I am in the thick of some postpartum depression. I have wanted to write about this so many times. I’ve journaled a little of it and thought of posting a quick social media update. But it felt so self-serving, self-indulgent, and overall self-centered. Every time I go to write something down, I cringe at the thought of people reading it, then I cringe even more at the thought of anyone’s pity and then their advice. Before even sitting down to write, I quickly googled “Can you disable comments on Instagram” in hopes of eliminating any temptation for readers to say the well-intentioned but completely detrimental “Thinking of you!”, “Hugs!”, or my favorite “This happened to me too and this is how I dealt with it. Here’s my story.” I just wanted to mass update people in my life while also doing some therapeutic documenting. Does anyone but my mom even read this stuff? Anyway, this is going to be long. If you don’t want to read about postpartum depression, I would suggest that you continue on with your day. Ok, here it goes.
From the time we brought Lucas home… nope further back. From the time we got pregnanat… mmm further. From the time we decided to get pregnanat… from the time I started university. Ugh on October 22nd, 1990 I was born with anxiety.
Only joking. I’m going to attempt the world’s quickest back story. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment in my childhood when I started to crave control (my dad likes to tell the story of when I was mad at all my friends because “I couldn’t get them to DO WHAT I WANTED!” I was born a card-carrying Type-A personality), but it started rather young. Fast forward to college. All those years of suppressing feelings of lack of control had balled up somewhere dark inside and manifested themselves as a pretty little OCD tick called trichotillomania. This is a compulsive behavior where one compulsively pulls out their hair and sometimes (as was the case with me) they eat it. It snuck up on me my freshman year at university. I even remember telling my roommate that I had noticed that I would space out and when I snapped to I’d have a small pile of hair by my side. It all came to a head the semester before I graduated, and I finally sought the help of a therapist. Through a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and Prozac, I had my pulling under control (which is ironic because I pulled to feel in control). But my need for control and my anxiety just showed up in other places in life, mainly when it came to keeping my house clean. I still see a therapist, but I weaned myself off of the meds. Now I pull as a coping mechanism when I’m stressed or anxious, but usually it’s mild. Ok, wrap this part up, tie it in a pretty bow. Done. That was the condensed version of my background with how I cope with stress, anxiety, and the general feeling of lack of control.
When we decided to get pregnant, the pulling peaked again. We were spending all this money (blood work, x-rays, and check ups with a fertility specialist were all covered, but sperm was $700 per attempt, each insemination cost us $350, sperm storage was $600, etc) and time (I was tracking my ovulation, reading my body signs, taking my temperature every morning, peeing on sticks to see if I was verging on releasing an egg, I was literally tracking my ovulation hourly when I knew I was coming up on a window of peak fertility). So in my need to control a situation where I had so little control, I was a ball of mood swings, hair pulling, and house cleaning. I thought “If only we could get pregnant right away, I would be happy. I could be at peace and enjoy a beautiful life growing inside of me.” Cue my current self, cry-laughing.
We did indeed get pregnant on the first try. We were instantly happy. The universe had heard our cries for a baby, and had showed us favor. But the happy was quickly over-shadowed by fear. Crippling fear. I started having dead baby dreams nightly. My wife would wake me up from a teary nightmare, then hold me as I continued sobbing once awake. I told a friend that I was pregnant, then embarassingly apologized after I burst into sad, heavy tears saying “I’m so sorry, I’m just so afraid.” I understand that fear during pregnancy is normal. However, I felt like normalizing it was almost belittling and condescending. My fear felt bigger than that and by calling it normal felt like a sneaky way of silencing what I wanted to process. I digress. After our anatomy scan, where we got to find out the gender of our sweet, perfect boy, and see his healthy body moving around inside me, my second trimester seemed brighter. The dreams got better, the nausea subsided, and I finally got to enjoy being pregnant. This was short-lived as it all came crashing down in my third trimester. I constantly counted his kicks. Dayna would come home to dinner burning on the stove while I stood next to it, hands on my bulging belly, eyes big, waiting for a kick after having realized it had been too long since I had felt him. Then when he finally woke up from his nap, my heave of emotion and subsequent tears that followed every time. It was an exhausting way to live. For 39 weeks and one day. But who was counting? (Side-note: this is why Lucas is the only child coming from my body. I cannot put myself through the emotional ringer that is pregnancy AGAIN).
I had been working with a midwife and RN in preparation for birth, and it was actually my RN who suggested that I visit the OB psychologist at Madigan. What a godsend. She just listened to my fears and helped me work things out slowly. She has kept seeing me postpartum and I am eternally grateful to her.
After bringing baby home, I went through the “normal” wave of emotions that follow childbirth. Most women go through it (actually EVERY woman I have ever talked to about their birth experiences have gone through it) and we are even prepared for it by our doctors and midwives. Your body has just gone through a major event and you are being flooded with all of these natural hormones and you’re crying one moment then elated the next. Then you add sleep deprivation and a sore, healing body, a baby with a tongue and lip tie, latching issues, five weeks of painful engorgement, cracked and blistered nipples, insecurities with breastfeeding, etc. I didn’t start to see the light at the end of the tunnel until week seven. Then I slowly emerged from the fog.
And suddenly, we were doing it. The baby was starting to sleep better, eat better, and we kept getting the little rewards that come along with a new baby: the first smile, first laugh, kisses and snuggles, all the warm and fuzzy stuff. Before I knew it, Lucas and I knew one another. We were each other’s everything and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We had finally reached the fun part. The good stuff. He and I had created a schedule and we found comfort in the structure of our days. My therapist said that she was not worried about me and didn’t see any flags for the dreaded postpartum depression. Around three months postpartum she told me that we could go to sessions on an “as needed” basis from here on out. She said that I should call her if every I felt that I needed a check in. I left that session feeling like I had graduated to next level mom. I was well. No postpartum depression for me. And I didn’t even eat my placenta (if you are confused by this statement, Google it. It’s a thing).
This update got really long, so I’ve decided to release it in two or three parts to make the read less intimidating. Stay tuned for part two.