Friday, January 11, 2008

The Conclusion

We got through Christmas somehow and over the next few months, I slowly got better. Several things happened that facilitated my improvement.

First of all, Dr. J switched my antidepressant to Wellbutrin XL. I had been on Zoloft and it just wasn't helping. Within two weeks of being on Wellbutrin, I began to feel a little better. I was able to come off the anti-psychotics, which also helped me general demeanor because they made me so sleepy.

Secondly, after hearing about the dire situation between Big B and I, Dr. J referred me to an absolutely wonderful therapist, Laurie. I began to see her on a weekly basis. Her office was a place of sanctuary for me and she helped me see my situation in a different light and really helped to build me back up.

Laurie and Dr. J suggested that we put Sweet Pea in a preschool program to give me a break during the week and also give Ladybug and I some time alone together. One of my very good friends and the mother of one of Sweet Pea's best friends told me that there was an opening in her son's class and spoke to the director of the school on my behalf, explaining my situation. The school, a church-based preschool, took mercy on us and enrolled Sweet Pea, even though there were people on the list ahead of us. The decision to put Sweet Pea in school was one of the best we have ever made. He loved it and really excelled in the class. His speech improved greatly (he was a late talker) and it did him good to get out of the house and play with new friends.

That same friend also turned out to be a wonderful support for me. Other friends were supportive as well, of course, by this friend was able to personally relate to my situation and was always there for me if I needed to talk. She would email or call and check up on me every few days. I do not talk much about my religious faith, but I very much believe that God worked through this friend and placed her in my life for this reason.

Also important was the diagnosis of Ladybug's severe reflux and milk protein allergy. After Christmas, she suddenly started refusing her bottles. We were able to get her in to see a pediatric GI doctor and she was diagnosed with severe silent reflux and a milk protein allergy. She was put on Nutramigen formula and prescription Pepcid. We saw improvement within days and finally, finally the crying stopped. I felt awful that she had been in so much pain for so long.

Finally, the most important factor in my recovery was my mother. In her greatest act of motherhood, my mom retired early from her job as a teacher and moved in with us for four months. At 65 years old, it can not have been easy for her to take over care of a infant, night feedings and all, but she did it and seemed to love it. Having her there made a huge difference to me. Her presence allowed me to get to all the doctors' appointments and gave me time to take Sweet Pea to playgroup and playdates. She made us all go on walks everyday and get out of the house. She helped to temper some of the arguing between Big B and I. As I began to get better, she gradually turned over some of the Ladybug's care to me. Finally, in March, she thought I was well enough for her to leave. We were both worried about how Ladybug would react to her departure since she had really been Ladybug's primary caretaker. It was an adjustment for Ladybug and for several months, whenever she would see my mother, she seemed happier and more secure. This has all faded now and she definitely sees me as her mother, but she and my mom will always have a special bond. There is no way I could ever repay my mother for the huge sacrifice she made for us. Suffice it to say that when she is older and needs care, we will be the ones to take her in and provide that for her (not that my sisters wouldn't, but I see that as something we in particular owe her).

Although I was getting better, my marriage was still suffering. Dr. J referred us to couple counseling and we went several times. What pulled us through, though, I think was time and perseverance. As time went on, we began to forget the things we had said to one another. And we just did not give up. Today we are happy together and I feel that we could go through almost anything together after having weathered this.

Today, I am back to being the happy mother I was before Ladybug was born. I am still on Wellbutrin and will be for a long time. Both Dr. J and Laurie advised us not to have any more children and if we did, to be prepared to fight this again. We made the decision for Big B to have a vasectomy. We had already been leaning toward just having two, but this sealed the deal. There is no way we could go through this again. Hopefully, with medication, it would not happen again, but you never know. I would rather not take the chance.

I love my children beyond belief and Ladybug and I now have just as close a relationship as any other mother and child. I often look at her and feel such a rush of love that I get teary-eyed. I am very, very sad, that all this happened and I so wish it hadn't. I worry about Ladybug, that I might have damaged her with my hate so early in her life. I wonder how her self-esteem will be and whether she will have abandonment issues. Time will tell and I just hope that my love and care for her now will erase any early damage.

I have definitely felt judgment from people about PPD. Some people seem very uncomfortable talking about it and seemed to treat me a little differently after hearing about. Other make ignorant statements about how they must have done everything right in their pregnancies. These statements offend me and anger me because they imply that I did something wrong when I did not. The bottom line is that PPD or PPP can happen to anyone.

When I started to get better, I read several of the PPD memoirs and was disappointed that none seemed to fully and honestly describe the horror of PPD. Granted, I had PPP and my case was dramatic, but I always felt like these accounts sugar-coated things. I began this story because there are many women out there who suffer PPD and PPP and feel very alone. I especially want mothers with PPP to know that there are those of us out there who have felt all those horrific thought and we made it through. I wanted to give an unflinchingly honest account of what PPP is like and I hope that I have done that.

Several people have questioned my judgment in writing my story, asking what I will do if Ladybug one day reads this and questions my love for her. My answer is this:

When Ladybug comes to me, questioning my love for her, I will gather her into my arms and hold her close to my heart, look into her beautiful blue eyes, stroke her hair and say, "Oh yes, my darling, darling baby girl, I love you. I love you so much that I walked through hell and back just to get to you."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Looney Bin 2

I arrived at Looney Bin 2 at around 3 am, handcuffed and in the back of a police car . The hospital was out in a rural area and situated on a large piece of land on a lakefront. It consisted of several building and housed adults, adolescents and children. There were detox and medical wards, residential facilities and crisis facilities. I was taken to a crisis wing.

I was escorted inside and taken to a room with two nurses. They made me undress and checked my clothes for weapons, drugs, etc. Once again my belt was taken, along with my toiletries. I was shown to a room with three beds, two of which were occupied with sleeping women. I lay
down on the empty bed and tried to sleep. I was exhausted, but too mentally keyed up to sleep. I was also more than scared about what had happened. I was worried about my husband's reaction and worried that he might use this against me. I was also worried because I knew that this was no luxury facility and that it was going to likely be a pretty scary place to spend time.

When 6 am rolled around, everyone got up and got dressed and received medications. The wing held maybe 10 patient rooms, three patients to a room. There was a couple of offices and a nurse's desk at one end opposite a day room. The day room overlooked the lake and had a balcony that served as a smokers' area. There was a television in the room and lots of old books and puzzles and one phone for patient use.

I did not have any idea of what to expect here. No one had filled me in on the routine. Patients trickled in to the day room. They were all ages and pretty evenly split between men and women. Breakfast was brought to us; apparently the patients in this wing were not allowed to go to the cafeteria. That was a privilege you earned as you improved.

I spent the day sitting in the day room or in my room, reading or watching TV. This place was much more unstructured than the first. There were no group sessions or social workers to talk to. The doctor was supposed to appear around 5 pm, but the nurses said that he may or may not show up. It seemed to me to be a sort of holding pen.

I did not talk to many other patients. One older woman sat in a corner talking to herself. Another women was on the only phone for hours at a time, randomly calling people from the yellow pages. Many patients stayed in their rooms and slept the day away. When I was able to get to the phone, I called home and begged my mom and husband to do something to get me out of here, but there wasn't much they could do. Big B called Dr. J, but he said I had to be released by the hospital doctor.

Luckily for me, the doctor did show up at 5 and I got in line to see him. He listened to what I had to say and when he realized I was already under psychiatric care, he told me he was releasing me. I don't know exactly why he released me. At 7 pm, Big B arrived to take me home. He didn't say much. When we got home, my mom was in the backyard playing with the kids. She told me she was going to stay as long as it took for me to get better.

November turned into December and Big B and I were arguing constantly, all in front of my mother. During one huge blow-up, he told me that after Christmas, he was filing for divorce and that he was going to take the children from me. He said I was not fit to be their mother. He didn't know who I was anymore. I was selfish for being sick and selfish for swallowing the pills. He didn't think he loved me anymore. How could he, he asked, I was a totally different person.

These statements were made over and over and I was extremely worried that he was going to follow through with his threat. At times, I wanted him to leave and would tell him, beg him to leave, but I also worried about how I would handle the logistics of a divorce. I started talking to friends, asking for legal advice. One friend provided me with a list of good divorce attorneys. I stopped telling Big B how I felt because I did not want to give him any more ammunition. I also learned that if we divorced, I would probably not be able to leave Knoxville. I had thought that I would move back to Nashville if it happened, but that looked like it would not be a possibility. I was especially worried because I am a stay-at-home mom. Before having kids, I was a teacher and have always intended to go back to teaching when the kids are older. But teaching is not something that you can just walk into in the middle of the year. It would be difficult for me to get a job teaching anytime soon.

The weeks before Christmas were not much different. The medication was not working for me. Yesterday I wrote that Dr. J had put me on Wellburtin. That's not true, I had forgotten that first we tried Zoloft along with Zyprexa and Geodone, two anti-psychotics. The Zoloft was doing nothing for me and the anti-psychotics left me feeling drugged and sleepy. I continued to have periods of anxiety and rage and still hated my baby. My mother and Big B made sure to keep me away from Ladybug. And Ladybug was still crying , arching her back and screaming for an hour at a time.

My friends knew I was depressed and knew about the first hospitalization, but I did not tell anyone about the second hospitalization or about the psychosis. I was afraid of being judged. We still had not told Big B's family what was going on either.

The rest of my family came to visit for Christmas. We tried to put on the best front that we could, but it was futile. The tension in the house was palatable. I waited on pins and needles for Christmas to be over, wondering if Big B would stay true to his word and file for divorce.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Me and a Bottle of Xanax

Writing this PPS story has brought up so many emotions. Ladybug is sick with some kind of little kid virus and last night as I held her and rocked her, I felt so much guilt and sadness over her first six months of life. I held her as long as I could and rubbed my cheek against her hair and looked at her gorgeous blue eyes with her long dark lashes and told her how much I love her. My biggest fear is that I somehow damaged her by my remoteness and lack of caring for her those months. I wonder how her self-esteem will measure up and whether she'll always have abandonment issues. I suspect I will carry this guilt with me forever.

Big B and I argued all the way home from the hospital. When we got home, I talked to my mom about the situation and we all decided we needed to find a psychiatrist who could see me that day or the following day. Big B is from Knoxville and comes from a medical family, so he got out the phone book and started looking at the listings for psychiatrists. He quickly recognized one, the father of a good high school friend. He was surprised the man was still practicing and didn't know how he had not thought of this man before. He immediately called the office and spoke to a secretary, explaing his connection to the doctor and explaining that we had a crisis situation and needed help immediately. The secretary spoke to the doctor and we had an appointment for the following day.

The next day, Big B and I went to the appointment together. The office was nicely furnished and on the wall were framed journal covers and academic articles written by Dr. J. It turns out that Dr. J is one of the most respected psychiatrists in the area and we could not have chosen a better doctor. Dr. J remembered Big B and stills knows his family. Once he heard my story, he took an immediate protective and fatherly role. He assured me that I was very treatable and that I would get through this. He did not agree at all with the bipolar diagnosis. He thought I had postpartum psychosis and depression and put me on Wellbutrin and an antipyschotic. He told me he wanted to see me twice a week until I was stable and gave us his office, home, and cell numbers and told us to call at anytime if there was a problem.

We walked out of the office that day breathing a sigh of relief. I started on the medications immediately.

At home, my mom was doing a great job taking care of the children. Sweet Pea was definitely enjoying the attention. Even more importantly though, my mom seemed to have a knack at handling Ladybug. Not surprising I guess, seeing as she raised three daughters, all born within four years of each other. But it was a relief. Up until now, no one other than myself or Big B could get Ladybug to stop crying.
Yes, Ladybug was still crying all the time. My mom still thought it was normal crying and still disagreed that anything was wrong with her.

Since things looked like they were going to improve and since Big B would be off of work and could take care of the kids, my mom decided to go back to Nashville for Thanksgiving, which was in a couple of days. She left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and planned to stay in Nashville until Sunday. She would come back on Sunday and stay with us another week or so.

Immediately after she left Big B and I started arguing. I don't remember what it was about, but a good chunk of it was because of his comments in the car on the way home from the hospital. The arguments began to escalate even further. We would yell and scream at each other for hours, all in front of the children, trading insults and demeaning each other. I would become hysterical and filled with rage. Things were thrown and kicked. I am amazed the neighbors never called the police.

We argued all of Wednesday and it continued on through Thanksgiving morning. We were supposed to go to Big B's grandmother's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was out of control angry and told Big B just to leave. I actually told him I wanted him to leave permanently and he should just pack his things and go live somewhere else. So, he left. He left the kids home with me and went to his grandmother's for dinner. I was left at home alone with the two kids on Thanksgiving. I felt abandoned and alone and I was furious.

We did not speak when he got back that evening. The next day, I did not get out of bed. Part of me did it to get back at him for leaving. I thought that since I had to take care of the kids all day alone, that he should do it too. Another, larger part of me just wanted to get away from all this. I did not think I could handle anymore arguing and criticism from him. I took a couple of painkillers to put me to sleep and I slept most of the day.

Late that afternoon, I went downstairs to get something to eat and Big B confronted me. Again, I don't remember what was said, only that I lost total control. The argument went on and on. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin, I was so frantic. The whole episode is pretty foggy to me, I think because I was manic. I ran upstairs to our bathroom to try to get away from him yelling at me and went into our bathroom. He followed me and continued on yelling at me, Sweet Pea right behind him. I was so overwhelmed with sadness and anger and anxiety that I thought to myself that I just wanted all this to stop. I felt like the universe was spinning and caving in on me, like I was going to explode. I reached inside the medicine cabinet and grabbed a bottle of four year old Xanax, opened the bottle, poured the pills in my mouth and swallowed.

Big B immediately freaked out and asked me what I was doing. Did I want to die in front of my son? He ran to the phone and called Dr. J and left a message. He then started to call his mom, but I stopped him because I was convinced she would try to take the children from me, which wouldn't really matter if I were dead, but I wasn't thinking that then. He called my mom and told her what I had done and she immediately got in the car and drove the two and a half hours here. He then made me throw up, which, combined with the fact that the medication was expired, probably saved my life. I was already feeling high and could not contain my laughter between heaving up in everything in my stomach. He finally reached Dr. J, who told him to take me to the ER and that I would probably be OK as long as I didn't drink any alcohol. By this time I was wandering around the house laughing and having a gay old time, drinking a beer. Again, Big B freaked out, taking the bottle out of my hand and making me stay in the same room as him.

When my mom finally arrived, we went to the closest ER. It was about 10 or so at night. There were hardly any other patients there, but it still seemed to take forever. They did a toxin screen on me, which confirmed what I had taken. The doctor then came in and told me that they were committing me to a psychiatric facility under court order. Two policemen came in the room, handcuffed me and led me to their squad car to drive me to a mental hospital. Not the hospital where I had been before, but a real mental hospital. The type of place where people go and stay months. The type of place you think of when you hear the words mental hospital. The type of place really "crazy" people go.

The real thing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dr. Quack Quack and My Departure From Looney Bin 1

The next morning, I finally got a chance to see the psychiatrist. I had learned from the other patients that there were two psychiatrists who were responsible for treating the psych ward. The patients largely preferred one over the other. Guess which one I saw? Yep, the one no one liked. And with good reason, I found out.

In the middle of a boring group meeting, I was called out to see the doctor. A nurse escorted me to his office. The office was a barren white room with no decoration and only basic furniture. The doctor was a dour looking older man, probably in his sixties. I sat down and he reviewed what few notes he had on me. He asked me why I was there and I tried to explain my situation. About two sentences into my monologue, he interrupted me and began to ask questions about my background. He started off with where I lived and then asked if I had a high school education. I told him that I not only had a high school diploma, I also had a college diploma and a Master's Degree. He was visibly surprised. Not a good sign. He continued to be visibly surprised when he asked about my husband and my family background and I explained that my husband is a software engineer, my mother a teacher, and my father an engineer and dean at a prestigious university. Apparently this was not what he expected to hear.

He continued to question me along the same lines, just getting background information. He never asked how I felt during my pregnancy, never asked about my current symptoms or how I felt about Ladybug. He never mentioned postpartum depression. Not one of his questions addressed postpartum issues.

After all his questions, he leaned back in his chair and told me he thought my problem was that I was bipolar. I immediately protested and told him that I absolutely did not think I was bipolar. I explained that I had seen more than one psychiatrist before, had been hospitalized before and no one thought I was bipolar. He asked if I had ever engaged in wild behavior or stayed up all night. Well, yes in college, just like a multitude of other college students do. Apparently that was confirmation enough for him. I was most definitely bipolar.

I later learned that almost all psych patients seen at this hospital are bipolar and many are indigent. Apparently Dr. Quack Quack was thrown for a loop by the appearance of someone that did not fit these criteria and didn't know what to make of me. So, he just fell back on his usual spiel. It is true that a certain percentage of PPD patients are bipolar, but many more are not and I gave him absolutely no reason to think I was bipolar. He just didn't know what else to say.

At this point I was pretty irritated. My irritation turned to full-blown anger with his next statement. He asked me which antidepressants I had been on prior to this and I explained that I had been on Effexor and absolutely did not want to take it or anything like it again due to the horrible withdrawal side effects. I also told him that I have Interstitial Cystitis and can not take anything that would interact with those medications or anything that would cause urinary retention.
He replied to this with, "You know, Interstitial Cystitis did not exist 20 years ago and now you hear it all the time. I don't know where it came from but I think it's funny that all of a sudden people think they have it. Makes me wonder what their real problem is."

This made me LIVID and further pointed out what an idiot this guy was. For years ignorant, mostly male, doctors have told women they are imagining IC symptoms and that it was their nerves. In the past ten to fifteen years, there finally has been acknowledgement that it is a real and serious condition about which little is known and for which there is no cure. Research money is finally being put in to studying the condition. I am lucky in that one of the top IC-focused urologists in the country practices at UT Medical Center. To insinuate that this very painful condition is not real really pissed me off.

I assured Dr. Quack Quack that it was indeed a very real condition and I had undergone a cystoscopy which confirmed the diagnosis and that I was under very real treatment for the condition. He just grumbled more.

He prescribed Cymbalta and told me to think about his diagnosis and that he would see me tomorrow. Once I got home, I read the information on Cymbalta and learned that not only is it very similar to Effexor, which I did not want to take, but it also causes urinary retention. The two things I said I did not want. Dr. Quack Quack was totally incompetent.

I walked out of that office angry and slightly panicked. We had come here for help and it did not look like I was going to get it here. Worse, I had to rely on this doctor to get me out of this place. I immediately called home and explained the situation to Big B and to my mom. They adamently disagreed with the doctor and we decided that I had better do what I had to to get out of there so we could find better treatment.

The rest of the day, I talked with other patients and thought about what Dr. Quack Quack had said. By the time evening rolled around, I was half-convinced that maybe I was bipolar. Another phone call home assured me that I was not. I decided that in order to get out of there, I had better just go along with the doctor and try to get released as soon as possible. Big B and my mom were going to try to look into getting me in to see another doctor or even in to another hospital. My mother thought perhaps she and my father could help us pay for a different program since our insurance did not give us any other option.

The following day, I met with Dr. Quack Quack again and told him that I agreed that perhaps I was bipolar. He seemed happy with this and said he thought that if I signed up for the hospital's outpatient program, that I could be released the next day. I agreed and he sent the director in to see me. She explained that the outpatient program consisted of daily sessions on job training, positive thinking, coordination of social services, and life skills. Again, not at all what I needed but I had to go along with it. I promised her I would attend the day after I was released, knowing full well I would not.

I was released from the program the following day and Big B came to pick me up. We got in the car and rode in silence for the first few minutes. Then Big B said to me that he hoped I had enjoyed my vacation.
What??? Vacation?

I don't call three days in a psych ward a vacation. He continued on in a very spiteful, angry manner and a huge argument ensued. He was angry at me for leaving him to take care of everything while I was having a breakdown. He was angry that everything was on his shoulders. He thought depression was selfish and I was choosing to be depressed. I basically needed to just get over myself, he said.

All of this , of course, threw me into hysterics. Here I was, just leaving the hospital after receiving no help, and he starts berating me and telling me just to get over it. I screamed and cried all the way home. I was back to where I was before entering the hospital, only worse because now I knew that I had virtually no support from my husband.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My First Day in Looney Bin 1

After I filled out all the paperwork, a nurse took me on a tour of the ward and explained the daily routine. The ward was one big loop. The center section consisted of a nurse's station, a pharmacy and several exam rooms. Patient rooms were ringed on the outside of the loop. At one end was a day room and a large activity room. The day room was outfitted with couches, chairs, a television, board games and a few rows of old paperback books. This was where most patients spent their free time and was also where we would have daily group meetings. The activities room was a large, tiled room with cafeteria tables, a sink, cabinets, another television with a couch and chair and more games, books and magazines (all very outdated). I liked this room because it had a wall of windows, our only real view of outside. Next door to this was the kitchen. All meals were delivered from the hospital cafeteria, but the kitchen held graham crackers, saltines, peanut butter, honey, ice cream, juice, milk, cereal and fruit. They provided plastic spoons, but no forks or knives. There were two telephones in the hall directly across from the nurses station.

The routine was pretty much the same every day. We would never leave the ward. We were woken at 6:30 am for temperatures, vital signs and medication dispersal. We could go back to sleep until 8:00 am, at which time we were expected for breakfast in the activities room. After breakfast, we would have a morning group session and see the psychiatrist. Lunch arrived at noon and we were given an hour or so of free time. The afternoon was filled with group activities, journaling time, or sessions with nursing students and social workers. Dinner was at 5:30. We were free the rest of the evening until medication dispersal and vital sign check at 9 pm. Lights out was at 10:30. During the free time scattered throughout the day we were allowed to use the phones, watch TV, sleep, socialize, whatever. Nurses took regular head counts and did room checks.

After the tour, the nurse took me to my room. Each room had two wooden platform beds, a desk and an adjacent bathroom. I had a roommate, Patricia. She was around 45 years old and bipolar. She was very welcoming and tried to give me the lowdown on the place. She had been there about a week and it was not her first time there. I never got to know too much about her because she slept the majority of the day. Her medications sedated her. From what I could gather, she was essentially homeless and had been living with various friends and relatives. She hoped to get enough bus fare to make it to her daughter somewhere in the Midwest.

By the end of the tour, it was around 5 pm. I had not seen a psychiatrist and was told I might not see one for a couple of days. Beside the intake person, no one had spoken to me much about my condition and I had received no real medical attention.This worried me, but I had no control over the situation. I made it clear to the nurses that I wanted to talk to a doctor as soon as possible and they assured me I would see someone eventually.

I went to the day room where several patients were watching TV. I sat down and they introduced themselves and asked me what I was there for. I explained my situation and they told me their stories. There were about 20 other patients in the ward. It was a fairly even mix between men and women. The youngest person there was in her early twenties and the oldest was probably in his sixties. Most were over 30 and I was one of the youngest there. The majority of them were bipolar. They were all very nice and supportive. It wasn't like you might picture it. There weren't people walking around talking to themselves or screaming at the walls or anything. For the most part, these were ordinary people with varying types of depression. Almost all had been hospitalized before, many at this hospital. Also, they almost all had no insurance. They were lower to lower-middle class, blue collar people ,some of whom had steady jobs, others of whom where homeless or bounced from place to place.

When it was time for dinner, I followed everyone to the activity room. I was given a tray and a meal order form for the following day. The food was terrible, of course. I had some kind of creamed meat dish, green beans, a roll and baked apples. We were not allowed any caffeinated beverages, so I had water and cranberry juice to drink. I jonesed for a diet coke. A nurse ate with us, chatted and joked with everyone. I made conversation with the women around me. When we finished eating, the nurse had to check our trays and record how much we had eaten. I didn't eat much.

After dinner, I called home and spoke to my husband and my mom. I told them I was discouraged and worried that I had not seen a doctor. They agreed that was a problem but hoped I would see someone tomorrow. For the rest of the evening, I watched TV in the day room.

Since I had not seen the psychiatrist yet, at medication dispersal I was given the standard sedative and anti-psychotic drug they seemed to give most of the patients. They made me very sleepy. I was finally given my bag and I went to my room to try to get ready for bed. My bag had been searched and several item removed. I have a urological disease called interstitial cystitis and brought my medications I routinely take for it. They were removed, to be held in the pharmacy. My belt was gone, as were some hair products that contained alcohol and a bottle of body spray. All my toiletry items had to stay in the nurses' station to be checked out when I needed them.

When I was admitted earlier that day, I was relieved to be away from my children and the responsibility of caring for them and from the possibility I might hurt Ladybug. As I went to bed, though, I missed them and half wished I were home. I was getting more concerned that this facility was not the place for me and that the level of care I would receive here would not be adequate. I hoped that the next day would be better.

Signing Away My Life

From my description of the onset of postpartum psychosis, you might wonder why I did not seek help until it became severe. The answer is that it happened fast, that it became a crisis situation within days. I have been depressed at other times in my life, but this was like no other depression I had ever felt. Imagine you are in a grocery store. Your husband and family are just outside on the sidewalk. The lights go out. It's totally dark. You can't see anything. You take a step forward and bump into a wall. You turn and try again. Again, a wall. Then you realized that the shelves and walls are closing in around you and you have no way out and can see nothing. You can hear people talking to you, but you can't understand what they are saying. You know you must get out to get to your children but you can't see a way. You are desperate, panicked, alone and you feel like you are drowning. That's a little like what I felt, especially initially. But once the psychosis truely hit, I felt that and much more. I felt rage, violence, panic to an extreme. It was terrifying in its speed and depth. It came on very quickly and got bad very quickly.

At six to seven weeks postpartum, I was talking to my mother on the phone and she said, "It sounds like you are a little depressed. Maybe you need to see someone." I told her that yes, I thought I was, but I would probably snap out of it and it wasn't too bad. I told her I'd wait and if in two weeks I still felt depressed, I'd call my OB. Well, in two weeks, I was hospitalized in a psych ward. That is how quickly the situation became deadly serious. The rapidity of PPD and PPP is something that all new mothers need to keep in mind.

My husband knew, of course, that things were terribly wrong. He would leave for work, kissing me goodbye through my tears and he would return later to a still-crying wife. He had witnessed the rage I felt. He had had to remove me from Ladybug's room, fearful I would hurt her. He had heard me say over and over how much I wish we had never had her. He heard me say I hated her. It got so that he was afraid to leave me alone with Ladybug. He saw how obsessed I was with her eating and sleeping habits and how I had to compulsively check my logs. He knew that even touching Ladybug disgusted me and I avoided talking to her or even looking at her. He had also born the brunt of some of my rage. I would turn it on him, telling him how much I hated my life and I should have never married him. He knew something was very wrong, but he was scared and didn't know what to do. He was barely hanging on himself, feeling stress at work and coming home to a nightmare.

As things were spinning out of control at home and I became less and less functional, we also felt a need to cover things up. We did not want my husband's family to know about the situation and even now, they don't know how bad it was and some don't even know it happened. We didn't tell friends how serious it was. Later on, my friends would be an invaluable source of support, but at that time, I was too ashamed and afraid to tell them everything. Many of my friends were pregnant and I did not want to scare them. Also, whether we acknowledge it or not, I think all mothers feel at least a twinge of competition with other moms. I did not want to be the "bad" mother of my group, the one people were afraid to leave their children with. I didn't want them to see me as a failure.

I didn't tell my mother how bad I was feeling. She lives three hours away. If she had seen me at this point,she would have known immedidately that I was in real trouble, but it is easy to just omit things in a phone conversation. I was especially worried about my mother-in-law finding out. One of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis is delusional thinking and I began to believe that she wanted to take the kids from me, that she always had and that she would jump at any chance to get me away from. I believed this as much as I believe the sky is blue. I became paranoid at people's intentions.

Between eight to nine weeks postpartum things climaxed over a period of a few days. I could not control my behavior or my thoughts any longer and we knew that if something did not happen, I would hurt Ladybug or myself. The day that I finally reached out for help was in the middle of November. Ladybug was screaming as usual and my husband had just left to go back to work. I was sitting in the rocker sobbing. I called my mother to talk.

At the time, I didn't intend to tell her much, but now I think I must have known I had to and that is why I called her. She asked me how bad it was. Sobbing, I told her that I didn't feel I could go on another day. I simply did not feel I could continue. I didn't think I could physically take care of my children another minute. Both my husband and I were very concerned that I might hurt Ladybug or myself. I was not really suicidal yet, but I knew I could be very easily. I had had casual thoughts about it, but I felt I was much more likely to hurt Ladybug then myself. I didn't tell her all this, but I told her I was very depressed.

My mother asked if it would help if she came to visit. I told her yes. A teacher, she made arrangements for a substitute and planned on coming in two days. She thought she could stay until Thanksgiving. She told me to call my OB, get a prescription for an antidepressant and get a name of a therapist. My OB called in a prescription for Wellbutrin XL and gave me a name. Unfortunately, the therapist he referred me to was no longer practicing. I summoned my courage and emailed some friends to see if I could get a recommendation. I told them I thought I had PPD and wanted to see someone. I didn't tell them how serious the situation was, just that I was a little depressed. One of them was able to give me a name and I was able to make an appointment for the following day. My husband stayed home with the children while I went to therapist's office.

I will never forget the ride there. I could barely see to drive because I was crying so hard. Panic overwhelmed me and I felt desperate to get to the office, like I could wait no longer. Once there, I could not stop crying. Other patients in the waiting room stared as I tired to get myself under control. I could barely explain to the therapist what was going on. I struggled to tell her how unhappy I was, how I felt about my baby and how we were terrified I was going to hurt someone. Alarmed, the woman realized very quickly that I was in the middle of a total breakdown and I needed help immediately. She arranged for me to be admitted to an inpatient program at a local hospital. It was not ideal, she said, but it was the only program that our insurance would pay for. I would be admitted the following day and remain there until I was stable and no longer a threat to anyone. I was to wait for a call in the morning to tell me when to report to the hospital. I did not understand why I could not be admitted that day, but she told me it had to be arranged first.

As I left the office, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I called my mother, explained what was going to happen and asked her to come immediately. She left Nashville an hour later and arrived at our house that afternoon. Once she arrived, I felt like there was some hope for the situation. She could care for the kids while I was in the hospital and my husband was at work. Her presence served to stabilize things.

That night my mom tried to divert our attention and lighten the mood. The next morning, we waited to get the call from the hospital. By 2 pm, no one had called and I began to get very agitated and worried. We did not understand why we were going through this routine anyway. Why couldn't I have just been admitted yesterday? We called the hospital repeatedly and finally reached the therapist I had seen. Apparently, the psych ward intake coordinator was on vacation. They would try to get me in the next day. This should have been our first clue that this hospital was not the best place for me. But what other choice did we have? Our insurance wouldn't pay for another hospital and we knew I had to get help immediately.

I managed to hold it together enough to make it to the next day. My mother took on the care of both the children and she and my husband were careful to make sure I was never alone with Ladybug. The next morning we went to the hospital.

An orderly took us to the psych floor and we were left to wait in their outpatient area. I looked around. The furniture was all old and the area looked dirty. There were all kinds of posters on the walls with tips for job hunting and ways of reducing stress. I saw lists of homeless agencies and food banks. There was a whole wall of information on taking the GED. There was information about drug and alcohol rehab facilities and on halfway houses. It did not look to us like I was in an appropriate facility at all, but nevertheless, I underwent an evaluation.

The woman doing the evaluation asked me various questions about how I felt and at several points she seemed taken aback, almost scared. I described for her how I had envisioned killing Ladybug, how much I hated her and how I did not want her. I told her about the intrusive thoughts and about the times when I had almost hurt her. I held nothing back. It was the first time I told anyone how I actually felt. After the questions, she conferred with someone else and then they both spoke to my husband and I together.

Their words were chilling. I was homicidal, they said. Homicidal. That is not a word often used to describe 30-something, white, well-educated, middle class mothers who live in suburbia. I can not adequately describe how hearing that made me feel. I knew then that things were way beyond serious. I knew that I was capable of killing someone and if I did not get help, I very well might. I knew I could have my children taken from me and be locked away in prison for life. I could be the Andrea Yates of the 21st century. I also knew at this point there was no going back. I would be admitted whether I liked it or not.

My husband escorted me to the actual inpatient section. The only patient entrance to the ward was a door in a glass-walled receiving area. I had to hand over my overnight bag so that it could be searched. My husband had to say goodbye here, as only patients were allowed behind the locked doors. We hugged each other and he kissed me goodbye. I cried, suddenly afraid of being left here alone. In the back of my mind I wondered if I would stay here forever. Would I be able to regain my sanity or would I be forever crazy? Would I be one of the girls in Girl Interruptted, one of the ones who never leave? Would I spend months or years in psychiatric facility?

I watched Big B walk out of the receiving area and turn to look at me before getting on the elevator, tears running down his face. I felt very alone. I was escorted to an intake area where I signed paperwork and filled out histories. A counselor came to explain the process to me. He explained that because I had been admitted and deemed a suicide or homicide threat, I would not be able to leave until a doctor felt I was stable. I had lost all control of my future. I was entirely dependent on the doctors here. I told myself that everything would be fine now. A large part of me welcomed the time away from my children. I wanted to get better. I told myself that I would get help here.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Downward Spiral

Part of this is from a previous post.

As each day went by, I began to feel worse and worse. Ladybug was crying all the time. I began to tell everyone that something was wrong with her. On this point I was correct, but nobody believed me. I would tell my mother, my husband, and our pediatrician that something was wrong. She was not acting normally. A baby shouldn't cry as much as this. My mother thought I was just reacting to the differences between Ladybug and Sweet Pea, who was a relatively calm baby. The pediatrician didn't understand the extent of her crying and told me it was just newborn behavior. Friends suggested it was colic and I'd have to wait it out. It would be 4 more months until we finally figured out the root of her problems. It was lesson to me in mother's intuition. Always trust it.

One of the things that gave me some hope at this point was that the big 6 weeks postpartum date was coming up. Several baby books suggested that newborns' fussiness peeks at 6 weeks and then gradually declines. By three months, they should not be nearly as fussy, supposedly. I got down the calendar in the kitchen and made a huge red circle around week 6. Only 2 weeks to go. That date was like a beacon to me. I thought I could make it to that point and then, hopefully, things would get better.

I am by nature a slight control-freak. I am a list maker. I am a note-taker. I try my best to control my life as much as possible. In an effort to gain some control or at least feel like I was gaining control over Ladybug's issues, I began keeping a journal of her eating and sleeping habits. I kept the journal on the bookcase in the hall next to her room. I would record the times she ate, when she fell asleep and when she woke. I tried to keep track of how long she cried before I could get her to sleep or get her calmed down. It quickly turned in to an obsession. I would worry about it throughout the day and check and recheck my notes. I almost compulsively checked it every time I walked by it in the hall. I made my husband follow along and I became very angry when he forgot. I felt increasingly anxious if he or I forgot to record something. Eventually the anxiety turned to panic and at times I became hysterical, screaming, crying, feeling totally out of control in my emotions, all over this journal. This type of obsessive attention to detail is one of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis. It was probably the first indication that something was going very wrong in my head.

I also started feeling very guilty about the lack of time and attention I was able to give my two year old. Before I had Ladybug, Sweet Pea and I did all kinds of things together. I'm a member of a local chapter of the MOMS Club and we went to playgroups, play dates, The Little Gym, Kindermusik, etc. We were very active. I did it as much for myself as for him. I was bored stiff just staying at home and I tried to fill our days with activities just to get us out of the house. We were both used to more activity.

Because Ladybug refused to sleep anywhere other than her crib, we were housebound. I was also terrified to take her anywhere because of the constant crying. I didn't want to subject others to her screaming. When we were home, the majority of the time I was rocking her trying to get her calmed down. I would put Sweet Pea in the playroom next to Ladybug's bedroom and tell him to play quietly while I rocked her. What two year old plays quietly? He would make all kinds of noise and come running in and out of the bedroom, inevitably waking up Ladybug just when I had gotten her to sleep. I never grew angry at him, really, but I would sit in the rocker and wait on pins and needles, fearing he would wake her.

Living like this day, after day, started taking it's toll. I cried everyday, often for hours. I felt on the verge of tears all the time. I would sit in the rocker and look out the window crying. I cried in the middle of the night and in the morning. I cried every time I had to care for Ladybug. My husband would come home at lunch to help me. I don't think I ever actually asked him to stay, but inside I begged him to just stay home with me and give me some relief. I would sob as his truck pulled away to go back to work after lunch and I would count down the hours until he returned.

Often, when I was rocking Ladybug and crying, I would look around her beautiful nursery, at all the work we had done to make it special. My husband had painted the walls a pale, soft pastel lime green. I had hung light pink curtains on antique-looking ivory steel rods. The stitched sampler prayer that had hung in my bedroom as a child was re-framed and hung on the wall. I had chosen pretty gingham and flower bedding from Pottery Barn Kids. There was a white lamp with a pale pink shade on it that cast a warm light in the middle of the night when I would go in to feed her. My old dolls were lined up on a white wicker chest that had been mine as a child. A cloud of beautiful butterflies hung over her crib from the ceiling, watching over her. It was a beautiful nursery intended for a much desired, beautiful child.

When I looked around, I would think to myself how disappointed I was that this experience, my first few weeks with my child, had been so awful. I would think about how disappointed I was to have this screaming baby instead of the peaceful, contented baby that I had wanted. I realize now that one of the emotions I had during this time was grief. I was mourning for the loss of my dream.

This baby did not match up to all of what I wanted her to be. I had waited 9 months for her arrival after having miscarried.. I had imagined what she would be like and how much fun and joy I would have in taking care of her. I was thrilled to be having a girl. I looked forward to the mother-daughter bond and how I would help her through all those daughter things in life, play dolls with her, put bows in her hair, buy prom and wedding dresses and be there when loves were lost, read her Eloise and teach her to be a strong, confident woman. But instead I was struggling to care for a child who never seemed to be happy, that seemed to be damaged in some way, imperfect. I mourned.

I began to fantasize about leaving. I would concoct escape plans. I would plan where and when I would leave. What I would take with me. We are about six hours from the coast. I thought I would go to the beach. All I wanted to do was just get in the car, drive in silence the six hours and then sit on the beach and watch the waves. I didn't know if I would come back, I just knew I wanted out. Several times I came very, very close to leaving. Once, at night, I lay in bed listening to my husband snore and I thought, if I get up now, he'll never know and I can be hours down the road before he realizes I've gone. Other times, I contemplated putting the kids down for a nap and walking out the door. I figured I would call my husband to let him know to come home, but that I would be gone by the time he got here.

All of this sadness and guilt quickly turned to resentment. I began to deeply resent Ladybug. I resented her for disrupting our lives and stealing time from Sweet Pea and I. I resented the loss of sleep I was suffering. I resented her constant crying, which often upset Sweet Pea. I resented the loss of my free time. I resented her for being born.

I would sit in Ladybug's room, trying desperately to get her to sleep and think of all the things I could be doing. I would think of all the things my son was missing out on because of this baby. I would think about the friends we weren't seeing much of. I would think about the story times we were missing and how much Sweet Pea loved to go to the library. I would think about the lack of exercise I was getting. How would I every lose the baby weight if I couldn't exercise? I would think about the books I could be reading. I would think about how I was never able to make dinner anymore and we were never able to sit down together as a family and eat. I would think about how miserable I was and how I was going to have to endure this for months to come. I could barely see how I was going to make it to tomorrow, let alone months from now. I began to feel that my life had become hopeless and there was nothing I could do about it. I came to dread each day.

The resentment festered inside me and grew. Within days, the resentment changed form and blossomed into hate. What a horrible and horrifying emotion for a mother to have. I began to hate Ladybug. I started to try to avoid having to touch her. If my husband was home, I wanted him to deal with her. If relatives were over, I would happily hand her over. I did not want to have to see her, hear her, or touch her. I didn't want her, period. I actually would feel physical repulsion when I held her. My skin would crawl and I became tense and stiff. I wanted nothing more than to get her away from me. This was the beginning of my real break with reality.

I began to tell my husband I wished she had never been born. I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives in having her. I would suggest to him that we try to give her away, laughing as I said it, but meaning it deep down. I started to fantasize about taking her to the hospital and leaving her there. I thought we could look into putting her up for adoption. Intellectually I knew I should not be feeling this way but I chalked it up to all the difficulties we had with her and her constant crying.

At around 7 weeks postpartum, something happened to me. It wasn't overnight; obviously this had been building up. I can't identify a specific moment or day that things changed. But they did. I entered some kind of other world in my mind and it was a horrific, terrifying place.

The hatred I felt for Ladybug fueled rage inside me. Not only did I hate her, but I began to get furious with her. I would yell and scream and rant at her for not going to sleep. I would rage at my husband for not doing what I thought he should when he was caring for her. One day, as I was trying to get her to bed, dead tired myself, I lay her on the floor and screamed at the top of my lungs. I told her I hated her and I wished she had never been born. I yelled at her to just shut up and go to sleep. I cursed at her. I continued to rage at her until my husband had to remove me from the room. This was the first of several such episodes. I can only imagine how it must have terrified her. Her mother's ugly, hate-filled face looming over her screaming obscenities.

For a couple of weeks, I had had intrusive thoughts, another sign of PPD. I would picture ways Ladybug could get injured or die. I would have visions of her strangling in the crib or suffocating. I would picture her flying out the window. I would imagine myself smothering her with a pillow. I would imagine cutting her with a kitchen knife or her accidentally impaling herself. All these thoughts came unbidden. They just popped in my head periodically and proceeded like a slide show.

Together with the hate, they planted in me a tiny and secret desire. Alone, in the darkest corner of my mind, I wished she would die. I remember thinking to myself that if she died of SIDS, I wouldn't care. I didn't think I'd even cry. I thought to myself, well, it would mean an end to all this. It would mean relief. Maybe we'd all be better off. Yes, maybe she'll die, accidentally of course, but maybe she'll die. I began to welcome the thought and even wish for it.

One night, in the middle of the night after a feeding, she would not go back to sleep. I began to cry, sobbing at the frustration of it all. I felt the anger build up in me and I seethed inside. I roughly grabbed her by her arms, squeezed and shook her for just a second. I stopped myself before doing anything else. I did not hear voices or think someone was telling me to kill her. I just wanted her to die and leave me alone and when I got angry enough, that desire resulted in a strong compulsion within me to hurt her. There were times I squeezed her to hard. Times I put her down too roughly. Times I shoved her into my husband's arms. Times I dumped her, almost throwing her, in the crib. The hatred combined with the anger brought out violence in me and in my behavior.

Birth and Beyond

Parts of this are from a previous post.

At 8:30 am on August 31, 2006 Big B and I arrived at my OB's for my biweekly ultrasound. My fluid was low and getting lower. We knew that if it had fallen again, I would be induced that day. Sure enough, it had dropped and I was admitted for induction.

I had really hoped to have a drug-free birth. I was induced with Sweet Pea and had problems with the epidural, resulting in virtually no pain meds and almost causing a C-section. I did not want a repeat of that and I had been reading up and practicing the Bradley method in the hopes of doing everything naturally. I was disappointed that I was going to be induced, but I was also more than tired of being pregnant and was ready to give birth. I resigned myself to the situation. I was hooked up to the pitocin and we were on our way. Here's me, fat and happy waiting for the show to begin.

Contractions on pitocin are worse then regular contractions and I eventually gave up and asked for the epidural. Of course, again, it didn't 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. The worst pain was the crowning and for a minute, I felt like I was literally ripping in two. It was over quickly though and out she came. I was also very, very nauseous and threw up for the last hour of labor and for about three hours afterward. Other than that, everything was great. It may not sound great, I know, but it was, especially compared to the problems I experienced with Sweet Pea's birth.

Ladybug was a beautiful little thing, with rosy pink skin and fuzzy brown hair that stuck up all over her head. She had spent little time in the birth canal, so her head was perfectly round. Her scrunched up monkey face reminded me of a baby orangutan. She was cute as a bug.

The nurse place her on my chest and I drank in her warmth. I looked at her and thought, very clearly, "We're done now. My family is complete. You are all I want." I cuddled her, latched her on to my breast and succumbed to the hormones pouring through me, bonding her to me, knitting the steel ties of mother-child love.

Ladybug nursed like a champ, thank goodness. Sweet Pea was unable to nurse, or I was unable to nurse him and it had caused serious problems and he wound up being hospitalized for dehydration and jaundice. I was relieved that Ladybug seemed to nurse just fine. She seemed perfect to me.

We were taken to the postpartum room and settled in for the night. We spent two days at the hospital. Ladybug seemed like any other newborn, except that she really cried a lot. The nurses even commented on her crying. We could hear her all the way down the hall when she was taken to the nursery for various things. She also wanted to be held constantly. She would not sleep unless I held her. I finally just put her in the bed with me, dangerous I knew, but I had to get some sleep. Besides all this, I loved our time there together, just the three of us, getting to know each other. Those two days were two of the best in my life.

While at the hospital, I saw my OB a couple of times and another OB once. Nurses were in and out. We talked to a lactation consultant, a hearing specialists, the hospital photographer. At no time, did anyone mention postpartum syndrome. No one asked me how I felt mentally. I never received any literature or warnings to keep an eye out for it. Looking back, my OB should have said something to me way back in my pregnancy. He knew my history and should have known I was at risk. If he had recognized this, I might have never had to go through what I did. At the very least, it should be required for hospitals to screen new mothers or give them some kind of information about PPS. But, they didn't and I didn't think to ask about it.

My mother-in-law was staying with Sweet Pea will we were in the hospital. She brought him to visit the day after Ladybug was born. He entered the room cautiously and went immediately to Big B. He would not look or talk to me. I tried to get him to sit on my lap, but he wanted down immediately. He looked at Ladybug and smiled and said hi to her. I had taken him to Target the previous week to buy her a birth day present. He had selected a little pink and purple bee that lights up and sings. He gave it her and opened a little present we had gotten him. He seemed OK, just confused and a little mad at me. I knew it would be an adjustment for him.

We were released the following day, on Sweet Pea's second birthday. We went home to two grandmothers and a house full of family. 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 after pains 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 didn't feel depressed, necessarily, but I didn't feel normal either. I had mixed feelings about Sweet Pea and his adjustment. At times I felt guilty and hurt that he was so distant to me. At other times, I resented his presence and wanted time by myself with Ladybug. Also, 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.

At about the second week, things really started to go downhill. 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. We put blankets on her windows to block the light. We tried co-sleeping. We bought an air filter for white noise. I swaddled her. I gave her a pacifier. 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.I changed formulas and tried to talk to the pediatrician about her, but he thought she was just a fussy newborn. He assured me it would get better and to hang in there.

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 a screaming baby to sleep. Combine all this with a personal history of depression and it was a recipe for disaster.

Friday, January 4, 2008

PPS 4- Pregnancy

I have a manuscript chapter partially written about this, but I am abandoning it in an effort to move things along. It needed work anyway.

We had a great Christmas in DC, came home and went on with life. I left out part of the preconception story and I'll include it here because it was kind of funny. We had been trying to get pregnant for three months before that Christmas. On Thanksgiving Day, I was 2 days late and at 5:30 am, I went to the 24 hour Kroger and got a pregnancy test. It was one of those new fangled digital tests--I wanted to be sure and didn't want to have to interpret any pink lines. My entire family and part of Big B's family was coming for Thanksgiving dinner and I thought it would be wonderful to tell them over dinner that I was pregnant. I came home, took the test, and it was positive. I was ecstatic. We told everyone during the blessing. It was a lovely moment.

That weekend, Big B and I were watching a movie and I got up to go to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding. It was light, but it was there. We called my OB and he confirmed that I was probably having a miscarriage or experiencing a "chemical pregnancy." It was such a letdown. I wasn't devastated, but I was sad and disappointed. Over the next week or so, I decided that we should wait a little longer to try again and I planned to get back on the pill after my next period.

My cycle was all off because of the miscarriage and I expected to get my period sometime shortly after Christmas. Well, that didn't happen. I waited another week and then figured I better take another pregnancy test to be sure. I was utterly convinced I was not pregnant. I picked up another test at the same Kroger and casually took it in the middle of the day. When I looked at the stick for the result, I fully expected to see a negative. But no, there it was in digital glory--positive. I actually said out loud, "You've got to be fucking kidding me." Those were my exact words. I called Big B at work and said, "You're not going to fucking believe this. I'm pregnant." He was excited at once. It look me a little while. After 24 hours or so, I was thrilled, though apprehensive . We waited to tell most people until after the first trimester had passed.

The pregnancy was fairly normal. The only big problem I had was severe morning sickness, or rather, all-day sickness. It started at about 6 weeks. I was nauseous before getting out of bed. I puked while brushing my teeth. I threw up in the sink fixing Sweet Pea's breakfast. I threw up at lunchtime and while driving. I threw up before going to bed. It was constant. I tried everything to quell the nausea. Nothing worked until I remembered that my old OB in Nashville had suggested taking doxylamine, an over-the-counter sleep aid that is safe during pregnancy Just one pill at bedtime seemed to take the edge off and I was able to function. The only other problem I had was low amniotic fluid. That was no surprise because it was also a problem when I was pregnant with Sweet Pea and I was induced three weeks early because of it. The low fluid this time resulted in induction a week early, but caused no other problems.

We found out very early that Ladybug was a girl and I was thrilled. I loved decorating her room and buying cute and impractical dresses. Big B was also excited to have a "matched set," as he put it.

My life went on as normal. Sweet Pea and I stayed busy with MOMS Club stuff, playgroups, trips to Nashville, playing at the park, all the things we usually did. I was happy.

You might wonder if I noticed any depression as the pregnancy progressed. I did not. This is a good time to mention that I know depression when I feel it. I had been clinically depressed at least twice before this and my family has a history of depression. The first depression hit when I was in college. It's hard to pinpoint its beginnings but it was around my junior year. The second depression hit at around 27. I actually wonder if it was really one big, long depressive episode. While in college, I was never regular about seeing a doctor or therapist. Then, my senior year, my parents got divorced in a very messy and hurtful breakup. At the same time, my boyfriend of 5 years and I broke up. This was a man I thought I would marry. Everyone thought we would marry. We were planning on it after graduation. So, here I was, middle of my senior year and I lose both my family and my boyfriend. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, my previous plans were out the window and my parents were not emotionally available to help me. I continued to randomly see doctors at the insistence of my mother but I was never consistent about taking the drugs. I hated the side effects and I didn't like the idea of being on antidepressants. For the next few years, I drank too much, made horrible choices concerning men, and generally tried to anesthetize myself. The only thing that kept me in line at all was graduate school.

The second episode, or perhaps the culmination of the first, occurred when I was 27. I had broken up with another boyfriend, one I lived with but with whom I was never in love. I moved home to live with my mom and finish graduate school in Nashville. I had no friends in Nashville anymore and was very, very lonely. One night, drunk, I cut my arms and legs with a razor. It was not severe and more of a cry for help than anything else. People who cut do it because they can't deal with the pain inside. That was certainly the way that I felt. I was in so much pain and I didn't know how to handle it or what to do with it. It needed an outlet.

My mother found me and she and my father took me to Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital where I was admitted for three days. When I got out, I began seeing a psychiatrist on a weekly basis and committed to taking Effexor. I took the Effexor for several months, maybe a year, and got better. I moved out to an apartment of my own, finished graduate school and met Big B. I was depression-free for 5-6 years before the PPS hit.

I have imposed a 9 pm curfew for myself with the computer because if I am on it up until bedtime, I can't sleep and I am 24 minutes past my curfew now. So, I'll leave it here and pick it up tomorrow with all the gory details of the birth. Just kidding. Well, only a little.

PPS 3-Ending in Conception

I'll stop blathering about politics and get on with the PPS story. Here's installment 3, picking up in DC at my aunt's house. It ends with conception. I thought about including a juicy sex scene to keep your attention but I refrained. It does have a sweet surprise at the ending though.

After dinner, Aunt Geneva walked us next door to show us our quarters for the stay We had originally planned to stay in a hotel. My parents and sisters were arriving the next morning and my dad had reserved a block of rooms at a hotel down the street. Fortuitously though, my aunt’s neighbors were out of town for the whole holiday season and offered us the use of their house. It was a much better situation for all of us, especially Sweet Pea, and we were delighted at their generosity.

“Now I know it’s not a child’s house, but I think you’ll really love it," Aunt Geneva says as she unlocks the door. We walked in to an entry way flanked by a cozy living room on one side and a staircase on the other. The floors were warm wood and bookcases lined the wall, floor to ceiling. There were books and treasures and interesting things to see everywhere. I thought to myself that these people must lead very interesting lives. There was a signed photo from the Clintons in the bathroom, of all places. They must have a sense of humor too. It was a home that is obviously occupied with thinkers and doers. I thought could spend my whole life here and always be happy.

Sweetening the pot, the homeowners were grandparents and our temporary abode came outfitted with a portable crib and an assortment of toys. We erected the crib in a small study area adjacent to our bedroom. Windows ringed the room at ceiling level and it was bright and cheerful, a good place for a baby. Next door, our bedroom was a lovely study in blue and white. Homey and comfy. Perfect after a day of travel.

After coordinating plans for the next day, my aunt headed home and Big B and I unpacked as much as we could while Sweet Pea flipped through a large basket of children’s books, ever the little reader. With everything in order, we drew a bath for him and begin his bedtime ritual. I peeled off his clothes and picked him up to set him into the tub. I glanced away as I set his feet down on the porcelain, checking out the artwork on the wall facing the tub and was startled by a piercing “Noooooooooo,” right in my ear. Apparently Sweet Pea was frightened by strange bathtubs. I struggled to get him at least rinsed off and then decided to call it a night. No one would notice if he is a little grimy behind the ears. Big B dug Sweet Pea’s pajamas out of his suitcase and got him dressed. We read a couple of stories, sang Rock-a-Bye baby and he was out. A big day for a little boy.

We tiptoed out of the room and down the wood staircase, flinching at every creak, to check out the rest of the house. We had stopped by a grocery on the way from the airport and had bought a few necessities, peanut butter, bread, diapers, beer. We each cracked open a bottle and sat down on the couch in the front room and admire the Christmas lights outside. We were trying to decide which embassy the lights belonged to when a movement outside caught Big B’s eyes and he whispered, “Liz, look, Santa’s reindeer are making an early appearance!”



He lead me out the front door and there, across the street in the pocket of park next to the Kuwaiti embassy, stood two deer, grazing. We stood in silence on the porch, watching. It was an incongruous site, two deer in a patch of wood surrounded by electric lines, streetlamps and parked cars. We can hear the traffic on the next street and music coming from a couple houses down. I wished that Sweet Pea were awake to see this. I wished my parents were there. What a sight, two deer, in the middle of DC on the night before Christmas. I thought that this must be a portent, an omen of a magical Christmas.

Awed and humbled, we retreated upstairs to our beautiful blue and white room and sunk into bed. Inspired, we reached for each other and quietly made love.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

PPS 2--Still on Conception Story

Next Installment, still on conception story, picking up at the airport:

Finally the flight was ready to board. Lucky ducks that we were, we got to board first. A hidden benefit of having a child. The gate attended smiled and played pee-a-boo with Sweet Pea and wished us a good flight. The plane was small, with very little space between the rows of sears. We struggled to install the car seat and strap Sweet Pea in. His feet were jammed up against the seat in front of him. He kicked once. He kicked twice. He found a new favorite activity. A desultory looking gentleman sat in the seat in front of Sweet Pea. He glared at me. I smiled back sweetly.

An hour or so later, we arrived at Dulles, which appeared to be the opposite of the Knoxville airport on the crowded scale. We had to deboard out on some faraway concourse and take a shuttle to the main terminal, a task that would have been much easier if we had not had so much darn stuff. We stuck Sweet Pea in his backpack, hoisted him on to Big B’s back and threaded our way through the maze of the airport. Winded, frazzled and vowing never to fly into Dulles again, we reached the baggage claim. I stood with Sweet Pea while Big B went in search of the rental car agency desk. Sweet Pea’s little blond head swung in a constant arc, surveying the commotion around us.
We are lucky that Sweet Pea is a relatively calm and good-natured child. He has been happy since birth and was an easy baby, never crying much and sleeping when he was supposed to sleep. He looked like a little cherub baby with strawberry blond curls and bright blue eyes. Little old ladies always stopped me to admire him and his cuteness. He smiled indulgently and laughed at them, a friend to everyone.

Standing at the baggage claim belt, I willed it to start. I was proud of Sweet Pea’s fortitude throughout this arduous journey but I was afraid to push him any further. Everyone has his breaking point. Finally the belt began turning and spewing out luggage. Big B showed up in the nick of time and we each took a side of the belt and looked for our bags. All three of our bags. One appeared. Another appeared.

“This is great,” I said. “We’ll get out of here in no time.”

I waited for the third bag. The belt went around once, twice, three times. Nothing. Apparently my bag had gone missing. Joy of joys.

It was now late afternoon. Sweet Pea was getting hungry. I was getting hungry. The poor child cried in protest when we hoisted him back into the backpack to find my bag.

“I’m with you, Sweet Pea,” I said in sympathy. “We’ll be ready to go soon,.” A lie. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

Ever positive, Big B assured me. “Don’t worry, we’ll find it.”

One of Big B’s strengths is his calm in chaos, his steadfastness and reliability. He is a good match for my sometimes pessimistic and excitable nature. We have been married five years. Our meeting is a story for the Internet age. I used to be embarrassed to tell people how we met, thinking it marked us a socially inept losers, but now I think it’s kind of fun. We met through an online dating service, back before it was cool. I had just finished my Master’s in Education. I had been through a series of lousy relationships with artists, musicians and other assorted ner-do-wells. About to embark on my own career, I resolved to only date men with real jobs. I knew a few people who had made love connections on, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Being a software engineer, Big B worked on computers all day and was tired of meeting women in bars. He responded to my listing, we emailed for a couple of weeks, and then met for drinks at a neighborhood bar. I already I knew liked him from the emails, but once we met, I was smitten indeed. Several months in, I knew I wanted to marry him and one year later, we tied the knot in a large, beautiful, stressful wedding. I love Big B’s intellect and wit, but the one thing I value the most is his strength in a storm.

We trudged across the baggage area, trailing our load of goods, to the what was apparently the luggage graveyard. Unclaimed bags were lined up in rows, their square shapes making perfect tombstones. I futilely scanned the rows for my bag. Nada.

“Hang on, it’ll be here somewhere,” my steadfast rock told me.

“Yeah, right,” I snapped back. “I can’t freaking believe this. I’m never flying again. What a huge freaking mistake!”

Patience is not my best quality.

Big B spoke to the attendant, who directed him to a serpentine line in front of an adjacent counter. We stood in line. While scanning the horizon for a restroom, I noticed a cluster of bags off to the side. Jackpot! There was my Eddie Bauer Target Deluxe suitcase, sitting all by its lonesome self. We were in luck! I knew I should have listened my darling hubbie.

We hooked all our luggage together, a nice feature of this set, and wheeled off to the shuttle area. We were a teetering tower of precariously connected luggage. We managed to get everything on to the shuttle, into the rental car, and on the road with no major mishaps. Big B, ever wise, had Map Quested our route and in no time at all, we were in D.C. proper and at my aunt’s door.

My wonderfully ebullient and gregarious Aunt G. greeted us with great enthusiasm, helping to make up for our difficulty at the airport.

“Come in, come in! Christmas Gift! Christmas Gift! How was your trip?”

“Oh, fine, “ I fibbed. I saw no reason to impose our difficulties on everyone else.

We disrobed from coats and hats and luggage and sat down to dinner. Sweet Pea behaved wonderfully, threw no food and gobbled down his lasagna. It was nice to have arrived.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Post-Partum 1

****The first few posts of the story may seem disjointed because they were meant, obviously, to all go together in a chapter. That's an awful lost to post in one post, so I tried to break them up the best I could and thus it may not flow wonderfully. Also, there is a lot of detail in the first few sections but won't be in following ones.****

I started writing the story from the conception with the intent of going back and writing some kind of exciting, hook intro, so this is the story starting from conception.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, 2005. “I can’t believe we are doing this,” I grumbled, really more to myself than anyone else. Big B shoved another suitcase in the back of our already full Honda CRV.

“It was your idea, not mine,” he muttered.

We were loading the car to drive to the airport. The three of us, Big B, our 15 month old son, Sweet Pea, and I were flying to Washington D.C for a large family Christmas.

It was the first time in years that my extended family had gathered for the holidays. We used to spend every other Christmas together at someone’s house. My parents, two younger sisters, and I would drive to Iowa or fly to Boston or New York. Sometimes the family would come to us in Nashville, for a warmer, southern Christmas.
One memorable year, we drove to Des Moines and hit a snowstorm on the way. We struck out from Nashville in the predawn hours, a clear sky and twinkling stars overhead. We slept or pretended to sleep the first couple of hours. I always liked to close my eyes, feel the bump,bump,bump of the interstate and listen to the hushed voices of my parents in the front seat. The smell of their coffee in the old green thermos would fill car while V. and C. and I would be snuggled in sleeping bags or blankets in the back of the station wagon. Daddy would fold all the seats down to create a bed for us and we’d roll around all the way to Iowa. This was obviously before the days when people worried much about seatbelts.

I can’t remember where we were in the snowstorm struck. I just remember looking out at the ice pelting down and the snow blowing around on the interstate. It was funny because my parents, typically, got in an argument over what to do. Family trips were often marked by arguments, but now having traveled with a child, I can understand why. Mom thought we should stop, but Daddy insisted we solider on. Mom, of course fussed and worried, and the girls and I were terrified we were going to slide off the road. It was a tense few hours, but in the end we made it, safe and sound.

I hoped that this trip would not be as difficult as that long ago drive to Iowa, but I was worried. It would be our first time flying with a child. Flying with a toddler during the holiday season seemed like it could be suicide. I had tried to prepare for the worst. My diaper bag was full of books, a light up phone, an Elmo scribble toy, and other assorted diversions, many noisy and annoying but I figured passengers would rather listen to electronic beeps and whistles than to the screams of my child.

We were carrying a small army of bags and entrapment's with us. We had a suitcase for each person plus a gigantic carry-on with assorted unwieldy goods including a child feeding seat. We had a baby backpack for carrying Sweet Pea around, a car seat, a diaper bag, my purse, and last but not least, a backpack of reading material, mostly Big B’s because I doubted I’d have a spare second to read. We were way, way overpacked.

“We need to leave now,” I yelled at Big B. I was worried that being a post 9/11 holiday, the lines at the airport would be hours long. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get there and get all of our worldly possessions checked in. I struggled to get Sweet Pea into his blue parka with the flying dog on the sleeve, and tie his matching doggie hat under his chin. I found my coat buried at the bottom of the closet and shrugged in to it. Hat and gloves seem to have disappeared into the depths and I gave up on them. Gathering up my diaper bag, I made sure I had sippy cups and snacks to spare. Cheerios? Check. Goldfish, Check. Cereal Bars? Check. Valium? Check, check. We did a last minute inspection of the doors and thermostat, deemed everything sealed and set, and finally departed.

The trip to the airport was short; Knoxville, Tennessee is not a large city. Its primary claim to fame is the University of Tennessee and the UT Vols. Tennessee orange appears everywhere here, on people, on cars, on billboards, on the cookies at Kroger, on pets, everywhere. Locals like to say their blood runs orange and children here are named after Vol great Peyton Manning. We live out in west suburbia, land of the subdivision and SUV. It’s not the most exciting of locales, but it works for what we need now.

We moved here from my hometown of Nashville. Big B, a software engineer, received a job offer too good to pass up and the housing market in Knoxville is much more affordable than that of Nashville. We knew that we could afford a fairly large house in a great neighborhood and top-notch school zone with enough left over for me to quit teaching for a while and stay home with Sweet Pea. Big B’s family is also in Knoxville, so we would have a support system and built-in babysitters.

Leaving all of my family behind in Nashville was more difficult than I had anticipated. My parents were none to thrilled that we were taking their first grandchild away from them. The day we left Nashville, I cried for the first 50 or so miles. For months, each time we pulled away from my parents’ house after a visit, I cried. Gradually, though, we have learned to like Knoxville, orange and all. Big B enjoys his job and I joined a playgroup and found a wonderfully supportive group of other mommy friends.

One big benefit to living in such a small city is the ease of travel. I was pleasantly surprised as we walked into a relatively calm airport that morning. The lines at the ticket counters were nonexistent and the security line held 10 people at the most. Apparently most Knoxvillians don’t fly at Christmas.

We went through all the lines and checks, no easy task with all our encumbrances, and settled in at the gate. Because my dear old dad taught me to always leave enough time for a flat tire, we now had an hour to kill in a boring airport with an overly excited toddler. Sweet Pea and I embarked on a tour of the concourse. We browsed the gift shop and the snack bar. I let him run around the empty gates and climb on the chairs. We checked the restroom for wildlife. We managed to kill about 15 minutes this way. I decided that Daddy should have a turn entertaining the wee one and deposited Sweet Pea on Big B’s lap. “Enjoy,” I said, smiling.

I'll post the next section tomorrow.