For the month of December, I will be re-posting my postpartum depression story. Check in every Monday and Wednesday for another part of my journey. xoxo I wasn't happy anymore...not like I was in the hospital. I didn’t want to harm my baby or myself. I didn’t have those type of thoughts. I just didn't want to take care of my baby...I wanted to sleep and stay in bed...forever. I didn’t want to be a mom. What was I thinking? I made a terrible mistake. What was wrong with me? This wasn't normal...I needed my mommy.
Lucky for me, my mom, also a licensed therapist of the Jewish helicopter persuasion, moved in for a week after the birth of her first grandson. By day two of being home, I knew something was wrong. I cried all the time. Anxiety crippled me and prevented me from wanting to ever leave my bed. I couldn't be a mom. I couldn't handle this. I needed someone else to take care of my child.
I was so confused. Why was this happening to me? I was so excited to be a mom during my pregnancy. I was a happy mother in the hospital. Why wasn't I in love with my son and motherhood like everyone else I knew? Why didn’t I want to hold my child and love on him all the time? Why wasn't I looking forward to being home all day with him, reading to him, talking to him, playing with him, watching him smile for the first time. Every mom I knew or met told me this would be the most amazing experience, that becoming a mom is magical. It didn't feel like that…not for me. I felt broken and ashamed and guilty. I was a failure at something that I was told comes naturally to women.
As I approached my mom to confess these terrible thoughts, she already knew what I was about to say. My wonderful and observant husband had already told her something was wrong with her daughter, his wife. I broke down...I sobbed...I told her everything. She made an appointment with the doctor, the OB/GYN immediately.
My mom and I arrived at the doctor the following day. She entered the exam room to see the mom of the baby she delivered a week ago crying...ugly crying. I couldn't stop. She talked a little bit about postpartum depression, but mostly the baby blues. She told me she had friends and other patients who had experienced something similar. These women were educated, intelligent, the most put together women she knew, who couldn't understand why something like this was happening to them. They all got better. They all became wonderful mothers who fell in love with their children.
I had trouble believing her. I couldn’t see past the fear and anxiety. She prescribed Klonopin for the anxiety and said to come back in two weeks if nothing had changed. Apparently, medical professionals won't call it postpartum depression until two weeks after the baby is born. Until then, it’s just the baby blues. I didn’t feel any more optimistic when I left.
The Klonopin worked wonders…until it didn’t. It helped me sleep and killed the racing thoughts until the anxiety won out and the anti-anxiety medicine stopped working. I decided I wasn’t going back to the OB. She didn’t fix me and I was back to square one.
So I ran sobbing to my general doctor, who prescribed Xanax extended release. Both doctor and prescription didn’t fix me either. I was still lost. I wasn’t any better. This was definitely not just the baby blues.
My mom helped me look for a therapist. Finding a therapist is like dating…sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. One therapist who claimed to specialize in family and parenting struggles kept asking me what I thought I could do to be a better mother. She actually made me feel worse which I did not think was possible...not the right question for a new mother battling postpartum depression.
I finally found my “prince.” She was amazing and actually specialized in postpartum depression. She put me at ease. She asked the right questions and confirmed that I indeed had postpartum depression. Finally, a diagnosis! I felt a sense of relief to at least know what to call what I was going through.
I told her I didn’t understand. I had a loving, supportive husband and family. I had a baby nurse every night. My parents and in-laws hired a part time nanny to help me during the day. I had a healthy baby and a comfortable life. So why would this happen to me? How could this happen to me? This doesn’t happen to people like me. I learned that’s not true at all. This could happen to anyone.
The therapist promised me I would get better. I didn't believe her but I told her I would try...I would do what I had to do to try. She sent me to a psychiatrist right away. Together, they found the right combination of medicine to help me. I never thought I would be someone who took anti-depressants, but at that point I decided I would do whatever needed to be done. I couldn’t go on feeling the way I did. Anything was better than feeling that way I did.
And so what began the long road to recovery looked like this: Weekly appointment with my therapist and the instruction to text her whenever I needed to. Monthly appointment with my psychiatrist. Anti-depressant (Pristiq) and booster (Deplin) each morning and one anti-anxiety pill (Ativan) each morning and two at bedtime.
My mom and sister became my rocks, my husband my boulder. They assured me no one would ever let me stay this way The nanny who came during the day was wonderful. She provided the love and attention I couldn’t give to my son yet. I would try going through the motions and she helped me…changing diapers, holding him, talking to him…faking it ‘till I made it.
But I would still wake up every morning paralyzed by anxiety and fear. My mom suggested movement. Maybe it would help calm the anxiety. So each morning I put on workout clothes and sneakers, went outside, and walked laps around my neighborhood. I probably became known to the neighbors as that crazy girl, with bags under her eyes and hair a ratty mess, walking laps while ugly crying on the phone to her mommy.
The road would be long, but I said I would try. I committed to try…for my baby, for my husband, for myself...
To Be Continued…