My third son was born March 2, 2009. I worked from home over my maternity leave but the day I was to return to the office full-time was inevitable. Nine short weeks after giving birth I was set to go back. Some new moms look at this as an escape. A place to go everyday to “get away from it all”. Me? Not so much.
My family and I had just relocated to a new home about twenty-five miles from where we lived for years. We were settling in as best as we could with a new baby always wanting something. A boob to feed from, daddy’s warm chest to sleep on, a brother’s lap to have exploding diaper on. This new life in my world was exhausting yet, the most rewarding experience to date. He simply fascinates me.
May 11, 2009 came too fast. That morning, I woke up my little guy and fed him for the last time until I would return home from the daily grind. It tore me up from the inside out. I cried my eyes out during that feeding and didn’t stop for most of the drive to work. This went on for about eight weeks. The kicker here is my husband was home with the baby. I wasn’t leaving him with someone I barely knew simply because she was licensed for it. My husband took care of the kids during the day and went to school at night. What a trooper!
Eight weeks of crying when I left in the morning. Eight weeks of trying to hide my tears from the man’s world I worked in. Seriously, do you know how hard it is to explain to men why you’re crying, again? It sucked. I remember asking people on Facebook about Postpartum Depression (PPD). Could I possibly have it? Was I just being “that chick” who couldn’t be away from her baby? I knew the severity of my situation when I finally picked up the phone and dialed my Gynecologist’s phone number. I cried through leaving that message for him to please call me back, to please help me to feel normal again. What was wrong with me?
The main reason I avoided placing this call for so long? I was completely against medication. I didn’t want to feel clouded and disconnected all the time. I was close-minded to the fact that medication could actually help me to feel better. To heal. To baby-sit my brain. You see I didn’t have the “strand” if you will, of PPD that directed me to want to cause harm to my baby. I just couldn’t be away from him. Ever. It used to only hit me during the week while I was at work. Then it started creeping in on Saturday night and Sunday morning over coffee and it invaded my sacred space.
So I started taking medication. I swallowed that pill every night at 9:30pm like clockwork. Then the side effects hit. I got delusional. I become zombie-like exhausted. I couldn’t remember if I said goodnight to my two oldest boys some nights. I would drive to work and then home and wonder how I got there. I became paranoid and anxious. Yet, somehow I knew this pill was helping. I needed to allow my body to adjust. To keep trucking on. And I did.
I never had PPD before. I gave birth to two other boys and now I was dealing with this? What I didn’t understand is the stuff that’s withheld from us during pregnancy. I was pissed off! Why wasn’t I screened? Why wasn’t I told of the warning signs? Why did I have to be diagnosed from a friend on Facebook? Why… Why… Why… I remember reading somewhere, I wish I could remember, that once you wait six years before having another baby, your body treats it as if it’s your first all over again. Is this true? The hell if I know but from what I’ve been through, it seems so.
Every few weeks I was to visit with a Psychiatrist to monitor my medication. Around my second visit I confessed to still feeling a lot of anxiety. So my dose was upped. The drawback? I was told that I could feel the side effects all over again. Seriously? Yes. And boy did I feel it. Luckily, I gradually upped the dose and started on a Friday. I literally spent that weekend on the couch because I was exhausted. Add 4:00am feedings to the mix and I was a mess.
This is an excerpt from a blog post written back in August 2009, to give you a better idea of my state of mind:
The question I raise here is, is it really worth it? Millions of women go undiagnosed with their Postpartum Depression all the time and they get through it. Did I hate it when I would go from soaring laughter to a crying fit in a matter of seconds, hell yes! But do I hate living in a fog more? Absolutely. I’m considering coming off the meds. I take a lot of pills everyday for various reasons. I have alarms set up on my phone so as not to forget to swallow them at the appropriate times. I’m sick of feeling the way I feel. I don’t spend as much time with my older boys because of it. My poor husband is basically my roommate right now, I went to give him a hug yesterday and he thought I was asking him for help to get up off the couch, OUCH! The only person who gets any attention anymore is the baby. Granted he’s still new, five months old, but come on!
Three kids in and NOW I get the PPD? With the first two, I blinked and they were walking, smooth sailing all the way. Xavier comes along and I’m really digging this mom thing all over again. Really appreciating it, I mean it is ten years after I had my last one so I’m much more mature and patient.
So what does a girl do? Live like a creature out of the Thriller video in a haze… or… cry all day, everyday and appreciate what life has dealt me because, this too shall pass? It shouldn’t be this hard.
I remained on the medication. Within two weeks of writing that post, I felt amazingly great. Truly. I had hit my magic dosage! I came across a couple of fantastic blogs with all the right information at my fingertips Postpartum Progress and Beyond Postpartum. These girls were there for me on my good days and bad days. Sometimes a woman would come along in the early stages of PPD and I was actually able to help out. What a great feeling!
Then in September, I hit a gray patch:
This depression is a battle I can’t seem to keep under control. Just the other night I had to ask my husband “Did I take my pills last night?” which, I did but it didn’t feel like it. I was at home, surrounded by all the men of the house (big and small) and yet I felt so down and out. I’m tired and depressed, again!
How do I defeat it? I don’t want a temporary fix, I want it gone, permanently!
I started eating better. I started exercising again. I’m sleeping really well. It seems no matter what I do, it isn’t enough.
It feels like my head is a balloon filled with helium and the string is tied to my body. Any moment it’s going to take flight and I can’t get back down to the ground. I’m having trouble following through with just about every aspect of my life. If I don’t write it down, I forget. If I write it down, I tend to ignore it.
I’m mad that I can’t be at home full time taking care of my baby. My husband is working so hard to balance school and family life. He’s doing such a great job and I’m so proud of him.
I just want to be normal. I just want to laugh and really mean it. I want the smile I have on the outside to reflect on the inside. I feel like a fake. Someone pop this balloon and make me feel whole again…
So you probably already guessed that my dose was upped again. I was now at the maximum level I could take and still safely breastfeed. Breastfeeding was the one thing I wasn’t going to stop because I was sick. And I stuck to my guns. This is the thing. When you’re taking medication for PPD, or for any illness, you’re still going to have off days. Did my Psychiatrist tell me this? No. Up’s and down’s come with the territory. It’s a long and ugly battle. You have to remain strong and as focused as possible to destroy the demons lurking in the shadows.
During this whole time, in the back of my head, I was curious as to when I could stop taking the medication. Could I ever stop taking the medication? I asked this question at one of my Psychiatrist visits and he quickly told me that some women never come off them. Just another thing I wasn’t told at the get-go.
Time passed on. I had some really fantastic days and some really shitty days. Instead of paying my Psychiatrist to analyze me in person, I switched to checking in by phone. He recommended I see a therapist but I never went. I wish I had. I am very stubborn. A few months ago during one of my call-ins, we decided to begin tapering my dose down. Slowly. Just like the list of side-effects when you start a new medication there is a list for when you come off as well. I am now medication free. It has only been a handful of days since I stopped altogether but I’m finished. Depression wise I feel cured. It’s true what I had read. One day, a switch is going to be turned off and you’re going to feel normal again. I never thought it would happen but it did. I was amazed. In awe really.
Today? I’m very, very tired. I think it’s going to take a good month of being medication free before the feeling of lethargy goes away. I’m good with that.
Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD. These are all very real. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. The quicker you get the help you need and deserve, the better off you will be. Do you have to take medication? Absolutely not. Only you and your doctor can come up with the plan that is best for you. When you feel better, the people around you will feel better. To all the husbands of the wives experiencing this, it is very real and it is very serious. None of these illnesses should be joked about or shunned to the side. Help her! She’ll thank you for it when the sun shines through the clouds on her again, and they will, just be patient.