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