This is the second blog post in a 3 part series called, The War. I invite you to read, empathize, understand, and share my story with others: new moms, especially. I am not ashamed of what you are about to read, but the stigma of post partum depression is very real and polarizing. Start the discussion with others. Join it if someone shares theirs with you. You are not alone.
I arrived in Kansas City with Adam and Lo with little fanfare. I didn’t tell people I was coming back because I just wanted a few days to catch up on sleep and adjust to my new medication. I’d be back to new and I’d go home to conquer my life again in just six days.
The first thing I did was give up breastfeeding. While this was such a tough thing for me to do, I knew that I needed to focus on my mental health and it was causing me stress. Pumping and feeding- along with an unpleasant, depression-like milk letdown feeling, had me dreading every session. I cried at the thought of feeding my child formula. However, I knew that my window of opportunity was closing- I was rapidly approaching the point of no return with my mental health and I needed to grab the reins then.
But the new medication was too much; I was given something to bring back my appetite and help me sleep, that left me in a zombie-like state for 20 hours. I went to bed at 8 pm each night, with Adam and the baby following at 10 pm. It wasn’t like me- I’m usually the life of the party! Being with others refuels my spirit, not squashes it.
Lo still wasn’t sleeping, especially in the new environment. She wouldn’t sleep in the crib in our guest room, so most nights we struggled in the dark to make a bottle and squeeze her into the bed with us. Adam and I took turns, but I wasn’t getting any more rest in Missouri than I was Pennsylvania.
We returned home and all of the stressors we left behind came back in full force. I met with a post-partum specialist the first day back. I had chewed my nails down to nubs. I used practically a whole box of tissues on her desk that day.
I remember saying out loud, “I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that scares me, because that’s always been one of my best personality traits- positivity.” She looked at me and said, “You aren’t you right now. Your body and brain are under so much stress, you’re in survival mode.” She was right. But I didn’t feel like I was surviving, I felt like I was drowning.
She rallied the troops. She called my doctor and got me an emergency meeting the next day. She called another contact who checked in on me over the weekend. She encouraged me to call friends and ask for help. She text me throughout the weekend to make sure I was feeling okay, and re-assured me that I wasn’t alone.
This was the lowest I had ever felt in my life. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I had forgotten what it was like to feel good, to feel normal. I stayed in bed or on the couch while the dishes piled up and we ordered pizza. My little girl was the only thing that got me through these dark days.
How could I feel this way? I had a wonderful baby! Smart and sweet and pretty good (even without sleeping much!) It was hard to see Adam, who has always relied on me for strength, to see me like this. I could see the look of worry in his eyes, at one point patting a crying baby and me at the same time- telling us both that it would be okay. He said it to her because he meant it, he said it to me because he hoped it would be true. (More on Adam’s story here).
I became anxious as I got my return to work date. I didn’t want to go back. How would I handle it all again? I couldn’t even handle it while I was off every day, sleeping most of the day and not participating in much life activity. How could I do it all?
And then, one day, the sun started shining for me again. It wasn’t a full on sunshine, but it was enough to break through that cold, hard exterior I’d built around me the last few months. I felt my chest lighten a bit. I could breathe just a little easier.