I breastfed my first child.
She was a freaking PRO at latching-on, and breastfeeding went spectacularly. My recently-born third child is also proving himself to be quite the little breastfeeding champ.
My second child? Not so much. He couldn’t get the hang of latching-on, even with special equipment, like those freaky-looking nipple shields.
The stress of a cross-country move three weeks postpartum, moving in with my in-laws, while my husband had to take an extended job out-of-state (he spent eight months of my son’s first year out-of-state), my supply of breastmilk steadily decreased.
I was too poor to get a decent breast pump, we were in-between insurance, which meant that pumping my breasts to keep up my breastmilk supply was not an option.
Multiple lactation consultants and doctors were seen – no success. We began supplementing with formula, and while he was still a colicky baby, he was a little happier as he wasn’t hungry anymore.
I went on medication for postpartum depression when he was a few months old. That officially brought an end to our breastfeeding journey.
I spent several years working through the guilt of being unable to continue with breastfeeding. Every asthma attack he had triggered that guilt. When he developed speech problems, I worried that his difficulty speaking was related to not bonding through breastfeeding, or because I had postpartum depression.
Fast-forward to this past February as my four-year old climbed into the dentist’s chair for his first visit to the dentist.
As she was checking out his teeth, the dentist asked, “Does he ever have trouble with his speech?”
Startled, I told her, “Not really. He had a little trouble when he first started, but his last evaluation was good.”
While poking around in his mouth, she said, “Oh, good. I see that he’s tongue-tied. Not badly, borderline even, but sometimes makes it hard for children to learn to speak.”
I’m not sure what I said in return, because my mind was already jumping – tongue-tied. His frenulum is short, so his tongue’s movement is restricted. Not only can it cause problems with speech, having a tongue-tie can make breastfeeding and latching on difficult.
And just like that, all those feelings of guilt rushed back.
All the doctors and consultants that we had seen – not one had caught that he’d been tongue-tied. A tongue-tie is easily correctable. The frenulum is clipped and, tada, the tongue can move more freely.
Logically, I know that we’d still have had other hurdles to overcome to be able to breastfeed successfully. I know that he’s a smart, (more-or-less) healthy little boy, who wasn’t negatively impacted by being formula fed. I know that, given all the circumstances, formula was the best option for ALL of us. I know that he and I are no less bonded together because his food came from a silicone nipple instead of my own.
But my heart is less practical.
My heart is grieving that loss; that missed opportunity all over again.
By the time my first baby was born, I had been in therapy for about a year and a half. When I started therapy, I had reached a point where I knew I needed help, and the risk of reaching out for help was outweighed by the burden of sitting alone with the darkness I felt any longer. Therapy helped me a ton and I was in a much better spot when I became pregnant. My husband and I had been married for two years, and though the pregnancy was unplanned, I desperately wanted a baby.
Pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions, with lots of vomiting. The last couple of months were good, and I felt strong and ready for childbirth, but still unsure of motherhood. My labor was not typical and there were a stressful three days and 20ish hours of active labor that led up to the birth of my daughter. By the time she was born, I was exhausted. The first thought I remember having when my husband placed my baby on my chest was “I don’t know how to do this,” followed by apologizing that she was crying and that I had been too loud during labor. I felt ashamed, like I somehow didn’t do it right. Then I felt doubly ashamed for commenting about the baby crying, because obviously babies are supposed to cry. And what kind of mother would think there is something wrong with her baby crying right after she’s born? No one was putting this on me or making me feel this way. There was also joy and a deep cozy feeling when cuddling my new babe but, mostly, I was scared, tired, and feeling completely unqualified.
The nurse let me “rest” for a few hours after the birth, during which my husband and baby took a nap, and I ate and took a shower. Then the nurse came back in to give me a bunch of instructions on baby care before sending me home with an hours-old extremely delicate creature who completely depended on me for survival. I told the nurse that I was too tired to remember anything and I wasn’t sure I was qualified to care for a newborn. She told me that newborns were made for new parents (which was oddly reassuring) and to set an alarm to go off every two hours all night long, so that I could wake up to feed the baby. She emphasized how important it was that I feed the baby every two hours and wake her up to feed if she was sleeping.
The first night was hard. I remember my husband waking me up because I didn’t hear the alarm going off under my pillow. I don’t remember if the baby was awake, too, in the cosleeper beside our bed, but I do remember that every time I tried to nurse her, she would fall right back to sleep. The next day, I called the nursing support line and they told me she was a “sleepy nurser,” and gave me some tips on how to wake her up to nurse. My mom stayed with us for about three days to help out and my grandparents came to meet the new baby. After about five days, my husband went back to work and I was very much alone at home.
I remember worrying about a lot of things and wanting to do everything right. I remember her gazing into my face as I rocked and nursed her, looking into her big dark eyes and feeling like I was falling down a very deep tunnel. Then weird thoughts would flash through my mind: “What if she can’t breathe while she is nursing, what if she knows I have no idea what I am doing, what if she is a demon? I am not emotionally stable enough to be a mother; what if someone finds out and takes her away from me?” This scared me to the point that I avoided looking into her eyes. I never wanted to hurt my child, but I was afraid of the things going through my mind.
I was especially scared of trimming her fingernails. They were so tiny and her fingers were so precious. I worried that I would snip them with the trimmers by accident. Several people suggested that it was easier to chew baby nails than to trim them, but every time I thought of this, a picture would flash into my mind of my sweet baby’s finger chewed to a bloody nub. Sometimes those flashes would come when I was trimming her nails and I started trimming them only when I was feeling well rested, for fear of having one of those thoughts and freaking out.
There were other things that I knew I weren’t right too. Anytime I saw one of those child safety tags they put on every piece of baby gear, I would visualize whatever horror they warned about happening to my baby. I would lay her in the Pack-n-Play, catch a glimpse of the warning label and have a flash of finding her suffocated. Same with the baby carrier, the stroller, and the baby bathtub. She would cry when my husband tried to put her to sleep at night and I remember worrying that my husband was sexually abusing her, and wrestling with that being a totally crazy thought, but still feeling that I needed to protect her from him. (Please note my husband has never and would never do this. I think this just came up in my mind because my mother had been sexually abused by her father when she was a kid and I was just having really bizarre thoughts). Instead of resting, I would stay awake listening to them on the baby monitor, crying and worrying until she went to sleep. Once she was asleep, I would lay awake in bed thinking about all the horrible crap that could happen, plus my to-do list, and what a fucked-up person I was.
These thoughts were scary to me, but they weren’t entirely new. During the deepest part of my depression a few years earlier, I had similar gruesome flashes any time I saw my husband’s X-Acto knife. That gruesome image was always of the knife slicing my wrists, which is why I finally went into therapy, though I never told my therapist of my concerns about the knife. I was afraid that if I told her, she would have me committed or the have the baby taken away. I was not suicidal, did not use self harm, and absolutely did not want to kill myself.
When my maternity leave ended, I went back to work. I was incredibly sleep deprived because my baby would not take a bottle while I was gone and would nurse every two hours all night long. Her weight percentage had gone down and the doctor was concerned about her getting enough milk and gaining weight. I kept up the night feedings, tried different things to get her weight up and worried about everything. The gruesome images and thoughts kept up for a while, too. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped having them, but I remember having them when some friends came to visit when my baby was about six months old.
Around that time I attempted to handle my anxiety by smoking pot or drinking after I put the baby to bed at night. This helped me numb out a little but, ultimately, it added to my anxiety. Before becoming pregnant, I drank and smoked a lot, and it was too easy to fall back on those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stayed in therapy for another year and a half for post-partum depression, and my therapist helped me “fact check” some of my irrational fears, like that my baby was going to starve to death or that my husband couldn’t adequately care for her while I was at work. She also helped me figure out what self care was, and generally made me feel loved and supported. Even though I never disclosed everything that I was experiencing, having her support was extremely helpful. I will forever be grateful for how kind she was to me and how much she helped me during this time.
Eventually, my husband and I decided that we were both worn too thin with our work schedules, and figured out how I could leave my job and stay home. When I left my job, I also lost the mental health care coverage I had through my insurance. My therapist and I made a self care and emergency plan in case the depression came back. When I ended therapy, I decided to stop smoking pot entirely. Facing shit without an easy numb-out was harder than I thought it would, and the first three days, everything felt very intense. Even though I didn’t smoke “that much,” I knew it was important for me to quit and develop some healthier ways of being in the world. I also joined a support group, took an online self care class for moms, started exercising, and found a really cool mental health video game that taught me about different aspects of self care.
When my second baby was born two years ago, I asked for more support from my family after the birth and I had a community of moms to talk with. I kept track of my two week timeline for depression and was more aware of how that looks in my own mind. Although there were things that I worried about and struggled with, I did not have any of the scary thoughts or gruesome flashes as the first time around. I did feel overwhelmingly joyful about gazing into his newborn eyes. It was a totally different and less scary experience. Having a completely different post-partum experience the second time has shown me how much of my experience was PPD and not just typical new motherhood.
I hope that my story will encourage other moms to get the support they need if they are experiencing PPD after the birth of a baby or depression years later. It can be hard to see the symptoms when you are in the fog of it, and it is worth seeking help if you aren’t sure about what you’re experiencing. Healing is worth it. You are worth it.
I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.
I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.
My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.
She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.
She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.
I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.
Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.
When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.
Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.
One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.
I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”
My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.
I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.
Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.
But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?
The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.
I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.
I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.
A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.
The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.
He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).
The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.
To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.
Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.
I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”
That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.
“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”
I said I’d drive home.
“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”
By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.
Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.
I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?
I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.
Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.
The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.
She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.
He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.
When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”
I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.
I got married and had three kids. Developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.
Fast forward 15 years.
I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?
Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.
My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.
Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When will the phone ring again?
How do I protect my girls when that day comes?
I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.
I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.
Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?
First off, let me explain that I have four amazing daughters, and I’m out the other side of postpartum psychosis – I hope that my words will help others to feel less alone. The power of words can be magical.
While I was fine mentally after my first daughter was born, I was faring poorly after giving birth to my second; I’d had a traumatic birth experience coupled with the loss of my relationship with my partner. My ex and I separated, so I blamed the loss of my relationship for my mental health issues. After I went to the doctor, I was given antidepressants, which I thought would help, but they only made me feel seasick, nauseous, and I couldn’t focus on anything.
With side effects like that, I stopped taking the antidepressants; I didn’t detox or stop taking them correctly, but still I felt like a million dollars and I felt a huge relief once I moved away from ex. Now, I adored my girls but I had bonding issues with my second, which is always painfully hard.
Three years later and I met my current husband. I’d never felt so content and adored. I fell pregnant with my third daughter, having once vowed I would never have any more kids – but I didn’t feel right denying my husband the joys of children – I gave him the gift of parenthood! I’d had a perfect pregnancy and labour, and the most beautiful little bundle was born. Four months later, we got married and my baby started to get ill – like really ill – and ended up tube fed in hospital for a week.
I’d stopped breastfeeding her during that week, and guess what?! I’d fallen pregnant with a fourth daughter, and this time my pregnancy was, at best, surreal, and, at worst, heartbreaking to relive. I became psychotic, erratic, forgetful, resentful, and fell completely off the rails.
One day, we were driving to collect my eldest daughters from their dad – 100 miles away – and I tried to stop our car in the middle of the motorway. My husband first thought I was joking but I wasn’t. I’d literally lost the plot. I was screaming and trying to change the gears on the car. I was trying to get out of the car while it was moving. Within a minute, my husband was crying, begging me to calm down.
In the UK it’s illegal to pull over on a motorway, but we got stuck in traffic and our eight-month old baby was screaming from the back of the car. I was 3 1/2 months pregnant and screaming that I was going to jump off a bridge. I was so desperate to get out the car. We couldn’t go anywhere, we were stuck in traffic with me inconsolable. My husband managed to pacify me.
At that point I should have sought help, I know that now, but I continued on with my life because I didn’t want to be prescribed additional shitty antidepressants. I soldiered on, all the while making everyone else around me miserable, scared, and resentful of me and my outbursts. I was vile, but I couldn’t see it or understand why I felt this way.
One morning, my husband went to get his hair cut at the barber and got caught in traffic – no big deal. When he came home, I started launching potatoes at his head – hot jacket potatoes straight from the oven, because I’d thought that if he didn’t have the manners to eat his dinner with his family, he could wear it! I was launching potatoes at his head while he was ducking, trying to reassure and cuddle me. Suddenly, I was convinced he was seeing someone else.
My postpartum psychosis was out of control. I was violent and vulnerable.
I used to go out at 2:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep and drive to the supermarket to do my weekly shop, just so I could drive past the cliff edge and dream of driving off of it. I was volatile and suicidal.
I adored my daughters and husband, but I genuinely believed everyone would be better off without my potato-throwing, car-stopping self in their lives. And quite frankly – at that time – they probably would have been. In the end, my husband rang my family, crying on the phone, begging them to intervene as he was at breaking point himself.
My mum drove me to A and E at 4:00 AM to see the emergency mental health team. It took five hours of me sitting, heavily pregnant, in a waiting room with heroin addicts fighting each other, waiting for their psych consultations before I was seen. I totally broke down. I was exhausted and scared and so, so confused. The mental health treatment team wanted to give me a c-section and sedate me, but it made me more irrational. I promised to stay with my family if I didn’t have to take any antidepressants, as all I could think was whatever I take, the baby takes.
They agreed with my plan, as long as I had a crisis meeting with my whole family and had someone with me at all times. By then, I had eight weeks to go. I was still an emotional train wreck but somehow I got through it. I gave birth to the most stunning little baby girl whom I bonded with immediately, thankfully. The mental health team believed that my symptoms were all related to hormones, as there was such a small age gap between babies and from the moment she was born I was fine. Since then, I have been mentally better.
Now, I have a completely different outlook on life.
At my most significant appointment, when I really was on the brink, the most wonderful psych doc told me this: “Suicide transfers your pain and torment to the ones you leave behind.” I truly believe those words are the reason I didn’t drive off of the cliff. I couldn’t leave my girls and husband.
I now live a normal life with my husband and four girls, and it feels like a lifetime ago. I talk about it a lot with friends and with strangers (and anyone who will listen) because I’m not ashamed of having had postpartum psychosis.
I’m simply proud to be out the other side and when people say they envy my beautiful family and relationship with my husband, I tell them the reality, and how much it took to get to where we are.
Then I tell them I have the best potato throw they will ever see!
This is her story:
I looked around at their smiling faces as I nervously fiddled with my unkempt hair.
When was the last time I took a shower? I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t remember the last time I ate, either. I wasn’t hungry.
“Oh, Carri!” My grandma was holding him, his tiny hand wrapped around her finger. “He’s beautiful – such a healthy boy!”
I studied him from across the room as he was shuffled from person to person. His perfectly round head. His teeny toes. Those skinny chicken legs.
My son, Blake: The newest member of our family.
They were excited to meet him. To hold him. To stroke his soft skin and take in his new scent.
I wanted them to leave.
My parents. My brother. My aunt and uncle. My grandma. They had to leave.
The walls were closing in.
My thoughts. The thoughts were racing. He was going to be hungry soon. He would need a diaper change. He would spit up and need another change of clothes.
The house was dirty.
I had to do laundry.
I needed sleep.
But I couldn’t sleep. The thoughts wouldn’t stop long enough.
The walls were closing in.
They were squeezing the life out of me like a vice. Making me sweat. Making me second guess myself.
Making me crazy.
And as my family relished my tiny miracle, I was crumbling inside. Panicking. Becoming more and more restless.
Until finally, I left the room to release the anxiety.
“Where is she going?” they asked.
I had to be alone.
Because the walls were closing in.
And postpartum depression continued its debilitating hold until I’d finally had enough.
I wanted to enjoy my newborn. I wanted to take in his smell, stroke his hair, and kiss his soft skin.
I wanted to be happy.
You are my sunshine
My son has taught me how to live, love and grow in ways I could have never understood before. His very being keeps me going and gives me purpose. It is a love like no other.
My only sunshine
After nearly three years of trying to get pregnant, (including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility) in June of 2009 I successfully conceived. I didn’t allow myself to get too attached while I went for weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to monitor my early pregnancy.
As the first trimester passed and we saw our tiny bean grow into a perfectly formed tiny baby, the hope in me stirred and I began to let myself feel joy. Anxiety continued, however, as I underwent frequent fetal echocardiograms to evaluate the baby for a heart condition he was at risk of developing.
The second trimester came and went and his heart remained perfect; we were in the clear.
In my third trimester, at 32 weeks, I started having contractions, followed two hospital visits for pre-term labor. At home, I remained on bedrest, and made it to the 37th week.
My labor was quick and my beautiful baby boy was born perfect and healthy at 6 lb., 1 oz.
I felt the biggest relief in my life when I saw my newborn baby. This joy quickly dissolved when the OB began the repairs. I began feeling very funny. I was trying to communicate how weird I was feeling when I found I was unable to speak. Ringing in my ears drowned out the sounds and I slipped into unconsciousness.
This is it, I thought. My baby was born healthy, but I’m paying for it by dying in childbirth.
The next thing I knew I woke up on the Mother-Baby Unit. The nurses there cheerfully told me I had experienced lidocaine toxicity and my baby was with my husband in the nursery. I ached to see his face and hold his perfect body. When they returned, I instantly felt a jolt of joy and energy as I acquainted myself with my new family.
Two days later, we were discharged and went home as a new family of three. Our families had camped out at our house but we sent them home to have the space to figure out what we were doing.
The next few days were quiet but things did not feel right with the baby. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with him. My milk came in late and my son became dehydrated and difficult to arouse.
After that crisis resolved, we received a concerned call from the pediatrician. The results from A’s metabolic screen were positive for a rare but potentially fatal disease. They cautioned us that there are many cases of false positives, but I went into panic mode. We stayed on alert night and day to watch him breathe. We had to wait for a week for the news that it was an error. He was fine.
You make me happy when skies are grey
The weeks after were full of relief, bliss and love.
I managed through the marathon feedings and fell more in love with my son each day. Parenting seemed to come naturally to my husband. I finally had everything I dreamed of. Then at 11 weeks, A did a remarkable thing: he slept through the night.
Usually a cause for celebration, this milestone marked the beginning of my downfall. I felt as though this gift I had dreamed of for so long was a mirage and could be taken from me at any moment. The lines between fear and reality became blurred.
First, I stopped being able to sleep. I felt the need to rest my hand on the baby’s chest to feel the reassuring rise and fall. I started having the most disturbing images in my head. These horrifying images tortured me relentlessly. I felt constantly nervous and on edge. I felt so agitated I couldn’t keep my body still. When I lay in bed, my legs wouldn’t stop moving.
I had the most intense feeling that sometime terrible was about to happen to my son, A. Something that I had to stop. Soon, I was having stomach problems and I couldn’t keep anything down. I started going days straight without sleeping. I stopped eating solid foods. I lost twenty pounds in a month. I became weak and fragile.
The images I’d seen before were now coupled with horrifying phrases in my head. They all involved seeing my baby hurt. I had urges to do things like bang my head on the shower wall to stop them. These urges were like the most intense itch you know you should never scratch. I felt if I didn’t give in to them, I would jump out of my skin or explode.
During the day, I had panic attacks where I felt like I was dying; my arms went numb, my heart raced, I became sick to my stomach and felt paralyzed.
At night; the baby and my husband tucked safely in bed, I started having these urges to disappear. I wondered how fast I could pack everything up and drive off before they awoke. I thought if I disappeared, my baby would be able to grow and thrive and would be better off without me.
My husband did not understand what was going on and became very angry. We fought constantly. I had to ask him to stay home from work or leave work numerous times because I didn’t feel safe alone with the baby.
Soon, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I wondered if I was dying or losing my mind. I didn’t want to live anymore. I pictured milestones in A’s life without me present. I became obsessed with planning A’s birthday party because I had the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be around by then. The day came when I couldn’t take another second.
That was when I reached out to my Mom.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
I’d always wanted to get better. For my son, for myself and for my family.
I didn’t want anyone to know what a bad mother I was so I tried to stop visitors and kept phone calls brief. I’d been refusing to take the medications I needed because they were not compatible with nursing. Having to suddenly wean my baby was like a final blow of failure to me.
After my urgent phone call to my Mom, she left work in the middle of the day without packing a thing, got on the highway and talked to me on the phone until she arrived three hours later.
She took me to the midwife, who sent me to the ER to be admitted. But because I told them I had no imminent plans to kill myself, they wouldn’t admit me. They gave me sleeping pills and the address of an urgent care psych center.
Problem was, the place was a partial-hospitalization program, which my insurance did not cover and would require me to be away from my son during the day. I felt helpless and desperate. I didn’t have any hope of anyone being able to help me. I was taking the medication, but it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Things escalated at home with my husband and I really feared hurting myself, so I packed our stuff and we left.
After my Mom and my sister helped me get settled in, things started to turn around. I moved in with my sister who was a huge support to me. I had family and friends around me constantly. I had the help I needed to care for A while taking care of myself. I sought help at a local center devoted to postpartum mood disorders and began to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly.
I was given a name for what I was going through: Postpartum OCD. I joined a local support group that meets monthly and I met the most amazing and inspiring women who really get it and have been there. Their strength was contagious. I starting believing that I could get better.
The horrible thoughts in my head started to disappear. I felt more connected with my son. I still had some panic attacks where I felt myself regressing and dark thoughts would again invade my brain. Sometimes, I felt like I wasn’t getting better at all and there was no point to struggling through it.
But I learned to reach out to those who cared about me when I felt this way. During my darkest days the phrase “this will not end well” would repeat itself in my head, this mantra was now replaced by “this too shall pass.”
Please don’t take my sunshine away
Time, therapy and medication have given me my life back. My recovery has been full of ups and downs; good and bad days. I am still working on mending relationships. But as the autumn came, I felt my old self emerge.
I will never be the person I was before I had a child, but I am a stronger, wiser woman. I have found I am strong enough to make it on my own, but that the support of others is essential. I am learning to enjoy the moments without obsessing about what will come next. I am learning to let go of complete control and let my son explore and experience with my guidance.
It’s a new way of living, and it’s very freeing. I am able to enjoy every day with A. He amazes me on a daily basis. I don’t know what challenges or heartaches I might face in the future, but now I am healthy and strong enough to face them head-on. And if I’m not, I will still be okay because of the support system I have.
And in February, I will be at my son’s first birthday party, celebrating his year of thriving and mine of survival.