My Experience with Postpartum Depression

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     I became pregnant about a month after my husband and I were married back in 2009.  I did not find out until I was about two months pregnant and had actually gone to the doctor because I was actually having hot flashes and other symptoms that made me think something was wrong with my health. At first I was happy, a little anxious, but no more than any new mother. I was twenty three at the time and was the same age my mother was when she gave birth to me so I didn't feel I was too young. I had always wanted to have a child, even though we had a five year plan, and thought we could handle the challenge.

     Into the end of the third month is when things starting going very wrong for me emotionally. I didn't think this was normal and never heard of a woman having issues beyond your typical crying and things of that nature. And don’t get me wrong I could be that way too! I remember watching The Fountain with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz and I kid you not I cried for four hours straight after watching that film! I can laugh about it now but at the time, as far as I was concerned, that was the saddest movie I had ever seen in my life. Anyways, I started having these terrible dreams about people telling me I had hurt the baby or actually seeing myself do things to the baby. I cried a lot over these dreams and hated telling my husband but felt he should know. I knew a lot about postpartum depression but had never heard of a woman exhibiting these types of symptoms before giving birth. So I continued like this for my entire pregnancy with events occurring that made me feel like it was never going to end.

     During my seventh month of pregnancy I found out that I had been suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and luckily it did not hurt the baby but had made me feel really crappy for quite some time. Around the same time I had managed to isolate myself from a lot of my friends and really distanced myself. I didn't really think I was doing it at the time but slowly it happened and I lost a lot of people along the way. I felt like I was being abandoned because I was pregnant which made it harder for me to recognize what was happening. I did not realize at the time that this is a symptom and this is not just normal pregnancy behavior  This is part of depression and anxiety that can occur during your pregnancy. In the eighth month of my pregnancy my grandfather passed away which was very difficult because I had been kept away from him for the length of my pregnancy because he was in a nursing home and no one wanted me to get sick. I had a lot of regret over that while at the same time trying to keep myself calm so as not to upset the baby.  I had also been going to the doctor once to twice a week for monitoring because I am a heart patient and we needed to make sure the baby was not affected by my condition. 

     A few days before her predicted due date I went in for another one of these sessions and she was not practice breathing so they induced me. I was not anxious or anything and so we went ahead with the procedure and thirty three and half hours later she was here.  For a few days I thought I was out of the woods and then when were home it was terrible. I cried so much because I felt like I had lost a child; I was later told this happens because of the drop in hormones that gives you this feeling. I was so depressed and cried a lot and had a lot of anger as well. Eventually that anger and resentment was directed towards my daughter even though I never touched her wrongly for me the thoughts were bad enough and I told me doctor and admitted myself to a psych unit where I stayed for three days. My daughter was only two weeks at the time and I was terrible conflicted with my feelings of rage and remorse as well as missing her while being in the hospital. I had very good doctors and was given medication as well as counseling.  I wasn't home very long when I noticed my daughter did not look well to me, you know how that is, and we had to take her to the ER. Come to find out she had a UTI which she had contracted at birth and we spent almost two weeks in the hospital with her while she received medication through an IV. Needless to say I was very stressed and a new problem started to arise, I was compulsively cutting all of my hair off.  My hair was only about an inch or two long and I continued this way for quite some time and got a lot of ridicule for the strange behavior.  I did some reading online and found out that it was a real condition that was sometimes triggered by the birth of a child and this could occur with any child regardless of how many you had previously had. This gave me a better idea of what I was dealing with and I made a better attempt to control that type of behavior.  Because of these issues I did not return to work as I had worked up until the birth of my daughter but could no longer deal with people or maintain relationships of any kind.

     My daughter is two and half years old now and it took me a long time to connect with her and it didn't help that I felt people were expecting me to act a certain way with her either. I felt that a lot of people were watching me and judging me. I still feel an enormous amount of guilt over the whole issue and wonder sometimes what she will think of me later in life but I know realistically that is not going to be an issue. I still have trouble getting into photos with her because looking at myself is hard because I see what I was and not what I am. I even struggled as to whether or not I should share my story with others. I’m not embarrassed about it and I feel there are a lot of people that still don’t get it and there are still a lot of people who do not forgive me for being so closed off and distant.  I still feel pretty isolated after all this time but I’m just happy I am a productive mom, student, and self-employed genealogist which are things that seemed impossible back then.  My husband asked me once why I didn't think this was normal since so many women had this issue and for me, and I think a lot of other women can attest to this, is that when it’s happening to you it only feels like you. When it happens to you it doesn't really seem to matter how many other women had what you had just that it happened to you.

     Unfortunately because of my experience I no longer want any more children. I love my daughter and she is so funny and cute and mischievous but I do it to protect her and me. I don’t feel I could bear that kind of pain again. The best way I could ever describe it is that it feels like when you give birth that you've given them your soul and you can’t get it back. The only thing that convinced me that wasn't true was that my daughter was too good and amazing to have my soul, and that’s exactly how I felt. I prayed a lot and I finally feel a sense of peace but at the same time I feel like I have PTSD or something because it never really leaves me, I can still remember those emotions and how wrong it all felt. I have a few amazing friends that have really stood by me and this is the worst test we ever went through and I’d never ask it of them again, but held in there, not all of them but the best of them.  My family was amazing and took care of my daughter when I couldn't and the most important thing through all of it was that she was happy and healthy and surrounded by people who loved her and cared for her.  I always made sure she was in good hands no matter how much I wanted those to mine. 

     The reason why I shared this is because the most important thing I can tell you is to be informed and make the right decision for yourself and your child no matter how embarrassing it is. Inform your husband or partner about the symptoms so that you both know what to look for. Get lots of rest and treat yourself to time with your girls. You don’t have to give up your life when have a child and you can still maintain those relationships and if they are good friends they will understand the time that it takes to be a mom and learn about what you are going through. The following links are helpful for anyone who wants to learn more.