"We make what is a temporary and treatable illness that is quite common among pregnant and new mothers even worse, and put the future of those moms and their children in jeopardy." - It's Time For Everyone To Get The Facts About Postpartum Depression
This 4th trimester has been a doozy for me. Why is it that women are allowed 9+ months to grow a human yet are expected to be 'back to normal' and taking on the world by the end of the 6weeks postpartum rest and recovery prescribed by healthcare providers? I am currently only 11 weeks postpartum in which during the first 8 weeks of that time I dealt with a gnarly infection, had a repair and could only urinate by standing in a shower up until recently, yet daily from myself and others have felt the pressure to suppress and 'suck up' the crazy mix of emotions, stress, anger, anxiety, devastation, and sadness that's stewing within me.
I've generally been good at "sucking things up" during my life but got to a point a few weeks ago where I felt like it was appropriate to let go of my pride and seek help. Unfortunately my questions and open vulnerability was met with great resistance and uneducated concern. Basically I was told that unless I had a suicide note written and a detailed plan to kill myself I wasn't in need of medicine since I was breastfeeding and refused to switch to exclusively using formula. Excuse my language but I found that not being able to take medication while breastfeeding to be a load of total bullshit since high anxiety and depression are very common in pregnant and postpartum women.
I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) back in May 2011 after experiencing the Japan 9.0 earthquake. It wasn't actually the earthquake that caused me the PTSD but learned through my sessions with a psychiatrist that the earthquake acted as a trigger to surface other things from my life. I was released from my PTSD diagnosis just months before Gabriel was born. I felt I would be a likely victim to postpartum depression (PPD) after having Gabriel but much to mine and Chris' surprise despite high emotions at times due to sleep deprivation, I made it through.
My biggest mistake was thinking that each postpartum was the same, I so wrongly assumed that since I didn't flirt with PPD after Gabriel that I'd be untouchable after Brenik was born. Chris took three weeks off and the first couple weeks were hard but mainly because I was unable to do anything- it was really stressful for me to simply stay put in my bedroom but I knew that if I took the first week or two to do little movement that my tears would heal up and I'd be good to go, aiming to hear things like, "wahoo, I can't believe you just had a baby!" Three weeks passed and I still wasn't able to walk down the street to our mailbox, stand for more than a minute at a time, and carrying my 32lb toddler was completely out of the question. Sure when people came to visit I'd clench my teeth and try my darnedest to appear as if everything was okay because I myself was embarrassed and frustrated how long it was taking my body to heal. I also was extremely hesitant to open up about how I was really doing physically because I last minute switched to a home birth without telling anyone and didn't want to hear, "if only you had the baby in the hospital..." To be clear, the issue was not because I had a home birth, a similar thing happened after Gabriel was born in hospital just in a different area that didn't present the same level of pain and complication.
Most of the days between 3-8 weeks postpartum were like this. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I felt like I wasn't capable of being a mother of two, that I was an idiot for thinking I could handle it and and even bigger idiot for still desiring to have more kids one day. I felt horrible that I was Gabriel and Brenik's mother, that two boys as wonderful and amazing as them had me as their mom. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't make it through one day without having a full blown meltdown and anxiety attack. Not every second of every day was bad, it was during the up times that I'd visit with people, run an errand, or take a phone call so it would appear as if things were moving along alright. If we've talked I've probably told you things are fine, even great, because well, if we're talking or meeting thing are most likely going well in that moment (that's why we get to talk or meet, get it) and it's easiest to just say things are fine. However, most seconds of most days have been the most challenging and heartbreaking I've ever experienced.
It was coming very clear at around 5 weeks that I indeed was not where I should be recovery wise. I had left my previous OB before having Gabriel and my midwife strongly suggested I'd see an OB... Here I am 5 weeks postpartum, assuming I'm probably in need of a repair setting up 'establishing care' appointments. The earliest appointment I could get with the doctor I wanted to see was 2 weeks. By now I lived in fear for the moment I needed to use the bathroom and was in a tricky balance of not drinking a lot of water because I wanted to avoid urinating but drinking enough to keep up my milk supply. I also tried at times to drink a ton of water- went more often but diluted. It's a toss up as to which was the lesser of the two evils. The pain was starting to debilitate me to the point where I just couldn't wait another week for a doctor appointment. The doctor's office and urgent care both said that they couldn't help me and if I needed immediate care I needed to go to the ER so the ER is where we went. This is where it gets really frustrating... The ER told me that yes, I needed a repair but no, they couldn't do it and said I needed to see a doctor. We were however given some antibiotics to treat the ragging infection but that was all, we left terribly discourage and I spiraled deeper into anxiety/depression. Finally, at 7 weeks postpartum I meet my new doctor who fortunately did the partial repair right there on the spot. Thankfully I healed beautifully and at 8 weeks postpartum I was able to start going pee like a respectable person again.
As you can imagine, my delayed healing caused us to not venture far from home the first two month's of Brenik's life because never is it okay to pee in someone else's shower, even if it's family, (I also realistically couldn't sit in the car for more than just to the grocery store) which lead to deeper feelings of loneliness. Having to play it close to home ruined quite a few plans to connect with family before we had to start buckling down at home to begin preparing for Japan. Fortunately though, much of our family has traveled to us understanding the ridiculous season we've been in and let me tell you, Grandparents are wonderful helpers when it comes to having to get ready for a big move while also taking care of kiddos! I had no idea how much harder it was going to be to get packed, organized and prepared for a trip we've already done three times by adding another little. We couldn't do what needs to happen in the next 2.5 weeks without the help and grace of friends and family because as you can imagine traveling and moving can be pretty stressful even when you're not flirting with PPD.
We're hoping that once we get to Japan that I will be able to better focus on winning my struggles with postpartum anxiety and depression because our life is more calm and less demanding over there. Am I seeking Jesus as much as I should be in this season, probably not but I'm working on that, like everything... I haven't clinically been diagnosed with PPD but I know I've been fighting off depression for most of the last 11 weeks and did eventually go on an anxiety pill. I don't say this all to look for sympathy but as an effort to normalize women speaking up about their struggles with postpartum healing that also includes mental healing in addition to physical healing. Other mamas out there who feel like the world is caving in on you, you are not alone and you are the BEST mom that your children could possibly have because YOU are their mom and NO ONE knows your children better than YOU do. I have felt at times that my healing needs to work around someone else's schedule but it needs to be on my own time, just like your healing needs to be on yours. Avoid what you know will be a trigger, celebrate the small victories, and seek community with other mamas you trust who you know will shower you with love and support. And know it's okay to not be okay, don't let someone rob you of the time you need to process and heal.