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Grace on mothering and working with anxiety and depression during Covid-19

a toddler and a baby laying on a bed - essay on mothering and working with postpartum depression during covid-19

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

Some days are better than others. Some days I cry in the shower alone, some days on the bathroom floor, some days in my closet, and some days in my office at work with my two kids ages two-years old and five-months old. 

My kid’s daycare closed in March, my mother in law is 70 and my own mother has my sister, her husband, and their four kids living in her house—all meaning I cannot get their help even if I wanted to.

This isn’t my first baby and this isn’t my first experience with postpartum depression. My husband lost his job on the first day of my maternity leave with my first born child. He was out of work for over a year. I remember explicitly how much I hated my husband after having my first baby via emergency C-section after a 36 hour labor, which I do believe jumpstarted my trauma and depression.

Related: How motherhood myths impacted my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety

They called out the wrong name in the OR, they strapped my arms down to the table and wouldn’t let my husband in until I was already cut open, they asked me if I felt the scalpel and when I said yes, they questioned me again, “Are you sure you feel it?” resulting in little scalpel scars on my side that I remember and see daily.

I was sent home with no idea what I was doing, couldn’t sit up alone, my milk wasn’t coming in and I was in so much pain. It was extreme and went away at about six months.

I cried all the time. I showered when I could and was anxiety stricken to the point where I couldn’t leave my house until I had to start working again. I contacted Kaiser for help, waited two weeks for an appointment to be assessed and then the “Therapist” I saw put in a referral for me since they were two to three months out for an appointment.

Related: How to find the best therapist for you (and what to expect)

Except she “forgot” to put in the referral and I was never called or followed up with or referred to the outside service that I pay for on a monthly basis. They said come to mom group on Tuesdays at 11AM. I said I work. They said we have a social worker that can see you on Tuesday at 1PM. Again, I work.

I needed after hours therapy and it was near impossible to find someone. I also have a history of PTSD and requested a female therapist. Everyone at Kaiser seemed to be so annoyed with me for my “preferences” that I gave up fighting them, they won and I cried, for months.

Related: The hidden risk of postpartum depression during quarantine (and how to get help)

I fought myself daily. It was the days where I could sit up and then lay down back in bed that challenged me as a person, mother, and wife that were the hardest. Where I would cry for no reason, no understanding, no point. The fog lifted at about six months after I lost my milk and clumps of hair, but couldn’t lose the excess weight.

Then I got pregnant again and complete terror set in. 

I decided to fight this time. I hated being pregnant and was terrified of another emergency C-section. I exercised in this second pregnancy. I walked almost daily. I did positive affirmations, squats, and ball sitting. I hired a doula, got acupuncture, and saw LA’s top chiropractor. I prayed and ate healthy and still, I cried.

I was open about my depression this time and told my family and friends and husband and OBGYN and saw a therapist. Then the therapists went on strike and canceled all my appointments with Kaiser.

Related: Therapy made me a better mom—and wife

I filed a complaint, requested referrals again and lost the fight against the corporation again. After each complaint I filed, I would get a letter in the mail from Kaiser telling me that I was satisfied with their solution to my complaint, which was never resolved so I would file another complaint. I filed about 6-8 complaints and finally lost again.

The sheer exhaustion of trying to fight for myself while exhausted, working full time and pregnant while being depressed was hard. I chose to use my energy to get out of bed because a lot of days that was the hardest part.

I got my unmedicated VBAC with my doula a week before lockdown. I gave birth my way in the hospital after 9.5 hours of labor. I was on a high for about four weeks and then reality set it—quarantine, no one could come and meet my baby, the riots, the looting only miles from my house—the fear and anxiety was overwhelming.

Related: The truth about raising a newborn in quarantine

Some people gave us Grub Hub gift cards and that helped a lot. When I stopped breastfeeding it got really bad—the comments from my mother, mother-in-law, sister, husband, and coworkers about my decision to stop breastfeeding took a mental toll on me once again.

I felt inadequate and like a bad mom because I didn’t have a lot of milk. My two-year old’s day care was closed, my husband being essential has still not taken one day off (he was in the hospital with me when the baby was born and went to work the next day from the hospital). He was actually on a work call while I was pushing my baby out.

I feel like I have been alone with two babies since I had the baby—cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, feedings and bleeding.

Related: Having a newborn during a pandemic is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

Then my maternity leave was over and I had to go back to work, but it was different this time. I am essential and I go to the office every day with two babies. I am so lucky that my office lets me bring my kids to the office every day, yet I still struggle.

On the outside my life is picture perfect beautiful, but on the inside, I struggle daily, even as I am writing this. These littles rely on me to eat and sleep and function so I push on. 

My fog hasn’t lifted but I know it will and it does for anyone still in the fog like myself.

Related: True life: I wake up feeling exhausted every day

I am exhausted. I feel fat and ugly, my skin is dry, my tits are saggy, my stretch marks are a lot, and my hair is still falling out. I haven’t had my nails done in months, which is usually my only alone time.

My five-month old will not sleep through the night yet, but I had to go back to work again. The hemorrhoids—oh lord the hemorrhoids!

I make gratitude lists to try and get my mind right in the mornings with my coffee. I walk as much as possible and have been praying a lot.

It’s a bit easier this time than the first time, probably because I know what to expect and I’ve done it before. Some days are better than others and today I have not cried, yet.