Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Journey to the Worst of Motherhood, 1

Yesterday, as I was taking the kiddos on walk, I remembered something my mother had told me while on one of our walks around this time last year. She said, "Just remember, time passes. Before you know it, you'll be walking with the kids next Christmas and everything will be different."

And she was right. Everything IS different this year.

At this time last year, I was living in hell.

At this time last year, I was incapable of caring for my children.

At this time last year, my mother was living with us and was more of a mother to my children than I was.

At this time last year, divorce was something my husband and I talked about on an almost daily basis.

At this time last year, I had spent time in a psych ward twice in the last month.

At this time last year, I had downed a bottle of Xanax in a moment of despair.

At this time last year, I couldn't stand the sight of my baby.

At this time last year, I was in the deepest depth of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis.

I have thought about writing about my experience many times, but today I read a post by Lindsay at Suburban Turmoil that inspired me to go ahead and do it. I can't do it all at once, so I think I will break it up into several posts. This will be the first. I ask that you please read this without making any judgments.

One reason I have wanted to write about this is that, despite increased awareness and media coverage of Hollywood stars with PPD, many people have misconceptions about the disease and often the worst judgments about mothers with PPD are made by other mothers.

I also think that many mothers are in denial about the possibility of PPD affecting them. I was one of them. Despite having a history of depression, I thought that PPD was not something that would happen to me. It was something that happened to other people. I'm not a monster like Andrea Yates. There is no way I would ever hurt my children. It couldn't happen to me. Wrong. It can happen to anyone who gives birth, it can be deadly serious and it is important for women and their families to be aware of the symptoms of PPD and to seek help if needed.

There are three levels of PPD. The first is the "baby blues" that most mothers have about 3 days after giving birth as hormones leave their bodies. Symptoms are feeling weepy and emotional.

The second stage is postpartum depression which can occur anytime from a month postpartum to one year after giving birth. It is a major depression that occurs in about 10-20% of mothers. Symptoms include sadness, loss of appetite or increased appetite, irritability, trouble sleeping, crying, feeling guilty, obsessive worrying about the baby, thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, feelings of detachment from the baby and and general hopelessness.

The third level of PPD is postpartum psychosis. This is the stage that can drive women to hurt their babies or themselves. It is very rare, but very serious. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, irrational thoughts, frantic behavior, obsessive preoccupation with trivial things, and paranoia. This is what I had, minus the hallucinations.

My daughter, Ladybug, was born on August 31, 2006. She is my second child. I did not have PPD after my first and it was the farthest thing from my mind when we brought Ladybug home. One of the risk factors for PPD is a difficult delivery. My delivery had some problems but nothing serious. I was induced about 4 days before my due date because of low amniotic fluid. I had hoped to give birth without drugs, but because I was induced, I had an epidural. The epidural, however, cooperated with my desire for a drug-free birth and did not work. At first I was only numb on one side and then it was the other. After a while it stopped working altogether. I gave birth with essentially no pain meds, but it was not a bad experience at all. I kind of liked feeling it all.

Ladybug was healthy and had no serious problems. She was jaundiced and required a bili-light at home, but that was not a big deal. She was a great breastfeeder, which made me very happy because my first was not able to breastfeed. Our stay at the hospital was 2 days and we got to come home on my son's second birthday.

The first couple of weeks were the normal sleep-deprived adjustment period. I was exhausted trying to care for a new baby and for a two year old. The afterpains were worse this time and it seemed to take my body longer to bounce back. Luckily, my husband was able to stay home for three weeks and help all of us make the transition. I stopped breastfeeding after two weeks because I couldn't take the sleep deprivation and wanted my husband to be able to help out with night feedings. I pumped for a couple of days and then we moved to formula. At first everything seemed OK.

I should explain that I am not a baby-person. Some people absolutely love the baby stage. That's not me. I am very much a creature of habit and schedule. I have a definite problem with the lack of schedules and craziness of newborn days. Unpredictability makes me very anxious. I also don't like not being able to do the things I regularly do. I didn't like not being about to exercise or read a book during nap time. I need regular sleep, as do we all, but I have insomnia. This meant that when I had to get up to feed Ladybug, I often couldn't get back to sleep. I would worry that she wouldn't go back to sleep or that she'd wake up in another 30 minutes. I couldn't relax enough to drift off. So already, I was suffering big time sleep deprivation and was struggling to adapt to the new lack of routine in my life.

Then Ladybug got past that early newborn stage where they sleep all the time. She went from always sleeping to never sleeping. She required darkness, silence and endless rocking to get her to sleep. I tried in the beginning to follow all those experts' advice about putting her down awake but she wouldn't have it. I read every sleep book written. I tried everything. She wouldn't sleep in her bouncy seat or her swing or the car. The only way to get her to sleep was rocking her.

Also about this time, Ladybug started crying.
And crying.
And crying.
All. The. Time.
Screaming at the top of her lungs for hours. Arching her back and balling up her fists. She'd hold her body as rigid as a bow and her face would look like she was about to explode. We took to wearing earplugs. I was amazed none of the neighbors complained. She literally cried 80% of the time she was awake. Turns out there was a reason for this, but we didn't know that at the time.

So, I was stuck at home, in a life that bore no resemblance to my life just weeks ago. I was spending hours listening to a screaming baby and I was spending hours in a darkened room trying to rock my baby to sleep. Combine all this with a personal history of depression and it was a recipe for disaster.

I have to cook dinner now, so part 2 will have to wait until later.


Missyb64 said...

This is good... very good. Amazing isn't it, we know more than I ever wanted about Cyalis and Viagra, but the details and full recognition of PPD & PPP are still categorized as "Woman Stuff". If either of these happened to men, well, forget that. Because if men bore children the human race would have become extinct millions of years ago. No man would ever voluntarily sign up for pain like that!:-> Can't wait for Chapter 2!

jennifer said...

I'm anxious to read more. I never had PPD or PPP, but I know many women who would be helped by your posts.

Jennifer, Le Binky Bitch

nobody said...

glad to hear you made it through! I was lucky and just had the weepie version. and actually the only one I really wanted to harm was my hubby :)

Suburban Turmoil said...

Wow. Thank you for writing about this. Every time someone writes about PPD, I think at least one woman sees it and realizes that's exactly what she is/was going through.

Lisel said...

Thanks for all the comments. I just wrote the second part and boy, was it hard to relive all that.
I really do wish that there was more support out there for PPD and more recognition of how common it is.

Kristin said...

Lisel, you are awesome. How amazing that you're writing about your PPD/PPP experience so soon after you went through it. It has taken me years to get to the point where I can speak out about my own experience because I felt so much shame at having had it, as if it were my fault. There's such a stigma attached to depressive disorders and when more and more people speak up like you are, we can finally bring an end to the stigma.
I blog on PPD and would love to mention your story with a link to it, if that's okay with you. Sharing your story is such a powerful gift to others -- thanks for that!
Warm regards,
Kristin Park

Lisel said...

I would be thrilled to have you link to this story. I'm new to blogging,
so that's very exciting for me to hear!

I've got to tell you that I have had doubts all morning about writing all this so openly. As you said, there is still stigma attached to it. I agree though that people need to be more open about it. After I started to get better, I read some other people's accounts and one thing that bothered me was that their versions seemed sanitized. I know my case was very severe, but there have to be other women out there who went through what I did.

Suzy said...

I had PPD with my 2nd as well. It has taken me almost 5 years to realize how bad it really was. I finally feel like I'm me again and you will too. Hang in there! Part of the cleansing is getting it all out--your writing is good, I bet you feel so much lighter already!