I survived post-partum depression — twice

Guest post by Lizzie
By: tostadophoto.comCC BY 2.0

Before I had kids, I was really, really happy. I didn’t exactly party like a rock star, but I had all the free time in the world. I worked 40 hours, had a great boyfriend, vacationed every chance I got, and spent office time Googling fun drinks to make after work. If I wanted to stay out all night dancing I could, no problem. In October 2008 at our last night at Disney World, in a rainstorm, my boyfriend looked at me so sadly because the fireworks got cancelled. He proposed and apologized over and over that it wasn’t perfect. He was wrong — it was. My life was perfect. I was bursting with happiness, and Googling wedding planning websites all day long. Fast forward 3 weeks, missed period. Oops.

Suddenly, the happiness that I had felt for the past few years led way to doom and gloom. I believed I had pregnancy depression, but it was hard to tell apart from all the vomiting. I began to believe that I was growing a baby out of my ass, mostly from how big it was growing. The beautiful wedding plans gave way to a simple elopement, that later turned into a simple park wedding (which was featured on Offbeat Bride). I spent my days Googling pregnancy depression and morning sickness. When I learned I was having a boy, I sobbed alone on the ultrasound table for my girl who didn’t exist. My fiance and I were working as much as possible to pay for the expensive doctor visits. Our simple park wedding came when I was 31 weeks pregnant, and much to my surprise, the baby came immediately after. I had HELLP syndrome, which caused me to have a premature baby boy.

Did happiness follow his birth? Nope. Jaw dropping, heart stopping, INTENSITY followed his birth. It was nothing I could have ever felt. This was my heart, torn from my body and placed in an incubator. My heart couldn’t breathe. My heart couldn’t eat. He was helpless, I was helpless. We were in a teaching hospital, and suddenly, the only thing that had ever mattered was at the hands of medical students. I dealt with all the things preemie moms deal with. Life became initials. I fielded endless questions: When is he coming home? Why haven’t they told you the exact day? When is he coming home? When is he coming home? Aaaagh! I didn’t know! I avoided visitors like there was no tomorrow. Nope, you have a cold. Nope, you have a cat. Nope, you smoke. Nope, you look shady. I told people no to the point where they didn’t ask anymore. My best friends dropped from 20 to about two. There was nothing but intense love and protection in those two months, but I wouldn’t say happiness.

Nearly two years passed with a healthy little boy. I felt the sun shine again, and laughed on more than one occasion. I started going out again. I planned a trip to Comic Con sans child. And then in March 2011, another oops. Immediately this overwhelming fear came over me. I had just planned a child-free vacation. I had just started to build a budget again. I still had no insurance. And, oh my God, how could I deal with another preemie? HELLP commonly recurs. I thought I would be weighed down with despair, but once again nausea took front and center. I spent my days Googling toddler tantrums, morning sickness, HELLP, and pregnancy depression. I pulled out my dusty maternity clothes that I swore I would never wear again. Every pain, every twinge, I feared the worst. When my feet swelled the first time, I panicked, sure that I would have a baby premature again. I refused to go to the doctor from months 5 to 7, because I was afraid they would tell me I had HELLP. I did take my child-free trip to Comic Con, but I spent the entire trip missing my son and fearing for my daughter. Yep, this time a girl — and what did I do on the ultrasound table? Cry for the brother my son would not have.

Fast forward to November 2011. My healthy, full term baby girl arrived, and the pain from the Cesarean Section was unbelievable. The first time I was pumped up with morphine for a week. This time I got 18 hours. They don’t give the strong stuff in the county hospital. I laid in bed when she was a day old, crying my eyes out. The next morning a bored social worker asked if I had any plans to harm myself or my baby. She never made eye contact. I spent the weeks after my daughter’s birth getting myself together. I made myself see a doctor, who prescribed me a mild anti-depressant, and I believe that made all the difference. I see a kind midwife, who is a sort of expert on PPD. She explained to me that I’m not crazy, that this is something many women go through, and that I’m ok. I didn’t use her when I was pregnant, but really wish I had.

Now my daughter is six months old, and today is my son’s third birthday. I feel a range of emotions. Love, frustration, exhaustion, giddiness, love, love, love. I am overcoming my post-partum depression, and have accepted the fact that my life isn’t what it was, but with this intense love I have for my children, it’s somehow better. My relationship with my husband is better than it’s ever been. He was my rock on those days of uncontrollable crying, the days I couldn’t get out of bed, or the days I didn’t want to come home from work because I couldn’t stand the noise waiting for me at home. I am on what I believe is my last month of anti-depressants. I laugh more, and cry much, much less. I’ve passed the light at the end of the tunnel, or maybe I’m in the middle of it.

I am writing this because I want all women to know that it’s OK to be depressed. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and you will get back to some form of what you once were.

Comments on I survived post-partum depression — twice

  1. Thank you for writing this! I have had two children and experienced serious PPD with both. I felt lost and alone. It’s so good to read about someone elses struggles and know that I am not alone.
    Thank you and happy birthday to your son!

  2. i love this. i had post natal depression after the birth of my daughter and even though she is now 18 months old i still struggle on days. People are always asking me when we will have another but im so terrified of having PND again i have been put off, it took me to a really dark place that i never want to go ever again. It’s reassuring to hear that you have been through it twice and have now reached a happier place. It gives me hope that maybe i will be able to do it again one day and thank you so much for writing so honestly about a subject that people tend to avoid : )

  3. Great, powerful piece.

    One small thing – with the byline and no intro or ‘guest post’ or something at the top, it reads like Stephanie wrote it – which given her writing on only children and vasectomies and so forth, I didn’t think was likely.

  4. You poor dear. It’s hard enough going through a relatively trouble-free pregnancy. It’s quite another to have to deal with so many medical issues and to have your emotions run away from you at the same time. I applaud your bravery in telling your story and hope that things continue to pick up! P.S. The photos of your baby boy over at OBB are lovely. If it wasn’t for the little tube, I wouldn’t have realized that he was premature – just small.

  5. In addition to the strength of your message, your writing is beautiful. Particularly this:

    “This was my heart, torn from my body and placed in an incubator. My heart couldn’t breathe. My heart couldn’t eat. He was helpless, I was helpless.”

    It’s such a poignant expression of what it is to be a mother when your child feels pain and it made my eyes water.

    • That line got to me too. As a mom to twin preemies that line made me totally cry. It summed up exactly how I felt when they were still in the NICU.

  6. Thank you, things are definitely much better. My daughter is almost 8 months old now. I suggest to anyone suffering from PPD to see a midwife. With no insurance I cannot afford a therapist, and I didn’t want to just solve my problems through anti depressants (although they saved me at first.) It is hard to talk about post partum depression or pregnancy depression, because so many people jump to post partum psychosis conclusions, or just assume you have baby blues and will snap out of it. Or the worst, that you are just spoiled and need to get over it. Thank you all for reading.

    • Thank you for writting this. Brave women like you who write or speak out make it easier for others to seek help and for society to understand the disorder.

      We still have such a long way to go before people understand the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders. I recently started seeing a therapist for my postpartum PTSD and I can’t tell you how many people have told me that you can’t get PTSD from a traumatic birth or jump to the baby killer conclusion.

      • I’m very glad to hear there are therapists correctly diagnosing PTSD in mommas. Even beyond post-partum depression (which is often under served) birth trauma is a real thing and women deserve to have it recognised and treated. I hope your work is going well!

    • I wanted to add to this that if you talk to your health department, most counties regardless of size have low cost or sliding fee counseling/psychiatry.

      • Caveat emptor: if you’re paying out of pocket, try to find out how much your county mental health services will cost you before you make an appointment. I discovered too late that I would have paid the same price for more consistent care if I had gone to a private clinic. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

  7. I can’t believe there are still so many out there, women who have had children included, who don’t believe depression is a real thing. My best friend told me that people are in total control of their emotions and that I needed to grow up and learn that not everything is about me (when I tried to reach about about my pregnancy depression and pretty severe PPD and anxiety). She’s not my best friend anymore.

    I had been so excited about finally having another baby four years after my first, but I wasn’t prepared at all for how difficult of a baby my second would be, or how draining EBF would be. My first had been a ridiculously, almost impossibly easy infant.

    I like that you were open about them being “oopses” and all the worrisome Googling. I spend a lot of my days doing the same thing, and I’m currently pregnant with our third which was not planned–my second is only 9 months old. I’m already worried about how I’m going to feel when she’s here. I wasn’t expecting depression after my second and I don’t think I even realized at the time that that’s what was going on.

    I really appreciate when people are open about this, because I feel like its something that doesn’t get talked about and has this stigma of shame and embarrassment attached to it, which isn’t right. A huge percentage of women struggle with PPD and no one plans on it or expects it or feels this way on purpose.

  8. I’m not a mom and never plan to be,* so I didn’t feel this in that particular way, but… wow. What an incredible post. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    *Why do I read OBM? Hell, I don’t know. 🙂

  9. Thank you for writing this. I think there is still such a stigma and unawareness surrounding PPD, and because of that, so many women suffer in silence.
    I’m so glad that you have reached that light and are able to enjoy your life again.

  10. Thanks for sharing.

    I struggled with mild depression after my first child. When he was four months old, I found myself pregnant again. Then my husband deployed. I cried because breastfeeding was becoming difficult, but then I cried when I had to wean my son because I just didn’t have the energy to be pregnant and breastfeed at the same time. Then I cried if my husband wasn’t able to Skype with us, and hell, I cried when he was able to. And then I collapsed into bed at the end of the day, dreading sleep because it meant waking up to another day.

    The second baby is now quickly approaching three months old, and my husband should be home in a few weeks. I’m still struggling.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to maybe say that this piece has been posted at a strangely perfect time for me to read it. It gives me hope.

    • My heart goes out to you. I know I have all those feelings even without children and a deployed husband. I can only hope you have some community to help support you, even if it’s just OBM. *hugs*

  11. This is a powerful post. I went through postpartum depression for a few months after my 1st son, but I didn’t know that’s what it was until many years later. Following a divorce, living in a motel, a miscarriage immediately followed by another oops (condoms and birth control be damned!), all at once…my 2nd pregnancy was no walk in the park. Finding out it was another boy; cue up the sad parade. Fast forward to his birth (after moving into our new place only 3 days before) and it was a mess. With depression meds, birth control pills (after the 6 weeks), and I was a depressed zombie.

    I’m doing okay now, but every day is a brand new set of challenges. I applaud you loudly for writing this and putting this out there for others to read. *huge internet hugs*

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m 17 weeks with my first baby and I’m pretty afraid of PPD.

    Also, I remember seeing your wedding post when I was planning my own wedding. I’m so glad to hear that things are going better and you and your lovely honey are good.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I’ve not yet had any children, but am terrified that I will have PPD when/if I do become pregnant. Knowing the way my depression behaves without pregnancy hormones can already be overwhelming at times. I’m glad your feeling better, and glad to know that you got through it all OK. Thanks again for sharing : )

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