about me is I like to be in control of things and situations around me. That is one reason I struggle with having anxiety and ADHD. With ADHD my mind is constantly going from one thing to another. Have you ever seen the movie Up? You know the dog, Doug, who always gets distracted and yells “SQUIRREL!” That is me. It is because of the constant distractions that I crave control and structure. I want to know what is going on ahead of time, and I am not a huge fan of last minute anything. I get pretty bad anxiety when I feel like there is no structure. When plans change suddenly, it totally throws me off.
Knowing that, it isn’t any surprise that the sudden onset of emotions, and not being able to stop them, or calm down, really freaked me out. There were several times when I couldn’t get a hold of myself, and I had to call Jon to come and just be with me. This continued for quite a while. I would be fine one minute, and a bawling mess the next.Jon didn’t know what to do, or how to handle it, and neither did I started to feel completely overwhelmed. I fell behind with my house work, I would lash out at Jon for no reason, and I started to feel a sudden disconnect from everyone. I was surprised when one day the emotions just stopped. I wasn’t feeling, anything. I realized that I had gone numb. It was subtle at first. Jackson would be crying and upset, and I found myself not caring. I would go through the motions of caring for him, but there were times when I would just sit and let him cry. I didn’t really understand why either. Logically, I knew that he was probably hungry, tired, or needed changing. Emotionally, I felt numb, empty. To say I felt dead inside would be exaggerating a little, but I felt pretty close to that.
One night, Jackson was sleeping in bed with me and Jon. He usually sleeps snuggled up to me, when he is in bed with us. This night was completely normal, I wasn’t even feeling super overwhelmed. What happened next still haunts me, and probably will for some time. I was laying there, snuggling this sweet, sweet baby, when I had a horrible thought. I had actually thought about harming my son! The thought scared me so badly, that I immediately woke my husband, and asked him to take Jackson. After that, I went out to the living room. I was shaken to my core. After that I realized that I needed to change something. I started to do a little bit of research, and realized came to the conclusion that my symptoms matched PPD almost exactly. According to Mayo Clinic, “The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Many new moms experience the “postpartum baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks.
But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.
Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.”
After reading all of that, I realized that there was a very good chance I had postpartum depression. I went to a doctor about it, and started taking medication. The medication helped after about a month or so. Even then, I was still feeling overwhelmed. My dose of medication was increased, and I was able to feel somewhat normal again. I began feeling joy in the little things my son did. I didn’t feel like I had to fake a relationship with him. I legitimately felt better, however I continued to be cautious.
Things were going well, I was happy. Jackson was doing well, smiling all the time and being an all around sweet heart. I felt great! As I have learned, when things seem to be going well, something inevitably always goes wrong. I had gotten into an argument on social media, that started out political, and turned into something more personal. That argument left social media, and me and this other person started texting. I was home alone, rocking my son to sleep, and this conversation triggered a total anxiety attack. I couldn’t breathe. I started hyperventilating. I asked the person to please not text me anymore, and told them I was home alone with my son. I asked if we could continue the conversation the next day. The person I was talking to didn’t realize why I wanted to hold off on the conversation, or why it mattered that I was home alone, and continued texting. I finally deactivated my social media account, turned off my phone, and tried to focus on breathing. I put my son down in his crib. He was crying and not at all happy about being put down, but I felt like I couldn’t trust myself with him, and I knew my being upset would only make him more upset. I went into my living room, turned my phone back on, and texted my mom and husband. Jon left work and headed home quickly. My mom asked if she needed to call me. I felt terrified, but I knew that my husband was on his way home, so I told her no and focused on breathing, petting my dog, and eventually Jackson fell asleep on his own. After that night, I made myself a promise that I would never allow anything to make me that upset again.
I got off of social media for a while. I had come to the realization that Facebook not only made my anxiety and depression worse, but it made me mean. It made me a person that I am not, and someone I have never wanted to be. Looking back, I have said awful things to people on Facebook. I have been so disrespectful because I thought I had that right, when in reality I did not. What is truly sad is the fact that it is my postpartum depression that made me realize this. I decided to try to rediscover what it was that made me feel truly happy, and I knew that politics were far from what made me happy. After discussing with my husband, I realized that I wanted to blog. I wanted to write about my experiences in a way that would reach a more diverse audience than Facebook ever could. I deleted my Facebook app, and decided to start writing. I also found that blogging and writing helped ease my anxieties. I also realized that I truly love the mom blog world. I love seeing other moms empower one another, lift each other up, and support each other’s businesses. It is a whole new world, and I love it!
While postpartum depression, as well as other issues led me to get off of social media and start writing and exploring a new world, It is also something that I still struggle with on a day-to-day basis. There are still times when I go numb, and feel incapable of emotion, or start crying uncontrollably for no reason. It is a constant struggle, but I am so blessed to have such an awesome support system to help me out any time I need it. You could say that my family, and my sweet little boy, are the light in the darkness. Even when I feel the pressure weighing down on me, I know that everything will be fine. I also know that I have an awesome Heavenly Father who listens, and helps me get through my day to day life.
*Want to read a great article about PPD? Click here