Post Partum Depression
It washed over me less than 24 hours after giving birth to my first child. I didn’t know what it was at first. The pain meds, the exhaustion, how things hadn’t gone as planned. All I knew is that I felt a suffocating blanket being laid on top of me…something tightening around my throat.
I remember the moment I first felt something was wrong. My mom’s best friend brought a book for the baby and for me…”On the Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman. “Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn…” It made me think of Daddy, who just went to heaven a mere 8 months prior. Could he see her? Could he see me? Look Daddy! You have a granddaughter. Y’all would be such great pals.
I had read in my pregnancy books about the post partum blues, how it could be worse and be, gasp! Depression. Not me, I skipped over those parts. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since teen years, but at this point of my life I wasn’t on medication and I had a great marriage. Why would I have post partum depression? But THAT’S just the thing with mental illnesses – EVERYTHING around us can be great, but, IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. The voices, the images, the fear, the crippling fear…just doesn’t go away because everything else is ok.
I had this image of what my daughter would look like, and she didn’t look like that at all. She was supposed to be a plump porcelain doll, rather she was a long, skinny baby with splotchy skin. I was supposed to have a vaginal delivery, but ended up in C-section after 12+ hours in labor. Not as planned. But I knew I LOVED her, I had no idea how much that love would grow.
The first few days after being home were hard. She didn’t latch on right away, which resulted in nipple shields, hospital grade pumps, all this shit that was supposed to make her and I do something that we were supposed to be able to naturally do! What was wrong with me? With her?
The suffocating blanket started to get heavier. I didn’t talk for a while. I went mute actually. Just sat there and cried, while my newborn daughter lay beside me and I googled and WebMD’d every possible symptom of colon cancer and breast cancer, because I knew I had both – FOR HOURS. It was a complete obsession. I was going to die. I had this beautiful little person, and I was only going to live maybe a year with her. She would never know me. My sister took me to have a breast ultrasound – clogged milk duct. I also ended up having a colonoscopy – several internal polyps. Relief there wasn’t cancer then, but in time it would turn to another infatuation of cancer somewhere else in my body. But that’s for another story.
I woke up every morning with my first thought was “Is it gone? Is today normal?” I’d lay there and stare at the wall for hours, at least it felt like that. My sister and mom came over EVERY DAY while my husband went to work. They made sure the baby was fed, changed, snuggled. I was too numb. I couldn’t even shower myself. My husband would come every night, so excited to see the baby, and I was SO MAD. How could he be so happy? Why didn’t he have the heavy blanket? I wasn’t mad at him, just mad. It wasn’t fair. I grew her. I birthed her. But I was the one left with the sorrow, the worries. I was so afraid I was going to hurt her. The images were unimaginable. My mind was SICK. I knew I would never go through with them, but they were there. Chasing me daily.
I tried to get out of the house once when she was about 2 months old. My sister took me to a shopping center. I ended up in shakes outside the children’s store. I couldn’t see real people. Real people leading normal lives. She took me back home. Friends, family, would bring meals to the house, and I would hide. Or sometimes I didn’t even care enough to go in another room. I’d simply just not speak or even look at them. It took way too much energy.
Finally, I knew I had to get medical help. I couldn’t live this way. I went to the psychiatrist I had before. She prescribed heavy doses right away of depression and anxiety medications. 6 weeks she said. It could take 6 weeks to kick in. I wouldn’t survive 6 weeks. But somehow, I did. I cried and stared at walls. I was dirty from not showering. I was numb. Sad.
Somehow that baby is now 7 years old and she has a little sister who is 1. My doctors made sure I stayed on my medications while pregnant, which I haven’t stopped taking from 7 years ago. I will be on them the rest of my life. But that’s ok. I just thank God there is something out there to help. Otherwise, I would not be here. No doubt in my mind.
I met Carla two years ago”ish” and really got to know her once her daughter joined Girl Scouts. We hit it off and one day we had a first deep conversation at the Y on the bench across from me as I type this. We shared our struggles with depression and a few other demons that reside within us. I had met a person that battled just as hard as I did and now I call her one of my closest friends. Funny though that I didn’t know how dark her struggle was with post partum depression until recently. She’s a beautiful soul and I’m blessed to know her. You can view her blog here.