I definitely was in no way having postpartum depression. I was sure of it....At least I thought I was. Depression means feeling sad and down. I was the exact polar opposite. I was hyper alert and completely terrified something would happen to my child if I was not careful enough. Not down at all, completely on the tip of my toes. Unable to sleep at night aware, alert, and ready to sprint to my child if needed.
So it came as a shock when I was sitting in a new mom's meeting hosted by the hospital I delivered my son at. The hospital, Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, offered a program for first time mom's with babies born around the same time. Such a fabulous program and idea. The thought behind it was these mom's are going through the same kind of things with their babies at the same time and probably have similar questions about what to do. We would meet once a month at a mom's house in the group. There was a group leader that would organize the meet up time and place. She also set a topic for each meeting. Anything from baby sign language specialist to a newborn nurse and anything else in-between. After the specialist would talk for a bit the moms would hang out and talk about whatever is going on with the baby along with questions and concerns.
The first meeting I attended was techically the second official group meeting but I'll be totally honest here I freaked out for the first meeting and didn't attend. I said some made up excuse but really I didn't want my child around all the germs of the other mom's and kids in the group. You can read my blog titled "Anxiety" to hear about my fear of germs after dealing with my mom's chemo and stem cell transplant. Anyways, I told myself I would attend this second meeting. I would just keep my baby in the carrier and he would be "safe" from the germs in the room in my mind. This meeting had a nurse as the special guest. I remember she first started talking about baby blues. I felt a huge surge of heat inside me as I realized what she was saying sounded familiar and I didn't want it to.
Hmmmmm.... A flash in my mind to 12 weeks prior: me stepping out of the hospital into my husbands SUV with our newborn baby about to take the first car ride of my first child's life outside my body. We put the carseat in the car. I sat in the back next to the carseat not trusting if we put it in correctly. My husband started pulling away. I felt like he was easily hitting 100mph in the parking lot (he honestly was probably going 20mph). My eyes filled with tears. Like a waterfall cascading down my face. I was crying. I was crying hard. I wanted my child safe. This car felt dangerous. I felt everything was out of my control. I felt terrified of how am I going to protect my baby from this outside world. I wanted him so badly for so long and now he has to sit in this dangerous car where I can't make him safe enough. I made my husband avoid the main direct route home and take smaller side streets. Yelling at him to drive slower. (I'm telling you fast forward to today 7 years later and he must have thought I lost my f*cking mind meanwhile I thought back then he had lost his for not being careful enough).
Back to the first mom meeting I attended. Ok, so maybe I had the "baby blues". I did cry but I was not sad. I did not regret having a child. I wanted him so badly and I just wanted him to be as safe as possible because I could NOT LIVE in world if something happened to him and I could have prevented it. To be honest as I write this I will tell you what just came into my head: I could not live in a world where if something happened to him like it did to my mom. I could not survive losing another person in my life. So you can see a lot of weight was put on this one little baby's safety. I was not just trying to protect him but I was projecting all the things I couldn't save my mother from. I of course didn't know this at the time. I just thought I'm keeping my child safe and all these other parents are crazy for not being careful enough.
Then the nurse started talking about post partum depression. Again I thought this doesn't apply to me. But then she started to talk about those baby blues and if you are still feeling this way 6/8 weeks out. HMMMMMMMMM. I sat there with my baby safely protected in his carrier. Me not even wanting to be in the room with all these germs knowing that as soon as I get home I was getting changed into clean clothes so my baby wouldn't have to be held against anything that could have been exposed to these strangers germs. I gathered the courage and very quietly raised my arm and said what she was describing was anxiety not depression. She said no, we use the term depression but increased anxiety and fear are part of post partum depression.
WHAT THE F*CK!!!! How could I fall into that category was the next thought racing through my mind. I was not, I could not be, I was not sad, that term is for crazy people....NOT ME. I was not OK with this title. I was so not ok with it that I actually have never used that term describing myself until my son was 6 years old!! I would just say anxiety b/c I'm not some crazy mom who has "post partum depression".
What I didn't realize back then is they are just words. It was just a general description. The words didn't matter. What mattered is how I felt. And I felt terrified. I felt alone. I felt unable to ever succeed in keeping my child safe enough. He was now in this crazy world where crazy things happen. I am telling you if I read about something that happened to a child anywhere then I was all over it. (Read my blog titled "do you watch the news" and it talks about why I don't watch the news for that very reason." That would not happen to my child. I would STARE at people "helping" me change my child on the changing table. They didn't know it was a 10 step test. I was watching to make sure EVERY SINGLE safety precaution was followed. Did one hand stay on the child at all times to make sure he wouldn't roll off the table that already had a rail 3 inches wide around it. Did that person sneeze. Did they sneeze into their hand or arm. If it was their hand then did they clean it immediately. If it was their sleeve well then they definitely can't hold my child until they put a clean shirt on. You could say I was a "belt and suspenders" type of person. One method of safety was never enough. It was exhausting having to watch everyone and everything at all times.
Sure safety is important but I was driving everyone CRAZY. I was getting so angry if I felt someone wasn't being careful enough. Like it was a direct attack on me and my child. I thought they clearly don't care about us if they turn their eyes off my child when they are changing him b/c in my mind something could happen.
I know this sounds like I was over the top when I write this today but I am telling you back then when I was living it and I truly believed everyone else was just being lazy and didn't care about their kids safety.
So how does someone feel when this is their reality. I can't talk on behalf of anyone else but I can tell you this much. I felt: helpless, alone, and scared. Why did nobody else seem concerned like me.
I can now answer all these questions very confidently but back then I couldn't and it felt awfully lonely. Do you know someone like this. I'm telling you share this or private message it to them. They are not alone.
So what did I do. First things got much worse. I got cdiff (an antibiotic resistant strain causing severe diarrhea which depleted my body of nutrients and I couldn't not get rid of) which made me crazy sick and that went on for 11 months and scared the living day lights out of me. Read my blog "Stool transplant" to find out more about that. I was terrified of giving anyone this infection that no amount of medication would cure at the time.
Then when I did the stool transplant and started getting better the anxiety of it coming back paralyzed me most days. Thoughts of what if I get sick and need to br on antibiotics again. So I was in a bad place. I had the baby I dreamed of but I couldn't enjoy him the way I should have because all my energy was focused on protecting him.
Then I got did another round of IVF and got pregnant with my daughter and had that horrible infection and misdiagnosis (I talk more about that in my blog titled "overcoming obstacles"). To sum it up multiple doctors and a full week in the hospital and I was told I had a cyst but turned out it was an abscess leaking gang green inside me. It ate my ovary while I was pregnant and attached to my colon. I was deathly ill for most of that pregnancy. Too sick to much of anything. I was told after my 2nd csection when they removed the "cyst" that the doctors realized their mistake that my daughter and I are both lucky to have survived the pregnancy knowing now that this massive abcess infection was inside me.
During all this I had been going to therapy. Talking, talking, talking. Not feeling like I was getting anywhere. My doctor kept telling me to get on antianxiety meds. I kept refusing. All the while my daughter was perfect. It is interesting because 4 days after I took her home from the hospital my first born had a cold. This put me in quite the predicament. I needed to protect her but also psychologically not make my first child feel like he had the plague and destroy his mental state around having a virus. What on earth was I to do? First I tried just keeping them in separate areas of the house. I wore a sweatshirt when I was around my son and took it off anytime I wanted to hold my daughter so she wouldn't get his germs on her. I washed my hands a million times a day to keep his germs off of her.
I thought this was a good thing. I can protect her and still not make him feel like some diseased riden monster. I'm going to save you the suspense. She still got the cold.
This kind of thing happened a few more times. Guess what I started to realize "I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THIS". Just like I had no control over the cancer in my mom’s body, the cdiff, or that abcess infection from starting. Things happen and we just have to find away to accept it and do what we can. We can not walk around trying to prevent the earth from spinning. Things are just going to happen and all we can do is control how we react.
Five months out from having my daughter using IVF because I could not get pregnant due to my Fallopian tubes being block and now the loss of an ovary as well from that abscess pretty much gaurenteee infertility. I am going to tell you what happened because it BLEW MY MIND. I was told I couldn't get pregnant on my own. I was told it was impossible. Guess what!!! I found out I was pregnant with my third child. TEARS TEARS and more TEARS. How on earth did I get so lucky.
This child didn't know it but he changed my view on this world. You can try as hard as you can to make something happen. To make something go away. To make something safe. To make something change. But life is still going to happen with or without your permission. As they say on one of my favorite movies "Shawshank Redeption". Either get busy living or get busy dying. I chose living. I chose to cope. I chose to let life unravel. Trying to control of everything was exhausting. Life doesn't need to be so tiring. Just LET IT GO. Accept what is and change what is changeable. That is it. Do the best you can and DON'T LET PERFECT GET IN THE WAY OF GOOD ENOUGH. If you wait for perfect to live your life I will tell you that you will die an unhappy person because perfect is NEVER going to happen. There will never be the perfect time to start something new or to go on a trip or to try a new hobby. There will always be a reason to wait. So stop waiting and start living. Life is short and things happen that we can't control. Trust me.....sh*t happens so live and enjoy your time here.
After he was born and I was done nursing I started taking those anti anxiety meds. I mentally from years of therapy and having these realizations was at greater peace with life. The medication just helped me see my fears for what they are. It helped me find peace with them. To know they are there and to know they creep in. But I can see it for what it is. I no longer get lost in that fear. I see it and I can say hello. I see you are acting up but it no longer will consume me. I can say what it is. I can say this is causing my anxiety to rise. I need to start positive talk around this. What does that mean.
I will give you one example. I get a note home from my kids school. Hand foot and mouth is going around. I have a choice. My gut jumps and says "don't send them to school". Wait a week and ride it out so they don't get sick. Then my brain starts the positive self talk that I have trained (made) myself to do. I talk myself into focusing on the silver lining of this.
"When is it going to be a good time to send them to school....next week someone will be sick with something else in the school. If I wait until its perfect they will never go to school. They will miss out on social interactions that in my mind are priceless to development into adulthood."
"What am going do. He can get sick from the grocery store cart, from touching a toy in the toy aisle that a sick kid touched. What am I going to do, put him in a bubble so he has no life but I feel safe". That is just crazy.
"I can't keep them from being sick, if it isn't now then they will just get it when they get older. Exposing them to these things in school will build their immune system for 1st grade and on."
I will tell you this, my first child got his first cold at 14 months. When he went to school for the first time when he was 2.5 he got colds or something every 2 weeks. My third child was exposed to all the other germs in my house from the time he was a newborn. He got colds and stuff that first year all time. When he started school he only got sick a few times that whole year. This goes back to my principal. You can't stop this earth from spinning. The sun is still going to rise no matter how hard you fight for things not to happen you can't control it all.
So live life. Do the best you can. Don't wait for perfect. Keep your eyes on the positive. When things get too hard just keep selling yourself on that silver lining. Always, if you need to talk find a friend, find a therapist, find a family member. You are not alone.