A falling star I did see.
A tiny wish made for thee.
A silent summer sky of blue.
I wished for you,
My dream came true.
had my first child when I was 22 and my second child when I was
nearly 32; one of the reasons that accounted for the 10 year gap was
a severe case of Postpartum Depression (PPD). A few months after my
oldest daughter Isabella was born I developed PPD, it lasted until
well past her first birthday and I still have lasting effects.
I was also very over protective of Bella; I did not like anyone to hold her but me or George and was constantly worried about the baby's well-being. At the time I did not realize that this was part of the PPD, but it was. A common reaction to the baby when a Mother has PPD is to either reject the child or go the opposite direction and become very over-protective of the baby. What made this situation worse was the lack of understanding I got from family. Instead of support, love and understanding I was judged and no one reached out to help me. I remember an occasion when I was trying to talk to my Mom about Postpartum Depression and she said to me: “If you know what the problem is then it shouldn't be a problem anymore right.” Not a very compassionate person. My Grandparents who are very loving people come from a generation when you were just supposed to suck it up and hush hush pretty much everything. This crazy notion I have of bringing things out into the open for discussion or awareness is just that to them – a crazy notion.
It was not until quite a few months after Bella was born that I really began to realize something was wrong. I developed Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At the time I thought I was going crazy. I remember one day looking down at my hands and realizing that they were so red and covered in a million little tiny cuts from washing them constantly. Running through my head was “...out damn spot...”, I think I really thought I was losing it. Without my consent I began developing all of these strange little routines for things, I was counting everything and couldn't stop. I obsessed and worried about a million things and felt very overwhelmed, sad and alone. The one light in all of this was my beautiful baby, she saved me. She gave me a reason everyday to try and be the best version of myself no matter how much of a struggle it was.
And it was a struggle. It got harder and harder to get out of bed, to the point where I dreaded the start of a new day. Things as simple as getting dressed and eating were very hard. Leaving the house seemed as difficult as climbing a mountain. I lost a lot of weight at this time because I just couldn't eat. I felt this way for close to a year.
When it got to the point that I knew something was wrong and decided to talk to my husband about it I encountered another barrier: my husband. We were both young and had only been together a couple of years, so our relationship was not as solid as it could be. When I tried to talk to him about the problems I was having and that I needed more help from him and maybe others, he was defencive. He thought I was exaggerating some of these behaviours to get his attention; he was very uninformed. As I began to get professional help and he learned more about PPD he came to realize how wrong he had been, sadly not in time. PPD often destroys marriages as the stress level of an unwell Mom and new baby is too much for a relationship to handle, especially a young relationship. My bout with PPD damaged our relationship for many different reasons and sadly when Bella was two we separated for two years. The good news to this part of the story is that love conquers all. George and I loved each other so much that we found or way back to each other, attended marriage counselling and worked a lot of things out. Today we are madly in love and have two more children!
Back to my story... So eventually I sought professional help. I cannot remember where I went first or all of the things I did even. I do remember attending a support group at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. I also remember visiting a Psychiatrist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital who prescribed antidepressants for me. At that point in time I felt uncertain about what had been prescribed for me but wanted so badly to feel better. After taking the medication as prescribed for two weeks I felt horrible. I can remember sitting on the floor of the bathroom actually contemplating suicide and I have never felt that way in my life ever. Thank the stars that I had the sense to throw the pills out. I decided at that point to seek some other kind of help and discovered the Family Centre. There I saw a wonderful therapist who was kind, compassionate and overall very helpful. Overtime through talk therapy I began to feel more like myself and as I picked up my life again and began to have goals I recovered a great deal. I never did recover completely however as the PPD I had was so severe and to this day suffer from OCD that needs to be kept in check. Not only that but some family relationships became strained partly due to what happened in these years. It was an epic event that left a huge mark on me and my life. I am however an optimist and also feel that everything happens for a reason. These events good or bad helped to shape who I am today, had anything been different I would not be who I am now.
Something that amazed me during my first experience with PPD was how little seemed to be known about it. Like so many illnesses and diseases, the scientific community is working hard to discover causes and cures for many things but we still have a long way to go. One evening we were out visiting and during our visit I realized that the baby was sick – she had a fever and all around looked unwell. I was worried. As my husband drove us home I sat in the back near the car seat. At some point I started to tense up to the point where I could not move my hands or arms, they were completely stiff. I had no idea what was going on and was very scared. George took me to the hospital and it turned out I had had a severe anxiety attack. If that was not enough the doctor on duty told me flat out I should be on antidepressants and then I would not be wasting doctors time with this trivial thing. Uncompassionate and uninformed in my opinion. If a medical doctor recognizes PPD in a patient then giving the patient a list of resources and or a referral would be the way to go.
I have other experiences I could recount but I think I will move forward in my story for now.
Many years after all of this George and I
talked about the fact that we might like to have another child. What
we decided in fact was that we wanted to have two more. One of the
first things we found ourselves discussing was PPD. We decided we
could handle whatever came our way as we were older and had more life
experience. Amazingly enough the postpartum period after my son was
born was pretty much PPD free. Everything was different where my son
was concerned including the pregnancy. When I became pregnant with my
third child however I began to recognize some old symptoms right away
and endeavored to be prepared for PPD before she was even born. I
read and researched, attended a therapy appointment to make a plan
and I probably did a little praying too (even though I am not
particularly religious). A few weeks after Sofia was born I did in
fact develop PPD although it was not as severe as it had been with my
first child and I think being prepared helped a bit. At the same time
my preparation did not change the fact that I went through it again
nor did it change the fact that even though there is help out there
it is hard to find and sometimes expensive. What I did find helpful
this time around were a few things:
My baby girl is nearly 14 months now. Have I fully recovered from PPD? Mostly but not completely. There are still dark, obsessive thoughts that hide in the corners of my mind that I fight every day to keep at bay. Working on the PPD project has it's pros and cons too. Through helping others I can feel myself healing and then in diving into the depths of it all I am forced to visit places in my mind I would rather not go. But as I said earlier it is all part of my life and who I am. I have been rewarded with three beautiful children whom I love so much and would not trade that for anything; a little sacrifice is worth this happiness for sure. With a heart full of love for my children and empathy and compassion for myself and all the Mothers who must deal with PPD as part of their childbearing journey I have shared my story and created the PPD project for you. I have healing thoughts and love for you all.
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