I struggled to find my footing. I went back to work a little early and my boss graciously helped me work out a deal in which I could work part-time and use the rest of my maternity leave sparingly. Work brought back a sense of normalcy, but once again, I was faced with the realization that things would never be the same. I could no longer simply go to work. I would always and forever be missing my baby girl.
It took approximately six weeks for my body to return to a somewhat “normal” type of state. My road to recovery, mentally and emotionally would continue for years.
Grace nursed for around a year and was supplemented with formula a lot of the time. I continued to pump while I worked and nursed her when I was home. My milk production wasn’t as much as it probably could have been if things had been more consistent, but I was thankful I had stuck with it. Once Grace was weaned, we were able to explore different medications.
Medications have been a part of my life since 2004. Trying to find the right one has often cause upheaval and disorder in our home and lives. Once, I was on a medication that gave me nightmares. I had a dream about the devil, dripping with maggots. I was afraid to go to sleep after that and my psychiatrist prescribed something that was supposed to help me forget nightmares.
I unknowingly became addicted to anti-anxiety medication, taking much more than the recommended dose. My friends said I was a zombie, showing no emotion and having no in-depth conversation. I was constantly sleepy and I couldn’t remember things.
I eventually left my job and found a new one that I thought would allow me more time with Grace. I spiraled into an even deeper depression, resorting to self-injury, a form of coping I hadn’t used in years.
I blamed every normal developmental difficulty on my inability to be the mother I thought I needed to be when Grace was first born. The first (and last) time Grace told me she hated me, I thought it was because she somehow knew I had failed her at birth.
It took my self-injury and darkest moments to bring me to ask for help once again. My aunt got me in touch with a counselor she had heard good things about. This counselor made me work hard at recovery. It was REALLY hard sometimes, but I stuck with it and she stuck with me. None of my sessions were used to sit and discuss the problems of the day. She reviewed the week with me and then we set to work digging into the past and using techniques that literally saved my life. Chris came to a session or two and things started going fairly well.
Approximately four years later, I started thinking I might want to have another baby. I never thought Chris would agree to the suggestion, but after careful consideration, he did. When he saw how emotional I was after holding my niece’s baby, he believed he had no right to deny me another opportunity, especially since we were getting to the age where we wouldn’t want to have any more children. We also figured we wouldn’t be blindsided this time. We knew the possibilities and could stay on top of it from the get go. We talked to my psychiatrist who began to ween me off my medications.
I found out I was pregnant again after a trip out of town that Chris and I took together. I had just been hired back on with my position at the Clerk of Court’s office and my father had been admitted into a nursing home. I had horrible morning sickness with my second pregnancy. I drove around with a bowl in my vehicle so I could stop and throw up if needed.
The anxiety attacked me during the first couple months. I began to have the thoughts of, “Why are you bringing another child into this horrible, nasty world?” My psychiatrist worked with me on trying to use the smallest dosages possible of the safest medications. I didn’t want to take medication while I was pregnant, but my mental state wasn’t healthy for the baby either. I began to level out after the first trimester.
Six weeks before Micah was born, my father passed away. My labor started at a baby shower when I couldn’t get comfortable on the couch I was sitting on. My water never broke. We went to the hospital after my friend said she thought the contractions were fairly consistent and Chris and I stayed for a couple hours and were then sent home until things began moving a little more rapidly. I was able to sleep through a large portion of the contractions and when I wasn’t able to sleep, we knew it was time to go to the hospital again.
The hospital offered epidurals and I gladly accepted. I requested the smallest dosage of Pitocin necessary.
When Micah was born, he swallowed amniotic fluid on his way out and he didn’t breathe on his own for a period of minutes. My sister was trying to take pictures and the nurses told her to stop; they had to rush him to the nursery.
Micah was born in March, so it was cold outside and he was jaundice which meant we had to pick up bilirubin lights for him to sleep on. He was to stay on the lights at all times except when being fed. Once the jaundice was gone, the doctors were concerned about his kidney and we had to take him in for several ultrasounds. Yet, from the moment I laid eyes on him, I felt exactly the way I thought I was supposed to feel.
It made no sense to me. My first pregnancy and delivery were simple. I had no morning sickness. I wanted a girl, I got a girl. My water broke so I knew when to go to the hospital. Her delivery was flawless, in fact, she wasn’t even bathed for a period of time while everyone held her and took pictures. Yet under all these perfect circumstances, my anxiety and depression skyrocketed.
My second pregnancy was filled with anxiety, my father passed away, I started a new job, I was sent home from the hospital after thinking I was in labor, when Micah was born, he wasn’t breathing, he was jaundice and he had a questionable kidney, yet I handled it like a professional mother.
I have to give some credit to Grace for helping to create a smooth transition the second time. I had to pick her up from school every day which created routine. I never felt like I was alone. I didn’t rely on Grace to keep me company, but she really was good company and a good distraction from the hundreds of things I could have fixated on.
I’m still on medication. I’ve tried not being on medication and things didn’t turn out so well. I’m okay with being on a small amount. It’s a small effort I get to put towards helping us have a healthy family. I still wonder sometimes if what happened was a completely physical reaction to hormone fluctuation and lack of sleep, or if it was my depression wreaking havoc or if it was a little of both.
For a long time, I was worried it would happen again. While I have had different types of attacks, none have ever been the same as that six weeks after giving birth. I worry that talking about it or writing about it will bring it all back, but it doesn’t. If anything, it makes me extremely grateful. Every day that passes without having to experience that hell, is a good day. And my children, both of them, are the second best things I’ve ever done. (The first was saying “yes” to Chris.)