My journey with PPD began during my third pregnancy. Soon after we conceived, I became extremely nauseous and was sick on an almost daily basis. Driving or riding in a car made it worse and I became house bound. In addition, extreme fatigue and lethargy made it almost impossible for me to care for our 3 and 5 year old daughters. Having recently moved to a new state, no family nearby and a husband working long hours left me with little to no support and feeling vulnerable. I quickly became overwhelmed and the anxiety I’d had in recent years escalated into full blown depression. I was unable to complete even the smallest tasks and literally retreated under the covers. Sleeping was my refuge from the anxious and depressive thoughts, feelings of failure, shame, loneliness and isolation. Fast forward several months and my sister came to visit. She witnessed a three day crying spell and realized I was in deep trouble. My mom arrived the next day and set in motion my painfully slow recovery. With medication and therapy, and the support of my husband, my family and friends I was able to claw my way out a black hole and find myself again.
My girls are now 15, 13 and 8 years old. Life is good.
For my entire life, all I ever really wanted was to be a mom. In May 2001 I found out I was pregnant and could not have been happier. Very soon after finding out I was pregnant the extreme sickness kicked in. I was nauseous 24 hours a day and throwing up so much that I ended up in the hospital a couple of times. During the pregnancy I remember crying for what seemed like no reason. I told myself it was just the hormones because my life was exactly where I wanted it to be. I had a bit of what I would call the baby blues after my son was born. It didn’t last too long and a year and a half later I was expecting our second child. My husband and I were very excited and feeling very blessed. The 24 hour nausea and frequent vomiting started almost immediately and within days of learning I was pregnant I was feeling very sad. The sadness quickly turned into a debilitating depression. Everything that was happening was planned and prayed for but now I was so unhappy I didn’t know how to go on. There were days when my husband couldn’t go to work and leave me alone. I thank God that my son was less than two for most of the pregnancy and doesn’t have memories of all the time I spent sleeping and crying. It was without a doubt the scariest time of my life. With the help of trusted professionals, friends and family we made it through the pregnancy in one piece.
Slowly but surely the weight of sadness began to lift. While I was sick, I struggled to find joy in anything. I knew I was on the road to recovery when I started to enjoy things the way I used to. I started reading books again, listening to music, even singing in the car and going out with friends. While I was depressed, I felt like it would never get better, would never go away. But it did. I am now a healthy mom of two healthy boys.
I am happy.
In February of 2013, a few months after my husband and I got married, I found out I was expecting. At 35, I felt confident, strong, and “ready” for this new chapter in my life. However, almost immediately after the delivery, I felt like my confidence vanished. I would read (and reread and reread) the breast feeding pamphlet unable to remember the simple instructions on how often to nurse even while I was still in the hospital. All of the changes and new responsibilities of having a newborn were shockingly overwhelming to me and these feelings continued and worsened after we brought Nicholas home. Everything seemed confusing and I felt like I was doing everything wrong. To say that I was not enjoying the newborn period – was an understatement. Anxious, lonely, exhausted and living 4 hours away from my family at the time, I struggled in silence for months and even extended my unpaid maternity leave another 8 weeks. I just could not imagine leaving my colicky child with anyone during the day and actually going to work. In an effort to keep this all a big secret in hopes that it would disappear as easily as it had appeared, I went into overdrive. Getting out to meet friends, nursing my heart out, trying to act (and look) “normal” – it was all terribly exhausting. Deep down everything felt foggy, dark, and awful most of the time. With the help of a compassionate therapist, an encouraging friend, and my husband, I decided to give going back to work a shot when Nick was 6 months old. We hired a nanny to watch Nick at our house during the day, and I started to feel like I got my life back a little bit. Turns out that going back to work actually helped me feel better. Just a few weeks later, Nicholas had an anaphylactic reaction to sesame and was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. My husband got a job back in Philadelphia and our family moved back home after living in Virginia for four years. The combination of leaving one job to start another, saying goodbye to many new friends, a sick parent and a husband who traveled most days of the week, I had a terrible relapse of postpartum depression and anxiety right around my son’s first birthday. That was when I made an appointment at The Postpartum Stress Center.
One year later, I am continuing treatment at the PPSC and have found a strong support system of friends and other moms who have “been there, done that” which has been a true blessing. I am back to work full time, feeling much more like myself again and really enjoying the toddler years. We are even expecting our second child in the fall of 2016.