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.