Today, I was cruising through the Scary Mommy site and came across a post about a mom who was telling her postpartum story. As I read it, I realized that she and I had a lot in common and I realized that if she and I had so much in common, maybe one of you out there may have faced or are facing the same thing. So, this is my brave:
First, I need to give a brief back story. I promise to keep it very brief. When I was 19 weeks pregnant, my baby and I lost his father. It was an accident based on stupidity and (as I eventually learned) was ruled incorrectly by the police. I spent the next couple of months trying to deal with his “suicide” until I learned that it was an accidental fall. It was traumatic, no matter how you looked at it.
Somewhere, in the days following the accident, someone made me go to the doctor to make sure everything was ok with the baby. I remember laying on the table, waiting to hear a heartbeat and it took them FOREVER to find one, but they did and things were ok. They got me some medication to fight the nausea so that I would be able to at least try to eat something and immediately got me into therapy. When I say immediately, I mean I had my first session before we even had the funeral. My therapist was wonderful and I kept her for two months after I had my son.
During all of this, I lived with a family member and while I was exhausted, I seemed to be doing ok. My therapist had no need to worry about any kind of postpartum other than the usual hormonal shifts that occur after having a baby. Life seemed ok and I found a little apartment for my baby and I and moved in quickly.
We lived out in the boonies. No one was going to know that the house was out there, and if they did, there was no way they were coming to the house undetected. We had a huge long, winding lane to our house and it seemed that someone was always awake. I was safe as I could be, and so was my baby. However, as the days went by, I started to get weird.
I would stay up through a large portion of the night. I would check on my son every 15-20 minutes, even though he was usually asleep beside me or even on me. I started to worry about silly little things that never seemed to bother me before. I would bawl at diaper commercials (yes…seriously…I remember the commercial well and if I were to see it today, I may burst into tears just because) and seemed to be preparing for the worst. I didn’t get any kind of real quality sleep until my sons daytime naps because I felt better during the day.
I remember, one day, my sister and I were leaving the house and we drove by a cop. I was certain that someone had called them on me and they were headed to my house to try to find a reason to take my child from me…even though I knew that there was nothing wrong. It wasn’t just a little paranoia. I had trouble breathing, broke into a sweat and wanted to turn around and go home and lock the doors and pull the blinds. My sister was able to calm me down a bit and told me I was freaking out because I needed to sleep. “Maybe she’s right” I thought.
Things like this happened several more times before my next doctors appointment. I hated feeling that way and I ended up staying home as much as possible. When I went for my next appointment, I filled out their little postpartum depression survey and passed with flying colors. I tried to tell the PA about what was happening and was told that it was totally normal and that things would get back to normal shortly.
The days went by and it was more of the same. We left the house only when we absolutely had to and I always preferred to have someone with me. This, however, was totally unrealistic and I found myself alone with my son a majority of the time. When he was awake, everything seemed to be absolutely fine. He was a perfect distraction and so long as we were home, life was good…for a while.
I started getting really nervous when I had to leave him alone while I went to the bathroom. I was sure something was going to happen to him. This progressed into complete meltdowns while I was showering, which I would only do when he was asleep for the night. Before I would get into the shower, I had to close all the curtains, lock all the windows and doors and sometimes I would pull his crib as close as I could to the bathroom door. (Our bathroom was right off of our shared bedroom) While I was showering, after going through the lockdown process, I was SURE I heard people in my apartment. I would rush and get out in under three minutes. I would first check the baby and then go through the house and make sure that no one had gotten in somehow.
I called my doctor and they had me come into the office. I explained to her what had happened and was once again told that it was “normal” and that I was likely “dealing with the trauma” of losing my husband (he wasn’t) and “learning my new mommy instincts”. They wrote me a prescription for Zoloft and sent me on my way. Somewhere in my gut I knew this wasn’t normal, but I wanted there to be a resolution so badly that I went along with it.
Then the night came that I saw myself. I had gone through the lock down routine. The nervousness and paranoia had gotten to the point where I would get cold…like, into the depths of my soul…and I would shiver. I moved my son to the bathroom door and I started the shower. In that time, I had a vision of my son’s paternal grandmother coming and watching us, learning our routine, and waiting until the time was right where she would pounce and take my child while I was in the shower. I was not going to allow that to happen, so I grabbed a butcher knife and got into the shower. I saw myself, standing there, holding a knife with one hand and trying to wash up with the other, all the while forming different plans to make sure that she didn’t get out of our house.
The woman lived several hours away and did not have a vehicle. There was no way this was possible….but that was not what took control of my mind and emotions. A complete paranoia took over my life. I would jokingly call it “postpartum psychosis” because I never knew there was such a thing. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until a few years later that I had heard the term and when I did, I FREAKED OUT! I was furious that I had gone through this, that I had said something to my doctor and that it was never even considered…and was labeled as “normal”.
I don’t know when it stopped happening for me. I just know that it did. I had a few friends and family members that I could call at any time of the day or night and just ramble. I think that’s what did it for me; knowing that I had someone out there that would hear me. I don’t remember how much of that time I shared or in what detail. I just know that I would talk and I didn’t feel like I was alone or that I was cracking under the pressure of my new life.
I no longer take armed showers. I no longer fear my son’s paternal family. I do still worry about something happening to my son, but not in any extreme sense. I worry about him like any mom would worry about her child. We sleep with our windows and doors locked but that just makes sense. I still have my incredible network of friends that I could call at any time and they would be there for me, just like they were in those darker hours.
That is my truth…that is my brave.
PPD and all related illnesses are SO real. They are not something that you should just have to accept and wait out. If you are experiencing any form of postpartum, reach out and make your voice heard. Do not stop until you get the help you feel you need. It is out there for you, don’t let anyone stop you from getting it. You are worth it and so is your family. You will make it through, but you need someone by your side. You need someone you can trust, someone who can help calm you down and help you regain your focus. They are out there.
Here are some websites that I found that I wish I had known about when I was going through my experience. They are full of useful information and have links to other great places.
Remember to hang in there, to ask for help and that sometimes we can just go moment to moment, hour to hour…eventually it will get better. Call on your network of people and let them help you.
Peace and Blessings to all of you