This is really scary for me.
Post Partum Depression is hard enough for me to say out loud, let alone write about for the world to see.
I've felt like I should write about this for a long time, but now sitting down to actually do it, I have a knot in my stomach. Now people are really going to know. Will they think of me differently?
A big part of me feels like dealing with this right now decreases my worth.
According to the CDC website, PPD effects 10-15% of women....and that's just the cases they know about.
I know a lot of people who have had babies. I only know of three people who have had PPD. I don't think this means the statistic is wrong, I think most people just aren't willing to talk about.
At a time where I should be happiest, I'm fighting an internal battle with these emotions that don't make sense.
I don't mean to sound dramatic.
I feel like I should write my experience with it. It could help someone. It could help me (undoubtedly). I didn't know of anyone who had had PPD before getting pregnant and maybe if I had, it would have helped to know that I wasn't alone.
I think my PPD started the day Ainsley was born. I didn't go into a lot of details in my post about Ainsley's birth, but it was a traumatic experience for me. I hope I don't scare anyone, I'm just trying to be honest. The day Ainsley was born I was in so much pain that it was difficult to think about anything else. That, of course, triggered guilt that I wasn't bursting with happiness like I thought I should be. I was still happy she was here. I was still overwhelmed with love for her, but it was different.
I don't even know how to get started. There's so many things I feel have attributed to my PPD.
The first few months were...hard. Ainsley was not a good sleeper or eater and, as I remember it, spent most of her time screaming. It was never diagnosed by a doctor, but she fit the criteria for being colicky. I wasn't making enough milk (probably in part due to massive amounts of stress) and she was always hungry, which made me feel inadequate. Clint was only able to take one day off of school for her birth and was already in over his head so I was on my own when it came to taking care of this little body with extremely strong lungs. When she was two weeks old, my brother got into a life threatening paragliding accident. My family rushed to see him in California in the Intensive Care Unit where he would spend more than the next two months of his life. The social worker just told us it was bad and we should all make it out to see him as soon as possible. My family left the night we got the phonecall, but with a husband in school and a two week old baby and healing of my own, I had to stay behind. My parents and brothers were in California whenever possible, coming home only a few days here and there to work. My sister was already living in California about an hour away from the hospital my brother was staying at. My family was there, I was here. I wanted to be able to be with my family. I wanted to see my brother and tell him I loved him. We really really didn't think he would make it. I think it was about 2.5 months before he was taken off the breathing machine and we were sure he would live. Even just writing this I can't keep it together. I can't tell you how devastating it is to be a state away, living every day unsure if your brother would make it to the next. I'm not trying to make myself the victim here. This is probably the biggest trial my brother will have and I still can't imagine what he's going through. I know my struggles relating to his accident are nothing in comparison to his, but I still feel it added to my PPD and that's what I'm trying to address here. I was so sleep deprived I was literally hallucinating. Ainsley would only sleep when held a certain way which didn't allow me to sleep. I felt like I was living a nightmare. Breastfeeding was painful. I almost gave up about fifty times. Almost every time I fed her I would cry from pain and frustration. Not to mention, I was also trying to heal from over two hours of pushing. Everything was really taking a toll on our marriage too. Clint and I didn't have time for each other, and we both grew to resent each other a little for that (which we have since resolved).
Basically, I feel like there was a lot that attributed to why I got PPD aside from those nasty little devils called hormones.
So how did it effect me? Mostly just on the inside. I've never felt more worthless, which makes no sense. I was doing the best thing I possibly could with my time, what God intended for me to do, but I felt like dirt. That's part of why PPD is so frustrating. It makes no sense. You think, "hey, this should be the happiest time in my life right now! I'm so blessed to have a healthy baby!" but really, you feel like a failure worth less than the onsie your newborn is wearing. The other part that makes no sense, is I was still happy during this time. I feel like I could give two completely different recounts of my first three months and both would be true. For example, I was being completely honest when I wrote this post. On one hand, I was filled with joy, happiness, purpose, and loved my baby more than I could imagine. On the other, I felt worthless, hopeless, depressed, and still loved my baby more than I could imagine. That part stays the same. Part of the reason this is so hard to share is because I feel like it might give people the impression that I love my baby less or that I'm chosing to be negative and not enjoy this time. I'm actually puting a lot of effort into trying to feel happier. It definitely helps, but it only goes so far. I am enjoying this time with Ainsley, but it takes a lot of effort and things are still difficult.
I just haven't felt like myself. After a blogger meetup earlier this month, I came home and cried to my husband because I just feel so awkward...out of place...and not myself. Some people have told me they haven't noticed much of a difference, but there's always the possibility (a strong one) they're trying to be nice. Either way, I don't feel the same inside. I think that's a huge reason that I'm having such a hard time with my body right now. Yeah, I've posted about my post partum body issues a million times, I know. Maybe the reason I feel so awful about my body is that I'm trying to find a reason I feel so bad inside. I think that's true for a lot of people who have body issues. I feel like if my body was different, I'd feel different about myself. While pride absolutely comes from putting a reasonable amount of effort into your appearance, I think most of our confidence should come from inside. Easier said than done, right?
Another way PPD has effected me is paranoia. The first two months or so was the worst. I constantly thought someone was trying to break in and hurt Ainsley. I would run through scenario after scenario all day of what I would do. I was always worried she'd spontaneiously stop breathing (although that still worries me sometimes). I worried that crying around her was going to give her some kind of issues as an adult. I was always worried about her growth. I was worried with every sudden sound and movement she made. I'm getting better at letting things go, but it has taken a lot of effort and a lot of communication (read: prayer) with Heavenly Father to help me.
Then there's the guilt. Ah....the guilt. The guilt that I had to lay down my crying baby for 3 minutes so I could use the restroom. The guilt that I had to supplement with formula for a week (sidenote: I don't think anyone who uses formula is bad! I wanted to breastfeed, and when I thought I wasn't able to, it felt like I was failing). There was guilt of not having the house completely clean because she could catch a disease. I felt guilty that I wasn't fitting into this new role effortlessly. I thought I would only be able to handle having one child and I felt guilty for that. There was guilt for not inviting people over to see her (the reason I didn't invite people over wasn't because I didn't want them to see her, but because I already felt so overwhelmed). I felt guilty every time I cried. I felt guilty for looking like I got struck by lightning. I felt guilty for not being a good wife. I felt guilty every time I felt guilty.
I don't want this to be a sob story. I want to be constructive. I hope that someone who has felt the way I described above will feel comfort knowing that they aren't alone.
The advice I would give to others struggling with PPD is to stay close to God and other things that give you purpose and lift you up. Take the time to nurture your marriage. Know that you are enough. That child is yours for a reason. No one could be a better mom to your baby. Don't feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Get as much sleep as possible. Try to eat well. Put a reasonable amount of effort into getting ready for the day- this may mean just putting on mascara. Recognize that it's okay to struggle and it's okay to not feel the same as your other fifty mom friends who seem to get the greatest joy from mountains of laundry and wiping spit up off their shirts (more power to them!). For goodness sakes break down and buy yourself a pair of pants that actually fits! Be nice to yourself. As much as you want to hide under your covers in bed, get out. Put on a bra (okay, so that one's not so fun). Take yourself out to lunch. Watch a movie during your 12 daily breastfeeding sessions. Remember that this time you have right now is not forever. They grow so fast. Try to focus and enjoy your days with them. Be present. Push out the bad thoughts about yourself.
And if all else fails, you can write me an e-mail and vent about everything :) You know this sista will help you out!
p.s. Thank you to everyone who has been so loving and kind to me these past few months. It has meant a lot.