1 in 7 pregnant & new moms will have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.*
I can pinpoint the day and the time that I first felt the gut wrenching feeling of post-partum anxiety and depression creep into my life. It was the day I was being discharged from the hospital after having Natalee. It was April 14, 2009. I had an easy birth, filled with lots of laughter. Natalee was taking to nursing rather quickly, and my mom was there to help me with the other kids and to help us get settled in at home. I vividly remember sitting with the nurse as she was going over all the discharge paperwork with me. Do I feel safe at home? Yes m’am (although my mind screamed no). Have I ever been abused? No m’am (although my mind screamed yes). I started to cry and she asked me if I was ok. Of course, of course – its just hormones I quickly replied. She said “you know you can stay another night, it is okay”. I again repeated that I was fine, and that we needed to go home. I already knew staying another night was not an option, my husband (now ex) would not let me. I was already hearing about how much this was going to cost, and knew that staying an extra night would just bring more fussing at me, and more ridicule about how my emotions cost us so much more money. We get home and I wanted so desperately to be this happy family. We were complete, or so I thought. I thought this baby would bring he and I closer – nope. He went back to his ways immediately, although he never really stopped. He texted his mistress the whole time I was in labor. I remember asking for help, as he sat clear on the other side of the room from me on the couch texting. I remember he left the room a few times, I can only assume now it was to call her. He had moments of being nice – but I knew he wanted to be anywhere but there.
The emotions of having a failing marriage, coupled with the emotions & hormones that come from just having a baby were eating me alive. I wasn’t sleeping at all, even when the baby slept I couldn’t sleep. I would forget to eat, and I remember having to be reminded to shower. I remember putting Natalee in her bassinet to sleep, and I went downstairs and sat on the couch next to him. I so much wanted to spend time with him, but with one glance & one comment he cut me so deeply “you smell funky, better go shower before the baby wakes up so you can take care of her”. There was no offer to help, no “let me take care of our daughter while you get some rest.” I began getting sick. It was 2 weeks after we left the hospital. Kids had gone back to school, and he back to work. I was both pumping and breastfeeding, I was determined to continue nursing. I was sitting on the couch downstairs pumping while she slept, and I felt like I had been hit by a tractor trailer. I was shaking, and despite having a 102 fever; I buried myself until blankets and hoodies because I was freezing. This went on for 3 days. Nursing was excruciatingly painful, and Natalee all but stopped, spending so much time screaming as we tried to latch on that I would often give up and offer a bottle of breastmilk I had pumped earlier. My husband told me I wasn’t sick, there was nothing wrong with me – that I was just tired. On the 3rd day I called my doctor, and after a short visit (and more fussing from him about how much money this was costing), we determined I had mastisis. I would never wish this on anyone, it was awful. Antibiotics, and I continued to pump and began supplementing with formula as well. I was determined that if I wasn’t going to be able to get her to latch, that we were going to pump and bottle feed her. I continued this for a week, and got very sick again. Back to the doc, more money spent and I had a 2nd bout of the same infection and after a very serious talk with my doctor – I came home to tell him that I could no longer nurse. More fussing about how much formula was going to cost us, and how I better find a way to pay for it = more anxiety for me. I wasn’t sleeping again, I felt better from the infection – but my mental state was out of control. I never asked my doctor about any postpartum mental illnesses, I was too scared of what my husband would do. The mental bashing I took throughout my pregnancy, and since giving birth was enough. I didn’t need to add fuel to his fire. I was never in a place where I had thoughts of hurting my children, in fact it was the opposite. I was terrified of something happening to Natalee, and any thought of her out of my sight was paralyzing to me. It was awful. Coupled with a failing marriage, my anxiety took control full on.
He stopped coming home nights, and I knew he was staying somewhere else with “her”. I was almost relieved when this happened, as I didn’t have to walk on eggshells. But the anxiety was still there. My husband finally came clean about his affair on March 11, 2011, and moved out the next day. I was finally able to talk to my doctor in April 2011 (Natalee was about to turn 2) about getting some help. He talked with me for a very long time, and I was finally prescribed an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant. I began to heal, and began to move forward with my life. I battled with the anxiety for two years prior to that day, and that day I chose to get the help I needed so I didn’t have to battle anymore. I began counseling at our church, and that helped me tremendously (in addition to medication). It took time and love to climb out of this, and it didn’t happen overnight. I still have bouts of anxiety, and days where I want to crawl in bed and hide. There are days even 7 years later that my chest tightens and it hurts to breathe. Those days are far between now, and I thank God everyday that I sought the help I did when I did. I wish that I had been encouraged to seek help prior to this, and wished that I had not been so scared to do so. It is my hope, that I can encourage other women to seek help as they need, without fear or additional anxiety.
Climb out of the Darkness (COTD) is an amazing fundraiser program started by a wonderful, dear woman named Katherine Stone. COTD helps fund Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of postpartum depression and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy, childbirth and new motherhood.
How does this relate to me?
I am climbing with the Charleston team on June 18th, and we are climbing the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC. If you are interested in climbing with us on this day, or want to help fund this amazing cause, please visit out climb page: Team South Carolina – Charleston
To learn more about Postpartum Progress, their programs and how they help mothers please visit their website at: http://postpartumprogress.org/
*Learn more about PPD & More: http://postpartumprogress.org/learn-about-ppd-more/