Two more days of blogging for PPD/PPA Awareness. I’m excited and humbled by the number of women who have reached out to tell their stories through my blog. I think this first rally is a SUCCESS!
Today’s guest blogger isn’t a blogger at all. She’s actually just a good friend of mine who experienced PPD through her sister in law. One of the best things a new mother (or “returning” mother) can have in place after giving birth is a support system. This includes spouses, family, friends, fellow church members, co-workers–anyone who is willing to step up and help. I cannot say enough about the power of support for mothers with new babies at home.
Because of the sensitive nature of sharing someone else’s story, my friend has requested that she remain anonymous. She has also changed the names of those involved so that, should they stumble across this blog someday, they won’t feel that she has violated their privacy.
Hi! I’m HeyTurtle. I’m writing this post to show you a different perspective on PPD.
I’ll give you a little background. My husband’s sister, Amy, and I were BFF’s for years. We did almost everything together. When I was planning my wedding and she got pregnant we drifted apart. She was at a different place in her life and my mind was about as far away from a baby as you could get. I was 21 and my life was changing so much at that very moment, I was not really focused on her pregnancy. I was interested and excited to be an aunt. It was fun, but that was about it.
In 2004, I was newly married, and my husband was two hours away training for his impending deployment to Iraq and my sister-in-law was pregnant and due in August. Everything was normal… I was working, going to school, and living for the weekends since that was the only time I got to see my husband. I didn’t know much about life with a newborn or anything about PPD.
On July 8, 2004 everything changed. Amy went in for her normal 36 week checkup and got some scary news. The baby was “not thriving” and they needed to prepare her for a c-section the very next morning.
I got a call from my aunt, a nurse at the hospital. She had found Amy outside, on a bench, stunned and crying. I can’t tell you exactly how she felt, I wasn’t inside her head, but I am pretty sure she was overwhelmed and scared. My aunt called me and told me that I needed to be with her right away and in that instant, our relationship changed.
I went into “Auntie” mode and started helping Amy get all of her last minute things together. We went to the baby store and packed bags. I told her and my brother in law, Nick, that if they needed ANYTHING at all, I would be there. I thought that at this point the hard part was over.
The hospital was fun. My nephew Matthew came into this world adorable and healthy. He was a little on the small side but was doing awesome! He was even going to get to go home with Amy in a few days, which was a surprise. We were told to expect the worst – he might need help breathing and could be in the NICU for several days. Thankfully, he was just fine. I did all the fun stuff – cooing over him, bringing presents and food.
Amy and Matthew were released from the hospital a few days later and went home. I went about my own life and they started their new life as a family. Amy’s mom was there to help them for the first week. I popped in occasionally to say hello and squish my new favorite little guy, but that’s about it.
Matthew was colicky. He cried a lot, especially at night. Amy seemed a little off, but I never really thought anything of it. I figured she had the baby blues and was sleep deprived. New mom stuff, no big deal. She would get through it. After about a week home, it started getting worse. I would notice that when I came over she would shove Matthew in my arms and disappear. She didn’t really seem connected or interested in him.
One day, Matthew was having a particularly loud screaming episode. It was later in the evening and I had come to visit. Amy walked out of her bedroom, “tossed” him into his car seat, and ran away hysterically crying. It scared the hell out of me. I knew at that point that something was wrong and she needed help. I told Nick that we needed to help her and I would do anything in my power to do so. Nick realized that it was a serious situation. He said to me one night “I was scared that she was going to put Matthew in the washing machine” and he wasn’t kidding.
It was the nights that were the problem. The days were just fine, but the nights were terrible for all three of them. For the next eight weeks I got the same phone call every night. “It’s Nick. We need you” and that was it. Anywhere between 10pm and 2am, in my pajamas, I would roll out of bed and into my car and drive to their apartment. I would walk in to see my nephew in his bouncy seat in the living room screaming and I would hear Amy in her room screaming and crying and Nick trying as hard as he could to get her to calm down.
Every night was the same routine. Pick Matthew up, snuggle him to my chest, remain calm. Walk, feed, burp, bounce, snuggle, repeat. Anything to make the crying stop and get Amy back to her “normal” place. Amy and Nick would leave the house and drive around until she calmed down and then come back and go to bed. I would stay with Matthew until morning. Once the morning came Amy was fine again. I knew that around 4pm the process would start over again and it did.
Amy’s mom, Nick and I finally talked her into going back to her OB to get help. When Matthew was six weeks old, she was put on Zoloft and went to see a counselor. Within two more weeks, she was doing a LOT better. She still had rough days, but now she had the tools to help her through. She had a support system that she could count on. To this day she wishes that she had gotten help sooner so that she could have bonded with Matthew more. She was scared and ashamed.
PPD is scary. I was afraid she was going to hurt my nephew or herself. Until she was diagnosed, I didn’t know WHAT PPD was. Knowledge is definitely power. By the time she became pregnant with baby # 2 (my awesome nephew, Daniel) she knew what could happen and started treatment for PPD even before she gave birth. The second time around she was cool & calm. She enjoyed her time at home with her new son and there were no 2am phone calls.
When I became pregnant in 2008, Amy and Nick joked that they were ready for the 2am phone calls. Thankfully, I never had to make them. Because of my own history of depression and my experience with her PPD, my doctor and I decided to be proactive. I began meds before I delivered and in April of 2009 I welcomed my own son into the world. I was scared of PPD but I was scared of being medicated as well. My doctor told me that to be a good parent, I needed to be healthy. With my history of depression triggered by hormone fluctuations being healthy meant that I probably needed a little help. So I took it. And I’m so glad that I did.
Motherhood is incredible. I can’t help but think that had Amy not gone through her battle with PPD that I could have suffered from it, not knowing what to do. I’m so thankful that she let me be there with her , that she got her life back and that she and her family are all healthy and happy to this day.