Hey hey! It’s been about a week since I wrote last, sorry for the lapse! I have a little list I’ve been compiling with ideas of topics to write about, things that are deeply personal to me or that I’m passionate about, you know. Well, I’m surprised I forgot to write about this sooner because it’s such a big part of me – mood disorders!
When I was younger (high school age) I battled depression for a few years and that settled down to a pretty steady anxiety. I posted before that I’m an introvert and that’s very much the case, but aside from loving my personal home-time I have such anxiety about being around people. That intensified so much when I became a mom plus added in a nice amount of OCD. Which, let me tell you, is NOT cute. Just because you like your DVDs alphabetized doesn’t make you OCD, it makes you meticulous. My OCD was (and sometimes still is) debilitating. I couldn’t leave my home for fear that something awful was going to happen.
Let me start at the top. I never really planned on being a mom so when it happened I was shocked to say the least. Around 25ish weeks pregnant I had a routine appointment and I opened up about my fears. I expressed to the healthcare(less) provider I was seeing that I had some anxiety about birth, what happened before, during, and after labor, all of that. Her response? “You know, so many women can’t even get pregnant so you should really just suck it up and consider yourself lucky.” That was that. I didn’t share my concerns with anybody because she made me feel so small and guilty about my fears that I felt like scum.
I had a frustrating pregnancy because of the medical staff I encountered, not because of the physical nature of being pregnant. The staff was awful and at one point towards the end (I’m going to get personal here) there was a nurse who gave me an internal check to see how dilated I was and she didn’t take her rings off. When I commented how badly it was hurting she told me, “Deal with it, honey, labor hurts worse.” I’m convinced that because of what I said to her I was transferred to an entirely different hospital (this was all in military hospitals). At 37 weeks I was sent to a hospital that was about 90 minutes from my home but they decided to induce me (at 39 weeks) because they were convinced I had gestational diabetes (I didn’t, I’m just fat). So there I was on a Sunday morning in early January, being induced. Labor lasted 27 hours and our daughter was born early Monday afternoon after an emergency c-section.
She was, and still is, perfect. I remember the staff trying to explain to me what was happening on that floor and how things worked, but as soon as my daughter was wheeled into the room I stopped listening; it was really the first time I had seen her since she came out of me. I never really felt true love until I saw her – this little being that I created. She grew inside of me. It’s so bizarre to think about and I look at her now and I am still amazed at all of it. My husband and I had planned for me to go back to work, even if it was just part-time, but we couldn’t find any childcare in the area that was reasonably priced and I started having these really weird thoughts and episodes.
One night we were laying in bed and I was still awake because I was terrified that if my daughter stopped breathing I wouldn’t know and then I wouldn’t be able to save her. I heard my neighbors next door arguing and I sat awake in fear thinking that people were in our apartment to kidnap her. The amount of sleep I survived on is amazing to me. Then when we’d get ready to go do things during the day I was scared to even go down the stairs because I was scared I’d drop her or I’d fall or the stairs would collapse and we’d both plummet to the concrete below and she wouldn’t survive. How would I explain that to anybody? When we finally did make it out of our protected bubble I was certain that there were kidnappers and deadly diseases lurking everywhere. If anybody wanted to look at my daughter (which, honestly, was a lot of people because she’s gorgeous) I was certain that they were secretly trying to take her and I’d never see her again. At home, I was scared to shower or go to the bathroom because what if she fell out of whatever she was in or something fell on top her – literally every terrifying scenario raced through my head and no matter what I just couldn’t control these thoughts (which I later found out to be called Intrusive Thoughts).
So I took to Google, of course.
I don’t know how it is in civilian hospitals because I’ve only ever labored in a military one, but the postpartum screening sucks terribly. Before being discharged and again at my six-week follow-up I was asked:
1. Do you feel like killing yourself?
2. Do you feel like harming your child?
The answer to both of those questions was no, a BIG FAT NO. However, I felt like I couldn’t protect us enough from the impending death and harm that skulked around every corner. Everything I found mentioned postpartum depression (PPD) but I didn’t have those symptoms. I was getting desperate and I felt like I was going crazy.
Then I found it.
The website that opened with the hallelujah choir and a massive sigh of relief. I found an article called, “The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English).” I know it sounds corny but this is the truth. I sat on the floor between my couch and my coffee table with my two-month-old daughter asleep on the couch behind me and I cried. I cried so hard. That website, Postpartum Progress, and its author, Katherine Stone, saved me on that March morning.
I wasn’t alone. And if you’re reading this feeling the same way I did, I want you to know that you aren’t alone either.
There are others out there feeling the same way that I was. Katherine Stone writes, “Postpartum depression and anxiety are not “one-size-fits-all” illnesses. Your experience may be focused on just a few of the symptoms and you may not have others at all.” This is so important because I knew something was wrong, but I was trying to lump it in with PPD because that’s what everybody’s heard of; I had never heard of PPA or PPOCD so my thoughts terrified me. I found an article from Psychology Today that helps to encapsulate why I was so scared to open up: article
Now, two years later, I can say that I know how to manage things much better. I try to talk openly about what I experienced because I think it could be life-saving, at the very least sanity-saving! Many of my friends have become moms since then and, no matter how weird they think I am, I try to talk to them about it because it’s so important to know that you aren’t alone in this. I felt crazy. I felt like my husband would leave me. When I opened up to my mom finally her first reaction was, “So..what? Should we take you away and lock you in a straight jacket?” and that was exactly my fear!! I was petrified that I’d be taken away and never allowed to see my amazing daughter again.
I don’t want any mother to feel that way. Ever.
So this was really long and if you made it to the bottom then you’re awesome. If you know a new mom, and even a mom who’s been a mom for a while, share this with her. Let it get out there. Let them know that perinatal mood disorders are far more common than we realize.
Thanks for reading.
Happy trails ❤