This post may contain trigger warnings regarding infant loss, postpartum depression and PTSD.
Once upon a time I felt normal. I woke up in the morning, showered, brushed my teeth, put on make up, did my hair, and got dressed. Then I had a baby. A little girl who hated sleeping and loved nursing. I had three glorious months home with her and, when the time came I sent her off to daycare and returned to work. I still felt normal. Just a new normal as a family with a baby doing the things people with a baby do like changing diapers and not sleeping. Three years later baby number two came. And with him came postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and PTSD.
A Difficult Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with my daughter I puked everyday. Every. Single. Day. I had heartburn and hemorrhoids and I was exhausted. I thought I was having a difficult pregnancy. And I guess by some standards I was having a hard time. But I had no idea how much worse it could be. You see, my son is a twin but I’ve never held his twin in my arms.
We tried to get pregnant for about a year and when the day finally came we were so excited. We went to the doctor and got the surprise of our lives. There were two babies in there! For the first 11 weeks everything was great. Then the day after Thanksgiving we got a life changing phone call. My blood work came back and one of the babies had Down Syndrome. This I could handle. I joined some on line information groups and did tons of research. This was something we could handle. My doctors scheduled me for an early anatomy scan at 16 weeks. As the ultrasound tech was doing the scan it became pretty clear something was wrong. The doctor came in and told us that Baby B, the baby diagnosed with Down Syndrome, also had a heart defect. They told us the baby would not survive and the risk of losing both babies increased. At 19 weeks we returned to the doctor for what they called a heartbeat check and confirmed that Baby B had died. I would carry both babies-one alive and one not- for another 20 weeks and hope that my body did not reject Baby B and cause me to lose both of them.
The rest of my pregnancy was thankfully uneventful. We went back on forth on whether I would have a VBAC or a repeat C-Section. We had more doctor appointments than normal. But generally speaking it was easy. I was not particularly sick, I did have some anxiety and I was understandably sad I would never meet one of my babies. All that changed when I had my son. He was perfect. A beautiful boy who took to nursing immediately and seemed to understand that mommy needed sleep desperately. But mommy was not doing so well.
Realizing I Needed Help
After a few weeks it became clear what I was feeling was more than baby blues. It took some time to find the right doctors and get on the right path, but ultimately I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and PTSD.
And here’s the thing about postpartum depression. It hits hard. And it is hard to recognize when it is happening to you. And then one day you realize that you cant remember the last time you showered. And you cry all the time. Everything makes you nervous and anxious. You are angry and short tempered and feel completely out of control. I was lucky. Extremely lucky. I have a husband who knew something was wrong. Doctors who knew something was wrong and the ability to take the time I needed via extended maternity leave to go to therapy, find a medication that worked and really devote myself to the hard work necessary to get back to myself.
An Ongoing Struggle
Before my son was born I worked in a law firm as a criminal defense and family law attorney. I went to work every day, met with clients, went to court and did my job. I interacted with other lawyers, judges, clients and a myriad of other people. It was a high pressure and high stakes environment and I was good at what I did. After my son was born it became apparent that I could no longer function in that world at the same level.
I am one of the lucky ones. I got help. I was able to leave my full time job and be home with my baby. I have a supportive family.
I would love to be able to say I am better now. I would love to be able to say all is well. But I cannot do that. Every day is a struggle.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.