Last April I went through the classes to become a Stillbirthday doula and learned about the 4th trimester. Which is the weeks following delivery. And strangely enough I completely forgot I had learned about it and didn't prepare myself for the postpartum phase of pregnancy. See, back in November of 2010 we had a baby. Our baby, Hope Elna didn't make it. She had a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. So 4 years after Hope we found ourselves expecting our rainbow baby. We had a great pregnancy physically with no problems except for the emotional ones that come with carrying a baby after you've had a loss. There were days I was absolutely positive there was something wrong with our baby or that something had happened and I found myself reaching for the doppler to hear that beautiful heartbeat. At our 20 week ultrasound we were told our rainbow baby was totally healthy and showed no signs of having what Hope had. Also, we were told we were expecting a girl. The ultrasound doctor said he was 98% sure. We already knew what "her" name would be. We were naming our rainbow after my best friend. We went home that day and told our kids we were having a girl. Our son cried. This baby would be his 5th sister with no brother in sight. He asked me if it was a misunderstanding. I told him usually there are no misunderstandings with ultrasounds. We also announced to all of our family and friends that we were having a girl and shared the name we had picked out. Fast forward 19 weeks and we were at the hospital having a c-section after labor kept stalling. I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant when our beautiful rainbow was born. And we got one of the biggest most amazing surprises of our entire marriage. We had a boy!! I cried tears of joy and surprise and my husband was over the moon happy to have 2 sons. Our kids, family and friends couldn't believe it. The whole hospital stay I was on cloud nine. Just feeling immensely loved and blessed. So in love with our new son. On Valentine's Day we were released from the hospital to go home to start living life with this new little guy that we weren't expecting or ready for. Everything we had was for the little girl we were told we would be having. My closet was full of girl clothes. Almost all of which were given to us. I didn't expect to be grieving what was supposed to be and what we were prepared for. Some of my fellow baby loss friends asked me how I was doing and how I was feeling since we had a boy instead of a girl. At first I was totally fine. But once we got home I then understood why they asked me that. I was grieving a baby girl and the idea of that little girl that in all reality didn't even exist and never had. Then there were the feelings of actually bringing our baby home alive and well when we didn't get to do that with Hope. I know you may be thinking "goodness, this woman has a healthy baby and should be happy and not having any of these feelings". But I've learned that these feelings are normal and something I need to work through. On top of all of that I was hurting from my c-section, not looking forward to my husband returning to work which was 6 hours away from us at the time and dealing with some very stressful relationships that left me sad, hurting and broken. All of this combined to push me into postpartum depression. I never expected it. I was blindsided by the sadness I was feeling. Here I was with the most amazing baby boy who was safe and sound in my arms but I was sad and living in a fog. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to get past the tears and fear I was living in. I thought I could work my way through all of the crazy stuff that just would not stop running through my head. I couldn't stop thinking about how fast my older kids have grown and how fast our rainbow was already growing too. I didn't want to miss one single second with him since he is the last biological child we will ever have. I hated that my husband was missing so much of our little ones first weeks by being away at work for 2 weeks at a time. And I was feeling the void in my heart that was once filled by someone that had been there for me through my whole rainbow pregnancy and after we lost Hope. A person that was so special to me.
Then there are the hormones. Oh the lovely postpartum hormones. It takes at least 6 weeks for them to start leveling out. Also, when you're expecting a rainbow it is such an exciting time and huge roller coaster of emotions. We had these amazing things planned out for when our baby got here. I was living on this insane high that came with this beautiful time. Then all of a sudden he was here and life got very quiet very fast. It was time to move forward and nurture this new little life we were blessed with.
But I was stuck. Everyday for almost the first 3 weeks of our baby's life I cried. I was in such a fog that I don't even remember most of what happened during that time. Eating was even challenging. I had no appetite until dinner time and even then I had to force myself to eat. When your nursing a baby you need food. I even noticed that eating helped me feel better emotionally. Not completely better but some. So I just pushed myself to trudge forward thinking I'd get through this soon enough. Well, it wasn't getting better. I think it was actually getting worse. So my husband, my best friend, family members and some other dear friends that have had rainbows as well kept checking on me and encouraging me to talk to my doctor and see about getting some meds to help me get through this and help me feel more normal. They all said there is no shame in needing some help. The day after my 2 week postpartum checkup when I had told my doctor how I was feeling and actually couldn't even get through talking to him without crying, I called his office and let him know I wanted to try the meds he had offered me. I had to make the decision to get help. I had to call and tell him I was ready to feel better. The decision was there for me to make and I took a leap and asked for help. I was ready to feel better and beyond ready to actually be able to enjoy my new son. When I did I was told there are some side effects that can go along with the meds I was taking. So my best friend and I set up a plan in case the worst case scenario side effects actually happened. Thankfully they didn't and I began to see an improvement a few days after starting the meds. As of now I've been on the meds for 14 weeks. I'm not crying, scared or sad all of the time. I can enjoy my days, my husband and my kids. I can truly smile at this amazing baby. Even if I didn't want to take the meds for myself I wanted to take them for him. He deserves to have a mommy that isn't blindly stumbling through everyday. He deserves a mommy that finds joy in the milestones that are being reached.
I'm sharing my experience so that you will know it's ok. There are others of us that understand and are here for you.You might be stumbling upon this post at just the right time. I know I found some blog posts at just the right time when I needed them the most. If you are, I pray and hope that it gives you the courage to do something that's best for you to help you get through this. I also pray you have the support of a close friend or anyone that understands and is willing to sit and talk with you and enter into the craziness that you are feeling right now.
This is what my amazing best friend did for me.
So if your living with postpartum depression and are having a hard time asking for help I want to encourage you. You, yes you beautiful mommy, deserve to feel good and happy!! You deserve that amazing little child you have in your arms and you deserve to enjoy him or her. Maybe meds aren't the answer for you. There are other ways that might help you like eating healthier foods and getting plenty of rest and sleep. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to get a ton of stuff done. Enjoy this time. Skin to skin with your baby is amazing and such a great way to bond and be close. Put baby in a carrier or a stroller and go outside. And please don't be afraid to call your family or friends and say I need you. I need some company! I need someone to help so it's not so quiet and so my mind won't be so prone to wander. And don't forget about your doctor or midwife. Let them know you are having a hard time and see what they can recommend.
This part is for those of you who have a friend that recently had a baby. If you have a friend that you have noticed a change in since her baby was born reach out to her. Don't let her feel and be alone. Even if you need to sit with her during the night or her roughest part of the day when she's wide awake and sitting there in tears feeling all alone. My hardest times were in the morning when the house was quiet and in the middle of the night when I was wide awake. Let her cry and talk. Sometimes the words make no sense or we have a hard time even forming the right words and sentences that we want to say. But just the act of getting them out helps so much. Even letting those tears out can help too. And hopefully with your support she will reach out and ask for the help she needs or wants but doesn't feel like she can ask for. Once I reached out I felt so much better already.
Here is a great article that calls us to stand together and for each other in our rough times.
7 ways to encourage a friend struggling with depression
This blog post is so special. I think of my best friend, Kristen when I read it. My cup runeth over!
Why women need each other