This isn't something that I've talked openly about here on the blog (or really at all) but, I've felt very convicted about sharing my story, getting it out there, and being honest with some major struggles I've personally dealt with over the past 18 months.
I hope that being open about postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as situational depression, will help women be more open about such a taboo subject. No one needs to suffer in silence - I know I did for far to long and I hope and pray that women can tackle this nasty disease, watch out for our friends/ family, and help each other work through something that is easy to ignore.
I also hope that being open about my struggles, which began when I gave birth to Kate, will allow my family and friends to hold me accountable as I experience the birth of another child. I never want to feel like I did again and the more open and honest I am, the better I am preparing myself to never suffer in silence again.
As most everyone knows, Alex and I struggled for years to get, and stay, pregnant. Our second round of in-vitro fertilization finally lead to a successful, albeit complicated, pregnancy. While I had anxiety about my pregnancy, I never once gave thought to how difficult my life might be post delivery. We were finally going to have a baby - in our arms - that we could bring home! Life would be perfect! Our hopes, dreams, and prayers were coming true!
Boy was I mistaken.
Yes, Kate's birth can go down as the best day of my life, however the weeks and months that followed were not sunshine and roses. Yes I love being a mother, yes I love motherhood. But, I struggled with many things as I made the transition to "mom".
The first few weeks post birth I just assumed the weepy, blah feelings that consumed me were typical baby blues. Several of my friends prepared me for that so I just kept going. Add in the fact that Kate had terrible reflux, colic, and wasn't gaining weight and I assumed my emotions were just your typical "surviving the first few weeks" feelings.
When Kate was around three or four weeks old, my parents suddenly and unexpectedly separated and ultimately divorced. This shocking change did nothing to help with how I was doing. This was supposed to be the happiest time in my life - my family should be doting over the new baby - not completely divided attempting to survive a not so nice at the time divorce. I tend to be the family peace maker and the stress of trying to reconcile family members, dealing with extremely stressful situations, and witnessing my family unit fall apart was too much for me to handle.
I didn't say anything. Didn't do anything to help myself. Just trapped it all inside.
I told myself the divorce was causing me to feel down. That I would feel better as soon as things settled down. I didn't mention my feelings to anyone - just keep trucking along, feeling miserable, not being the most pleasant person to be around, completely exhausted from dealing with family drama and a baby that was up every 2-3 hours during the night.
When Kate was six weeks we discovered that her blood counts were "off" and started down the long, exhausting path to diagnosing her. As you know, this took almost 9 months. I stopped worrying about me and put everything I had into doctor's appointments, lab visits, Dr. Google, etc. Deep down I always knew something major was wrong - maybe I was preparing myself for the worst - maybe it was a mother's intuition - either way, I knew. I was researching pediatric bone marrow transplants long before we got the official word that Kate would need a BMT to survive. I was totally consumed with fear of losing my child.
However, I didn't say anything. I didn't do anything to help myself. Just trapped it all inside.
I told myself that having a sick, undiagnosed child was stressful. That admitting my feelings, admitting that I knew I was depressed, that I knew I needed help would just make me look weak. I suffered in silence - hardly ever "letting it out" and venting/ unwinding to anyone about how stressful and scary Kate's medical issues were. I was quick to get snippy, quick to push people away, quick to snap. All to avoid anyone realizing just how bad things were on the inside.
I'd always heard, or thought, that postpartum depression manifested in ill feelings towards your new baby and/ or life. I never felt this way, never had a single ill feeling towards Kate. All of my negative thoughts were projected back onto myself. I wasn't a good enough mother and that was why Kate didn't ever sleep. I did something, or didn't do something, while pregnant that ultimately caused her mysterious medical issues. I couldn't get pregnant without help so that must mean I shouldn't have sought infertility treatment in the first place. Basically, I felt like I was failing Kate, failing at motherhood. I was extremely hard on myself.
Bottling up all of my emotions, and blaming myself for anything that might not be "perfect", lead to extreme anxiety and really brought out my type A, control freak personality. This resulted in me being extremely possessive of Kate and controlling every aspect of her life/ schedule I could. I would nearly have a panic attack if someone other than myself or Alex fed her a bottle, changed her diaper, held her, put her down for a nap. Basically I had to do everything myself in order to remain calm and feel like I was in control on the outside since I was so far from in control on the inside.
I did have many, many good days, even weeks. I think feeling good every so often was one of the major reasons why I didn't seek help sooner. I just told myself that a bad doctor's appointment or extra family drama was causing the anxiety and depression. I convinced myself I wasn't really depressed but rather I had a lot on my plate. I wasn't really suffering from anxiety - I was simply a touch over protective because I had a high needs/ special needs baby.
I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the picture.
A few weeks after Kate was diagnosed with CAMT I had a routine appointment with my OBGyn. I hadn't seen her in a while since we used a fertility specialist to get pregnant and then I saw a high risk doctor for my entire pregnancy. When she came in the room, she simply said "so catch me up on what's been going on".
And I completely lost it.
I'm sure the woman thought I was crazy (and by that point I probably was a bit crazy). After calming down I completely unloaded on her - went through everything - got it all out. It was much easier for me to be completely open and honest with a "stranger" verses my friends or family.
My wonderful doctor sat in the room and talked with me about everything for nearly an hour. She reassured me that all of the situations in my life (divorce, sick child, going back to work, etc) were extremely stressful and would have most people responding the way I was.
Most importantly, she told me that getting help for my struggles didn't make me weak - rather it made me strong.
A strong woman that realized she was in over her head and needed help to get through.
A strong woman that was doing everything in her power to get better so that she could be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend possible.
That day, I made the decision to no longer suffer in silence. I made the decision that I was going to finally make sure I was taking care of myself - I was going to work on becoming a better me. Because let's be honest, we can't be wonderful wives, mothers, sisters, or friends if we aren't confident and comfortable with ourselves to begin with.