I was 28 years old and I decided I wanted a case of the babies so I got off my birth control and onto my husband in January of 2011. I saw two lines in September of the same year; however, I didn’t do that happy in the bathroom dance with my significant other you see in commercials. I’m pretty low-key, so I set the pregnancy test on the desk next to my husband and said, “Uh, I guess, I’m pregnant, I think?”
At this point I get hooked up with all the necessary league of doctors that one with a high risk pregnancy (for various reasons I won’t get into here) is assigned to –- a geneticist, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, nutritionists, an endocrinologist, obstetrician, Professor Xavier, etc., etc., etc.
I should mention that I had started seeing a counselor during the summer as I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder, but as I was paying out of pocket and would rather be saving up for the same crib Beyonce’s baby has, I stopped going.
I feel pretty good throughout pregnancy –- no major or minor issues to speak of. About a month before delivery, I started getting daily, severe migraines. I’ve had migraines before though never this often or bad –- think brain splitting open, every morning.
Labor and delivery was 24 hours including 3 hours of hard labor. I ended up needing a blood patch a week later because my spinal catheter caused a cerebral spinal fluid leak. (My epidural failed which is why I needed the spinal catheter -– fun times!). My daughter ended up in the NICU due to a fever.
So at this point we have several mitigating factors:
- previous history of mental illness
- lack of bonding with baby as we were separated near immediately
- stress of spinal headaches overlapped with the migraines which had not (and still have not completely) let up and
- my increasing despair at not getting in on that immediate breastfeeding time I had consumed so much information on during my pregnancy-reading marathons
So when the NICU called me 4 days later to come pick up my bouncing baby bundle I was, needless to say, petrified. I had yet to feed, change, or hold this-- thing? I started feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, irritable, sad, and lonely. I was suddenly “a mom” and I had “a daughter” and these new roles left me feeling scared and unsure of myself.
I found myself being jealous of the attention the baby was getting. I suddenly went from being the star of the show so to speak to the background actor.
My daughter was born on June 6th. By late June, I was crying while I breastfed and couldn’t seem to get her to feed the way the books and magazines and online forums said she would. I sucked at putting on a diaper and I couldn’t swaddle her to save my life. I was sleeping less than 2 hours a day and one day I fell asleep on the couch with her and she rolled out of my arms onto the floor and started screaming. I felt like I was going to die, like my heart just broke into a million pieces, like I was the worst mother on Earth. I couldn’t even write that sentence without crying, hell, I couldn’t even proofread it right now without it happening all over again. It was like that moment was the epitome of me sucking hardcore at one of the most important things I will ever do, raise a child.
Due to stress or hormones, or the will of Zeus, my milk production went from “Holy shit we should seriously sell this stuff online. Guys actually buy this stuff from legal websites and I don’t even care WHAT they do with it!” to "I’m getting less than an ounce a day and my baby is drinking way more than that.”
I went to my OBGYN’s office and stared at the floor as I told the doctor how I hate holding my baby and I am not sleeping and I am not eating and I am crying all the time.
The doctor places me on Zoloft, which I now know causes mania in people with Bipolar Disorder. By July, I was way past my usual level of hypomania. No one seemed to notice that I am drinking a little too much and still not sleeping or eating. I started cutting myself just so I can get grounded in reality. I wanted to die every day. I saw no other solution to the catastrophe I now knew as my life.
I had thoughts of putting my daughter up for adoption, thinking it was all a mistake and I that I had ruined my life, thoughts to run away from home and never look back. By this time I was so disgusted with my baby that I wouldn’t even call her by name –- just “it.”
Every time I would hear “it” cry, I would either start crying myself or become angry like I had never been in my life. I was so mad one morning I punched through the plastic lid on her formula container and tore up my hand. I was dressing her and found that every outfit didn’t fit just right and spent the next hour throwing all of her clothes (that I had nicely folded during my late pregnancy “nesting stage”) in a heap on the floor screaming that clothes manufacturers were “fucking stupid and didn’t know what shape babies were.”
My worst moment came on an early morning when my daughter wouldn’t stop crying and I put a pillow over her face. I pulled it away within a second or two in horror. I sat on the floor and sobbed hysterically. I felt like I was the most evil person who had ever lived.
I went to see my counselor later that day and I already knew how my day was going to end before I even got there. I sat down, hiding behind my oversized white sunglasses and my therapist asked how I was doing. I had no words. I opened my mouth to talk and I just cried. That kind of cry that leaves you winded, covered in snot and tears, opened-mouthed, red-faced, and wanting to curl up on the floor in a fetal position.
She had me call my husband who had dropped me off not 10 minutes earlier. She gently took the phone from me, as I couldn’t catch a breath to tell him what I needed to do. He came and picked me up. By this time I was out of tears, out of energy, just an empty shell, off to the emergency room to be admitted.
I’d love to say everything went swimmingly from this point, but people call that lying. I was inpatient for 5 days, during which I was not allowed to see my daughter, per doctor’s orders. It was like I was on a mini-vacation away from my responsibilities at home while everyone else was working harder than ever to have to adjust to my absence.
They put me on some psych meds, which to this day are still being adjusted and tweaked. I had postpartum psychosis that came into play after my discharge in the form of me barricading myself in my bedroom for hours, thinking my men would come into the room and hurt me, that the police would kill me if they came to the house, and that my daughter was screaming in her crib when she was silently sleeping.
I kept up with my counseling and started seeing a psychiatrist regularly. It took me months, a lot of meds, and many hours of therapy to say I even started to bond with my little girl.
She is now a year old and I still struggle some days. I leave diaper changes and late night tears to my husband usually as waves of uncertainty and anxiety still haunt me regularly. I stopped trying to be super mom and now do my best to take care of myself first knowing that I can’t be there for her if I am not there for myself.
My advice to new moms is don’t be scared to admit you are scared. It’s OK, women have been doing this since time immemorial and you can make it through. You are not a unique snowflake -– women have had postpartum depression before. Don’t become a statistic. Reach out to friends and family and professionals. If they don’t listen, go to someone else. Don’t stop fighting. You can make it through. You are stronger than you think.