Postpartum Depression: My Story

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This story has been a long time coming. It’s one I think about often, especially as I mentor, teach, and counsel pregnant and postpartum women. I believe that everything in our lives happens for a reason- to teach us something, to show us how strong we are, to show us the beauty of life, the ones we love, and that Life is precious.

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is something that is often swept under the rug- it’s not talked about much when you’re pregnant. I feel like it’s kind of like C Sections- nobody wants one, the thought of it is a scary prospect, and you just hope it doesn’t happen to you. I worried about PPD during my first pregnancy, because I had battled depression and anxiety for years prior. I worried I would be more susceptible. I ended up having zero PPD with Lily. Looking back, I had a pretty stellar recovery- my mom was around, my husband was an amazing help- his schedule allowed him to be around a good portion of the days, our life was slower, more relaxed. We had a pretty easy time transitioning into parenthood.

Fast forward two years later with Baby #2. Everything was different. From the very beginning. I had wanted 3 years between our kids. I was going to get 2. This pregnancy was unplanned, and came at the worst possible time- financially, emotionally, all of it. I think I was pissed for 9 months. Seriously. I was worried all the time. And sad. I wasn’t ready to share my time with Lily. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle another child. I was CONVINCED he would need years of therapy because I would never love him like I loved Lily. There was no way possible. My heart was too full already. I was scared.

I decided to use a midwife this time around. (Lily was born in Japan in a hospital with an epidural.) That was the best decision I could have made. My midwife, April, was so wonderful. She spent at least an hour with me each visit- asking me how I was doing emotionally, talking with me about my fears, answering my millions of questions patiently, and assuring me everything really would be ok. My birth with Arlo was amazing and I still can’t believe how empowering and calm it was. I used Hypnobirthing (which I now teach) and it was the best experience of my life. Having said that, you’d think that would stave away any depression issues. Not so much. As I said before, our financial situation was not the best. My husband had some vacation days but no paternity leave. This was in 2008 after the economy tanked, and honestly we were just happy he had a job. I had Arlo on a Thursday, and by Monday morning my mom was gone back to Houston and my husband back to work. I had no idea what a postpartum doula was. I had no idea you could encapsulate your placenta. We weren’t involved in a church. I hadn’t started CrossFit at this point. We didn’t have a Tribe. A Community. I was in survival mode with a potty-training toddler and a newborn. Shit got real.

Breastfeeding was hard. I got blisters. I got engorged. I got mastitis. Arlo hated all the things Lily had loved- swaddling, sleeping (!), pacifiers. I thought I had it down since I’d done it all before. Not so much. Different human. Different personality. Who’da thought. With Lily I took naps when she napped. I had time to figure things out. She was my only concern. Tommy and I tag teamed. Like I said, our life was slower. Things were easier. This time he had to work all day. But we wouldn’t have made it through without him. He made dinner, took care of Lily, tried his best to keep me from getting swallowed up by my life. Now, looking back, I know he was in survival mode, too- trying to survive his wife’s downward spiral.

There were days when I would just lay on the bathroom floor- not caring what the kids were doing. I would stare at the ceiling, wondering what I was doing there- in this family, in this life. I slowly came to the realization that they HAD to be better off without me. There was absolutely no way I was contributing anything of value to my family. They would be so much better off without me. So much happier. I imagined them frolicking somewhere in some field with flowers- happy, smiling, full of joy. Not burdened with the gray cloud of despair and shell of a person I had become. My mom worried. My husband kept his head down and did his best to take care of the family I couldn’t. My friend, Kimber, would call me nearly every day. Many times I wouldn’t answer, but she kept calling anyway. She has no idea how much that meant to me. It made me feel like someone was looking out for me. My pseudo-sister, Aspen, came over every other day or so. She’s 10 years younger than me but wise beyond her years. She would just sit on the couch and talk to me while I nursed. About nothing and everything. She saved me. Many times over.

I. Was. So. Tired. I felt like the Earth was just going to swallow me up. At least, that’s what I hoped would happen. I would sit on the front porch, looking out at the busy street, wondering what would happen if I just layed in the road. Maybe someone wouldn’t see me and just put me out of my misery. When I would drive on Mopac I would grip the steering wheel with white knuckles, telling myself to stay on the road, not to veer off the bridge. By now, you might be thinking I needed some major help. You would be right. I went to therapy, but I was afraid to tell her how bad it was. I was afraid she would call the loony bin and they would come take me away. So, yeah, I was not only depressed but delusional as well. Wonderful. I did get on medication- only after dragging my feet about it for an eternity. It turned out to be the best thing for me at that time. I immediately felt the clouds lift. I felt like I could breathe. I actually wanted to live. That was huge. Things got better- very very slowly but surely.

So what kept me from doing the unthinkable?

My kids.

I didn’t want them to grow up with the burden of their mom having committed suicide. That’s some heavy shit for kids to deal with. But even more than that (and this is funny I promise- remember I was completely delusional, but THANK GOD for my pro-breastfeeding convictions) was that I REFUSED to have Arlo drink formula. I was bound and determined to breastfeed him for a year like I did Lily, and I was gonna be damned if I wasn’t around to feed him! Whatever works.

And as bad as things were- as much as I wanted to end my existence, there was something inside me that wanted to see my kids grow up. Deep down in my soul there was still a flicker of light and of hope. Thank goodness.

I can make fun of and laugh at myself now- 7 years later. But in all honesty, PPD was the scariest thing I’ve ever dealt with or been through in my life. And the reason I’m so open and honest about this is because I want other moms, husbands, partners, and anyone close to new moms to know what it’s like- how real it is. How absurd and nonsensical it is. I talk about my experience in my Hypnobirthing classes that I teach, and I’ve had a few moms email me months later- thanking me for sharing my story- that they were going through some tough times and felt better knowing they weren’t crazy. If my story can help one mom then I’ll be ecstatic. This isn’t easy to write about, and I have a lot of guilt about that time in my life. That I didn’t want anything to do with my baby and that my husband had to shoulder so much burden. But, as I’ve said before, maybe this experience happened to me so I could help others or to bring light to PPD. Yall know I will talk your face off about things that are important to me!

On Friday I’ll post some resources for PPD as well as some things to look out for and a few ways to be preventative (not that you can totally prevent it, but there are some things you can do that could/can help).

Thank you for reading my story, and if you have any thoughts or comments, I’m all ears. Kat@Birthfit.com

WORKOUT

5 Rounds:

400m run/row

3 rep Bear Complex

Rest 1:1

NOTES & MODIFICATIONS

  • This is an interval workout. You MUST rest take the 1:1 rest ratio. If it takes you 4 min. to complete one round, you rest for 4 min. before moving on to round 2.
  • A Bear Complex is a Power clean to Push Press to Back Squat to Push Press, use a lighter weight so that you can do all 3 reps without putting the bar down.
  • If your belly is bigger and your bar path is compromised, use a rack and do the following: Push Press to Back Squat to Push Press to Front Squat

 

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