January 7th - I gave birth to a very beautiful baby girl, 8 lbs, 2 oz, after a mear 3 1/2 hours of labor.
It was love at first sight...
Well not exactly. I never did feel that overwhelming love that all of these "perfect" mothers speak of. I was in awe, yes, but love... I don't think so. I didn't believe she was mine. I didn't have that magical connection to this small being that I was now responsible and holding onto in the hospital. Throughout the stay in the hospital I made my hardest attempt at breastfeeding. I didn't know if I could because of the breast surgery I had when I was in my early 20's. I kept asking for help from the LC but she was as much help as a rock. I left the hospital on January 8th uncertain of our breastfeeding relationship.
January 10th - I was at home with the new baby, my husband, dog, and mom. I was breastfeeding. At least, trying too. She would cry and cry and cry when I tried to put her on the breast. All she did was cry. She was starving, dehydrated, and melting away. We had no wet or dirty diapers for more than 24 hours. I'm talking, completely dry. I was scared, worried, and I felt like a huge failure of a mother. She was starving.
I made the devastating (to me) decision to go with my mom to buy formula. I hated walking down that aisle. HATED it. I cried the entire time I was there. I hated that I had to be one of those moms that went down that there to pick up food for her baby. WHY wasn't I able to provide for her? We didn't even have bottles in the house! When I got home, I made her a bottle, closely following the instructions, and gave it to her. The crying stopped. She was happy and full.
I, on the other hand, I was beaten and broken. I couldn't believe I just failed.
January 11th - The baby's first doctor's appointment. I had to admit to the pedi that I wasn't breastfeeding (what a stab to the gut) and as they weighed her, she had lost more than a pound of body weight. Being who I am, I just knew the pedi would think the worse of me, that I gave up to easily and that I, of course, was a huge failure and a bad mom. However, she asked, moved on, and we were done with our appointment.
My milk later came in around the 12th or 13th and for some reason my husband was under the impression that I shouldn't try again and that we couldn't mix breast milk and formula. Me being overstressed, tired, and defeated, I didn't fight with him or argue. This is a decision that I will regret for the rest of my life. It is only now that I have come to terms with it.
At some point J went back to work. I was home, alone, with the baby. The first couple weeks were okay. I enjoyed it. We got plenty of sleep and I just loved spending time with my baby. We got out, went on walks, I was happy. I would have some small outbursts of frustration, but I was OK.
I started back work full time in April. I worked from home Feb - the end of March. The first day was great. It was nice to be around adults. I enjoyed being at work. But that soon was short lived. I can't tell you when it all really began because I'm not sure when it did. There wasn't a switch that turned me from "okay" to "not." I slowly began to not be able to sleep. I started waking up in a panic. I would have nightmares of the baby dieing, of me killing her, or her being stolen by some faceless stranger. Then the visions started. I would be doing household chores, walking in the mall, driving the car... and I would envision myself seriously harming my baby.
What mother thinks these things?
I pushed the thoughts aside and tried to not think much of them. After all, who wants to admit these things? Maybe it's stress? I was also just going through the motions of caring for my baby but not really connecting with her. It's a hard feeling to explain.
Well the nightmares, panic/anxiety attacks, and visions all continued. When I started working, that meant being home alone with the baby while my husband was working. I would have nights where I was SO tired and the baby would NOT stop crying. It was terrifying. I would go into rages of anger because she wouldn't stop. I had a hard time controlling my actions and to be honest, I came very close to shaking my baby. It's heartbreaking to even type that out.
June - I FINALLY recognize that something is wrong. Something isn't normal with my behavior. I'm not feeling happy. I on the verge of tears 24/7. The anger is instantaneous, my brain is "snapping" and I'm "seeing red." I'm having thoughts of hurting my daughter because she won't eat/sleep. I'm fighting with my husband on a daily basis and it's at this point, I realize, that THIS will tear us apart if I don't get help. I'm in a scary situation.
I finally pulled myself together and called my OB to make an appointment and I was finally able to clue my husband into what I was feeling. He recognized something wasn't right, but he wasn't sure what to do. Before my appointment, I found a PPD checklist and going through it I could mark off "Yes" for majority of the symptoms for PPD and also 4 of 7 for PPP (Postpartum psychosis). I also read that I'm at a higher risk level for developing PPD if I have family members with bi-polar or manic depression.
What I notice most up to my doctor's appointment is the amount of panic/anxiety attacks I'm having. Life was overwhelming and I couldn't focus on one thing in order to complete it. I did manage to make it through creating a "list" of my symptoms that I have and things that I was feeling. It's scary getting it out on paper. Also, after many hours of having an email open, I finally sent an email to my doctor to bring up PPD to me, if I didn't myself.
June 11, 2010 - My doctor's appointment. Oh how I dreaded that day. I spent so much time running back and forth to the bathroom because my stomach was upset. I was in a full out anxiety attack. I was nauseous, my face was flushed, my heart was racing. It was horrible.
The actual appointment went well. I had J stay home with the baby. I NEEDED to do this on my own. I spoke with the nurse who took my vitals and asked if an intern could observe the appointment. I politely declined and told her that I needed to speak to him about PPD and I didn't want the intern there.
After undressing and getting ready for my annual exam (killing two birds with one stone here) he asked me if I was just feeling shitty or if what I was feeling was much worse. I let him know that I was feeling pretty bad and that it's been going on for a while. I mentioned the need to cry all the time and that was pretty much all I could get out. The doctor was so gentle and kind. As he continued to check my heart and listen to my lungs he asked me why I didn't call him sooner and that nobody deserves to feel like this for so long. We finished up the annual exam and then went to his office for a chat.
He asked some general type questions and if I had depression in the past and if what I'm feeling the same or worse than what it was when I was younger. I let him know abut the lack of sleep from the nightmares, the anger, and how I was snapping at my husband. I had an entire list of symptoms ready to give him and I never even needed it. I'm thankful for that. My OB is amazing.
That day, I could finally start to see the light. It might have been a pin drop of light, but I saw it. I was prescribed Lexapro.
June 17th - My first (and last) appointment with a physcologist. I really wanted this visit to be a positive one. I was looking forward to having talk therapy to work through my issues. However, that appointment didn't turn out so well. The lady seemed nice enough, but some of the comments she said to me, just didn't sit well.
The biggest one was:
"Well it's probably easier for you to formula feed since your working and everything, it's a lot of work."
Knowing that breastfeeding was the one thing I truly wanted to do. Why would she say this to me?
Needless to say, I never went back.
December 2010 - I'm doing well. The medication helped me come out of the darkness. I had/have less panic and anxiety attacks and I'm able to handle stressful situations better. I have been able to connect with my daughter and not nag my husband so much.
I weaned myself from the medication in September and I've been doing okay. I still notice that I am having anxiety attacks when I'm overally stressed or in the car with my husband (I swear I'm going to have a heart attack every time he drives!). I've done a lot better with voicing to my husband how I'm feeling in the moment so I'm not bottling it up and exploding later. He gets frustrated with me, I wish he wouldn't because I really don't mean to act the way I do sometimes. I do still have a hard time with a crying screaming baby when it's 1 am and I need to go to bed for work. But I'm working on it.
To any other woman who thinks she might have PPD, please speak up. Go to your doctor, talk to your significant other, your best friend, just reach out to somebody and get help. You don't need to suffer. I spent MONTHS suffering quietly to myself and it was horrible (as I'm sure you know). Woman need to be more open about the struggles after birth, especially with PPD. I know many woman who just "dealt with it" and never actually got the help they needed. I pledged to myself to always be open and willing to talk to what I went through, because maybe, JUST maybe, one woman would benefit.