It Wasn’t All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

*disclaimer: this post may contain a trigger warning due to child loss.

 

When I think of a strong mama, I think of a fearless, determined, selfless, and brave women that has been through hell and back…but has the persistence to keep moving forward. I interviewed Megan– a mama I’ve come to know through the military community. Megan’s story is painfully heartbreaking– she has made it through the darkest of days and has fought like hell to find her sunshine.

I talked to Megan about her experience with postpartum anxiety– Megan’s first son, Nathan, passed away at three days old from MAS (Meconium Aspiration Syndrome) and Megan developed PPA after she gave birth to their daughter.

Megan was an open book with me. I love how she is so comfortable talking about her loss and her PPA. I wanted to know how Megan’s life was affected by her PPA after losing her first child and I am so very grateful for her wanting to share her story with me.

 

This is Megan’s story.

 

 

 

L: Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety pre-birth? If yes, briefly describe your methods of treatment and how you coped.

M: The only anxiety I faced pre-birth was after losing Nathan when I was pregnant with Adelyn. I coped by journaling, being open about Nathan and sharing his story, talking about my feelings being pregnant after loss. I also did a lot of walking. Being able to get outside in nature helped me feel closer to Nathan as well as sorting through whatever feelings I had at the time.

 

L: In a previous conversation, you shared with me that you struggled with PPA after your second baby, Adelyn, was born. Did you know it was postpartum anxiety?

M: I just knew that something wasn’t right.

 

L: Do you believe that Nathan’s loss was the sole root of developing PPA after Adelyn was born?

M: Yes, definitely. I was anxious while I was pregnant with her and worried that history would repeat itself (even though my OB said it was next to impossible). The anxiety I had shifted once she was born though. When I was pregnant, I thought once she was born the anxiety would go away because she was here safe. However, it got worse. I started to worry about everything. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. It’s not the natural order of things. It can happen to anyone. It happened to us, so when my anxiety was high I had it in my head that I had already been through the worst once, it was totally possible that it could happen again. When I was thinking clearly, I could tell myself that chances were slim, but when I was anxious, the voice in the back of my head said chances were slim with Nathan too but that didn’t matter.

 

L: Please describe some of your symptoms of PPA.

M: At first, I just felt “off”. I remember filling out questionnaires to screen for PPD and my answers never raised any red flags. On paper, I seemed “fine”. Whenever I would talk to people about it, they chalked up any sort of feelings I was having to losing Nathan…but it wasn’t my grief. I also remember talking to one of my good friends who is also a loss mom and I kept telling her that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew it wasn’t PPD and there wasn’t a clear answer. Something wasn’t right. Then I read something related to PPA and it started making sense. Restlessness: I had a hard time sleeping at night. Having a constant fear that something was going to go wrong. Constantly checking things: Things like the straps on her car seat, door locks, etc. Always imagining the worst case scenarios (not just with Adelyn but with all of my loved ones), obsessing about everything that could possibly go wrong. 

 

L: On an average day, how did your PPA affect your home-life– your relationship with John, Adelyn and others?

M: During the day when Adelyn was awake, I was mostly able to function normally, especially if Johnathan was around. The worry would start when he would leave for work…”what if he gets in a car accident on his way to work?”. The anxiety was worst once it got dark outside. It was almost like clockwork. Every night it almost got hard to breathe. I dreaded putting her down for the night. I dreaded going to sleep. Almost every night when I would put on her pajamas I would think, “is this what you’re going to be wearing when I find your lifeless body?”. When I would turn off the lights I would take one last look at her and think “What if this is it?” We have the Owlet and we did use it with her and it was reassuring to be able to see she was doing ok. I think my anxiety would have been much worse without it. Almost every night I would lay in bed and be restless. Johnathan would try to calm me down every time I would tell him that I didn’t feel right. On the nights when my anxiety was really bad, I would lay awake and think of almost every bad scenario that could happen. “What if our house caught on fire?”, “What if we get in a car accident tomorrow?”, “What if something happens to my parents overnight?”, “What if Adelyn gets sick?”. I think nights made it worse because Nathan passed away in the middle of the night. We were blindsided by a phone call at 4 AM. Anytime, I ever got any unexpected phone calls, my heart would sink and I automatically would assume the worst. 

 

L: Did your PPA stop you from enjoying life?

M: Not completely. I know it made certain things difficult but I was still able to enjoy life. Losing Nathan gave me a deep appreciation for life, even the tough moments. 

 

L: Do you believe that your PPA affected you as a mother?

M: I think it made me very aware of everything going on with Adelyn. I worried about everything: a runny nose, any sort of cough, constantly checking her temperature, calling the nurse advice line or taking her to the clinic to get checked out. I worried about hurting her on accident. However, I also think that it made me more present for her. I never take any time with her for granted. Back when I had PPA, I often thought that certain moments could be the last so I often lived in the moment. 

 

L: What are some of your methods of coping with stress and anxiety. (ie. working out, writing, etc.)

M: I write in a journal which helped me slow down my thought process. Once I started working out, the anxiety started to go away. 

 

L: How long do you believe that you had PPA after Adelyn was born?

M: Around 10 months.

 

L: Did you receive treatment for your PPA. (was it medication, talk therapy, etc.)

M: When I was 6 months postpartum, I actually tried to meet with a therapist on base about my anxiety. I had a great experience with our grief counselor after Nathan passed away and I wanted to meet with her. However, they set me up with another person at the clinic. I met with her but their sessions are very brief (15-20 minutes). I tried to explain my anxiety to her and by the time I had just started to get my feelings out, the session was over and I had to see my way out the door without really discussing anything…then had to wait a few weeks to be able to see her again. The type of session wasn’t beneficial to me at all. A couple of days later, my dad had a stroke and I thought I was going to lose him which intensified my anxiety. I never made it back to the therapist. Instead, I really focused on my journal and working out. 

 

L: Congratulations on your newest bundle of joy! Have you experienced PPA or even PPD with Nolan? Please describe.

M: I had the expectation that I would experience PPD or PPA with him. Six weeks postpartum and I haven’t experienced either yet. 

 

L: How do you think it’s been different since Nolan was born vs. after having Adelyn?

M: I think it’s different this time around, partially because my husband and I aren’t “new” to parenthood this time around. Nolan has been a much easier baby and I think part of it is because we have already had the experience of raising a newborn. We aren’t as nervous with him. When Adelyn was a newborn, I’m sure she picked up on our nervousness. Also, I feel like I am more “at peace” this time around. Maybe I’m just in a different stage of my grief than I was 2 years ago.

 

L: What would you say to a mother that has lost a child and is about to give birth to her next baby?

M: Take it one day at a time. Being pregnant after loss is tough…so is parenting after loss. Sometimes it’s hard to juggle grief and joy at the same time. There will be tears and that’s ok. You will have a lot of bittersweet moments where you will miss your child, and be happy for your rainbow baby at the same time. Just like your grief, allow yourself to deal with the emotions that life throws your way. It’s normal. Your rainbow baby is his or her own person. Celebrate them! While your heart will never be the same after your loss, they help heal your heart in so many ways. I think as loss parents, we have the expectation that we need to enjoy every single moment, of both pregnancy and parenting. We’ve been through the worst and often tell ourselves that we need to enjoy it all. It’s perfectly ok if you don’t. It’s ok if you want to complain about feeling miserable or if you are exhausted. You are human and those feelings are acceptable, even as a loss parent. If you go into things expecting to enjoy every single moment, you are going to feel like an awful person if you don’t. 

 

L: If you could tell a new mother anything, what would it be?

M: There will be good days and there will be challenging days. A “bad” day doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok if things on your to-do list don’t get checked off. Every child is different. Try not to compare them to other children, especially with milestones.

Megan shared some beautiful pictures with me. The one listed below is after Adelyn was born.

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

The emotion in this picture is so raw, so emotional– you can see little Nathan is always included in their family photos. <3

 

 

Below is after their third child, Nolan, was born.

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

A family of 5 now– Nathan, Adelyn, and baby brother Nolan. Megan’s face is brimming with love and content.

*photo credit goes to Hello Baby Birth Photography

L: you truly seem at peace now.

M: I am. Did I tell you the story about when we found out Nolan was a boy? I was so nervous leading up to that moment because I didn’t know what sex would be easier on my heart. I was scared that I wouldn’t get to raise a boy but at the same time I didn’t know if it was what was going to be better on me. Right before we went to the ultrasound, Somewhere Over the Rainbow started playing at this restaurant we were at. It didn’t fit the atmosphere at all. I felt like it was Nathan giving one of his signs saying not to worry…that we should be at peace with everything. And I pretty much have been since.

 

 

Resources and support.

 

Megan recommends:

 

The Compassionate Friends facebook group.

A Bed For My Heart and Still Standing on Facebook.

PPA:

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

It Wasn't All Darkness: How a Strong Mama Coped with PPA After Her Loss

 

My huge gratitude goes to Megan R. for answering my personal questions and sharing her most intimate thoughts and feelings on her loss of Nathan and PPA. I also would like to give credit to Hello Baby Birth Photography for the photos shared by Megan.
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14 Small Things to do For a Friend With PPD

Postpartum depression is a scary battle and perhaps, very hard to understand if you’ve never dealt with it. In this post, I want to talk about 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD.

There’s the saying it’s the little things, and that is so true when suffering from a mental health condition. The little things can make or break a person, and it’s those little things that people will always remember.

Do you have a friend that is struggling with postpartum depression, and you want to help her? Keep reading for my 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD.

 

But first……

Learn about PPD so you can begin to understand what she is going through.

First, I want you, the friend, to know a few things about postpartum depression. It’s a real and serious condition and your friend needs you know more than ever. If you would like to read more, here is my article on PPD and the resources for help.

 

14 Small, but Meaningful Things to do For a Friend With PPD

 

 

It’s also important to recognize the signs of postpartum depression and the seriousness of the signs.

 

Recognize the signs.

It’s important to recognize the signs that your friend, does indeed, have PPD, or maybe she even told you and your not quite sure how to offer her support.

If she told you that she may have PPD and that it’s no big deal, please don’t shrug that off! She may say that it’s no big deal, but inside, she is very well struggling– so please know the signs and monitor her.

Be aware if your friend is displaying these following signs:

  • loss of interest/being withdrawn
  • extreme sadness
  • an extreme sense that she is overwhelmed and unhappy
  • being angry/snapping at small stuff
  • not taking care of herself or baby
  • speaking about herself or harming baby

Far too often, us moms pretend to be okay because we believe that we can handle it all– with PPD, believing to handle it all is a true recipe for disaster because it can make the PPD that much more intense. If you can recognize your friend’s signs and get a handle on how serious they are, then you can begin to offer her support.

 

Know the seriousness of each sign.

Not sure if your friend is over-tired and over-whelmed, or really struggling with PPD?

Consider the answer to each question listed below:

She is withdrawn and shows no interest in activities she once loved to do.  This is something to be concerned about, especially if she was once an outgoing and active person. Does she give an excuse as to why she can’t go out, or does she say that she doesn’t want to do anything? Is she constantly making excuses as to why she doesn’t want to do anything?

You notice that she seems sadder than normal. Is she constantly down in the dumps? Is there a reason behind the sadness, that you know of, or does it come out of the blue?

You notice that she seems extremely overwhelmed and unhappy. Are the typical every-day things making her seem unhappy? Is she overwhelmed when you see her– for example, saying that she can’t handle the kids or doesn’t want to? Has she mentioned that every task seems so daunting and challenging for her to complete?

 

The anger.

Does she seem like an angrier person? Is it out of context for her to be an angry person? Is she getting angry over small stuff? Is she snapping at small stuff– for example, the children being too loud or the baby not sleeping?

 

Has she stopped taking care of herself? Was she once a person to care about her appearance, and now she doesn’t? To what extreme is this– is she not showering at all? Is her house dirtier than normal? Is her baby not being bathed or properly groomed?

 

The self-harming.

Does she ever talk about harming herself? Even in a joking matter, has she ever mentioned harming herself? Does she frequently bring up suicide or has she mentioned not being around? Does she seem like she could harm herself? Does she ever talk about harming baby? Does she seem overwhelmed to the point of frustrated and therefore, may harm her baby? This is the most serious sign and action needs to be taken right away.

Remember, you know your friend, you know what is normal and what is it– make sure to be an advocate for her in this time of need.

 

1 .Offer to babysit while she gets a few hours to herself. Having time for herself is so important and she will appreciate the gesture.

2. Offer to babysit for a date night.

 2. Be an open ear for her to vent to. Let her bitch and vent about it all– and no judging.

3 .Give her a ‘just because’ gift like flowers or a simple card to cheer her up.

 4. Bring her a coffee from Starbucks or her favorite treat, and sit down and talk with each-other. Nothing warms the soul quite as much as coffee and good conversation with a friend.

5. Let her know that she IS an amazing mother and that she’s NOT alone in this.

6. Don’t take it personal when she cancels plans or doesn’t reply to your messages right away– let her know that your still here for her. Often, people that suffer from depression (as well as PPD) withdraw from social situations and keep to themselves. They WANT to interact with friends and get out there, but it’s just too hard some days. Don’t lose faith in her, and let her know that.

7. Plan a day out with her doing something fun.

8. Plan a day at home with Netflix and junk food.

9. Cook and bring her a meal one night to get the burden of dinner off her mind. Trust me– this would be more appreciated than you may know, because even a simple task like cooking dinner can feel like a marathon.

10. Be a shoulder for her to cry on.

11. Come over her house and watch the baby/play with the kids while she can clean or nap.

12. Come over her house and help her clean.

13. Bring her over take-out from her favorite restaurant.

14. Spend time with her, in the silence, if that’s what she wants. Lastly, your friend just wants that, a friend–not a therapist, a doctor or another mother.

 

 

Here are also some amazing resources (my favorite) for all things PPD:

 

 

I hope you found my 14 small, but meaningful things to do for a friend with PPD helpful. Please let me know what you thought about my list and also, I want to hear how you help a friend when they are in need.

 

 

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5 Simple Things To Do With Your Child When you Struggle with PPD

If your a mama that is currently struggling with postpartum depression, I get you. I know how hard it is to be emotionally and mentally there for your kids, for your family, for everyone else in your life. Some-days, just making meals may feel like a marathon– so how can you give your all to your children? Below, you will find 5 simple things to do with you child when you struggle with PPD.

 

 

5 Simple Things

 

 

There were a lot of days where I just felt maxed-out, I was barely holding on by a thread and surviving was my motto. Some days, I felt like I was doing the bare minimum as a mom, but that was the furthest from the truth! Looking back, my boys were fed, healthy, and more importantly–happy.

During my darkest days of PPD, I got by with one step at a time, hour by hour, day by day, and I’ve learned one very important thing– you don’t need to be a pinterest-perfect mom for your babies. They won’t remember that ridiculously cute snack of grapes and kiwi in the shape of turtles, or that craft you conjured up to make hearts using celery and paint– but they will remember how you were there, and how much you loved them.

Before you read about 5 simple things to do with your child when you struggle with PPD, you should check out my self-care for those that suffer from depression.

You need time to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

5 Simple Things

 

 

And if you need more self-care ideas, here is a free list.

5 Simple Things

 

5 Simple Things To Do With Your Child When you Struggle with Postpartum Depression

 

 

 

1. Cuddle with your baby.

5 Simple Things

Cuddling with your baby has so many benefits (for both of you!) and it may be the single most easy thing to do to bond as well as catch some much needed rest.

I found that co-sleeping, no matter how controversial it may be, is amazing– the baby and toddler cuddles are so sweet and knowing that it won’t last forever, make it that much more precious.

 

2. Put on some TV and sit down with them.

5 Simple Things

I’m not ashamed to say that my boys watch TV, and it’s a perfectly fine thing to do. Honestly, the television can be an amazing tool on days when you just don’t feel up to par and the kids need a little entertainment.

So go ahead– put on some Moana or Coco and snuggle up to your babies. I promise, they’re brains will not go to mush.

 

 

3. Read them a book.

5 Simple Things

Reading to your children is so beneficial, and it’s something simple that you can do with them. Do you want to know the best part? You can read them the same book, 10 times over, and they won’t get tired of it. You can also have your child read to you–something I would have my son do a lot when I was at my lowest.

 

 

4. Take them outside.

5 Simple Things

On the days when you feel down and isolated, getting outdoors can be the best mood booster–buckle up your kids in the stroller and go for a walk, take them to the park, or go through the forest for a stroll.

And the best thing about taking your kiddos outside is– anything will basically entertain them. My boys could play with mud, sticks, and rocks all day long.

 

5. Turn on some music.

5 Simple Things

Music can make you feel good, and your kids can find fun in it, too. Turn on some tunes and dance with your kiddos, they will find the silliness in it and laugh along with you!

 

I hope you enjoyed my list of 5 simple things to do with your child if you struggle with PPD. What do you think about my list? Shoot me a comment and let me know what you think!

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Why So Angry? The Deal on Postpartum Rage and it’s Link to PPD

It’s lunch-time and my boys are sitting in their high-chairs, munching on the remnants of cut-up PB&J and apple slices.

My youngest begins to slam his sippy-cup up and down on his tray-table, declaring that he wants more food.

I’m in the process of cutting up the rest of the apple when he keeps knocking his cup up and down, up and down. It’s getting louder and now he is screaming.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” I declare while cutting up the rest of the apple.

I can feel my blood begin to boil.

He is still screaming and now my oldest wants to join in.

I can feel my face getting hot, my heart is racing now.

“MAAAA-MAAAA!!!”

I try to remember to breathe

deep breaths…. 1…2…3.

 

That is an example of daily life in my household. I have two toddlers under three years of age, so of course there will be chaos and tantrums. And it’s difficult.

It wasn’t until after my second son was born when I began to experience the rage. It would feel like literally every-thing bothered me. Every-thing annoyed me. The things that used to have my patience and understanding would suddenly make me snap and growl. I felt like a chihuahua; always ready to snap and bite someone’s ankle.

I felt totally and completely awful for snapping and I would have immediate regret– yet, no matter how hard I tried to maintain my rage, it was very hard to control.

What was happening to me?! This was supposed to be the BEST time of my life….but why am I so angry??

I’ve never been such a ragey person before so this was totally not like me. I needed answers and I needed to know how to control it because I was acting (and felt) like a monster. A momster, if you will.

 

 

 

 

The deal on postpartum rage.

Maybe you are dealing with the very-same angry and rage like I have once experienced and you want to know why this is happening to you.

Postpartum rage is like postpartum depression’s close cousin. If you have postpartum depression, then you will most likely experience the rage that comes along with it.

 

 

5 thing i want moms with postpartum depression to know

I want you to know these five things if you are going through postpartum depression.

 

 

What does postpartum rage look like?

Postpartum rage can be found in many ways– here are three of my personal examples.

It can be the unexpected outburst. I’m walking the dog and she won’t stop pulling. “stop pulling! can you just stop it?!” The fact that the words did come out of your mouth take you back and you instantly regret it.

It can be the lack of patience. My four-month old won’t go back to sleep; he’s making soft whimpers and stirring. “can you please just go back to sleep?! please stop dropping your binkie!!”

It can be the anger. My husband does something minimal but to me, it’s much more than that. I say some choice words that I soon regret but the damage has already been done.

And then I’m left thinking, “what is wrong with me?”

That is just a glimpse at what my postpartum rage looked like. I felt like I had a ticking time bomb attached to me and at any second, I could explode.

 

A few ways I’ve managed the rage.

The moment I found out why I was always so angry was the moment I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders; learning that I had postpartum depression was the puzzle piece I had been searching for because remember: postpartum rage is postpartum depression’s close cousin.

Now that I knew why I was feeling this way, I had a better grip on understanding why I felt so angry.

 I want to share with you some of the ways I managed my postpartum rage.

  • identity what’s making you angry and learn how to prepare yourself for those moments.
  • talk to your doctor and express your concerns. you may also be dealing with postpartum depression and you don’t have to go through it alone!
  • take much needed breaks and remember that it’s okay to take care of you. I’ve put together a list of some great self-care ideas that you can begin to utilize in your every-day life.

 

 

excuse the mess self care guide ideas

grab your free self-care guide right now.

 

You are not alone!

I felt so much relief once I learned that, not only was my postpartum rage common, but that I wasn’t the only mom to experience it.

Phew.

If you’re currently beating yourself up about your postpartum rage, I want you to know that you are not alone in this.

I’m no-where near perfect and I still have my moments, but I feel like I have greatly progressed over the last year and with that being said, I want to tell you that the postpartum rage will not last forever.

You can get past this and fight like the badass mother that you are.

 

Have you experienced postpartum rage? I want to hear all about it! Shoot me a comment or be a guest writer. <3

 

Resources.

a description of postpartum rage can be found here.

 

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Amanda’s Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Story

Amanda’s story

{previously featured on Legally Mommy}

 

 

 


 

I never wanted to be a Mother.

I never fantasized about baby names, or nursery décor. I didn’t swoon over infants. In fact, I was terrified of them (and still am).

I had grown up, an only child, in an alcoholic and abusive home. To this day, I remember virtually nothing about my childhood: it’s been completely erased in my mind. I grew up quickly, with an insatiable (and unrealistic) desire to succeed. I was a perfectionist in every sense of the word.

The law school days

When I was accepted into law school in 2011, my boyfriend (now fiancée) and I decided that I would move 3 and a half hours away to another province to attend school while he’d stay here in the house we had bought the year before. I was excited to begin a new adventure. I knew I would miss him, but I (mistakenly) thought I was strong enough to get through the year on my own.

Once I moved and began school, I experienced the crushing loneliness and abandonment I had experienced in childhood all over again. I was alone, and I had no one. I was miserable, and quickly fell into a depression. I had always been prone to anxiety and depression, so this came easy to me – and without much warning. I began to fantasize about what I presumed would be my ‘happily ever after.’ For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a Mother. It was foreign and new, but I adopted the idea with my usual fervour. I wanted someone to need me, and to never leave my side. I thought having a baby was the answer. After my first year of school ended and I moved back home, we started entertaining the idea of starting a family. The timing was horrible, but my desire consumed me. I thought I was ready.

Weeeeeee’re pregnant?!

Fast forward to October 10, 2012, a day I’ll never forget.

As soon as I saw “YES +” glaring back at me on the pregnancy test, my stomach instantly sunk. It was not at all how I expected to feel, but in that moment I had absolutely no control over my emotions.

We had wanted this. In a sense, we had planned this – I just didn’t plan on it happening so quickly.

I instantly began to feel anxious. I dismissed it as normal pregnancy nerves. In hindsight, I should have talked to someone about it right away. We also found out that my maternal serum screening numbers had come back a bit high, and we’d have to have a “level 2” or higher risk ultrasound done. We were lucky to see our baby girl at 10 weeks and again at 12 and 20 weeks. At our 20 week ultrasound, they noticed some spots on her heart: a ‘soft marker’ for Down Syndrome. They said it was likely nothing, but they offered us an amniocentesis just in case. We opted not to. They sent us home, and told us that these ‘bright spots’ were fairly common. My fiancée spent the rest of my pregnancy with “99.6%” written on his arm in permanent marker: the chance our baby would be born without Down Syndrome.

The odds were definitely in our favor, but I was still terrified. Not only because of these markers – but also because I didn’t feel one bit ready for motherhood. No amount of reading, nursery prep or prenatal classes changed that. I never once had that ‘peaceful’ feeling. I was terrified for 100% of my pregnancy. As I mentioned, I had always been an anxious person, but pregnancy (and – as I’d later learn – Motherhood) amplified that anxiety past the point where I could handle it on my own.

Absolute denial

As my due date approached, I was in complete denial. And when I went into labour five days past my due date, I tried to convince myself that the painful contractions I was feeling were just braxton hicks contractions. I was SO not ready.

My labour was fast. When I reluctantly arrived at the hospital, I was promptly admitted when they discovered I was 7 centimeters dilated. There was no time for an epidural. Labour was the easy part, even completely un-medicated. Our daughter was born four hours later, perfectly healthy. I felt numb. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing a million miles a minute.

Life after baby

Things got even worse when we left the hospital. My daughter developed a particularly awful case of acid reflux, and she was nursing around the clock. When she wasn’t nursing, she was crying constantly from the pain. She barely slept. When she did, I tossed and turned in bed beside her – anxiously anticipating her next cry and my next session of breastfeeding torture. I spent more nights than I wanted to hunched over her on the couch, trying to get her to latch until the sun came up. I barely ate that first month. Or slept. I just cried and cried. And that sums up the first month of her life.

The sadness and anxiety just wouldn’t go away. I was terrified to be alone with her. I refused to go out in public because I was constantly fearful that I would be judged for being a terrible mother. I felt zero connection to my beautiful daughter. I became resentful of my partner, and it almost broke us. I made plans to run away. I knew I couldn’t go far, but I just wanted to disappear and start over again. I tried to explain how I was feeling to my best friend – anyone who would listen. But no one could understand what it was I was going through. I searched high and low for support, and googled “Postpartum Depression” more times than I can count, only to be left in the dark. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. It was like a bad dream that never ended. I came across this list and instantly recognized myself in all the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Reaching out for help

Finally, a lifesaving Public Health nurse told me to head to the hospital and see the on-call Psychiatrist. I waited there for hours in the family waiting room, crying as I watched infomercials about sick babies as part of a fundraiser for a local children’s hospital. It was one of the first times I was away from my daughter, and I panicked knowing that she was low on pumped milk and would soon need to be nursed again.

When the Psychiatrist finally emerged, she told me I had three options: to be admitted, to take medication, or to do nothing.  She admitted that she had zero knowledge of how the drugs she was prescribing me were secreted into breastmilk, and told me I would have to discontinue breastfeeding immediately. She prescribed me Zoloft, a sleeping pill and Ativan. I debated and cried and cried some more. I hated breastfeeding with a fiery passion, but it felt like the only thing I was doing right – even though my daughter still cried in pain most of the time. But she was growing and it was because of me. I immediately stopped breastfeeding. I felt numb. Like a failure. Relieved. All at the same time. To this day, I still well up breastfeeding posts and photos. I feel like the world’s biggest failure. I even tried (unsuccessfully) to re-establish my supply when my daughter was six months old, because the guilt was all-consuming and exhausting.

Over time, after taking the Zoloft and talking with a therapist weekly, I was able to function a bit better. I was still paralyzed with anxiety, though, at times. I didn’t like leaving the house. I didn’t like when my daughter cried in public. I constantly felt –  and still do, sometimes – that I was her babysitter, and I was waiting for her real Mom to come pick her up. I sometimes forgot that I was even a Mother. I didn’t feel like one at all. I kept wondering: “when will things feel normal again? When will I get my old life back?” And I couldn’t, for the life of me, accept that this was my new normal. Every piece of my life was unrecognizable. I was a mess, and I hated every minute of it. Still, to this day, I can’t stand it when people ask: “Can’t you just not remember life before her?” Because all I CAN remember is life before her. It’s life AFTER her that’s a blur.

I have a long way to go, but I’m slowly getting there. And my beautiful daughter, who I love more than anyone else in the world, is turning 2 today. She’s the reason I will continue to fight for support for women like me experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety.

 

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