I don’t like to talk about it. It still scares me when I reflect closely on how I felt during those days, those weeks. It’s scary mostly because I thought I was ok. It’s a big reason I didn’t want to talk about having another baby until recently. I was so afraid to go through it again.
When Jordan was born 2 years earlier, I had lots to recover from. I knew I wasn’t ok. I was distraught by the whole experience of giving birth; the doctor telling me she was going to die f I didn’t do what he said; the relentless hospital staff who were more concerned with policy and procedure than my informed consent. When I felt kind of crappy, it seemed like a natural effect of obvious causes. New mom, insecure, lack of sleep, plus disempowered birth equals feeling crappy. And as time passed, so did feeling crappy.
But this? I couldn’t explain this at all.
My healthy, happy second pregnancy, with an amazing, peaceful planned homebirth. I was caught completely off-guard.
I cried every day. I felt like a failure; not just a plain-old failure- a miserable failure.
I cried myself to sleep, believing that I didn’t deserve to be a mom. How could I be a mother when I was so worthless? I couldn’t possibly love them like they deserved.
It went on like this in my head for a while. When my husband would try to console me, it made me feel even worse. Now I was making him feel bad. I was bringing him down. Now I thought I was a “bad” wife too. So I tried to hold it in, but it escaped anyway.
I didn’t tell my friends. I didn’t want them to know how unhappy I was. I was ashamed of how unhappy I was. I wanted to be a mom, a good mom. And being sad meant (in my mind) I was not a good mom. Especially since I thought that in some way, my sadness was about being a mom.
I denied there was any problem. I told myself I was simply adjusting to having a second child – everyone said it would be hard. And it was really, really hard. It was so hard that I started wishing I didn’t have a second child.
I started to believe the girls were better off without me. It took all my strength not to run away from home every day. But as I considered more seriously the possibility of leaving them, other strange thoughts began to enter. I couldn’t leave my girls to be motherless. I couldn’t leave them to grow up alone, without me.
So how could I run away from home and prevent them from being without me? This is where it started to get really scary.
I started to understand that I wasn’t really thinking about running away from home. I meant to kill myself. And now I was thinking about taking the girls with me. I started thinking about ways we could all 3 die at once. I never really understood I was considering killing my children until later.
All this took place in less than 6 weeks.
At my six-week check up with my midwife, she asked me, “How are you?” Maybe it was that other people had asked, How’s it going? or How are you sleeping? or How is Jordan adjusting? Or maybe I just didn’t hear anyone ask about me before then.
So I told her.
I told her everything- all of it. Even the parts I was ashamed of. Even the parts I pretended not to be thinking. Even the things that I thought made me a “bad” mother.
She listened. She hugged me.
I still didn’t think it was that bad. I felt better just having told her. I still thought it was just the adjustment from one child to two.
She called my doctor while I sat there. She made an appointment for me for the next day. She drove to my house to take me and watched my toddler while I visited with the doctor.
I felt kind of silly that so much attention was being paid to this. I still didn’t realize how messed up my thinking was, how serious things had gotten.
After my doctor listened to everything I had to say, she suggested a few options for treatment: anti-depressants, hormone therapy, counseling. I followed her advice. I took the pills, even though I don’t like taking medication. I got the blood workup done and took the hormones too. I talked to someone.
I also went to my acupuncturist regularly to get things back on track physically/energetically.
When I started feeling better, I suddenly realized how awful it had been. I felt like my self again and saw how far away I had traveled from the me I am used to.
And I realized that truly, at one time, I had meant to kill my children and myself. This is something that is still raw around the edges inside me. I now understand something I never wanted to know- how a woman (a mother!) could be so desperate she would do something so unbelievable.
My postpartum depression was diagnosed before the unthinkable happened. I am forever grateful to my midwife, doctor, husband, doula and friends for supporting me through this.
If you have experienced PPD, please leave a comment here on the blog.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Postpartum Depression (sadness, hopelessness, guilt, overwhelm, social withdrawal, becoming easily frustrated, increased anxiety) or if you think- even a little- about hurting yourself or your baby, contact your doctor, midwife or find resources online.
Don’t wait. (Maybe they’ll tell you it’s not that bad. Or maybe they’ll help you to start feeling better.)