This is tough one to write. After all, I’m pure JOY home and this post will be anything but that…but it’s me, and it’s something that I went through, and an experience that has in some way, shape of form, made me who I am today.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a year, but I held back because I didn’t know if I wanted to let you all in on this dark time for me. However being that May is Mental Health Awareness month I’m happy to contribute what I can in the form of awareness, in the hopes that maybe just one person, one day may take comfort from reading my story.
So I’ll start. I gave birth to Brian in July of 2013. It was a TOUGH labor but one with a result so, so beautiful and magical. The toughness was in the 30 hours of labor but the magic happened right at sunrise when finally, with the help of my amazing doctor and team of nurses, I pushed Brian out. Everyone in the room was crying because there was something about it, the huge effort everyone put in to help me get him out, all the nurses on the floor were in there at one point cheering me on. The Fray was playing in the background and the morning sun was flooding in, and then perfect little Brian came into the world. I will never ever forget that experience. Our time in the hospital was euphoric, I was over-joyed with the emotions that come from having a baby and even remember thinking to myself, how could anyone be depressed at a time like this?? I didn’t get it at all…
Oh, and on the breastfeeding side, things weren’t going as planned. I didn’t know it could be hard, and this had me really confused and frustrated. The lactation consultants kept coming in and out, hooking me up to pumps, working with Brian and I on the right latch, and I was quickly getting over it. I was totally OKAY with formula, the breastmilk thing didn’t matter too much to me, though I did want to try and give it my all, so there was kind of mini-internal struggle going on with that. Most importantly though, I knew in the back of my mind that if it didn’t work, Brian would be 100% safe and happy with formula, something I think needs to be stressed more to new moms. I can’t STAND that whole stigma, and especially the added pressure on moms to exclusively breastfeed, like no one knows what this mom is going through, let her make her own decisions!
Okay, so we came home and the tears immediately started. I didn’t know why but I just kept crying, like literally tears just kept coming out. I wasn’t sad at all, I think I was just exhausted and emotional from the whole experience, and felt so in love with my new baby, I didn’t know what to do so the tears were just coming out. My parents had a dinner for us that night and our whole family was over and I was exhausted and trying to keep it together so people didn’t think I was a total disaster. I was still so emotional and again just feeling so in love I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t sleep much at all from this point on. Like all new moms, sleep is definitely deprived, but it was on a different level for me because I couldn’t actually fall asleep, like at all. Even when the baby was in the care of my mom or Brian, I knew I should sleep but I couldn’t. I would lay there awake putting pressure on myself to fall asleep, worrying about not getting sleep, what could happen if I couldn’t sleep, how can I be a mother if I’m not sleeping, can you die from insomnia, etc… crazy, irrational thoughts were flooding into my mind and that’s when the anxiety started. I didn’t know why this was happening to me and I started worrying for myself. Would I ever be able to sleep again? Would this terrible pit in my stomach ever go away? Meanwhile, I was trying to keep it together and enjoy my precious little baby and keep up an appearance of “I got this” and trying to smile and be happy when all my visitors came, but I was so utterly exhausted and riddled with anxiety.
I finally called my ob-gyn and she told me to go into my room, and take a unisom (or two!), close the door and sleep. I tried that, and it wasn’t helping, plus I worried about taking anything and breastfeeding. That afternoon, I thought I was going to have to go to the emergency room because I was so worked up. I called my OB back and she referred me to a psycho-pharmacologist, she told me this is where she sends all those experiencing Postpartum depression and/or anxiety (PPD/PPA) and that was the first term I heard my condition out loud and it scared the crap out of me. He saw me that night and I swear to God this man saved me.
My mom drove me to Greenwich while Brian watched the baby and I sobbed the whole way there. I didn’t know why this was happening to me, I was so scared that I was losing control of myself. The doctor opened the door, I sat down, and sobbed to him. I had never seen a psychologist before and felt so ashamed to there during a time that was supposed to be full of nothing but happiness. He asked me all about myself and then asked me specific questions relating to PPD/PPA. I had nothing to say except that I loved my baby so much and I wanted to feel like myself again, and I had no idea why I was feeling this way. I just wanted to sleep and not feel anxious anymore. He promised me this would pass and prescribed me two medications, one to get my anxiety under control and one to take before bed that would help me sleep. I asked him one million questions about taking the medication because that kind of scared the sh*t out of me in itself. He assured me that everything would be okay, and he was right, it was okay. I hugged him so tight, and I ran into my mom’s arms, and did the same. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted. I came home, hugged Brian, and held the baby all night. Brian went to CVS to fill my prescriptions and I slept that night, a full 9 hours. I woke up feeling like a new person.
I stopped breastfeeding at this time because although the doctors said it should be fine, trace amounts of the medication do enter the milk, and I was more comfortable with feeding him formula. My cracked and bleeding nipples were happy, too.
It was a crazy first two weeks, but I came out okay and back to myself. I finally felt like the mom I wanted to be, and that was our story.
Thank God for the awareness of these conditions, and modern science for the medications that literally cured me. I had no problem coming off of them when the time was right, and it’s more comfortable than you can imagine knowing there is something that can help, a tool to fix what could go wrong for me.
This post will end soon, I promise.
Throughout my pregnancy, I was terrified of what would happen once I had Grace. I gave birth to her and was elated in the hospital. Breastfeeding came MUCH easier this time around so that was one less thing to worry about. I did however start supplementing with formula from day 1 because I wanted to be sure if I needed to have her on the bottle, that she would take it. I came home from the hospital and that night my parents and Brian’s mom were there. About an hour after we got home, I went up to my room and started crying. I had this terrible feeling in my stomach, I was terrified it was coming back. My mom came in and suggested I call my doctor right there and get back on the medication, so I did. He called in my prescriptions, and without hesitation or before things got crazy again, I started them. I was fine and it was a blissful postpartum period. I didn’t breastfeed much because of this, and formula did just fine by my little Grace.
Again, I was able to come off of the medications this time around when I felt comfortable with no problems whatsoever.
SO that’s my experience with Postpartum Anxiety. It’s truly a terrifying thing to happen to a mom, and I’m just so thankful for a supporting family, and amazing doctors who were fully committed to making sure I was okay.
I know this was a lot for many of you, so I apologize for the break in my usual “joyful” posts, but my hope for writing about my experience with postpartum anxiety, or PPA, is that I can offer some comfort to those who may be going through this, or for those who are scared that this might happen to them, to assure them that it will get better and that they are not alone and it will be OKAY. I promise, it will.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, please make sure they seek help from a medical professional. It happened to me, and because of the support and encouragement of my doctors and family, I came out on the other end a stronger version of my happy self.
If you have any specific questions for me, or if you have no one else to talk to, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to help.