Thursday, March 29, 2012

I really want to write the story of my postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD, if for nothing else than to remember it as an important part of the shaping of my life. I have debated whether it is just too, well, depressing to remember and put into words, or whether I even have a desire to remember. But the truth is, it really has shaped me in a way that almost nothing else in my life has. It truly was a gift from God, as horrific as it was. And so, I feel that I do need to write it out, to remember, to share what God did through my experience.

Clara was born on June 7th, 2010. I had a fantastic labor/delivery. We made the difficult decision to induce, so I was terrified that my labor would turn into a c-section, but it all worked out perfectly. The epidural worked great, I was in a room at 8 A.M., and Clara was born before supper. None of this middle-of-the-night labor; that's for those hard-core naturalists, har har.

I had been eagerly anticipating Clara's arrival from day one. My nesting was thwarted with two moves, the last one occurring just two weeks before Clara's birth. I believe the stress from those circumstances was one of the things that put me at-risk for PPD, among other things. I wonder now, looking back, if some of the fears I had while pregnant weren't antenatal depression. I really never wanted to see anyone, to make friends, to be doing anything other than sitting at home. I felt panicked much of the time, aggravated no doubt by all the details of two moves, Shannon's new job, etc. Making it to June 7th in an actual house was definitely an accomplishment.

So, Clara was born, and Shannon can describe the look on my face better than I can remember the feeling - terror. I honestly did not want to hold that sweet baby. I was terrified every time they gave her to me. I can't remember changing a single diaper in the hospital. When we were discharged, I remember feeling completely alone - confused, ill-equipped, like most new moms, I'm sure, but with an added dose of complete horror. I always knew that I loved my baby, that I would do anything for her, but somehow I couldn't feel it one bit. Looking back, I know that I had far too many expectations of myself and how I *should* feel. I know that I have always struggled with trying to follow all the rules and do everything perfectly. When you're a new mom, you are the object of everyone's opinions and advice and comments like, "You must be so happy!" etc. I thought I had to feel that way, while at the same time feeling frustrated that something must be wrong with me because I didn't feel that way.

And the the nursing. Oh, the nursing. Coming from a family where no one has used a bottle, I remember the utter relief, the first glimpse of hope I had when my mom said she would support me if I chose to bottle-feed. I literally watched the sun come up every morning, sobbing, trying to feed that kid. The lack of sleep contributed to my depression. I was confused, angry, terrified, filled with intrusive thoughts that make me shudder to remember, and particularly terrified of being alone. I would call Shannon home from work because I simply could not bear to be alone with my child. I was strong enough to admit that, but then felt guilty for feeling that.

The same day Clara had her first bottle, my sister called my OB/GYN for me explaining my situation. They gave me a low-dose antidepressant, which began to take effect immediately. I stopped crying. I started sleeping. The relief almost made up for the fact that I suddenly felt absolutely nothing. Completely dead.

Fast-forward a few months, when we spent the night at my mom's house because my dad was out of town. Shannon had one of his back spasms, and I had to take him to the ER during the night while my mom stayed with Clara. I had been up most of the night, and the next morning went to visit my doctor. I bawled in her office, and thankfully she gave me a new antidepressant that began to work immediately. For the first time, I had a significant relief of my symptoms plus actual feelings. Most often I couldn't discover the origin of those feelings (reality or PPD), but at least they were there. I felt like a light had come on, like I could finally take care of my baby by myself with relative confidence.

The following spring I got cocky and decided to try to come off my medication (with medical help, of course). That didn't go so well at all, and I hopped back on them and got myself into a counselor's office asap. I was able to work through a LOT of the spiritual and emotional issues that had contributed to my PPD, and as Clara's first birthday rolled around, I began to have flashbacks of the first few months of her life. They were actually very cathartic, as much of the beginning of her life had been blocked out of my memory.

A few months later, since I was feeling amazingly well, we decided to start trying for another baby. My doctor switched me over to a pregnancy-safe medication, and thus began our almost year-long journey now to have another child. That consisted of possibly three chemical pregnancies, a lot of physical pain, cysts, ultrasounds, and no baby to show for it.

I am currently almost completely weaned off my antidepressants altogether. I can't even begin to tell you how that feels. The last time I went completely off, I was a complete wreck, but right now, I feel fine. The thought of not having to make the medication-during-pregnancy decision is incredible to me, though I would still consider it if the need arose. While it is definitely necessary for me to actively pursue contentment with the fact that I am not pregnant, I am grateful that my next will (hopefully) be unmedicated.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I wanted to write a bit about how I have been doing lately, what I have been learning through my postpartum depression recovery, and what God has been teaching me. Mother's Day yesterday was a little emotional for me, but in a good way. I felt a little overwhelmed yesterday...I am so very grateful for my little girl, and so grateful to be a mommy. An imperfect mommy.

For so long, I have felt sad about my postpartum depression - angry that I missed out on those happy "new mommy" feelings that I expected to experience (okay, so I still get sad about that, but oh, well, right?), confused about why I had to go through this, struggling daily with my thoughts and feelings. Slowly, God is bringing me to a place of freedom in Christ that I never could have known without experiencing postpartum depression.

I've always been a perfectionist and a very emotional person. Somehow, I thought that God wanted me to be perfect. (As my counselor told me, "Do you want Christ to die every day or what?") When Clara was born, and I couldn't get her to stop crying, couldn't keep the house clean, couldn't even remember to eat...well, you can only imagine how I felt. Add to that a crazy chemical imbalance and improper brain functioning, and that has been my life for almost a year now. I'm quite sure it's been the hardest year of my life.

But, oh, the things I am learning! I am learning that I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to keep my house immaculate all the time. I'm learning that I don't have to make homemade baby food if I don't want to. I'm learning that if my kid watches TV, I'm not a bad mommy. I'm learning that when I make a mistake, I don't have to dwell on it for the next three days. I'm learning that I don't have to do what I think other people want me to do, only what God wants me to do. I'm learning that formula keeps a baby full, just like breast milk. :) I'm learning that what I do doesn't define who I am. I'm learning that I have a God who loves me, regardless of how I feel, what standards I do/don't measure up to, and what I accomplish in a day.

I am learning so much more than that, but those have been pretty big things for me. :) I am so grateful for my little girl and for all that God has been teaching me through my postpartum experience. This Mother's Day, I am overwhelmed by God's mercy over the past year. It has been (and will continue to be, I'm sure) a roller coaster, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I was singing this hymn this morning, and realized that it kind of expresses my feelings lately.

May the mind of Christ my Savior Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow'r controlling All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph Only thru His pow'r.

May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in ev'rything,
That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing -- This is victory.

May I run the race before me, Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus As I onward go.

- Kate B. Wilkinson

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday morning

I wish it would warm up and get sunny out so that Clara and I could go for walks again.

I'm proud of myself today. Clara has a cold, and I had the stomach flu over the weekend. But with God's strength, we are making it! Nine months ago, I don't think we could have. I feel strong today. The weather is yucky, the house is messy, the laundry is piled up, Clara and I aren't feeling well, but I know that it's all okay. We are going to make it! I know that it is not because of my own energy or resources, but through God's redemptive power. I love that!

I found out this weekend that my sister is pregnant again. We had babies a couple of weeks apart. I cried after I found out. I am super happy for her and excited, but it makes me sad that I am not in a position to be pregnant yet. I'd like to think that I am, but I know it's not God's time yet. It's all about expectations. I really thought I'd be pregnant by now, but that's not in the plan yet. I have an absolutely wonderful little girl who I love more than anything, and I am so grateful for her. We have a great time, she and I. Even if God doesn't give us any more children, we are so so blessed. I like coming to terms with that. I'm not saying that it's not possible, but I feel that I need to realize that it could be that God's will is for us to have just one. Accepting that helps me to be okay with whatever happens. We have a wonderful life.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Cloud Nine

A friend had a baby today. She and her husband were described as being "on cloud nine." I'm happy for them. I don't understand it, though. They say you don't know the feeling of having a baby until you actual have one, but I think I still don't understand. When Clara was born, my most prominent feeling was terror. Recovery was SO MUCH WORSE than I knew it was going to be, and this little tiny screaming thing didn't know how to eat properly. I didn't want to hold her. "Cloud nine" is definitely not how I would describe those first few days. I vaguely remember watching I Love Lucy in the hospital the night Clara was born. I don't know why I was even awake. Shannon was sleeping on the little cot next to me, Clara was in the nursery, but I was awake. I remember that my mom came to visit me the next day, and I remember how badly it hurt when Clara was nursing while my mom was there. I remember attending the new parents class with Shannon at the hospital and not paying much attention when when the instructor talked about postpartum depression. I always skipped that part in the books, assuming it would never be me. I remember coming home from the hospital. I remember lying down on the couch in exhaustion as soon as I walked in the door. We gave Clara a bath and she..ahem..."went" all over the white towel we used to bathe her on. What were were thinking, bathing her on a white towel? :P My parents and Naomi and co. brought us dinner that night. I couldn't eat a bite. I remember feeling very overwhelmed and going upstairs with Clara to feed her. I didn't come back down until after everyone had left. I wish that I could tear up and how beautiful my baby looked, how glorious it was to be back at home, and how amazing it was to have a little family. But, I tear up because I remember so well that feeling of confusion and overwhelming panic. It feels good to write about it, to remember.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Post One

Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-live Clara's early baby days. Looking at her baby pictures brings back so many memories of pain and confusion and insomnia and just overwhelming grief. I wish I could go back, feeling how I feel now, and get to enjoy her tiny-ness, her newborn smell, those peaceful moments that I always dreamed of, but never got to enjoy. So much of those first few months I can't even recall, yet there are so many specific moments that I remember all too well. I know that Shannon was off of work for two whole weeks after Clara was born, but I have no idea what we did for those two weeks or any idea of what our days looked like, etc. I do, however, remember specific moments in time - specific feelings that now I wish I could forget. I remember, wailing on the bed in the middle of the night because Clara would not sleep. I remember watching countless episodes of House Hunters and eating hundreds of Teddy Grahams in the wee hours of the morning, then weeping again because the sun was coming up and I had slept maybe one hour all night. Looking back, I'm not even sure if Clara was really crying all night or not. I am sure she must not have been, and Shannon can verify that fact. I honestly do not remember much about her at all in those days. I grieve for what I lost, but at the same time, I am so grateful for what Shannon, Clara, and I got to experience. We all toughed it out together. Do you remember that scene in While You Were Sleeping where the guy is saying how everything is so much better since he had the close call with death, even his ice cream? That's kind of how I feel. Not 100% better, but compared to where I was, 200% better. I'm not even sure if that makes sense, but in a weird way, it does to me.