My Story–All the Feels

This is a hard post to write because it is hard to look back at a time when you were so broken and remember everything you felt.

From day one in the hospital I was overwhelmed. I thought I had prepared myself for the birth of my son, but nothing can truly prepare your heart, your mind, your body for this life changing event.

My birth plan was thrown out the window, I was in labor for 19 hours ending with an emergency c-section. I was exhausted. I remember asking the doctor before surgery, “Are you sure my body can handle this?? Are you sure I will make it out alive?!?” Looking back now, I can see that my downhill spiral started before I even met my son for the first time. I was in a state of exhaustion, panic, and uncertainty.

Everything seemed to be hard. So hard. I wanted to breastfeed, but I felt like I was drowning every time I tried to feed my baby. I wanted to hold him close, but I wanted space.

My body was so swollen, I thought for sure I would never not be swollen. I couldn’t wear shoes for almost 10 days! In hindsight, that should not have been a big deal but at the time I was horrified by it. I wanted to run away from my body.

My c-section incision opened up on day 11 postpartum. That was terrifying. At this point, I remember asking my husband to promise me he would take care of my son if I died. And I was serious. I thought my time was coming to an end. Even when the doctors assured me I was ok and would heal, I didn’t believe them. I thought I would never get better. I didn’t really feel sad, I felt empty.

That first month is such a blur. I don’t really remember many other emotions. I know I loved my baby. I cuddled my baby and held him tightly. I was trying so hard to bond. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so distant. Then one day, it was like a light bulb switched on and I emerged from the fog. I’m not sure what exactly happened to make me feel different, but I did. I began to feel normal again. The second month was great. I was getting into my groove, baby and I were finding our way. Our bond grew strong and I began feeling confident in being a mom.

Then, just as seemingly as the light bulb switched on, it switched off. This time it attacked my sleep. One night I just laid awake all night long. This was around the time baby actually started sleeping. I thought maybe my body was just adjusting to a new routine (one where I wasn’t up every 2 hrs.) This is when my journey with postpartum depression got real.

I was so tired. I did not sleep for more than 2 hrs a night for about 2 weeks straight. The more this continued, the deeper the exhaustion became. The deeper the exhaustion became, the more guilty I was feeling for not being an energetic mom. The more guilty I become, the more broken I felt. The more broken I felt, the more I overcompensated by trying to convince myself I was actually fine. After all, I wasn’t sad, I didn’t want to run away, I didn’t feel depressed. I was just tired.

I remember crying to my mom one day, “What if he thinks I don’t love him?” Irrational thoughts.

I remember crying to my husband, “What if I never can sleep again? What if this lasts forever?” Anxious thoughts.

I remember crying to my sister, “Why is God allowing this to happen? Why??” Desperate thoughts.

Despite all this, I still did not know I was suffering from postpartum depression.

One of my biggest fears was that my son would think I didn’t love him. I worried that he would sense that something was wrong and because of that I cuddled, hugged, and kissed him more. I love him fiercely throughout it all. Trying desperately to shield him from this cloud I was seemingly in. I think that protective instinct a mother has for her children is really what led me to seek help. I needed to be the best version of myself for him and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.

I say that sleep was my biggest problem and for a while I convinced myself it was my only symptom of postpartum depression. Looking back though, the worst part of it all was the distance. I just felt so distant and disconnected with everything. I just didn’t realize it. The exhaustion masked all other feelings.

Determined to get the help I needed, I found a psychiatrist that finally diagnosed me with postpartum depression. There was a part of me that wanted to deny it, and a part of me that wanted to jump with joy that someone recognized it. I had seen so many doctors that just wanted to prescribe sleeping pills and tell me I was fine. It was refreshing to have someone clinically explain to me what I was experiencing. Sleep disturbances are often one of the first symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder.

We dealt with the insomnia first. Medicine that would help calm my thoughts and allow me to sleep. Reluctant to take the medicine, desperate for sleep, I struggled if this was the right choice. I needed sleep so desperately that I took the medicine. I slept. It was the right decision. Next, was addressing the underlying issue, the depression. Zoloft. I cringed when I heard the doctor tell me he would prescribe an anti-depressant. So many questions, emotions, thoughts ran through my head during the two-week struggle I had with myself over whether or not to take the medicine. I prayed for the Lord’s direction and guidance. I finally took the medicine. It helped. It allowed me to become the mom I was meant to be.

I usually tend to take a more holistic approach to my health, so in combination with the medicine I also changed my diet, added supplements, exercised, and saw a counselor who specialized in maternal mental health. Yes, I had to drive an hour to see her. Yes, I had to pay out of pocket. Yes, it was worth it. Above all, I prayed and then prayed some more. I realized that He never leaves our side, and will never give us more than we can handle. My Jesus, my savior, gave me the strength I didn’t have. I was broken, and He molded me back together.

I write this post with the hope that if you are reading this and feel anything like what I have described, please get the help that is right for you. Surround yourself with a support team, and talk to them about what you are feeling. It gets better once you acknowledge the issue.

You will sleep again. You will connect again. You will be ok.

My story– the events

I am writing this post to explain the events that led to my diagnosis of postpartum depression. I write this with the hopes that someone reading this may relate to it, know they are not alone, and realize they need to seek to help as well.

I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t crying all the time. I didn’t want to hide from the world. I didn’t feel depressed. I was tired. I was sooo tired.

About two months after Owen was born, I suddenly couldn’t sleep. I had never had sleeping problems before. I loved sleep (to be honest– I still do!) Something was happening. The first night I couldn’t sleep I chalked it up the fact that my 2-month old was finally semi-sleeping through the night and my body was just trying to adjust. The second night I lay awake wondering why I wasn’t sleeping. By the third night, I was exhausted I fell right to sleep, only to wake up 2 hours later. I was up for the rest of the night. Each night for the next week I would fall asleep for 2-3 hours, only be awake for the next 5 hours, and maybe fall asleep for another hour or so. Remember– this is all in between feedings of my then 2-month old son.

Over the next two weeks, I googled insomnia. I googled insomnia remedies. I tried relaxation techniques, yoga, herbal remedies, essential oils, prescription medicines. I tried prayer–oh how I prayed for sleep. By this point, I was a self-proclaimed insomnia ‘expert.’ I was so exhausted, I just wanted to disappear. I knew it was time for help.

I called my Ob/Gyn to see what she thought could be contributing to this sudden onset of insomnia. The nurse was extremely pleasant and explained sometimes postpartum hormones can wreck havoc on your body and made me an appointment to be seen. To say my doctor was less than helpful would be the understatement of the decade. Basically, summing it up she told me to take Tylenol PM with a glass of wine and go to bed. She never mentioned postpartum depression, or that one of the early signs of postpartum depression are sleep disturbances–while some people sleep the days away, some can’t sleep at all.

After a month of on and off sleeping I was convinced my body was physically incapable of sleeping through the night. There is nothing worse than laying awake while your baby and husband are sound asleep, counting down the hours to when you have to be awake and responsible for taking care of an infant. My husband was extremely supportive but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t make me sleep!

Out of sheer exhaustion, I felt like things were becoming distant. I was going through the motions, putting on a smile, but I felt like I was seeing everything from afar. My sister recognized something was wrong and told me I needed to see another doctor because I wasn’t acting myself. She was worried and brought up postpartum depression. I shrugged her off though because I wasn’t sad, I didn’t think I was depressed, I just needed to sleep.

I called back my OB and was basically told there was nothing they could do for me, but gave me the name of a psychiatrist who had awful reviews online. I was not about to call someone who I already had no confidence in. Ok, let’s take a time out here to point out the obvious. Here was a patient who clearly needed help and was showing and explaining clear signs of postpartum depression to their Ob/Gyn and they did NOTHING. An Ob/Gyn should be the first line of support for a new mother struggling with any sort of perinatal disorder. This country needs to do a better job educating these doctors in addressing the needs of their postpartum patients.

After my OB was no help, I made an appointment with my GP who prescribed me Ambien. Again, no mention of the term postpartum depression. This was now doctor #2 who blatantly overlooked serious signs. That was a very short-term fixed that did not last long. I just wanted to enjoy this precious special time with my baby, instead of being physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.

I was at a complete loss. I wanted help, knew I needed help, but did not know where to turn. My mother, finally realizing at this point that I needed help, reached out to her network of friends. In the meantime, we prayed together asking the Lord for guidance and direction and for help finding someone who could help me. On what seemed like a fluke, although looking back I believe it was divine intervention, I got an appointment with a psychiatrist. After our first meeting I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and was my road to recovery.

If this sounds anything like your story, I urge you to reach out and don’t give up. Find a good psychiatrist and/or therapist, ideally one that specializes in perinatal disorders. If you need to, please contact me and I will try to help connect you to local resources. You will get better. You don’t have to continue feeling this way. You will enjoy your life and your baby again. You will sleep.