Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spirited Sunday: My Battle with Postpartum Depression

So, I really didn't want to write this post.  I've been struggling with the idea of it for some time.  Most of my posts are general in nature and don't deal much with my personal experience, but I truly believe God has been laying this on my heart.  If you are reading this blog, you probably have friends with new babies, you have a new baby, or you work with children whose moms have new babies.  I have been silent about my experience for six years, but I believe God is calling me to share.  Maybe this "Spirited Sunday" post will reach someone who is struggling!  If you or someone you know is dealing with postpartum depression, feel free to share this.  Here's a small part of my story...

I had heard about women who struggled with postpartum depression, but I never expected to be one of them.  And yet, looking back, all the risk factors were there.  I had an amazing amount of stress in my life:  my dad died (at age 49) when I was five months pregnant, I had to quit my job, my husband finished school and started a new job, we moved to a new town, and then I had my first baby.  She was almost two weeks overdue and born after ten hours of induced labor via emergency c-section.  After my mom saw her, she remarked, "I've never seen a newborn so alert."  What an understatement!  My description of her was hyper-alert.  At her two week appointment, I remember sobbing and sobbing because I thought she didn't seem like other newborns.  Weren't "normal" newborns supposed to sleep a little?  She spent all her time crying.  I remember taking her to my mom's house when she was three weeks old.  It was an agonizing three hour drive -- she cried for almost all of it.

And so the depression began.  I couldn't see an end to the baby's crying (she was quite colicky until about four months).  I barely slept, and the sleep I did get was so fragmented it was almost worthless.  I had thoughts of sending her away until she was older.  I would get in the car and imagine myself driving off the road and wrecking, so I wouldn't have to hear any more crying.  There were terrible moments of panic and fear.  I really thought I was losing my mind.  In the middle of all the night wakings, I would scream and curse (if you know me at all, you know this isn't me and doesn't really fit my personality).  It was so agonizing.  I could not shake it, and I couldn't seem to change it.  I kept crying out to God, but I was in the darkest night of my soul I had ever experienced.  (Writing it down now sounds so terrible, but I promised myself I would be honest.  I believe there is someone out there going through this right now who needs to know someone else has been there.)  Everything was fuzzy, and I really didn't believe I would make it through.  I knew I needed help, but I felt powerless to find it.  I was way too embarrassed.  I mean, I had a beautiful baby -- shouldn't I be happy?

The extremely sad part is I never did get the help I needed, and I suffered through it for almost a year.  We wanted more children, but I was absolutely terrified at the thought of going through that again.  But by the time our oldest was 17 months old, I was pregnant again.  You would think I would've learned, but I suffered silently again.  The depression with my second one wasn't nearly as intense as before.  I had a little better support system, and it didn't last as long.  I was back to myself (well, as "back to myself" as I could be with two little children) when our second child was six months old.  And then guess what?  I found myself expecting again when she was just eight months old.  I was in shock, but I was determined to get help this time.

A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum HealthI was very proactive even before the baby was born.  I was not going to go through it again.  I really think if I had suffered through it a third time, I would've tried to end my life.  It was incredibly devastating for me.  Plus, having three children ages three and under was difficult enough without adding postpartum depression to the mix!  With my third pregnancy, I took a non-conventional approach.  I found an amazing book called A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health by Dean Raffelock.  I followed a lot of the nutritional advice.  I also had my hormone levels tested and took bio-identical hormones after the baby was born.  After the test, my doctor told me I "had the hormone levels of an 80 year old woman.  No wonder you feel terrible."  (If that's what I'll feel like when I'm 80, I'm not convinced I want to get there!)  Anyway, it made all the difference in the world.  I know it is a "controversial" approach, but I truly believe it worked for me.

Postpartum depression has a way of sucking all the life out of you.  I look back with deep regret.  I didn't even get to enjoy my first two babies.  All those sweet little moments I had with Sunshine (my third baby), I don't remember having with my oldest ones.  It makes me wistful, but it also makes me angry.  I can't get those wasted days back, but maybe God can use me to help someone else avoid or make it safely through postpartum depression.  No one should have to suffer silently. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, please check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the series. 



Blogger (V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

Great post, thanks for being honest. I am a doula and get to work with so many wonderful women. I have never had a Mom admit to me that she was dealing with PPD, but this is a good reminder to ask them about 2-10 months later. The first child is always hard, and the fact that you had 2 more babies so close together would have definitely been difficult.

July 25, 2010 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Terra said...

Wow! I feel as if I just read my own story. I had my first child four days before I turned 26. My labor and delivery was HORRIBLE! I was induced on her due date and went through 12 hours of intense labor while my family sat there and watched me. I felt like a science experiement. My aunt was in the hospital at the same time, so I had many more visitors than I normally would have had. My sister even brought her boyfriend in the room. I was extremely mad and frustrated and I think that is what caused me not to relax to let things happen. I ended up having a C-section and I don't remember much about it. I was so loopy from all the drugs they gave me. I was mean to my family in the hospital and I don't really remember feeling a connection with my beautiful baby girl. I felt horrible. Not like myself at all. My mom stayed with me for a few days after I got home and I cried like a baby when she left. I felt trapped. I couldn't drive because I had a c-section and then I had a baby to take care of on top of that. I always knew I'd be a good mom, but something in me wasn't letting me be. She wouldn't let me put her down for 2 months. And then, she started sleeping through the night and I felt soooooo much better about everything. She ended up being such a wonderful baby. She was happy and content all of the time.
I was ready for baby #2 2 years later. I'll post another comment so that this one isn't a mile long.

July 25, 2010 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Terra said...

My second pregnancy rocked my world. My ankles and feet started swelling really bad (like my first) at around 16 weeks. I was so exhausted that I would send my 2 year old to daycare everyday and then I would sleep all day. I couldn't get anything done. It was like she was sucking the life out of me. I would wake up from sleeping for hours and cry because I was so sick of feeling the way I did. Then she came via c-section. I was soooooo nervous because I remember how painful it was to recover from one. But the delivery went well and I remember everything about baby girl #2 coming into this world. Everything was perfect until I brought her home. She woke up every 2 hours for months. When she was a month old we had to call 911 because she spit up after I had breast fed her and she choked on it. I couldn't get her to breathe. She ended up having Acid Reflux and was put on medication. My other child had a complete personality change when the baby came home. She was acting up constantly (and still is) and having to take care of an infant and a toddler with no sleep just about drove me insane. I was yelling and screaming all the time. I would curl up in a ball on the couch and cry. No one listened when I called out for help. All I wanted was a weekend of sleep and no one ever offered to take my children to let me do that. I was a mess. It wasn't until about 7 months after my 2nd daughter was born that I started getting more rest. My husband got laid off and he started getting up with her at night. Oh, I forgot to mention that I started working when my 2nd child was 2 months old. I started to turn numb to everything. I had the same thoughts about driving off into a ditch or something too. I felt like an absolute horrible mother. I couldn't get help because we had no insurance. My 2nd daughter just turned 1 year old and I feel like we survived this year. It was rough, but we made it. Things are now a lot better, but I still haven't decided on whether or not I want another child. It was so bad that I started getting the shot for birth control because I don't think I could handle another one right now. We'll see what happens. Anyway, I feel your pain and am so glad to see that someone else went through what I went through. Not that I would want someone to go through that, but it's nice to know that I'm not alone.

July 25, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Terri H said...

Oh Stacie....I wish we could have been there for each other after our first babies were born!! I know reading this that I did not suffer like you did, but I sure do understand those feelings and thinking that my baby must be abnormal because babies are supposed to sleep! Praise God that you got the help you needed this time, and thank you so much for sharing.

July 25, 2010 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Prairie Cate said...

Thanks for sharing your story Stacie! I love your blog, and I love your sweet family! The three princesses are lucky to have a Mom like you.

July 26, 2010 at 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I too had postpartum depression, and you are so right - it's hard not to regret what you missed out on, and no one quite gets that until they have been in that head space as well. I am glad to have taken a lot of photos, but have very little knowledge of the story behind them! I have been so terrified of feeling that way again that I have put off having another child. Now my child is off to school next year and I had really hoped she would enjoy some time at home as a big sister before we have another. Thanks for sharing you story!

July 28, 2010 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

So wonderful how you are humbling yourself to share your story so that you can reach out to others. I suffered with PPD after my 1st child and was shocked because I had never experienced depression before. It was so scary to have strange thoughts and also to feel numb to the world around you as you are taking care of the blessing that you were given. I remember telling my therapist that I felt like my days were being stolen from me. I cried to her, my husband, and to God asking for my "joy" to come back. Luckily, I didn't wait too long to get help, because I had relatives who suffered from PPD and I watched them go through it. I became proactive as well before having my 2nd and 3rd child. Don't be embarrased by your story. We couldn't help what was happening to us biologically/hormonally. I'm glad you found an approach that worked for you. Others may need therapy or a combination of medication/therapy and shouldn't be embarrased about whatever approach works for them. The important thing is to get healthy for themselves and their family.


July 30, 2010 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger KBH said...

I'm so glad I read this. I also felt 'not myself' but in a bit of a different way. I was just completely un-engaged in my life with my baby. It was a struggle just to take a shower and do daily tasks. I dealt with the severe mood swings too and I think the hardest part about PPD IS getting help. I didn't reach out because I didn't really realize anything was going on. (Afterall, having a new baby IS exhausting.) But, once I figured it out then I was able to look back and say "Gosh! I was really depressed!"

August 12, 2010 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Mark and Stephanie Stonis said...

Thank you for being brave enough to talk about this--it is/has been so hard to find Christians who are willing to be open about this topic. I just celebrated my daughter's first birthday and it is so hard to look back and not even remember her first 6 months :( Thankfully, I am well now, but it has been a hard road. With much hesitancy I shared my story on my blog, hoping that it might help someone as well.

August 31, 2010 at 6:38 PM  

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