One of the questions on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale asks if you’re having flashbacks of your birth experience. I have friends who have had c-sections that did and I was worried I would too.
Thankfully, I haven’t thought too much about Baby J’s delivery, but I have been experiencing is flashbacks to the first two months of G’s life. I cried daily, nearly all day. I had a baby who hated sleep. I felt isolated during the day.
I had postpartum depression, but I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) admit it. I thought I was just tired. I thought life would get better with the next milestone.
I thought I was just having a terrible time adjusting to motherhood. After all, they say it’s not an easy job, right?
This latest fourth trimester has brought me back to those nightmarish weeks seven years ago. Once again, I have a baby who hates sleep. Once again, I’m crying (though, it’s usually at the end of a rough day). Once again, I’m on meds for postpartum depression. But this time I haven’t made excuses. I’ve learned that, with time, things will get better. I just need to keep fighting.
I originally wrote this post for Postpartum Progress in 2016. But since I have been thinking back to those darker days, I wanted to share it here as well in case it resonates with anyone else who is struggling at the moment.
I found out I was pregnant on Christmas Eve.
I found out we lost our baby on Presidents Day, barely two months later. I had a D&C that same evening.
I did my best to act like I was okay after that when all I wanted was to crawl into bed and live there. Months went by.
I thought I would be better when I got pregnant again.
I was wrong.
I was terrified of losing another baby. I had anxiety attacks leading up to doctor appointments. My husband, who could clearly see I wasn’t myself, asked our OB if my level of anxiety was normal. Twice.
At each of those appointments, our OB simply stated it was perfectly normal to be anxious after a loss. I believed her. Our OB was the expert, right?
I felt anything but normal. Nothing could be the same as that rainy day in February when we were told there was no heartbeat. I refused to wear certain clothes. I considered rescheduling appointments if the forecast called for rain. I didn’t feel joy in being pregnant.
I had pregnancy anxiety and didn’t know it. I didn’t know it was a real illness. I didn’t know I could have—should have—been treated for it.
I thought I would be okay when I gave birth and could hold my baby.
I was wrong.
I became dehydrated during labor and developed a fever. When I gave birth to my eldest son, I only remember patting his head and telling my husband to hold him first.
I thought I was too tired to make the effort.
I was wrong.
I had zero interest in trying to bond with our oldest son at first. When I finally felt an urge to hold him, admire him, bond with him 15 hours later, he was promptly taken away for routine tests due to my fever. We didn’t see him for several hours.
We were told our baby was septic and needed to be moved to the NICU for antibiotics. He was placed under the bilirubin lights because he was jaundiced as well.
Hooked up to monitors and IVs and needing the lights meant we could only hold our son to feed him for the next five days. I cried. A lot.
When we finally came home as a family I cried all the time. I had thoughts of my baby getting hurt. I wanted to run away. I was exhausted. I was obsessed over the baby’s weight and whether he was getting enough milk from me. I felt a lot of anger and resentment towards my husband for being able to sleep through every little noise our baby made at night. I looked at my son and only felt the instinct to protect him—the love I expected to feel for him immediately upon seeing him hadn’t happened.
I thought I was having a hard time adjusting to motherhood.
I was wrong.
People could tell I wasn’t myself, but no one said anything until I broke down at our son’s one-month appointment and was encouraged by the nurse practitioner to ask my OB about postpartum depression.
I was diagnosed with it two weeks later at my six-week visit with the midwife, who also handed me a prescription for an antidepressant.
I began seeing a therapist several months later. She was a saving grace as she helped me work through my anger and anxiety.
I didn’t think I would ever enjoy my son. I thought I would need to take a pill for the rest of my life in order to be a mother that was just “good enough.”
I was wrong.
G was nine months old when I felt my heart swell with love for him. He was 15 months old when I realized I was enjoying being his mom—medication free.
One day you will find yourself smiling at your child as you watch them play. One day you will laugh with them and realize you’re truly enjoying them. One day you will look at them and feel all the love in the world for them.