Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Had Postpartum Depression and I Didn't Know It


My first postpartum experience was awful. But I didn't know it at the time. I couldn't see how extremely difficult things were in the midst of it all, but looking back after a second postpartum experience, I really wish I would have reached out for help.


I had:

-lots of pain, took Percocet for a week+ and then Ibuprofen for almost a month

-nightly periods of sadness, like clockwork from 7-9 pm, every night for about 2 weeks

-lots of blood clots, one HUGE one that scared the crap out of me (I literally thought, this is it, I can't have children anymore; we went to the ER, I was fine)

-breastfeeding pains, and a cracked nipple that made me dread every single feeding for about 4 weeks (its seriously no fun to dread feedings, you're supposed to enjoy those!)

-sadness and anxiety (I assumed this was how it was to be a first-time mom. Everytime she cried I immediately got anxious and nervous, even if her crying was easily and predictably fixed by a feeding or being held.)

-was in a constant sleep-deprived fog (the Percocet probably didn't help, I ALWAYS felt groggy, like I couldn't snap out of it, I couldn't think straight most of the time)

-frequent headaches that would last for days

-low fever (should I be concerned? Is this normal? I had no idea)

-constant back pain (I later realized was due to unsupportive nursing bras)

-UTI (thankfully Ava's pediatrician helped me out at her 2-week check up and I didn't have to make another appointment)

-crazy hormones - a permanent kink in my hair (still have it! It's almost down to my shoulders now), a ridge in my fingernails, intense night sweats

I didn't know to ask for help from my doctor because I assumed this was just "how it was" to have a new baby. I didn't know it didn't have to be so dang hard. I remember thinking of how I never wanted to have a baby again, and it made me so sad to think about those feelings. How could I not want another baby? How did I go from wanting a baby so badly and then having a pretty perfectly happy pregnancy to this dark hole I now found myself in? I loved Ava dearly, but I was not enjoying being her mommy. The cards and congratulations began to flood in immediately after her birth, but even those didn't lift me up. If anything, it made me feel worse - "What is wrong with me? I'm trying to be happy...I think I am happy...I am supposed to be happy".

I spent a lot of time wondering how in the world everyone else who had a baby survived. How they managed to get back to their normal day to day activities. I saw friends who took their tiny babies on camping trips, road trips, and just got out and did things. Everyday things. Those things seemed so hard or impossible to me! I don't think I managed to get a dinner made until Ava was a few months old. I just couldn't get my act together. The new mommies with hair done and makeup on and a put-together outfit made me more confused. I was lucky to have brushed my teeth and put on pants for the day! And it really bothered me. I had done all this waiting to become a mother, and I was so excited to soak up and enjoy every minute, and it was not turning out to be what I thought. At all. I knew it would be hard, that my life would change permanently, but I was almost angry that it was so hard for me.

I think I just had rotten luck with my first postpartum experience. I had major abdominal surgery that was rushed to save Ava, I was a first-time mom, I had a really rough start with breastfeeding, Ava was a cat napper so I rarely got to catch up on sleep, AND I got slammed with crazy hormones and emotions - most likely postpartum depression. I think what made it hard for me to recognize that I had it was that I loved Ava, I treasured her, and I was so thankful to have her. Everything I had read suggested that if you had PPD that you wouldn't want to hold your baby, that you wouldn't even like your baby. And that was not the case with me.

I know now after my second postpartum experience that you really shouldn't feel that different after having a baby. Tired, of course, maybe a little overwhelmed, emotional - sure, but not out of it for weeks on end.

This time:

-well controlled, short-lived pain (came off of all meds by 1 week)

-one or two emotional days

-mild breastfeeding pain, resolved in 2 weeks' time (the Lactation Consultant described Liam as an "aggressive nurser")

-tired, but not in a fog

-back pain (resolved once I wore a more supportive nursing bra)

-most of all, I feel like I can function and I feel pretty normal and happy!

Liam is definitely more of a crier than Ava was as a newborn. I've been reminding myself lately, for a lot of reasons, that God never gives you more than you can handle. I suppose I was meant to have PPD the first time around so that I could really appreciate little Liam and this postpartum experience! Liam is a better sleeper but usually isn't content when he's awake unless he's being held. He cries when he's hungry and cries when he's tired...which may sound totally and completely normal to most people, but Ava never did! She never cried at night - I just heard her rustling in her crib and knew to go to her. Ava spoiled us with her amazing temperament, but the trade-off was her 20 minute naps! If God gave me Liam first, with all of his fussing, I think I truly would have gone off the deep end!

My point in sharing all of this, is that there is a postpartum depression spectrum - it might be really apparent that you have it, or you may have some symptoms but not others, and you could also just have a touch of depression. Don't be like me and assume that everything is "fine" and that your experience is "normal". If it feels hard, say something! I'm not even sure I knew how to put the words together, but saying "I don't feel right" probably would have been enough. It's pretty amazing what our bodies can do, but sometimes our minds need a little bit of help to recover, too!

Let's bust down these walls us moms hide behind to pretend like everything is great and fine just for the sake of making it look like we have our s#*& together! That's not real! Becoming a mother for the first time (and the second time!) is seriously the hardest thing I've ever done! God made women multi-taskers for a reason - we'd never be able to raise babies otherwise! I think it is way more important for us to all support each other and reach out to say "how are you really doing" instead of trying to compete. We all want validation that we are not the only ones going through this madness! We all love our babies. We love our families. We love to feel accepted and cared for and prayed for.

So join me!!

3 comments:

  1. I had horrible PPD. It was the scariest thing I ever felt. I still wanted to hold my baby and I loved her, but I was struggling to function. Depression has been a struggle for me for years, but I had never felt anything like that. The hardest piece for me was giving up breastfeeding in exchange for the medication that would help me start functioning again. So many people shame you for not breastfeeding, and here I was giving it up. Over time, I came to realize that while breastfeeding is a good thing, being a functioning mother was more important. I still felt judged every time I went to the store to buy formula, but I knew that it was the right choice for us. I wish everyone would seek to understand versus judge. It isn't easy being a parent and we should be holding each other up versus dragging each other down. I'm glad to hear this time around has been emotionally easier for you.

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    1. Can't tell who ME is... first time I posted on a blog :) It is Mary Page (ME is my first two initials and my nickname from my godmother)

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    2. Hi Mary! I'm sorry to hear you had a rough time too - thank you for sharing your story! It's so nice to know we aren't alone! A healthy mommy is the best mommy for sure! Motherhood is such a learning curve!

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