Author’s note: This is a part of a series written at different stages of my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you feel like something is not right, please reach out. You do not have to suffer. You can read part one of my journey here and here.
I’ve shared how I believed I was healing after the birth of my third child, and how very wrong I was. After a couple of nights where I couldn’t fall asleep after nursing my baby in spite of him sleeping soundly in the cradle next to me, I knew something was wrong. Coincidentally, when scrolling through Facebook, I found an article on Postpartum Anxiety, which I had never heard of. The symptoms described therein were exactly what I was experiencing. This created more anxiety with me. I truly had anxiety about my anxiety.
I told my husband I needed help and reached out to friends who I knew experienced similar symptoms in the past. The stars aligned and after several unreturned phone calls from mental health professionals, I had an appointment with a psychiatrist and a Licensed Social Worker. If you are experiencing any of the signs of postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD, please please please do not stop seeking help until you get it. Call as many professionals as you can until you get an appointment.
With a clear plan, I started to feel hopeful.
On a Wednesday just over 6 weeks postpartum, I called a local social worker who was able to see me later that day. It was storming and although I didn’t want to drive in the bad weather, I needed help. I sat on her couch and sobbed. Sobbed that I wasn’t a good mom, that I wasn’t bonding with this baby that I prayed for, that I was going crazy, that my kids would suffer, that I would be this unhappy all my life. I walked out of that appointment feeling hopeful. Being told by a neutral third party that these feelings are temporary, and I am still a good mom made such a difference. I was actually able to sleep that night.
The next day I had an appointment with a psychiatrist. Again, I cried. I left with a prescription for an antidepressant and a sleep aid that was safe for my baby since I was breastfeeding. Again, I felt hopeful. I took the antidepressant that evening, which made me feel a little wired. In hindsight, I should have taken it in the morning. It felt like I had had too much coffee, so I took the sleep aid.
I wound up having an adverse reaction and stayed up the entire night with what felt like panic attack after panic attack. I could not sleep; I could not cry, I felt like I had been drugged. It was brutal, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
As the clock neared wake up time for my older children, I texted my
cousin angel, who lives in my neighborhood, and she was there within what felt like minutes. My husband, who works nights, got home and the two of them got my boys off to school. I tried to sleep, but the panic wouldn’t go away.
The thoughts got scary.
I remember thinking that it would never end, that I would always feel this way. I remember thinking if that were true, I wanted to die. Those thoughts catapulted my thoughts to being hospitalized and my children taken away from me. It was a spiral, and I couldn’t decipher between reality and my worst fears. I worried that there was a thin line between my thoughts and the next steps. I questioned whether I would be able to decipher if I was really “crazy” (which by the way, I don’t like that word, but that is what was in my mind).
My husband was my rock.
He assured me I wasn’t crazy and kept reminding me that this would get better and was temporary. I just didn’t believe him. Instead of laying in bed and drowning in my thoughts, my husband suggested we get out of bed. That change of scenery helped immediately. We decided to go for a walk outside. The sunshine and movement distracted me and again helped. My cousin, her daughter and my husband stayed with me all day, talking to me when I wanted to and giving me space when needed. I don’t know that I will ever be able to adequately thank my cousins who I feel saved my life that day. I am eternally grateful for them and my village of friends who checked on me and sent me supportive words. I called my psychiatrist who immediately prescribed me a different sleep aid that my pediatrician approved.
I went to my therapist that afternoon after not sleeping in over 24 hours. She did some guided meditation with me which relaxed me, and we formulated a plan. I needed self-care in the form of sleep, and I needed it fast. It was her opinion (and one that I agree with) that the sleep deprivation was making all my anxieties and depressive thoughts worse. It was decided that I would take the new sleep aid, and I would sleep all night for 2-3 nights. This plan meant I had to be okay that my breastfeeding supply may take a hit. I wouldn’t be waking with the baby to nurse him (my wonderful husband would). Instead, I would sleep.
I would take care of ME.
I had luckily pumped some extra breastmilk but had to come to terms that we may have to use formula. This was incredibly difficult for me because it is one thing I felt I was doing right and one thing that gives me personal reward. But I am no good as a mom if I am not taking care of myself. So we sent the boys for a sleepover at my cousins, and I went to bed at 8pm and slept until 7 am. The difference was amazing. That day we visited with family, and I felt so hopeful. Hopeful that I would enjoy my beautiful life again. The boys spent the night at their grandparents house, and we did the same thing for a 2nd night. I slept and my husband had baby duty. I am incredibly aware of how fortunate I am that this is my story, that I have a village of loved ones so willing to help. I know the same is not true for all moms.
Ask for help
If you are a mom struggling, ask for help. Take the help. This time is temporary, you will not need help forever. Do not feel guilty. If your friend or family member is a new mom, reach out to them. Offer to bring food or ask if they want to meet up for a playdate. Ask if you can pick up a few things at the grocery for them. Drop off a goodie and note on her front door. If you believe this mom is struggling, please offer to help. You may save her and her family.
I was now 7 weeks postpartum, and although I was hopeful that this was temporary and would improve, I knew I still had work to do.