But SHE didn’t say anything. “Why didn’t she say something?” Visit here to read Part 1 on Postpartum Depression.
SHE did! I know I DID. I shared. I told. I was even specific.
After my last pregnancy, months three through seven were the worst for me. During month five, I contemplated jumping off a bridge. On August 2nd of this year, I sent this picture to my husband with the caption, “Three and a half years ago I thought about jumping from this spot. It’s very hard to admit.” I enjoy walking past this spot now because it reminds me of my recovery back then.
During month six, I picked up a gun and thought about shooting myself in the head to make the crying stop. Obviously, I didn’t use that gun. I picked it up off the counter, stared at it, then moved it and locked it in the safe. Out of sight, out of mind.
This was also the same month I packed a bag, kissed my husband and children goodbye and walked out the door. I sobbed as I explained to my husband, I am not leaving you or the children. I need a reprieve. This is when my husband said, “You do what you have to do to feel better.” My oldest was playing in the front yard with friends as I kissed him and told him I loved him, got in my car, and drove off. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
That probably wasn’t the best way for either of us to handle this situation but it was all we knew. I have no idea what was going through my husbands head. I thought he would leave me. I thought he would use it against me. I was scared out of my mind that the locks would be changed when I came home but they weren’t. My husband loved me and even though it was hard on him, he lived in that uncomfortableness. I guess he was obligated. It was in our vows.
I was bad then for sure. I was also teaching childbirth education classes and didn’t incorporate much on postpartum depression in my classes but even so, an educator can’t be expected to us that education on themselves. It doesn’t seem to work that way. 15% of women experience postpartum depression. There are also many forms of postpartum mood disorders. Postpartum Support International is an excellent resource and while I knew it existed, I am JUST now reading and reaching out on that website.
I don’t believe what I am experiencing now is the same though. My struggles following Timmy’s birth were a bit different yet there are some similarities. I believe I was grieving the loss of my independence that I had gained back after having Joey. I was anxious Timmy was going to die (typical in rainbow baby pregnancies) and he wasn’t eating well which lead to rarely sleeping (he didn’t eat solids until he was 15 months). I also had thoughts of throwing my son into the wall. By now you are probably concerned for me, concerned that I shouldn’t have my children, wanting to call CPS and/or thinking, “why would I listen to her, she is crazy!”
I entered therapy during that time. I recovered.
I was under the care of a therapist and physician to manage all I was experiencing. It was the first time I had heard someone tell me I had postpartum depression. I am better now and what I am experiencing now is different. I don’t have those scary thoughts. In fact, I take solace in knowing that I don’t want to throw my daughter across the room. When she won’t stop crying and I am frustrated and angry, I end up sobbing and crying loud like a baby. My daughter must know because she stops crying and stares at me. I just hold her and cry and she looks at me, calm. I don’t know if this is hurting her but I like to think she is trying to calm me. I like to think she is giving me love back and telling me it’s all going to be okay.
I am more overwhelmed this time. I am harboring resentment and anger because I feel so overwhelmed and lack support. The support I need, is expensive. My husband can’t take on everything that I can’t do. He shouldn’t have to. My kids are yelled at more than they should be and I know that they know something isn’t right with me. I certainly don’t want them to think this is me. It’s not me.
I need others to help me but maybe they don’t believe I need the help or deserve it? Being overwhelmed has led to pure exhaustion and I believe my adrenals are done trying to keep up so not only am I have an intense emotional experience, medically, I am no longer well. This is two-fold and I WILL survive but when living in these moments, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Last week was my breakdown week and I hope that’s as low as I will ever go. I did send my husband messages that were concerning. I did explain to him that yes, these were buzz words and that he had every right to think I needed hospitalization but I also explained that I knew what we needed to do, so I didn’t need hospitalization, we needed a plan.
I hired a postpartum doula that evening. She came the next day. She walked in my door, didn’t ask me what needed to be done because if she had, I would have been too exhausted to explain any of it to her. She just started doing. She did my dishes, she washed my bottles and pump parts, she folded laundry, she cleaned up my kitchen, she held my baby, she fed my baby, she put my baby to sleep in her crib, she talked with me, and she helped me learn some skills such as how to wear my baby. She was just what I needed.
But it comes at a price and I can’t afford her. I need a professional baby holder. I need someone to come in to my home, hold my baby, feed my baby, so I can do some things that help me feel productive AND so I can get rest. So that’s where I am right now, I am looking for help.
I thought telling people was enough. I thought sharing was enough. I have been told I need to be more specific. It’s uncomfortable for me to share, it’s harder for me to be vulnerable and give even more. I have lists on my fridge for when people come over and ask, “Is there anything I can do,” yet it’s still hard to direct them to the list. No one has ever looked at it and said, “Have you eaten today? Can I hold the baby so you can do that or take a shower or take a nap?”
But at five months postpartum, I should have it altogether. I shouldn’t need help. As discussed above, society believes that. I saw the judgement in your eyes when I said, “months three through seven were the worst for me.” I saw the shock and lack of understanding as to why. I will do my best to explain why.
Month three my husband went back to work so I had to manage all day on my own with three kids. That takes adjustment and little by little I couldn’t get caught up and on a good schedule. By month four, my oldest child had started high school as a freshman; a new experience for all of us with a schedule that fluctuates. Managing the day to day house stuff, in addition to a new baby, a new school, and new routines and schedules was difficult. And here I am at month five, where I definitely should have it all together but I don’t. “That’s just life, Elizabeth. Why do you need help with life.” Yes, I have been told that.
I am an utter failure as a mother according to society and I believe it sometimes. My daughter isn’t on a schedule, she just fits in. She struggles because babies thrive on schedules yet I can’t quite find the time to ensure she has a schedule of her own with naps she can predict. This makes her cranky and makes her want to be held all the time. And while I love holding my daughter, when she is in my arms, no one else can have them. Everyone else suffers and that makes me suffer.
My middle child doesn’t get to eat which makes him cranky. I don’t get to eat which makes me cranky. When I am cranky, no one is happy. When my needs aren’t met, no one else’s are either. And since that is my primary love language, my cup is emptied. When my cup is empty, life isn’t worth living for me.
I don’t have the answer for everyone enduring postpartum depression. This is just my experience of it. I don’t even have the answer for me but I do know that this is a horrific experience and it’s full of irrational thoughts about other people and myself.
Silence is noticed. Your silence in particular, is noticed. I know who hasn’t said a thing. I know who hasn’t reached out (who should have and should be). Even my mother, MY MOTHER, who doesn’t have an ounce of nurture in her, said to me, “I wish I could be there to help you through this.”
THAT WAS BIG. My mother doesn’t do babies. My mother doesn’t hold me, sing to me, read to me, or rock me. My mother doesn’t do the nurturing things so many other mothers do but even she knew I was in the depths of despair and said something. But some of you in particular have been silent even though you knew this was a possibility and you know it’s now here. And I no longer feel like I can trust you and that hurts.
It hurts because you don’t even recognize it.
I know what I need to do for me, to keep me safe. I know this system because I was on the outside looking in for so long. But knowing what to do doesn’t mean I can make it happen and now that I am on the inside looking out…well, I have a newfound understanding of this illness. I am not concerned right now with me offending you. I am not myself right now so I hope you understand. I hope that since you aren’t the one suffering with postpartum depression that you would see through this and not take it personally. I hope that you take the guilt or the offense you feel and turn it into love and support. Here is a great resource for families.
I AM concerned with how I am perceived. I know people will think of me as weak and I know people will no longer trust my advice or turn to me for help with their loss. I know I am taking a huge risk putting this out there for all to see. Even potential careers are at risk. Anytime someone admits to this kind of struggle, discrimination arises. I guess I need to move forward with it. If someone didn’t share these experiences, no one would understand them. So I am sharing and taking a risk. I shared in my book that I wanted to die after I lost Ruby and so many of you reached out to say you felt the exact same way, so here I am sharing again. I am sure some of you will reach out with similar experiences.
We knew this would happen. This was the main reason we were avoiding pregnancy. It wasn’t my age, it was my risk of postpartum depression. I have a few months left to go if this follows the same track as with Timmy. I don’t think it will since it’s different but it could or it could be longer. If you have read this far, I will close with this is why. This is why a mother took her life when no one noticed she was struggling. I am not referring to me here but the thousands of women who have suffered with postpartum depression and “no one saw it.” I bet she reached out in some way but it was ignored. Chalked up as lack of sleep, growing a family, outside the newborn period, or just life.
The world is different now. Many of us lack families to help and some of us who do have family nearby, well, they are busy and can’t help. Maybe they are working through retirement because times are different? Maybe they too, have a family and they are struggling to keep up and one more thing is just too much. But this is why.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40: 1-2