Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Postpartum Depression Story.

I have debated sharing this and have started this post several times.  It has been sitting in my "drafts" for months now but I think I am ready.  It is finally time for me to share my postpartum depression story.

Some of you know me personally and had no idea I was going through this.  Guess what, I didn't even really know!  My main reason for sharing this now is so my friends and family will know more about what to look for.  Look for it in your friends, your family, and Mama's, look for it in yourself!

When Brandon and I first became parents, it was bliss.  My pregnancy, birth and transition to mothering Eden was wonderful, easy and fun.  I loved being pregnant, I loved giving her birth, I loved having a baby and I loved watching her grow!  Our nursing relationship was easy, she slept well from the start, she was pretty easy-going, stayed healthy and just generally joined our family with no problem.  Bottom line, I loved being her Mama!  Sure, we had rough days.  I even cried sometimes.  Usually on those days, I just needed a nap, so I took one!

When I became pregnant with Theo (after a year of trying), I assumed life would just continue on and we would simply add a person to it.  I assumed this new person would assimilate themselves into our family just as Eden did.  I assumed my pregnancy would make me feel beautiful and womanly and powerful just like my pregnancy with Eden made me feel.  I assumed I would continue to love motherhood.  I assumed my heart would grow to include this new person and I assumed I would continue to love my job as a stay at home Mama.

This new baby was so wanted!  I loved him from the first moment I knew he was coming.  My pregnancy with Theo was rough, though.  I had a lot of pubic bone pain and required weekly trips to the chiropractor for adjustments just so I could walk.  I spent a lot of time on the couch and caring for Eden really became a burden.  Looking back, the depression may have even started here.

Theo's birth was fast and it felt almost violent.  It took me a while to process, I couldn't think about it for a while or write the story (I still haven't finished the video).  When Theo was 5 days old I got a call from the pediatrician.  He called to tell me that Theo's newborn screen came back with an abnormal level for Organic Acidemia.  I had to go that day to Lab Corp to have his blood drawn for a test the lab lady had never even heard of.  The doctor told me to stay off the internet until the results came back in a week.  Seven cruel and grueling days.  Of course, I did not stay off the internet.  What I read there confirmed what I heard in the doctor's voice.  If Theo had this, it would be bad.  Really bad.

So, that week, I began to make the choice to stop loving Theo so much.  I needed to be prepared for the possibility that he would die sometime before his 5th birthday (likely sooner).  At the end of the week, The doctor called me and said the result was "inconclusive" and the state geneticist wanted us to repeat the test in a month.

Really?  A month?  By the time we were sure Theo was going to be okay, he was 7 weeks old.  I had not bonded with him.  I did love him, but in a guarded, caregiver sort-of way, not in that fierce, mothering way I loved Eden as a baby.  On top of that, Theo was a cryer.  He cried All. The. Time.  I never knew what he needed.  I never learned to interpret his cries and nothing I did helped.  He didn't sleep at night, he cried.  He didn't nap in the daytime, he cried.  He nursed pretty well.  That was really the only thing that bonded me to him.  I could feed him.

Because Theo wasn't sleeping, I wasn't sleeping.  I still had to be Eden's Mama, though.  I still had to care for the little screaming creature that never slept.  I still had to keep house.  I cried all the time.  I called Brandon at work to tell him I can't do it.  The only thing I ever wanted to do was sleep.  I stopped wanting to do anything that I used to want to do.  Sometimes I felt a little bit better after a good long nap.  Sometimes I didn't.  I indulged thoughts of falling down the stairs with Theo in my arms, of driving into a tree, of just leaving and not coming back.

In November 2009, when Theo was 5 months old, we put our house on the market in order to pursue purchasing our dream home in the country.  House showings and kids don't mix well.  Add to that 2 dogs, and that equals massive stress!  Then, in December, our dog Boomer was diagnosed with cancer.  I continued to cry all the time.  So did Theo.

I believed that this was my new reality and let myself believe that I just wasn't trusting God enough.  I prayed that He would sustain me, that I would get through the day without breaking, that nobody would die.  I never wanted to hurt Theo or myself, but I completely understood how parents could shake their baby until it died.  I understood how a Mama could drown all of her kids in the bathtub.  As I type this, I can feel the despair that was my daily cup.  It is a scary place to be, but even scarier to think about now that I am on the other side of it.

I invited a lot of people over.  If you spent time at my house during Theo's first year of life, I thank you.  You helped more than you know.  Just living was tough, being alone with my kids was unbearable.

Finally, shortly after Theo's 1st birthday, Brandon asked (again) if I thought I was depressed.  He had asked several times since Theo was born and my answer was always that I just needed to sleep.  I'm a birth educator, after all.  I know what PPD looks like!  For some reason, though, I actually entertained the thought instead of dismissing it.  I got on the internet and stumbled upon this article...

The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety In Plain Mama English.  

It took my breath away.  It was like the author was reading my mind.  I read it to Brandon and was a little bit surprised at his reaction.  He was surprised to hear that this was how I was feeling.  I realized how isolated and alone I was in my head and how abnormal this was for me.  I usually share everything with Brandon!  I made an appointment with my midwife and began a low dose of an antidepressant. 

Within 3 days I knew just how bad off I had been.  I began to feel like myself again.  Fear and sadness no longer dominated my life.  I began to be able to pray again for things other than my own survival.  I began to see Theo as a wonderful (though extremely high-needs) little person.  I began to work toward healing the damage my relationship with Eden had  suffered.  Little Eden got yelled at a lot during that year.  She often asked why I was crying.  She tried to make me better by freely giving hugs.  She tiptoed around me and became more independent than ever.

Sometimes, now that I am better, I wonder how I kept all of this inside.  How I could appear to be functioning normally?  How could I have not recognized that this was not normal?  I wonder if I could see it in friends if they were in denial themselves.  I wonder how many suffer in silence.

Please, take the time to go now to Postpartum Progress and familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of PPD.  Don't let someone you love suffer.


  1. Amy, thank you for sharing such a private area of your life for all the world to see. I know it couldn't have been easy to do. Thank you for caring for others and wanting to help! I was grateful for the article, and read it carefully considering myself. I should probably have Daniel read it, too. You're right, I had no idea. I'm glad you're feeling better and getting back to your normal self. I will be praying for you as you continue to heal. ((hugs))

  2. Amy, I'm so grateful you opened your heart to us. I have struggled with depression and anxiety off and on for most of my life, and only recently had my meds increased so that I now, at 57, feel better than I have in my entire life. I have felt so alone. Condemned by many Christians who believe it a sin to take medication for depression/anxiety. But you and I know the truth, and I'm again thankful that you posted this, so that if there is only one other person out there with this need, that person can know she is not alone and that there is help and hope.

  3. your insight and transparency are God-given. thank you, amy, for loving us enough to share this with us. praying for you!

  4. Thank you for sharing. You are so right. I have been there, I have felt that way, I have thought those thoughts. My depression wasn't post partum, but a rare side effect of one of my medications. I suffered severely with depression, perplexing my doctor, until finally he figured out what caused it. It is entirely by the grace of God and an extremely loving husband that I got through those months. It also is NOT TRUE that depression is some kind of weakness, or due to sin, or that the person "just needs to snap out of it". And Christians are not exempt from suffering depression (take a look at the lives of Job, David, and Elijah for examples in the Bible). Thank you for sharing, and please know you are not alone.

  5. Wow. Thank you so much for recommending Postpartum Progress. Reading that it helped you means so much to me. And thank you for sharing your story, which I know will help others.
    - Katherine

  6. Amy thank you for sharing. It's too often our private lives that we aren't willing to share for fear of what will happen only to discover there is help on the other side. Thank you for encouraging each of us to be honest with ourselves, our spouse and our friends all of whom God has surrounded us with so that we would not have to stand alone. You're certainly not alone. Love and prayers to you!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't even begin to explain some of the similarities in our different adventures! You are so strong and brave, and I am very glad that you were able to reach out and receive the help you deserved so you could get well again! Lots of love!

  8. Amazing, beautiful post from an extraordinary woman and mother. I didn't know what else to say, but the previous poster said "strong and brave", and that is so true...among many other descriptors. Thank you for sharing.

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