My Experience With Postpartum Depression

I want to say that every woman should read this. That's probably not true. But I think that every woman should read something like this. Something that reminds them they're not alone in this struggle. Maybe if I'd had someone to connect with, this would have been easier for me. Maybe not.

As Evelyn's birthday draws closer, I find myself thinking more about that time in my life and the struggles I've faced since my husband and I decided we wanted to have a child.

When I decided to get pregnant, I knew postpartum depression was a risk. I knew it ran in my family, and I knew I was at an increased risk because I'd experienced depression in the past. I did everything I could think of to prepare myself for what I thought could be an eventuality. While I don't regret the mental preparation I did do, there was nothing that could have adequately prepared me for what I was going to experience.

Being pregnant was the most painful, uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced. It was also the most magical. I felt like I was doing something special and important. I felt like I WAS special and important. I felt glorious, even amidst the pain and bed rest and severe morning sickness. I felt like the center of the universe. When Evelyn was born suddenly, that abruptly ended. The lights dimmed and darkness started to spread. No longer was I important or special. I was just another person. Just another person with a baby, in Utah of all places. Most people I know my age have children. That didn't make me special. And it didn't make me important.

My daughter's birth was a traumatic experience for me. My husband had just left town and I didn't realize that the fluid I'd been leaking for three days was amniotic fluid. I honestly thought it was just mild incontinence caused by the fact that I was 34 weeks pregnant. It never occurred to me that it was possible to leak amniotic fluid; I was under the impression that when your water broke it broke completely. It was naive but I didn't know any better. I thought I had almost six weeks of pregnancy left. I thought I had time to emotionally prepare for the separation I knew was going to take place when I delivered. But I didn't. I mentioned to my mom that I was leaking SOMETHING and she insisted I call the hospital. Good thing too. When the on-call doctor called me back, he actually yelled at me over the phone. "You've been leaking fluid for three days and you're just NOW calling me?!" He told me to get to the hospital immediately; that if I was in fact leaking amniotic fluid I was going to have to be induced. I called Spencer and he started the 10-hour drive back to the valley. I was terrified. I wasn't ready to have my baby yet. I wasn't done. She wasn't done. Would she be ok? Would Spencer make it in time?

When I got to the hospital they confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid and told me they would immediately start me on pitocin to induce labor. I had no choice in the matter. Thank God Spencer made it home on time. I got to hold Evelyn for 5 minutes before they took her to the neonatal intensive care unit. I didn't see her for another 9 hours.

I didn't have time to feel much of anything while Evie was in the NICU. We lived at the hospital, sleeping in something akin to a hotel room connected to the NICU. We came home to shower and change our clothes and then we went back to the hospital. We spent hours on end sitting next to Evelyn while she was under the bili-lights. It wasn't until we brought her home that I started to sink. I had a feeling that it might be coming, so I immediately called my doctor and she put me on antidepressants. I wasn't allowed to breastfeed after that. Just one less way for me to connect with the life I had helped create.

I slowly spiraled downward as my maternity leave came to a close. When it came time for me to go back to work, I lost it completely. My third day back, I tried to overdose while on duty. I was taken to LDS hospital and spent six days in the psychiatric ward. Evelyn was allowed to visit me once. I was put on more meds and let go. I couldn't go back to work, but administration would not approve any type of leave. I was fired.

I thought that as time went on it would get easier. It didn't. I grieved for the time and opportunities I had lost. I would progress, and I would backslide. As I watched those around me become pregnant I mourned for what I was missing. I felt myself becoming angry with them. They had something that I wanted and couldn't have. I felt disgusted with myself. Something good had happened to someone I loved and I was sad about it; blaming them for the way I felt. I felt like an even worse person. I felt like I couldn't admit what I was feeling for fear of retribution. What kind of person thinks this way?

Since these feelings of depression have manifested in my life I've felt many things. One of the predominant feelings is a feeling of worthlessness. I look at my friends who are mothers and who are, or at least seem to be, doing well in their roles as caretaker and I feel like I'm less than them. Like because I have these feelings I'm not as good a mother, and will never will be. I understand logically that it's not a competition, but emotions are rarely logical and depression never is. I want to hate myself for the way I feel. A friend texted me yesterday to tell me she was pregnant and I broke down and started crying. Not out of happiness for her, but grief for me. I feel angry, sad, and resentful. And I shouldn't. It's not ok to feel this way, which makes me feel worse. It's a downward spiral and I often feel like I'm getting out of control. I can't control the way I feel and I almost can't control the way I react.

No one talks about postpartum depression. If I've known anyone who suffered from it, they never told me, and went on with their desperate struggle to function in silence. Pretending everything was great in their new lives as moms. I can't be like that anymore. I can't be silent while I suffer so much. My daughter is a joy in my life and I don't blame her for any of this; it's not her fault. And I need to learn to grasp the concept that it's not MY fault, either.

If you've made it all the way through this rant, I salute you. And if you happen to be one of my friends, and if you happen to be pregnant, I have some requests.
~please understand that I truly am happy for you. I'm just not happy for me. There's a difference.
~please be patient with me. I'm doing the best I can just to make it through the day.
~If you suffer from depression, please don't keep it to yourself. Find someone, anyone, who you trust to help you, even if it's not me.

This is the biggest battle I've ever fought. Maybe someday I'll win.


Things To Come

Well I'm in my second semester up at the University of Utah, and have started taking classes specific to my Photography major. I've also been reading a book on business practices in the boutique photography industry. I'm excited about starting my own business (which won't be for several years still) and it's also terrifying (Thank God it's not for several years!). Since I want to specialize in maternity and newborn photography, I've been working with some friends of mine who are pregnant and scheduling some shoots for free. I'll put some pictures up when I have some. Exciting!

Evelyn is getting SO big. She's almost 19 pounds now! And in less than a week, she'll be ONE YEAR OLD! It's amazing, it feels like no time has passed at all. And honestly she doesn't seem THAT much bigger (granted, she's not) but she's learned so much. Though she hasn't said her first word she's talking all the time, and she will walk with help. She can stand on her own and even dance (which is the cutest thing) and she'll dance to any music that's playing. She loves to laugh. She laughs so much.

I'm obsessed with taking pictures of her. She's so beautiful (honestly have no idea how that happened) and she's so well behaved. She eats anything we try to give her, sleeps through the night and is great with sharing. If you ask her to give you something she will. She's just such a blessing and such a joy. Can't wait til her birthday party!