P is for Postpartum Depression

12134247203_af78976deb

I never thought I would get pregnant.

I had an easy pregnancy. Easier than I thought anyone with high risk factors like I had, could anticipate. No morning sickness. No bloating. I was able to wear my wedding ring until the very last days. My feet stayed the same size throughout. I even went off blood pressure medication and my blood pressure stayed low for almost the entire duration of my pregnancy. I was glowing. I gained weight only in my belly.

Birth was amazing, too. I was induced because my blood pressure climbed in the last three weeks of pregnancy and could not be managed. And so a week after my due date, I checked into the hospital, clutching my yoga ball and a huge bag of snacks for my husband. They started me on cytotec, gave me an Ambien, and I went to sleep (well, I thought I went to sleep–my husband said I started dancing and falling and dancing on Ambien). The next morning at 6:30am, they started me on pitocin, and what felt like the worst diarrhea cramps in the world paired with the ultimate in constipation, hit me. I breathed through the contractions. I had no desire to scream–I just rode the waves of pain with deep breaths. I felt calm and ready. I wanted to meet my kid.

Every time the pump clicked, I knew a contraction would hit me. My contractions reached two minutes long, with less than a minute rest in between. I got an epidural. I felt no contractions from that point on, amazed when my husband read the monitor and announced, “That was a huge contraction you just had!”

Really? I couldn’t feel it.

Little did I know, that I would have to get very used to feeling nothing.

I took a long nap. I woke up and said, “Hey guys–I have to either fart, take a giant poop, or the baby’s coming out. One of those things is not acceptable right now.” The baby was coming. I was 10 cm dilated. Time soon to push. They called my doctor, who arrived and had to tell me, “Stop pushing! I haven’t scrubbed in yet.”

I was bearing down and counting to ten. Breathing. Bearing down and counting to ten. My amazing doula coached me, coached us. It was calm and peaceful. They brought in a mirror. She was coming. And then at 6:35pm I pushed her into the world of oxygen and light.

She was here.

And I felt nothing. When they handed her to me, she felt like someone else’s child. I waited for the gush of joy, and I felt blank.

I had a great pregnancy, and a great birth, but had a nightmare first year of motherhood, instead.

I had no idea I had postpartum depression. It took me months to realize I was in over my head. I told people it was like walking into the ocean step by step holding my child on my head until I was underwater, struggling to keep her alive holding her aloft. I felt like I was dying.

Not until I had the darkest thoughts a new mother could have (wishing my baby didn’t exist–wishing for SIDS), did I pause and think, “This cannot be right.” My OCD was off the chain (obsessing over the sterility of bottles was crippling). I was unable to let my baby go into anyone’s arms but mine. I forced everyone to wash their hands well beyond the first 6 months before handling my child. Still, I waited. I thought the postpartum depression would lift. I waited.

Meanwhile, my daughter thrived. My husband went back to work.

My friends told me I cried when they visited. They said I told them I felt hopeless. I couldn’t get myself to shower. I went days without showering. I tried to go on walks, and went on walks everyday with my baby, but came back so exhausted, I crawled right back into bed.

I pumped in bed. I ate in bed. I slept in bed. I cradled my child in bed. I did not leave that bed almost all year. I begged my husband to stay in bed with me. He resisted.

My daughter thrived. My husband was going to work. My husband was traveling. My husband said he was traveling. My husband said he was out of town. My husband said he could not come home.

I was at pre-pregnancy weight by 3 weeks postpartum. I stopped being able to eat. I couldn’t figure out how to make food and take care of a baby. Food no longer tasted good. I dipped down to the lowest weight since junior high. Clothes started to fall off my body. My wedding ring slipped off my finger.

I hired help. The help didn’t work out. I hired more help, and found I could not let my daughter out of my arms. The help, who has now turned into one of my dearest friends, kept me company. That was help. We watched movies while I sat in bed with my daughter. She washed the bottles, the G*dawful bottles. Did the laundry. Got me food, which I only nibbled.

My friends dropped off food (posole, pasta, tomato sauce, minestrone, eggplant parmigiana). When they left, I would cry with gratitude, but I could not get myself to eat.

My friends emailed me. Texted me.

I walked. I tried to do yoga. I tried to be happy again. I used every tool in my toolbox to overcome my depression.

My husband was no longer coming home except on weekends. Where was he?

My best friend happened to move nearby. We met for a meal, for coffee, for a walk, everyday. I was at the bottom of a well, and my best friend met me at the bottom, and stayed with me in the dark.

I looked up from the bottom of the well. I could see the sky. I knew I had to get up there, somehow. I could hear my baby’s laughter, like a distant bell.

I started wearing makeup again. Tried to pretend. Fake it until you make it. I faked it and faked it and faked it.

I held my daughter. I fed my daughter. I survived each day.

My friend met me at the bottom of the well.

My friends brought me food.

I turned 40. I planned my own birthday party. I woke up so exhausted, I didn’t shower. I put on a dress and some makeup and attended. Faked it. I could not look my husband in the eye.

The postpartum depression did not dissipate. It was now October. I read somewhere that postpartum depression could last 2 years. I couldn’t last that long, I knew.

I called my husband and cried each night. Told him I was dying. He asked “What are you dying from?”

And I said, “I don’t know. I’m dying,” before bursting into tears. I needed help.

He said, “I can’t help you. I’m not coming home for a year.”

I cried until I lost my breath. I’d never felt more alone. I’d never felt so helpless. I had to save myself. And I was fighting a creature I had never before fought. I needed help. I cried. I needed help.

“I can’t last a year,” I said.

“You have to,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll last 3 weeks.”

Silence.

And so the next day, I called the doctor. “I have postpartum depression,” I said to the receptionist.

“What’s that?”

I had to explain.

I waited and waited and waited for the return calls. The help.

I called and called. And finally, the help came.

And then my life changed. I started climbing out of the well. And my best friend–my friend climbed out, too.

Forever grateful to all who saved my life in 2013.

***

Joining Heather’s Abecedary, Fog City Writer, and other writers like Susan Ito in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces. Except I’m going to go in reverse, beginning with “Z.” It’s called Alphabet: A History.

UPDATE (Resources):
There are resources out there–here are a couple, which the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, provided me this morning:

You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum
depression, the most common complication of childbirth. They also work to educate family, friends and healthcare providers so that moms and moms-to-be can get the support they need and recover.
Helpline:  800-944-4PPD (4773) or email support@postpartum.net
www.postpartum.net

In New York:
Postpartum Resource Center of New York provides emotional support, educational information and healthcare and support group resources for New York State families.  Free and confidential support including Moms on Call and Family Telephone Support available
Helpline:  Toll-free and State-wide at (855) 631-0001 (Hablamos Espanol)
www.postpartumny.org

93 Comments

Filed under Alphabet: A History, Life, Memes, Motherhood, Parenthood, The Personal

93 responses to “P is for Postpartum Depression

  1. K

    <3 you are so strong. i am so glad you are out of there. i am so so so glad.

    this post makes me angry, btw, at how much you had to endure without the person who should have been the one to hold your hand through the darkness.

    • @K: I’m not angry. It’s life and now things are better. As you know, more things than what I mentioned here, happened. I couldn’t share everything, bc so much is still in process and I wanted to protect people (someday, I’ll write the unabridged version). And I survived thanks to good friends and my own resourcefulness. Thank you for being there for me.

  2. Lucy

    Wow. Thanks for writing this. You were brave to get help and to write about it. I love seeing how you’re thriving now.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad you are back and so sorry you had to go there. oxox

  4. I’m so proud of you for making it through, and even prouder of you for writing about it.

  5. I saw this posted on Facebook (Dark Side of the Full Moon) and had to read it — our stories are almost the same. The FREAKIN bottles! I can’t even begin to tell you how many minutes I wasted on obsessively washing those bottles. Anyway, THANK YOU for sharing and raising awareness from one PPD-mama to another :)

    • Thank you so much, everyone, for your support. I’m glad I shared and hope to shed some light on the PPD experience.

      @Laurie: thank you for the heads up! What a wonderful documentary and page. Yes, the damn bottles. THE.DAMN.BOTTLES. ;)

  6. I’m sorry that you have had to endure so much, but I promise you that your writing ability has not deserted you. You’d be a great voice for other women who suffer from PPD but who do not have the talent to articulate the experience in such a vivid way. Please share the unabridged version someday, if you are still in the frame of mind to do so when the time is right.

  7. Stephanie Denise

    Reading this…I don’t know how you did it. So speechless. Thank you for sharing. It’s exactly what I needed to read now that I’m helping take care of my dad who was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Getting myself into therapy.

  8. I am in awe of your honesty and sorry you had to endure it. I know this post is going to help people.

  9. Hilary

    Thanks for sharing. So glad you had the support system you needed to get you out from the bottom. It is hard. The FREAKIN bottles! Lol. I made the call for help this week. Xo

  10. Thank you, all. The best parts: all of this is behind me, the lessons learned, and amazing friendships forged further. I wish I had gotten help, earlier–but I’m glad I decided to get help at all. It made ALL the difference.

    (Also, feel free to reach out to me directly via email if you want to connect (my email is on my ABOUT page)–I’m not at a point where I can share everything in a public forum, but happy to discuss offline).

    • I admire your courage to share your story. I understand there is more to it than what you put in this post. However, this is going to help countless others. And I can relate to practically every aspect of your story, including the marriage portion. You’re a blessing, more than you know… :)

  11. Cyndi Gillum

    Its funny but 21 years ago when I had Chelsea, no one was there for me either. It started slowly by not sleeping then the more I didn’t sleep the more the baby didn’t sleep. I kept telling everyone I couldn’t sleep and I felt like I was a zombie of the non sleep brigade. I felt broken so broken and no one understood. I thought I was perhaps going insane or something like that. I’m glad that you where strong enough to make the doctors hear you. It took me many years to figure it out and now that Chelsea is finally going to be 21 I’m finally a lot saner. Thanks to the medication and the countless hours of therapy and the eventual love and support of my friends and loved ones. I also thank my daughter for her love and understanding. She saved my life

    • There isn’t enough discussion about PPD, and I can’t even imagine how isolating it must have been for you. Your daughter is a very special, caring, bright person–at this point, I feel bonded to her and see her as my family, an adopted “niece”–and will always be there for her in return, for the rest of my life. She saves a lot of lives and will save more.

  12. Thank you so much for your brave honesty! I am so happy you found your helping light! <3

  13. I am glad that I didn’t go through this. Glad you were able to share this and help others. Was this hard to write?

  14. Christine, thank you for posting such a personal and emotional story for all to read and learn from. I feel sad having read your story but am so happy that you pulled through. Wishing you nothing but the best from Australia.

  15. ((hugs)) I had PPD with each of my pregnancies. I completely identify with you when you say you felt like you were dying. I felt that way, too. My youngest are in high school and the oldest in college. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I felt overwhelmed, inadequate and low. “My children do not need a mom like this,” I would say. But I did press on and in my case, my doctor prescribed antidepressants that have saved my life. This is not for everyone, so I am not advocating this for you. I can only say what helped me. I had wonderful friends who were there. I am proud of you for sharing. Best wishes.

  16. removingstitches

    I remember the well, not a postpartum well but still the bottom of a well. Thank you for your honesty, you are so brave!

  17. I was at the bottom of the ocean in the spring of 2013. Had my daughter in the spring of 2011. I’m glad we are both able to talk about our similar experiences in the past tense. Thanks for writing this!

  18. Now crying. You describe the experience with such a rare clarity, that even though my depression was different in ways, and longer-lasting, I was right there with you as you were writing. Great job coming out on top and breathing fresh air again in the sunshine. May it always be so.

  19. I am so glad that you got help in the end. You are very strong for dealing with this.

  20. yanniesaurus

    What an excellent post. Out of curiosity, is your husband still around at all?

  21. Thank you for writing this. I too, had PPD after my first baby girl. It gets better, but it’s so so hard.

  22. Sounds like hell, but God has a way of turning every bad thing around for good. Sometimes I think, “God, you’re gonna have to get pretty creative with this one.” He does, too, eventually. Good survival story, and beautiful baby!

  23. I am so sorry you went through so much. But so glad you’ve found yourself on the other side and can articulate it so well. I also stuffed from PPD after the birth of my twins and looking back, I don’t know how I missed it, or how anyone else around me did either. It really is a peculiar form of myopia, so clouded with cultural expectations. Beautifully written post.

  24. I think my relatives expected me to have postpartum depression. The mental shift was a big struggle for me and I didn’t have the instant connection. That natural joy of motherhood. None of that came to me automatically, it took some time. But the truth is, I think I was more depressed during my pregnancy than after my son was born. There is nothing harder. And some people have a tougher time with motherhood. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  25. Yes, it was all the same with my first. The perfect pregnancy, the perfect health, only a belly, lost weight everywhere else (was overweight to start out) and could eat just about anything and everything while I was looking the best I’d ever looked in my life. I loved being pregnant. But once I pushed him from my body, nothing but fear. I did not unwrap him at any time during the hospital stay to count fingers and toes, I took their word for it that he had them all. I did not feel any instant connection as I tried to latch him to nurse. I could not eat, could not sleep, could not put him down. I lost more weight than was healthy. My father would call me every day and when I’d cry and tell him I did not know why I felt so badly, why I could not calm my child, why I felt sad all the time, he would tell me “snap out of it, you just had a beautiful, healthy baby, you should be overjoyed.”

    My husband was so good with the baby, though. I, at least, had that. He could only be home the first few days, but when he’d get home after work, he’d take that baby from me and try to get me to eat or sleep or get some air. I thank goodness that I developed a severe case of bronchitis when the baby was just 3 weeks old and my GP took one look at me, at my baby screaming and screaming and screaming in his car seat on the floor, called in the nurse to take the baby out and then asked me to tell him what was happening. He recognized that I was suffering PPD and immediately put me on meds for my bronchitis and an anti-depressant for my troubled mind.

    I cannot imagine going on for almost a year. You are a very strong woman. Thanks for writing this. I was so embarrassed by my PPD more than 25 years ago and so grateful I did not suffer it after our subsequent children. More women should know what the signs of PPD are and their closest friends and family should take it seriously when they see them struggling. Your writing about it will bring it out in the open. Be well.

  26. I am a doctor. Post partum depression is a thing. Your doctor should have known. Still, thank God you are out. Better late than never. :)

  27. You will never know how much I love that you wrote this. It’s articulate, painfully vivid and for some, awfully close to home. An advocate for moms supporting moms, especially newbies, I think this is a great post for any new mom to read, just to get a sense of how motherhood affects people differently and that if you happen to be in the same boat, there is help. The thing is to admit that there one is IN that boat.

    Happy you climbed out of the well :-)

  28. Reblogged this on astewayseyfu and commented:
    mother’s love

  29. I thank you for this because as I am looking forward, I want to be aware of the signs in my friends who are having babies, and myself when it comes time. This will stick with me.

  30. I’m glad you posted this. I wish I had had stories like this when I went through PPD quite a few years back. I hope new mums who go through what we did can read your beautiful words, know their pain is not just their own and gain strength from your story.

  31. I have emotional issues, and I know how you feel. I can’t even imagine trying to live through that with a kid. And it upset me seeing your husband not help you. I’m so glad to see you feeling better. Stay strong!

  32. Reblogged this on fauzanazmiramadhan32 and commented:
    Greetings :D

  33. amazing story and i’m glad that you shared this. Post partum is real and it looks different in every woman. i’m sure i had it and I still struggle with bits and pieces of it.

  34. Bless u aww so cute peace and love

  35. Thank you for this. I’ve been wanting to write a similar post for months now, but I’m terrified of my children ever reading it. I’m glad that you had someone to share the dark with you. I hope that people read this and see that they can make a difference in the situation, even if all they do is exist.

  36. Pingback: Why Don’t We Talk About Postpartum Depression? | 80,000 words

  37. Soul Genius

    God bless you. I am in my 6th week of pregnancy with my third child. I remember postpartum all too well being that I had it both times. (I suffer from chronic depression all year round so one would think postpartum would be the same. It was not.) I fear it. I am hoping to be able to preemptively combat it. Reading this made me cry…bc I can relate..bc I know that sinking helpless feeling. I am sorry you had to experience this. You are not crazy. You are amazing. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

  38. Thank you for posting this. It sheds a new light on how awful postpartum depression can be. I am 6 weeks away from giving birth and I struggle with depression normally. I’m sincerely hoping that I can do this.

  39. Beautifully written. Powerful.

  40. Incredibly powerful. I’m grateful for you, that along with your own resourcefulness, you also had great friends to help you wade through the darkness. I hope that you are doing well.

  41. Wow, powerful blog post. Thanks for having the courage to share so openly. I, too, have dealt with postpartum depression and you can check it out here http://fantashakassam.com/2009/04/11/post-partum-depression/
    Stay strong woman warrior!

  42. Yes, a very powerful blog post. I am glad you found the help you needed. Thank you for being so honest about your experience with postpartum depression.

  43. You are so strong!! I praise you! Please go check out my blog <3

  44. yolo1101

    really hope everything works out for u

  45. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with it without the support of ur husband- u r a real strong person- I know i would not have made it this far almost all by myself- Good luck to you and i’m so happy for you!!! XOXO

  46. Beautiful well written. Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.

  47. You are an amazing writer. Loved your blog . Please view my blog & comment opinions. It would mean a lot to me .

  48. laurenjeffery

    Very proud that you’ve written about the possibly most dark chapter in your life. I too suffered from PND with my first child and was crippled with depression, panic and anxiety disorder. It got to the point where I couldn’t leave my house due to intense vomiting from being so frightened of being in public. I didn’t get help from anyone but my Mum. We talked it all through, I didn’t go on medication. She got me through my darkest chapter. I hope you and your child are well now. You deserve happiness, all Mums deserve support and happiness. XO

  49. Reblogged this on Stay Sane Mommies and commented:
    What a brave woman to share her story with the world. Her description of being at the bottom of a well and hearing her daughter’s laughter like a distant bell is haunting. And it’s so true. I hope more people read this and feel less alone. There is hope.

  50. Really glad that u return to the beautiful life again . I also suffered depression after pregnancy , I always thought that I feed my baby dats y it was happening . During dat time I tried to keep calm and prayers also helped me to get rid of .

  51. This is so refreshingly honest. Whether your intention or not, someone else will surely benefit from you owning this experience and choosing to share.

  52. I too suffered from postpartum depression. It was after the birth of my second child and it was the lowest I had ever been in my life. People who have never dealt with postpartum depression cannot comprehend the pure hell that you go through. The guilt that burdens you each and every passing second of the day because you don’t know why you can’t be the mother that your child deserves to have. You don’t know how you got there or what it was going to take to get you out of there either. I don’t speak often of my own encounter because it isn’t something that is accepted, talked about or that others “get” where you are coming from. And it is different from “Baby Blues”. I continue to let the guilt eat away at me, feeling that somehow I let my son down when he was an infant, for awhile anyway. Fortunately after medication and some time, I was able to rebound and more effectively manage my thoughts, feelings and actions and return to the living. Thank you for sharing your story!!

  53. Thank you for writing so eloquently about a topic so deeply personal! PPD is certainly not discussed enough, but I admire your courage to speak out about it. I am left wondering though, where did your husband really go? did he really leave for a year or were you using a rhetorical device?

  54. Stay Strong ! Thank you for sharing this with all of us

  55. This literally brought tears to my eyes just imagining the feelings you felt — and i’m not even a mother.
    You are stronger than you think <3 And your baby is sooooo frkn cute =)
    I hope you are able to overcome every bit of that postpartum depression to fully enjoy your baby and your life.

  56. Reblogged this on Culture Counsel and commented:
    Learning from someone else’s experiences. Knowing what could happen. How bad it could get. Thanks to those courageous people out there who share their struggles with us.

  57. You are a strong women, it is so brave of you to share your story. I know this will help other mothers out there goibg thru this. Blessings for you, your baby girl, and all your friends that help you.

  58. Reblogged this on engineermommyof2 and commented:
    I know this will help other new moms going thru this.

  59. Reblogged this on Taciturn Alchemy and commented:
    If I was completely honest, I would admit that the potential for PPD is one of the reasons I do not have children. After reading this blog, I’m even more frightened, but I appreciate the writer’s honesty and am so thankful she made it through this experience.

  60. Tomi

    Amazing testimony. Though I don’t know you I’m glad you are a fighter. Touched so much that I’m going to reblog it. Thanks for sharing.

  61. Tomi

    Reblogged this on Cambridge Tales and commented:
    A true Wonder Woman. Worth a read

  62. Really powerful and emotional post. I’m really glad you are getting better.

  63. acquelline

    Well written! So very touching! Time can heal almost anything!!!

  64. you are so strong i respect you

  65. Just another good day for the psychiatrists to celebrate by prescribing more pills

  66. Thank you for sharing your story. I battle with depression everyday, it’s like a lingering shadow in my head that just won’t go away. But I’m managing with therapy. I can’t wait to read to full version one day, and I am so glad you got help.

  67. The well metaphor reminds me of something I wrote when I was going through PND, which, unfortunatley, in my case was also there during PREGNANCY! Is there a name for that?
    I too believed I was going to die, I was certain of it.
    Thanks for sharing!

  68. So glad you had true friends around! Wish your husband would have been more supportive, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Much love! You are doing really well!

  69. Reading this bought tears to my eyes! Motherhood is such a beautiful gift however it’s not easy! Us women have so many peer pressures to keep up with! I’m so glad you have come out of this bad phase and you are surely an inspiration to women who suffer PD! Your a beautiful mummy and have a beautiful child – be happy and head up! Luv from Mummy Guru!

  70. thank you for being honest, and for your story.

  71. Very powerful and emotional written. Thanks so much for opening up with your story and your are a beautiful Mum xo

  72. Reblogged this on Make Speak the Silences and commented:
    I had postpartum depression after every one of my three children’s births. The worst was my middle child, when I went days without eating or showering and couldn’t leave the house with my children because I was consumed with terror that something horrible would happen to them. This author writes of her PPD with clarity, insight, and aching honesty.

  73. Jennifer Butler Basile

    How scary it is to not know what you’re dying from – and not even notice it until it’s almost too late. Thank you for adding another important voice to the dialogue that needs to be had about postpartum depression.

    Where did you read that PPD can last two years? I’d be interesting to read that source. Any evidence it lasts up to four years or more? ;-)

  74. Pingback: Archaeologist envisions survey at historic site – Cherry Hill Courier Post « Depression: Fighting Back

  75. Quita

    This post was one of the first post I read using the ABC memoirs, which inspired me to try and do some of my own. I linked this post at the end of mine, I hope that’s okay. Thank you for being so open and honest about your experience.

  76. Pingback: H: Honey I Washed the Kids | the known self.

  77. Thank you for writing so eloquently about a topic so deeply personal! PPD is certainly not discussed enough, but I admire your courage to speak out about it. I am left wondering though, where did your husband really go? did he really leave for a year or were you using a rhetorical device? depression,depression symptoms,anxiety.

  78. Thank you for expressing so well what you have gone through. It’s so hard sometimes feeling like you are alone with these feelings after having a little one. I have also been diagnosed with ppd and have felt like I was the only one to not be enjoying my little girl as I should be – worrying about how she was doing, not having the time or energy to carry on as normal and still to this day after nearly 2 months on antidepressants feeling s though she really isn’t mine. I love her more than all the world but feel as though this is a dream and can hardly believe I went through the pregnancy and labour. You are truly courageous for telling all how you feel and in a way that is so well put and brutally honest. I only wish more people could talk about this very important topic so well and so honestly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s