I'm three months postpartum and I finally feel like myself again.
Looking back at the beginning of all this, I didn’t even recognize myself back then. I had my first baby in June. He's beautiful. He is literally everything I have prayed for. If you know me personally, you would know that I'm easygoing, calm and an all-around level headed person. While pregnant, I had never been happier—so mentally clear, so proud, and so so excited!
I did everything other excited first time moms do.
I went to all the classes, decorated the nursery, bought the best and safest things. I even got pamphlets on postpartum anxiety and depression and threw them away. I remember one time my husband said, "You won't need this will you?" referring to a postpartum pamphlet and I confidently said “No.” There was just no way.
I’ve never suffered from anxiety before.
I’ve never dealt with depression.
I'm very much a realist.
And I'm happy. I’m a really happy person.
So, I wouldn’t have to deal with any postpartum emotional issues—I was sure of it.
But, boy was I wrong. Postpartum anxiety and depression can happen to anyone. They don’t discriminate. These are hormonal issues and had nothing to do with my personality prior to pregnancy.
I know this, and I believe this—because it affected me in a real, deep way.
For me, my crippling anxiety started one week after delivery, but looking back with clearer eyes, it actually had been building up all week.
That week was incredibly stressful.
Labor was intense (my son was 10lbs), I lost a lot of blood, and because of the medication I was on to stop the bleeding—I didn't get to hold my baby the first few hours after delivery. He then had to be taken to NICU for his glucose levels which meant they had to feed him two ounces every two hours.
Once we were home, I had a really difficult time breastfeeding because my milk wasn't coming in, but because my son had gone to the NICU and was getting two ounces every two hours there, he needed more milk than I could give him. I was pumping non-stop. I was so emotional and under a lot of stress.
The Friday night after I gave birth, my husband suggested I take a break from trying to breastfeed.
I remember sobbing because it was such a relief to hear him say that. It was a complete weight lifted from my shoulders.
Then the following morning, I had to be rushed to the ER. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy—a disease of the heart that affected my breathing and presented unusual swelling and excessive weight gain in the last month of pregnancy. I had fluid around my lungs as a result of acute heart failure. My symptoms were missed because not only is this condition rare, but also because a lot of the symptoms appear to be those of a typical pregnancy. The stress of having a newborn paired with this diagnosis brought on a panic attack.
The constant panic lasted a few days. I couldn't eat, I couldn't be around my baby. Everything was overwhelming—the thought of leaving to talk to someone, the thought of calling someone.
I knew I needed help, but wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
My husband drove me to my general doctor because they could get me in right away. I was shocked that my OBGYN wasn’t available. I strongly believe that medical professionals needed to reach out to me to check in on my mental state versus the other way around. When you leave the hospital, everything seems to be about the baby and the mother is sort of forgotten―but it shouldn't be this way. So I took charge and got help.
My doctor prescribed me medication to try. My therapist told me to do things with my hands in order to keep my brain busy. She suggested I stare at him and fall in love. It took almost two full months before I could honestly say I loved my son.
I cared for him and was the best mom I could be, yes, but everything felt like an overwhelming task I needed to complete. It wasn’t things I enjoyed doing. I never felt that immediate bond with my son and I think it's important to know that that's okay.
I didn’t realize this then, but I know it now. Postpartum anxiety and depression is real.
It is all-consuming. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this dark time without the support of my husband and family. BUT—even with the best support system it's not something you can get through without professional help. Asking for help is never weak.
Asking for help shows such strength and bravery.
Asking for help is the perfect example to set for your child.
You’ve got this, mama. You will feel like yourself again.