My Mental Health Journey with Postpartum Mood Disorders
I know many of you have heard bits and pieces about my story, but maybe not the whole thing. In celebration of World Mental Health Day, I thought I would open up a little more and bring awareness to an often stigmatized topic…post partum mental health disorders.
My husband and I tried for close to 3 years to have our first son, and I had several miscarriages. When I finally got pregnant with a sticky egg, I was overjoyed! I was also immediately sick. Hospitalized for dehydration several times for puking up blood... I had HG, and also developed perinatal mood disorder (but didn't know it then). I lost 53lbs while I was pregnant. After nine long months, finally we had Nash who came to us during a beautiful home water birth - exactly what I wanted for my birth experience.
But you know how it goes... the nights get longer and longer with the nursing and crying colicky babe. My son never slept, my hubby worked long hours and I was alone. I had no friends with kids yet and my family wasn't that close either. Things felt really hard - it was hard to get dinner on the table, hard to keep up with laundry. Hard to be a good wife, a good friend. Around 14 months postpartum a friend suggested to me that maybe I had depression. I thought she was crazy! Didn't everyone worry about car crashes with their baby? Doesn’t everyone step extra carefully on the stairs so you don’t slip when you are carrying the baby? Doesn’t everyone miss their old life and wish it were different?
My family doctor at the time did a quick screen for me at a well-visit with my son, and she said that yes - I did have PPD/PPA. She prescribed me some Zoloft to help and off I went. There was no extra support suggested, no coping strategies or tools. It was very clinical. “Oh - you have a headache?” “Take this.” “You have depression?” “Take that.” It did help take the edge off the dark thoughts, but it didn’t help my anxiety or the feeling of being alone in the trenches and struggling through without a clue what I was doing. I wish someone had pointed me in a different direction then, but hindsight is always 20-20.
Fast forward a little, and we created Erizo Wovens from my passion for babywearing. Babywearing was the only solace I could offer my little one. Well… that and putting him on the boob - otherwise he was a very high needs kiddo (and still is). We had moved to be a bit closer to family. Things started improving a little. I weaned off the Zoloft slowly, suffering through nausea, brain zaps, immense fatigue and a general unwell feeling for nearly 6 weeks. Then, I got pregnant again. It was like hitting rewind all over… the morning sickness started immediately, I was so tired and sick all the time. I also developed Symphysis Pubis Disorder (SPD) which is a separation of the pubic bones caused by the relaxin in the body (pregnancy hormones) and the stretching ligaments around the pelvic floor/uterus. It’s excruciatingly painful. Except now I also had a business to run, and a preschooler to look after - things were really challenging. I noticed my brain shift this time around as well. The racing thoughts started early, the heightened anxiety. The stress about everything, even little things that were totally normal daily things seemed so overwhelming. The sadness, the tears, the guilt I felt was immense. I was on a hormonal rollercoaster, barfing at every turn, full of rage, tears and bone-tired exhaustion.
When we finally got close to the end of my pregnancy journey with Oscar, our birth plan ended up changing due to extra amniotic fluid and I was devastated I couldn’t have another home birth. After grieving that and having an amazing hospital birth, the cycle repeated yet again. I was so hopeful that after all we had learned the first go-around, that the second postpartum period would go smoother. We were much more prepared, we had better supports, I had the education and knew what to watch for, when to ask for help. All the things. Then the exhausting all night nursing sessions happened, the never ending demands of work and the older kiddo, and the constant fears and worries started to seep back in. But now a new dark twist had started taking shape as well. Sometimes I would feel like it was all a mistake. Having another baby was a mistake. This life I was living was all a big, unwanted, mistake. I knew it was just the darkness creeping in when I reflected intellectually on my life, but in those scary moments it was hard to see reality. I thought it would be easier without him. That everyone would be better off without me. That was I just a burden. That my needs didn’t matter. And then I would look at this little, beautiful life I created and feel completely hopeless - I knew that the depression had taken me again.
The first year or so postpartum with Oscar was filled with rage, stress, feeling overwhelmed, and thoughts that I was never good enough. I could never do enough, or be enough for everyone that needed me. I’m sure many of you feel the same things. The transition from one kiddo to two is immensely difficult - parenting becomes a triage process as to who needs you more in that particular moment. I reached a point where I no longer wanted to continue anything, and my husband insisted I get help again. I should mention I have been regularly seeking therapy and counselling over the last several years as well. This was in addition to the medicine, which I needed again. After struggling to wean off Zoloft I decided to try a different brand, and a combo of Cipralex and Wellbutrin seemed to hold the darkness back.
I’m now into year three of having two littles, and nearing year seven of being a mother. I still haven’t found my groove, I still don’t know how to juggle all the balls. The depression has lifted a little and the anxiety comes and goes. But I’m not “better” and this battle is certainly not “over” by any means. My mental health journey was one I never saw coming. I had no idea this would be my path once conceiving such beautiful, wanted children. I had no idea the loneliness that motherhood could bring, the feelings of defeat, worthlessness, the rage. I look back at pictures and have no memories of those moments - the postpartum robbed me of those too. I had wanted so badly to be a mother, and what came with it was so very unexpected. I also really thought I would be strong enough to ward it off from happening a second time, and for a long time I felt like I failed at that too.
Through all of this though, I have found a circle of women that do really love me and my family. They have supported us through the hardest moments. I learned that my husband is as rock solid as they come - that he has seen me in my darkest hour and stood by, steadfast. I still take medicine, I still go for therapy, and I still have days I wish I didn’t wake up or I could spend all day moping in bed. Some days I barely have the energy to get the basics done. Depression is truly a chronic illness that shows no mercy, and doesn’t care what you have in this life. It doesn’t discriminate on race, sex, status, economic successes - when I’ve been in those low places it’s easy to see how people like Anthony Bourdain succumbed to this illness even though “he had it all.” I never would have understood the depth it seeps in and sucks out life if I hadn’t experienced it myself.
As things have improved over these last few years I also can feel the joy now in my kiddos laughter, the light in their smiles and innocent eyes. I know I am carving my way through this path and I am stronger now that I ever was before. I also have realized that my true calling is to help other women down this path through supporting them with babywearing and helping educate them in the prenatal phase before the real deep stuff happens.
Going back to finish my post-secondary education has given me a renewed sense of self and purpose in this life - that I can be a mother but also something more. I am embracing that it’s ok to want to do stuff for myself and learning that it doesn’t make me selfish. These transitions in life are really the moments that define our experiences, and through all of what I’ve been through so far, becoming a mother has been the most challenging and life changing - for the best and the worst. It has definitely given me a perspective on mental health that I never had before. I have more empathy and understanding for those suffering all over and around us with various other mental health disorders and conditions. Sure, it has been postpartum depression and anxiety for me - but it could be anything for anyone else, it doesn’t make it less or more, just different. And we all need a helping hand and heart through this crazy ride called life!
#worldmentalhealthday #mentalhealthawarenessday #erizowovens #breakthestigma #PPD #PPA #postpartumrage #mentalhealth #postpartum #postpartummooddisorder #depression #anxiety #breastfeeding #babywearing #babywraps #honestmotherhood #hearttalk #wearallthebabies #momlife #newmom #stopcensoringmotherhood #fatherhood #counselling #therapy #postpartumsupportcalgary
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