- Posted July 7, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Confessions from imperfect parents
My 6-Month-Old Saved My Life
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
The taboo of postpartum depression and it's effect on the family:
The morning I went in to have my baby, (I had a scheduled C-section due to fracturing my femoral neck in the Navy) I was calm. Everything was perfect, I was so serene it was almost weird. My C-section was so early in the morning the main part of the hospital was still closed so I had to ring a bell to enter the maternity wing. As I sat out front and waited for the doors to open I kept wondering what she would look like, what she would sound like, what she would smell like. I kept glancing over at my husband and he had the look of “Oh my goodness, this is really happening”. Once we had been admitted and I had changed I got hooked up to the machine. Turns out I was already in labor and my contractions were about two minutes apart.
The pain I had been in for the last trimester of my pregnancy was so intense that I hadn’t noticed the labor pains. When asked how long I had been feeling the way I did I realized I had been in labor for over two days. I had never been so grateful for scheduled surgery in my life. I could have had her on the side of the highway! I drank the nasty liquid to fight off infection and was escorted into the operating room. As I held onto a lady who was still in training (this was her first C-section) a needle to numb my back and lower extremities was injected into my spine. Instantly I felt the intense pain I’d been feeling for 10+ weeks and almost passed out. I told my anesthesiologist about the pain and she said, “Well, you won’t be feeling it in a couple of seconds.” Outstanding. As the numbness began to spread I laid down on the table and looked around as the sterilized room. Everything was so harsh, there was no love or emotion in the whole room. My doctor came in and checked me for dilation. I was 10 cm dilated. Not surprising, I was in active labor after all.
My husband came in and sat above my head and held my hand. I don’t remember much of what happened next but I remember the moment she was pulled from me. It was the strangest sensation, having your insides on the outside of you and this life being pulled from your womb. The moment I heard her cry I began to. The tears rolled down my cheeks as my husband put his forehead to mine. They took her for testing and the only thing I could manage to say was “Be with her”. I just wanted him with her at all times. It didn’t matter that I was still cut open and bleeding, I just wanted her to be okay. My husband brought her over to me and I remember asking if she had any hair. He lifted her cap to reveal a head full of black gorgeous hair and I laughed. She looked exactly like him, like I had nothing to do with her at all.
The next few hours are a blur. I don’t know what my daughter and husband did while I was being stitched up. I don’t remember holding her for the first time, thankfully there is a picture of it. I don’t remember recovery at all. I just remember being in my room and my daughter crying and I couldn’t do anything to help her. Because of the surgery I couldn’t lift her by myself. When my husband wasn’t there (we have four dogs at home that needed to be taken care of) I had to call a nurse and sit there helplessly listening to her wail while I waited for someone to come give her to me. It was the most disheartening thing. I didn’t get skin to skin when she was first born, I can’t hold her like I’d like to, and I was having trouble breast feeding.
After three days in the hospital like this I broke down. I was completely useless. I couldn’t feed my daughter the way nature intended, I couldn’t hold her, I couldn’t console her, I couldn’t even take a shower on my own. I began hyperventilating and my husband had to call a nurse in. In between hysterical sobs I told her how much of a failure I felt like. She tried reassuring me but all she was doing was making me even angrier at myself. I finally realized that in order for her to leave I had to calm down. I got my crying under control and told her I felt better. She left but promised that my doctor would come by to check on me in the morning.
When he came in he smiled at me. He told me that he was going to put me on Zoloft for my depression and that I would need to stay an extra day for evaluation. I felt hopeful that the new medicine would help me, and it did in the beginning. It takes 4-6 weeks for a medication to take effect I was told. During the first few weeks at home, everything was great. We had both sides of our family come over and help with the baby and I was complimented on how great I looked. And it was true, my tummy was flat before I left the hospital and I weighed less than what I did when I got pregnant. But something wasn’t right in my head. I felt dark, secluded. I focused all of my energy on my new baby girl and convincing my husband that he was being a good father. I was strong because that was the only option I had.
My daughter wasn’t gaining weight like she was supposed to. People said it was because she was on mommy milk, even if it was from a bottle, but I knew I was failing. I began rapidly gaining weight. People said it was because I couldn’t exercise after surgery but I knew I was failing.
Failures started piling up on me and I started hating myself. I hated how bad of a mother I was, how bad of a wife. I hated that I lived so far away from family, I hated that I had lost touch with all of my friends, and I hated how much weight I was allowing myself to gain. I tried working out but the same pain that I felt while pregnant accompanied every lift and every run. I eventually gave up trying to get my pre-baby body back and I weighed more than the day I had my daughter.
When we eventually moved things turned very dark for me. We moved to a town that doesn’t have fond memories for me and is a huge trigger for my depression. I tried telling my husband before we moved about my mental state but I don’t think he understood exactly what was happening. I didn’t go back to work because I felt guilty leaving our daughter alone; now at almost 10 months old we still haven’t had a date since before she was born. I started slipping further and further away from my husband but even worse is that I didn’t want to live. I spent half of the day thinking of ways to end my life and the other half convincing myself not to go through with it. Knives were the easy way out. I kept looking at our chef’s knife in the kitchen thinking about how easy it would be to get out of my hellish life.
Some days were better than others. Some days I got by on a good cup of coffee and doing nothing but focusing on surviving the day until my husband came home and could help me. But other days were a struggle. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to have to get up and take care of my daughter, why wasn’t my husband here to help me? How dare he leave me alone in this tiny house with 5 lives to take care of when I didn’t even care about my own life? But my husband didn’t know what was happening. He’s the type that needs plain words laying out what exactly is going on in any situation. He had no idea that each time I got behind the wheel of my car I drove recklessly hoping that I would be severely injured or better yet, died. I did this only when my daughter wasn’t with me, but it got to the point that I found excuses to leave her with the babysitter and venture out.
Each time I wondered why I even needed to be alive I looked at my daughter. I looked at the way she lighted up when I entered a room or how she reached for me when she was falling asleep. She is the only reason that I didn’t do anything. I worried about how she would feel growing up without a mom and knowing that I took my own life. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to more than I wanted to be a mom at the time but I just couldn’t do that to her. This went on for about a month before I finally cracked. I confessed to my husband just how bad I was getting and asked for help, even if it made me look weak. I found a doctor who understood what I was going through and reminded me that to my daughter, I am everything.
I stopped the Zoloft and was prescribed Latuda for my depression and for being bi-polar. I started Ambien again because I was having constant night terrors and my husband has amazingly taken over daddy duty on nights our daughter doesn’t want to sleep. I’ve learned that I have PTSD from my trauma and that there are too many triggers here for me to function on my own. I now have the support of my husband and my doctors to see that life can be okay. I’ve also learned that the pain I am experiencing is from Degenerative Disc Disease, it isn’t all in my head. Life isn’t great now, but the thoughts of killing myself have subsided quite a bit. I find small things to take pleasure in and have learned to speak up when I’m unhappy.
I hate that depression, post-partum in particular, is still such a taboo that those who suffer from it still feel the need to hide. Hiding only makes things worse. I’m here to say it’s okay to feel alone, it’s okay to feel down. Just know you aren’t alone in your loneliness. There are others who feel the same way you do and there are people who can help if you let them. My 6-month-old saved my life, and I hope you allow your baby will save yours.