Surviving Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
I’ve blogged about Logan’s absolutely perfect home birth story before, but what I haven’t shared is the after birth story. I’ve been hesitant to blog about this, mainly because I’ve just been trying to deal and cope with it. Admittedly, I’ve also been afraid of the stigma attached to it and that others reading this would look at me differently or think I’m a bad mom. I guess I’ll just rip off the band-aid and say it. For the past 20 months, I’ve been struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. I can happily say that I’m doing a million times better now and maybe that’s why I can finally put it down into words.
For the first 11 months I denied it. PPD? Nope, not me. PPA? Never. I thought that by admitting that I was struggling with postpartum anything, that I was saying I didn’t love my baby enough. That I was saying I wasn’t good enough as a mom. That couldn’t have been any further from the truth. I loved Logan before I even met him and the moment he was placed in my arms, I knew that I had a much greater purpose in life. I know now that PPD & PPA does not equal that you are a bad mom or that you don’t love your child enough. If anything, it might indicate that you love your child a little too much (hence the anxiety).
To explain how I ended up here, let’s go back to July 10, 2010. That was the day my little guy decided to take the world (and his parents) by surprise and arrived an entire month early. His birth was the most incredible experience of my life, filled with anticipation and joy, it was better than expected. As our midwives weighed and checked him out right next to me on the bed, Logan didn’t take his eyes off of me. He depended on me and I felt the weight of that immense responsibility on my shoulders at that moment. I was probably the most over-prepared mommy to be, reading books about breastfeeding to potty training, but now that he was here I was freaking out inside. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
I didn’t sleep a wink that first night. I just stared at my baby all night, making sure that he was still breathing. The next morning, our day was filled with appointments. We saw our midwives, Logan’s pediatrician and the lactation consultant. We were going, going, going. We never had the opportunity to just sit and enjoy being a family of 3. We discovered that Logan had to have an ultrasound to rule out hip dysplasia, that he had jaundice, that he wouldn’t breastfeed, that he wasn’t fond of eating period, that he had colic, that he was losing weight. The list goes on.
Logan had weight checks almost every day for the first month, and I remember the anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I put him on the scale. They threatened to hospitalize if we couldn’t get his weight up. Attempting to breastfeed, bottle feed and pump became a 24/7 hour job. It would take a painful hour to get my baby to drink an ounce, and then I had to keep him upright for half an hour after so it didn’t come back up. I still get that anxious feeling when I go in for well-checks or when I hear someone call him “skinny”, even though he’s a completely healthy toddler now who has followed the same growth curve from 3 months on.
For the first 10 months of Logan’s life, I documented his every movement. I could tell you how many wet diapers he had, how many ounces he ate and how much he slept. It started to feel like I couldn’t function without the lists, like something bad would happen if I didn’t know exactly how many bowel movements he had in a day. I also documented every single ounce I pumped and became extremely anxious about not being able to keep up with Logan, even though I had oversupply issues. Granted, all of this record keeping was necessary in the beginning with Logan’s weight issues but it became obsessive and irrational. Hello PPA.
And then there was the sleep deprivation. Logan wouldn’t sleep for more than 45 minutes on his own. The pedi had me waking Logan for feeds at night in the beginning, and needing a bottle to sleep quickly turned into a habit for him. I was averaging maybe a couple hours of broken sleep every night. I was a walking zombie. A short-tempered, anxious and sleep deprived zombie. My husband steered clear of me and I can’t say I blame him. I learned how incredibly isolating and lonely being a stay at home mom can be (but doesn’t have to be).
Leaving the house? Yeah, we just didn’t do that in the first 3 months. Unless we had a weight check to go to or an appointment with one of our lactation consultants, we didn’t leave home. We mostly didn’t leave home because Logan had colic, but also because it made me panic. My thoughts would race and sometimes I’d get us all buckled in the car and wouldn’t be able to make myself leave the house. That was right around the time I realized I needed help. Finally, when Logan turned 11 months I made an appointment with a midwife and got on meds, I also started therapy and chucked my pump out the window.
Nine months later and I’m no longer trapped in my anxiety, my racing thoughts no longer consume me. I’m successfully off meds and have made eating well and working out a priority. My day doesn’t get thrown off if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. I’m a better mother. I wish I would have sought help 20 months ago. Part of me feels like I missed out on the first year of my child’s life because PPD & PPA consumed my life, but I did the best I could and I’m content in that. In a way, Logan’s colic was a blessing for me because I discovered the joy of babywearing and I think that helped me build such a strong attachment to him from the very beginning when it might have been difficult to otherwise. I realize that I don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom. Thank goodness for that, because I’m sure I’ll make plenty of mistakes!
If this helps just one mother out there muster up the courage to go and get help, it was worth hitting the “publish” button. If you feel like you might have postpartum depression or anxiety, please don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor. You will be glad you did!