This next post in the rally is one that is super special to me. Lara isn’t a blogger. She isn’t on Twitter. She’s an in-real-life friend.
Lara and I met in college through our campus ministry, Chi Alpha. She and I were in the same small group and almost became roommates, but then I bought a house, found Dan, got married, moved away, and sold the house. She was still in vet school for another couple of years so we lost touch.
Then, in that special way that Facebook has, it allowed us to be “friends” again. (That’s the beauty of Facebook. The REAL beauty.)
After Lara had her daughter, she reached out to me to talk about PPD and what she thought she was experiencing. I’m glad I was able to be there to help her because in helping her, it made the fact that I’ve gone through this bearable. Understandable, somehow. It has lent a greater purpose to this war.
When I was planning this rally, I shot her an email to see if she’d be interested in sharing her story. She’s only recently started telling people about her PPD and those of us who’ve battled that particular demon know how hard it is to share.
Love her words like I love her words.
I was always a straight A student – or at least I strived to be. So when I found out I was pregnant, I started studying. I figured 9 months was plenty of time to prepare and become a pro at this “mothering thing.” I read books, prepared a baby room, took birthing classes (14 weeks worth), worked out daily, ate right, etc etc etc. As my husband said – if I were to be graded, I would have gotten an A+ (Score!)
I knew from day one I wanted a natural, drug-free labor and delivery. In our Bradley classes, we learned that first time mothers typically have 17-20 hour birthing experiences, so to prepare for that. That’s what I did – mentally prepared for a long, arduous journey that would eventually lead to the birth of my child. I also figured that 17 hours would also give me the time to “really” let it sink in that I would soon be a mother.
So did this mental planning help? Nope. (Go figure)
I woke up that Tuesday morning – my first day of maternity leave! Woo hoo! (I have a week off before my due date, there’s so much I need to do!) I worked out, cleaned my old car and moved the carseat to the new one (which we bought the day before), met my parents for lunch. Had a couple contractions at lunch – no biggie – I had been having Braxton-Hicks for 6 weeks at work, so it didn’t phase me. After getting back home, regular contractions started at 3pm – every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute in duration. (Ok, Scholar, you learned this. Wait for one hour of this. If it continues, call the doctor). At 4pm, I call my doctor. They said to come in since we live 45 minutes away.
First stop, though – take my dog to the clinic to board. (Type A personality much? I work here for goodness sake – someone could come get her for us at my house) In retrospect, this was a silly decision.
Ok, so, arrive at hospital at 5:30pm (contractions were 3-4 minutes apart the entire hour trip in the car). Check in at 5.5cm, 90% thinned. Doctor said, “well, I’m anticipating 5 more hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing – you may be having this baby around midnight.”
WTH?! Not really what a natural delivery candidate wants to hear – “Don’t worry! This amount of pain will keep up for 7 hours!” At this point, my pain was pretty bad, not unbearable, but I thought it was normal pain for this stage of labor. So I figured I’d tough it out, no matter how long. I spent the next hour standing by my bed, leaning over it during my contractions. Walking was not an option.
At 7:30, they had trouble keeping the baby’s heartbeat on the screen, so I got in the bed for monitoring. I kept telling the nurses I needed to push, but they didn’t think I could possibly be that far along. Finally at 8pm they agreed to check me – to their surprise, I was 10 cm and completely thinned. My water had not broken yet, and my baby was about to be delivered with it intact. They said they had to call the doctor in – he had left! (go figure, he knew he had til midnight). At 8:14pm, my water broke. Nurses rushed in, got the bed ready, and I started pushing – doctor or not. He walked in just in time to gown up. Within 5 minutes and a push and a half later, my daughter was born at 8:32pm.
At that moment I was almost in a state of shock. Seeing my child for the first time? Yes. She was absolutely beautiful. That I did it without drugs? Yes. I was very proud of myself. But why wasn’t I thrilled, elated, overjoyed like the movies?
Because even at that moment, I felt robbed. Cheated. That “birth” experience I had expected in order to truly prepare myself for motherhood – it didn’t happen. Eight hours ago I was sitting at Golden Corral eating brownies and ice cream. Three hours ago I was in the parking deck. Now I’m a mom. 9 months apparently wasn’t enough time for me.
I came home from the hospital that first night and cried to my husband while holding my daughter. I told him I felt cheated out of something. Not that I would trade my 5 hour labor for 17 hours, but I almost didn’t have enough time for it to sink in. What did I need that time for? To accept that I would no longer be pregnant. As funny as that sounds, I needed that time. For 9 long months I get used to my ever expanding midsection, learning to work around my belly, sleeping with 5 pillows, accepting that I can’t tie my own shoes.
Then *BOOM* – it’s all stripped away from me. Without asking. Without warning. It’s gone. I loved feeling my baby kick in my womb. I was sad because I couldn’t remember what that last kick felt like. And I’ll never get that back. I’ll never get HER back in my womb. I lived my life a certain way for 9 months, and within 5 hours, it’s taken away from me. It was hard to explain – I loved having my daughter in my arms to hold and kiss, but I missed feeling her inside of me. I’ll. Never. Get. That. Back. Call the cops – I’ve been robbed.
Looking back, that’s when it started. My PPD. I thought it was baby blues. “This is normal. I studied about this in my classes. It can last 4-6 weeks or so. You’ll snap out of it.” So I went on with my life. Taking care of my baby, breastfeeding on demand, becoming a zombie, all the typical “mothering” things. At 4 weeks, I thought I was feeling better. I didn’t have that immediate bond with my child, but I knew that might take time. I would still cry randomly, but I knew that might get better over time. I couldn’t sleep, but I knew that would get better over time (see the trend, here?)
Then *BOOM* – I got some bad news. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer while I was pregnant. My parents didn’t tell anyone to protect me during my pregnancy. She was starting chemotherapy in 5 days, so they needed to tell the children. They knew I was having the baby blues, and didn’t want to make it worse, but they couldn’t hide it anymore.
Talk about a set back. This is where PPD and I became best friends I think.
For the next few months I ignored I had a problem. I’m stronger than that. I don’t need drugs. Heck, I could deliver a baby without drugs, why would I need them now!? I discussed my anxiety and depression with my doctor at 5 months post partum. She recommended Zoloft since I was still breastfeeding. I brought the prescription home but didn’t fill it. I’m stronger than that. I don’t SERIOUSLY need medication to help me through this.
But what finally made me realize it’s okay to admit I may have PPD? When I sat back and realized what was making me anxious from day to day. If laundry wasn’t done in a timely manner, I got mad. If dishes stacked up, I got furious. If the litter boxes weren’t cleaned, I was a crazy woman (the husband cleaned them for 9 whole months, why can’t he remember to do them now!?) I would cry if my daughter didn’t have the exact same routine from the day before. I locked myself in my house, not going anywhere because I couldn’t stand hearing the crying in the car. It made my blood boil and I thought I was going crazy. I would wake up every night and stay awake for hours.
Don’t get me started on breastmilk. I was pumping at work, keeping my frozen stash up. What if I didn’t keep up my supply? What if I had to supplement with formula? Slap the failure sticker on my forehead at that point. If I can’t nurse my child AND work AND keep up house AND be a good wife AND AND AND, what kind of mother am I? A failure….that’s what. So I stressed about pumping. I stressed about my freezer failing and my milk thawing out. I would get up at night just to go make sure the freezer door was shut. I was running myself into the ground. My life was always a downward spiral. I didn’t see it picking up. It wasn’t “just” the baby blues.
Finally, when my daughter was almost 8 months old, I filled my Zoloft. I did it without telling anyone. I didn’t want sympathy, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t be miserable anymore AND be a good mom and wife. I needed help.
Help. The word I NEVER wanted to say aloud.
But you know what? I’m okay. It’s been 5 weeks now, and I’m okay. I haven’t let anyone down. No one is disappointed in me. I have my rough days, but they’re not as bad. I have more good days, which are great. I still cry occasionally, and I still get anxious, but it’s a toned down version. I emailed Miranda a few times to get advice (which I can never thank her enough. She made me feel normal). But do a lot of people know about my PPD? Nope.
Not til now. The secret’s out. This is my release. This is one of my baby steps of getting better. I need other people to help support me. I’m not in this alone, and I shouldn’t have to be. I have a loving, supportive family that will be here for me no matter what. I have a daughter who loves me and needs me. She needs me to be the best mom I can be. And if that means I need the medication, I’m okay with that. Okay.
Isn’t this awesome? Lara should SO write more often 🙂 Thank you for being here, Lara. Thank you millions.