In my previous post, I talked about the reason why it is so dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.
I want to preface this post by saying this: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. And that really sucks, huh?!? No fair! If only we had clarity and common sense and objectiveness DURING our trials instead of AFTER! But alas, it is what it is, and I’m grateful that now I’m looking at things in hindsight and not in the depths of it.
When I was 7 months pregnant with my second baby (my adorably charming son, Anders, now 21 months old), my husband and I went on a much-needed date. While we were waiting for our food to arrive, my husband looked me in the eye, and said, “How ARE you?” And to thank him for such a kind question, I started sobbing. You guys, I don’t mean like, oh, sniff, a tear! But, GUSH, swollen nose, red eyes, snot and drool. NOT pretty. Poor AJ. He was flabbergasted.
I told him, “I’m just so hormonal…” And then the moment came. I knew I needed to TALK to him, to tell him that, maybe, just maybe? it was MORE than “just hormones” and that, maybe? I was actually depressed. I told him we’d talk when we got home, that P.F. Chang’s other customers didn’t deserve to see or hear what I had to say. :-) And when we got home, I talked. And cried.
This was a pivotal moment for me; it was the first time I’d said the word “depressed” to my husband. I told him how I’d been feeling that everything was pointless and that I just couldn’t get excited about things anymore. I told him I felt like I was walking around outside of myself, watching me interact but not truly being present. I knew he didn’t fully understand; how could he? But he listened and was supportive. And life continued.
I gave birth to Anders on April 5, 2012. He was 8lb 10oz (2 oz shy of his big sister!) and we were so excited. My healthy, strong baby boy was delivered after 3 pushes and being in the hospital for 2 hours. Talk about easy!
But then I tried to breastfeed. And all of my horrible memories of trying to feed my daughter came flooding back. Even our lactation consultant was the same one we had with her!! And Anders had the same exact issue as his sister: he literally could not open his mouth wide enough to feed properly. So we went home.
To read a little more on my struggle with breastfeeding, I wrote a brief post on it during Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
Anders was a perfect little champ (except in the feeding area) for the next 4 weeks. He was a very typical baby, waking every 3 hrs or so, and otherwise just sleeping all day. To be honest, I don’t really remember too much of those first 5 weeks. This is, in hindsight, the first big symptom of my post-partum depression: I was not fully present in my surroundings. It was a complete fog. I was going through the motions.
But I do remember when we first started noticing his acid reflux (how can one forget your child SHRIEKING in pain?!?) and the many, many doctor visits and the trial and error tests of formulas and prescription medicines and refusal to eat and his loss of weight and general discomfort ALL DAY AND NIGHT LONG. His doctor asked me, “How are you doing?” and I said, “It’s been a long month” and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, you’re just tired. It’s just the hormones.” He was about 6 weeks old at this point.
I had my 6 week check-up with my OB. I was still sore (I had 3rd degree perineal tearing) but was healing fine. She said, “Any symptoms of depression?” and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual hormonal stuff…”
What I didn’t tell these doctors (kind, caring, professional women who have known me for years, by the way) was that every time I tried to get Anders to fall asleep and he didn’t (which was quite often) I would be so overcome with ANGER and RAGE that I would literally leave him, crying, in his swing, while I fell to the floor shaking and sobbing.
What I didn’t tell them was that when I attended any sort of social function, I felt that my speech was stuttered. That I literally couldn’t form a complete sentence and say it properly.
What I didn’t tell them was that during the night, during those precious few hours when my son was actually asleep, I was wide awake, my mind restless and unrelenting.
I didn’t tell them that in general, I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my children desperately, and, thank the Lord, I never once felt that I was going to harm anyone, even myself. But, when I wasn’t overcome with anger, I had an extreme apathy for everything. My daughter’s laugh on the swing didn’t make me smile. Her interactions with her baby brother made me feel, if anything, a desperate hopelessness that I would never be the mother they really needed.
I didn’t tell anyone that all day, every day, I felt like a failure.
One of my darkest moments came when Anders was about 8 weeks old. As usual, I was trying to get him to sleep ANYWHERE BUT IN MY ARMS and was failing. My entire being filled with an inexplicable anger. I put him in the swing and sank to the floor, sobbing tears that were desperately uncontrollable. My mind was completely blank yet so out of control that literally the only thing I could think of to pray was the name of Jesus. I said it out loud: “Jesus”, over and over and over again until I finally calmed down. And then I prayed, “Please, please, please, don’t let my children be affected by this. Protect them from this, from me.”
It was that prayer that made me realize that maybe I needed help. The fact that that one day, my children might say, “yeah, my mom was depressed a lot” scared the daylights out of me. I needed to get help, even if just to protect my children from the effects of living with someone with unmanaged depression.
My best friend visited from New Hampshire the next week. She is like a sister to me, and I’ve always been able to be completely honest with her. Talking about how I was feeling was such a relief. I told her what I was experiencing, and she saw it firsthand. She did not judge me, nor did she say, “oh, it’s probably just the hormones.” She was able to look at my situation objectively and simply said, “You need to get help. You need to call your doctor.” What a wise, beautiful woman she is.
I finally saw my doctor about 4 weeks later. 4 WEEKS!! It truly is amazing that, in the midst of feeling so out of control, the last thing I wanted to do was to talk to my doctor about it. As I’ve mentioned before, admitting you struggle with depression is the hardest step.
In my next post, I’m going to talk more about how I decided to fight my depression. I’ll go into detail about what I call my “battle plan” and the steps I’ve taken.
Please, if you have been wondering, “Is it more than ‘just’ hormones?” either about yourself or about a loved one, TALK about it. Share my story. Share my symptoms. Visit the links on my resource page. Use me as an excuse to bring the subject up. That’s why I’m writing this; I truly, firmly believe that all of us need the chance to live our lives in full bloom. :-)