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.