Finding My Way Back from PPD

I’m sharing my story after learning about the heartbreaking tragedy of Florence Leung and realizing the truth is, we have to talk about these things.

I was really sad when my Son was first born. Sad was the last thing I expected to feel.

I was sad when I woke up alone in recovery with a vacant womb and no babe in my arms. I was sad when I finally met him, because he had already been alive for three hours without me.

The docs told my husband that I was a “perfect candidate” for postpartum depression, whatever that means. All they did was scare him and I, I was in the dark.

Because I’ve hadn’t experienced depression in the past, when I filled out the prenatal checklists about mental health I hummed along easily checking and not checking little boxes.

In my very scientific opinion, my sadness was the direct result of a clusterfuck of medical scenarios that compounded, and became temporarily indestructible.

 

The clusterfuck.

I was induced on week 39. Due to a preexisting medical condition it was inadvisable for me to go into spontaneous labour because they were worried I might dangerously hemorrhage. So we signed up for an induction enthusiastically.

At the time I thought I was lucky: I’d have my baby approximately when they said I would have him and I wouldn’t risk death — hurrah for me!

Despite not having a birth plan, a birth plan indeed emerged → get induced, have baby, avoid messy death scenario. #Winning

 

Compounding.

The thing about stress is that it compounds. Like wooden blocks, stress stacks up neatly (up and up) until you do something to relieve it. The more stressful events create bigger, sturdier blocks in the stack and make it harder and harder to be broken down.

My doc told me that the longest induction she’d seen in her 30+ year career was 5 days but as I later found out, I’m special.

I was induced 8 different times over 10 days and nothing (God, help me) nothing would make this kid budge.

We tried every induction method. Even the contraption from the 1800’s with the balloon but this kid was unmotivated, uninterested, and frankly happy as a pig in shit in there. He was quite content staying put.

The effect of these 8 inductions over 10 days compounded into deep levels of disappointment and exhaustion. I felt defeated and deflated.

Finally on the 10th day things changed but my body retaliated against the oxytocin, things got dangerous, and we opted for an emergency C-section.

When I talk about the compounding, here we add another massive, concrete type block to the pile: my epidural doesn’t work and I have to go under general anesthesia to have my baby.

The hilarious part is: When I was eating my hard-boiled egg the day before I learned only 5% of Mothers have to be put under to deliver their babies. I’m the 5%.

 

And then I woke up.

I woke up in a haze that lasted weeks. I found myself questioning whether the boy I held in my arms was the same boy I sung to in utero. I wasn’t there when he came out, so how could I know for sure? I wondered if I really loved him, the way I was supposed to.

I cried for weeks about everything and anything but it was beyond weepy. I was overwhelmed. Tired. Confused. Exhausted. And sad.

I thought things I didn’t want to think. I questioned everything like, is this baby even the same baby or was he switched out when I was asleep? Do I even love him? I wanted desperately to go back to my old life. I wanted wholeheartedly to feel like a Mom, like I knew for an instant what I was doing.

I refused to consider that I was depressed. The words postpartum depression signified feelings of failure and weaknesses. I refused to put myself in that category.

 

Dawn.

Things changed when I started to acknowledge my feelings. As they were, real and mine, and started to recognize that I’m on the right path, just not the easy path.

Everything changed when I started talking about my feelings and I learned, gasp — many women felt the same way I felt. I was not alone. A seemingly trivial revelation.

I anchored myself to other women’s stories. My Mom kept telling me that it takes time to get to know a baby and that everything I felt was normal. My friend told me about how she wanted to toss her baby out of a window. Another friend told me that she thought her baby was ugly when they first met. I clung to my Mother’s words: She said, “this too shall pass.”

Honouring my experience was pivotal in finding my way back to happiness and health. I had to find the courage to trust the path I was on, despite how scary it was. I had to honour what was lost and be brave anyway.

I got to know my baby day by day. Believing in John Lennon’s late words, “every day it gets better and better” and it did.

If you know someone struggling with postpartum talk to a friend or visit postpartum.org.

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Finding My Way Back from PPD

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9 Comments

  • I felt so many of the same things when my son was born. I thought I had a virus, and it turned out to be Hellp Syndrome and I was extremely sick. The doctor recommended an emergency c-section, and I didn’t know I was going to be put under until I woke up after the surgery. I was in the hospital and my son was also in there due to prematurity complications. It was like magic because that day I was pregnant, and the next minute I wasn’t and he was there and I missed it. The stress and anxiety of us both being in the hospital and trying to recover was very hard to process. It took me some time to get to know him as well. Thankfully, it has gotten better and he is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • I love this. I experienced the same feelings and though things have gotten SO much better over the past 11 months, sometimes I still question my connection with her. I haven’t met anyone who experienced PPD. Thank you for helping me not feel alone 🙂

  • Thank you so much for sharing I had a mess of a situation similar to yours and spent a week in hospital. I got strangely lucky (because of a mistake the doctors made) and was able to have her vaginally. I didn’t know what was wrong with me after though. For weeks I couldn’t make sense of my misery. I felt horribly ungrateful. But a month after baby, I hemmoraged, needed a blood transfusion and needed an emergency d&c for a 2nd placenta they missed. I spent weeks after getting dirty looks because I looked like an addict mom from all the track mark looking bruises from where the nurses tried to get the I. V. ‘s in. How quickly my hormones balanced once that was out of my was amazing. Stories like yours let me know I wasn’t alone. Thank you

  • Thanks so much for sharing! I have a 7 month old and when we reached his 3rd month of life he was sleeping better…that’s when I knew my anxiety, weepiness and dark thoughts weren’t due to just sleep deprivation so I saw my doctor right away. It’s very difficult to decribe the thoughts and feelings and even more difficult to understand unless you’ve gone through something similar.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story. Writing about your experience took great courage and will definitely help many women, which is awesome.

    As a perinatal and reproductive psychiatrist, I would urge any pregnant and new mom suffering with emotional symptoms to remember that you owe it to yourself, to your child and family to seek help and to feel better. We all deserve the opportunity to enjoy motherhood, and feeling depressed and/or anxious can deprive moms of that chance. Treatment truly helps and allows moms to feel back to themselves and to be the moms they want to be.

    I second your suggestion of seeking help via Postpartum Support International (postpartum.org). As an Executive Board Member of PSI, I can confidently say we have many avenues to support pregnant and new moms and connect them with local, well trained providers.

    You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.

  • Oh wow, I have no experience with PPD (thankfully!!), but I do have my own induction story!! I was induced over 5 days with lots of methods too (had the balloon too, yay 😀 ) and then had a C-Section too… although I was awake, so I’m very thankful for that. Its rare, that someone has a longer birth story than I have, so thanks for sharing!! (And I’m really happy for you, that you overcame the PPD and can now enjoy your son!) – If you want to read about my birth story, I wrote about it in german language (you could use google translate), the third part is here, with links to the first parts: http://fitundgluecklich.net/2014/10/07/baby-olivers-geburt-teil-3-olivers-birth-part-3/

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