When I was a little girl, I loved playing the game of Life.
My heart would skip a beat and I would get so excited when I would land on spaces that said, “Congratulations it's a boy,” or “Congratulations it's a girl,” or, my favorite, “Congratulations you are having twins!” I fantasized about what names I would give my children and I would daydream of being a mommy.
I've always been the mothering type. Whether it be mothering my friends and being nicknamed “Mom” by everyone or whether it was helping to raise my two little sisters due to having alcoholism in my family.
I'll never forget the first time I received a Mother’s Day Card from one of my little sisters. She thanked me for everything I had done for her – taking her to doctor appointments, registering her for school, driving her to school dances. Being recognized in that way touched me so very much and really made me feel like I was a mother for the first time. It was an amazing feeling I will never forget.
I met and fell in love with my husband in 2004. We were married three years later and soon we adopted a furry-child – a golden retriever we named Murphy. He quickly became exactly that – a furry-child. He was the center of our lives and I got to practice my mothering skills on him. He was a willing participant and he enjoyed the long walks, the birthday parties, the photo cards I made with his picture on them, and the professional family pictures we had taken with him every Christmas.
They say that the first step toward starting your family is adopting a pet so it was only natural that we started trying for our first child soon after Murphy came into our lives. We adopted Murphy in April of 2008 and we became pregnant in October of the same year.
To say we were overjoyed is the understatement of the year; we were over the moon happy. Jason and I didn't hide our excitement from our family. We told them when we were seven weeks along. Shortly thereafter, I started spotting. I lost our first baby at eight weeks along, in our home. I was devastated. I took a week off of work to grieve the loss of my pregnancy, of my baby. I started blogging; it became excellent therapy for me by allowing me to journal my feelings. It provided the outlet I needed so very much.
The little outfits I had bought prematurely went into a chest of drawers – tucked away out of sight. The picture of our ultrasound when we saw the flutter of a little heartbeat went into a frame and was displayed on my dresser. We knew we would try again, but we waited three months like the doctor advised. I thought we would get pregnant right away again, but it was nine months before I saw the faint line on the pregnancy test that told me I had a positive reading. We were pregnant again! Oh, how I hoped and prayed that God would bless us and would allow us to raise this child.
My pregnancy was very difficult, both physically and mentally. I was very sick for the first 16 weeks. I worried all of the time – about everything – due to my earlier miscarriage. I was hospitalized twice for dehydration; I became anemic and was diagnosed with asthma, as well.
I went into preterm labor at 35 weeks and was put on bed rest. I was so swollen during the last part of my pregnancy that I had to place ice packs on my legs and feet. I did everything the doctor told me to do. My sole purpose at that time was to be everything I needed to be for my baby in order to get him here safely.
Through it all, I was still a happy pregnant woman. I was definitely ready to be a mommy. I read all of the books and took several classes to prepare for the arrival of our baby boy. I bought little outfits and had three showers to welcome our baby. I sanitized every bottle, every toy, and washed every piece of clothing while I was nesting.
After the early labor was stopped, my son became so comfortable, we had to schedule an induction. We went to the hospital early in the morning of August 10, 2010. My husband and I couldn't have been more excited to become parents.
My labor was long and it was trying. I was in labor for fourteen and a half hours and pushed for an hour and a half and still hadn't delivered. The doctor discovered that our son was too big for me to deliver, so they wheeled me in for an emergency Cesarean section. The doctor prepped me and it wasn't long before I could hear the cries of my newborn son, Landon Jason. I was so happy that he was finally here and he was healthy and perfect. The nurse brought Landon over to me and I was able to look at him for the first time.
He was beautiful.
We took our first family photo and he was swept back into the nursery. I was happy, but worried because I hadn't shed a single tear - I'm usually very emotional. What I didn't know is that I was emotionally detached. I was beginning my battle, my own personal war with postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is a monster.
It comes on sudden, takes its powerful hold, and strips you of everything you have ever known yourself to be. I started displaying symptoms almost right away. My husband and I had never heard of postpartum psychosis, so we were ill prepared. I couldn't sleep. When I did, I had terrifying dreams that led me to fear sleep. I was obsessed with keeping schedules of diaper changes, visitors, breastfeeding - you name it and I developed a schedule for it.
I thought I was dying.
I was so afraid that something was going to happen to me, that I would leave my husband without a wife and my son without a mother. At one point, I was left home alone with my son (he was five days old) and I was pacing back and forth. I didn't know what to do. The voices in my head were telling me to do crazy things and I knew – somehow – that my son was not safe with me.
I made the choice and called my mother and told her to get to the house right away. I had my psychotic break at home, scaring my husband and family enough that they had to call 911. At that time, I was a danger to myself. By the grace of God, I did not harm myself and I never did want to harm my son. I thank God every day that I never wanted to harm my son.
My husband admitted me to the hospital against my will. I was hospitalized for seven nights and eight days; it wasn't long enough. During my hospital stay, I had to start the process of piecing myself back together again – just like a puzzle. I was separated from my son during my hospitalization, which was difficult. I was so happy when I found out that they had little bottles of baby shampoo. I carried that around with me and smelled it whenever I really missed my boy. I wanted more than anything to be “the old Tina” – to be a good mom – to be a good wife. I could not believe that I had finally been blessed with a child, but was so very sick that I could not enjoy the first part of my son’s life.
Postpartum psychosis robbed me of that.
When I was released from the hospital, I found I was still terrified to be alone with my son. I didn't have any self-esteem and I didn't believe in myself as a mother. I thought that everyone else could do a better job than I could do and Landon didn't need me. I felt so hopeless and the suicidal thoughts began. I formed a plan; my husband and Landon are the two things that stopped me from carrying out that plan. I couldn't allow my husband to be the one to discover my body. Thank God I didn't remain silent and shared what I was thinking.
I was hospitalized again, but this time for only four days. It wasn't long before I went back to work. I was still unstable, but coping. I was on another mix of medications and seeing my psychiatrist regularly. I quickly discovered that I had gone back to work too soon. It was overwhelming and I felt like I was failing as a wife, as a mother, and as an employee. I felt so worthless; the feelings of hopelessness and despair returned along with the suicidal thoughts. I had to take a leave of absence from work and returned to the hospital. We went with a different hospital this time along with a different psychiatrist. I stayed for eight days -it was the longest stay and most beneficial.
I haven't returned to the hospital since.
I've really started enjoying my son. I still feel guilt and shame over missing out on the first two months of his life. I was there for some of it physically, but mentally I was checked out completely. Since I've begun the journey of healing and finding myself again, I've really enjoyed motherhood. My son is happy and healthy. He is surrounded by love and I could not ask for anything more than that.
Please, know that if you are suffering from postpartum illness that you are not alone. There are many women who have experienced it. We've survived it. We have made it to the other side.
Life can be and will be good again and you will look forward to your tomorrows again.
Just for today, live life moment to moment. Celebrate taking a shower, doing the dishes, getting grocery shopping done. All of the little moments help in the healing process and help to pull you out of that depression. You are going to be okay.
And you ARE a good mother.