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By Sarah Jones
When I learned I was pregnant with my daughter a few thoughts ran through my head at lightning speed. The first was "I hope it’s a girl." This was followed immediately by "Oh my God I hope I don’t have postpartum depression again."
That first wish came true. Second one? Not so much.
I told myself this time would be different. I wasn’t scared to talk about it anymore and had no problem with letting other people know exactly how I felt throughout my pregnancy. I never felt like some kind of earth goddess harnessing the key to the future in my womb. I felt fat, uncomfortable and nauseous and probably went a little overboard in sharing how I was most likely going to go crazy for a few weeks after I had her.
I made sure to get connected with a psychiatrist well before my due date. I started back on Zoloft about five weeks before I gave birth and had prescriptions in hand for anxiety medication ready to be filled as soon as that baby exited my body.
I remember feeling so much calmer in the hospital after having her than I did after my son. I enjoyed the alone time I got with her and even enjoyed breastfeeding for 24 hours before the cracked nipples came back to town.
The first few days home from the hospital weren’t too bad. I was able to remember that what I was feeling was normal and temporary. I thought I really might have beaten it. Maybe I actually wouldn’t fall apart and might actually get to enjoy parts of maternity leave.
It was at that moment that my brain said “Psych! Jokes on you girl we’re headed straight for hell!”
Suddenly I wasn’t able to remember that my feelings were normal. I couldn’t positively affirm myself out of the panic attacks. The days felt like an eternity but a blur at the very same time. My mom came over every day and sat with me on the couch. Sometimes she brought me to her house for a spicy little change of scenery. She reminded me that everything I was saying I had said the first time around, and that it would all get better.
But it didn’t matter. I knew I was a horrible mother. I knew I was failing both my son and the baby. I wondered why I ever thought I should have another baby.
I didn’t want any visitors and didn’t answer phone calls. I felt like I was trapped inside my body watching things through a blurry lens. I was constantly screaming get up! Get off the couch! You’re better than this! in my head but my body couldn’t and wouldn’t listen.
Then the mastitis arrived. In both breasts. At the same time.
I went to the closest urgent care clinic and sat on the exam table for a whopping four minutes before the doctor let me know I was a little too far gone for his services. He told me I should probably go to the hospital.
In my confused, irrational brain I thought the best thing to do would be to go to the emergency room where I worked. Let that sink in for a minute. Nothing screams “I deserve a promotion” like showing up to your place of work wearing flip flops in February while crying hysterically looking like a ghostly version of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.
I walked in with my hands raised in the air like I was being arrested and repeated “I don’t want to hurt myself or anyone else, I just need some help” over and over. I immediately told the doctor (who I knew on a first-name basis) that he needed to go ahead and give me the strongest medication available because I was going insane. I also let him know that he didn’t need to worry because I had decided I was done breastfeeding.
During this lovely interaction I was completely soaking through my hospital gown. Nurses asked me if I wanted to pump to ease the pain of stopping cold turkey and I emphatically told them no and that I would just like some medication please.
I prayed to be told I had a medical condition that would prevent me from breastfeeding. At one point a nurse told me she was worried that I might be septic and I actually said “Oh God I hope so.”
To anyone who can relate: the fact that things have deteriorated to the point where you’re praying for some kind of infection is a good enough reason to stop breastfeeding! Also, not wanting to breastfeed is a good enough reason to stop breastfeeding! WE NEED TO STOP PUTTING SO MUCH PRESSURE ON OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER! Your happiness and ability to function is more important than whether you’re giving your baby formula!
I can laugh about it all now, but I couldn’t at the time. Nothing about what was happening was funny. My body was betraying me and my brain was my own worst enemy. Looking back, going to the ER like that, was one of the most insane things I’ve ever done. It was also one of the bravest.
My second rodeo with postpartum depression looked slightly different than my first but the thoughts and feelings were exactly the same. The difference is I got on medication ahead of time and was able to ask for help sooner. I wasn’t as ashamed because deep down there was a part of me that was able to tell myself what my mother had told me during my first bout with PPD: "The mother I felt like I was wasn’t the mother I was going to be."
Because I was brave enough to walk into my hospital in flip flops and get the right medication it the horrible period of being depressed to the point of complete paralysis was cut in half.
Even though those were my darkest days, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Because I went through it, I’m able to sit down next to a new mother who comes into the hospital soaking through her shirt and tell her that I know exactly how she feels. I’m living proof that postpartum depression doesn’t win in the end if you’re able to get help.
The days are blurry and exhausting and the weight of the judgement you place on yourself is crushing, but the fog will start to lift.
When all is said and done, you will be able to recognize how strong you really are and hopefully pass your story on to the next woman who is suffering. At the end of the day, we’re all just walking around in our flip flops in February trying to figure out what the hell we’re doing.
Are you are suffering, or suspect you are suffering, from PPD?
Sarah Jones is a mom of two little ones and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker living in the eternal winter that is Connecticut. She enjoys writing about her life, especially the roller coaster that is being a mother, on her blog, Calling Out My Crazy. She experienced PPD after both of her children and has a passion for sharing her story and finding the funny wherever possible.
Photos from iStock and Sarah Jones
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.