Guest Post: Haley’s Story

I will now be featuring Guest Posts on The Lorix Chronicles, starting with this courageous story from my good friend Mimi.

It started as a lie. A lie to myself, a lie to my midwife, a lie to my husband. I wanted to tell the truth but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to be looked at differently; I didn’t want to be a monster that people talked about when I wasn’t present. It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t ask for this. I just wanted to feel normal and be happy again.

I was excited when I learned I was pregnant. I wasn’t always sure I wanted to have a baby, but when I found out the news, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone. My pregnancy didn’t go the way I had hoped. I puked at least 3 times a day and couldn’t stand to even be in the same room as certain foods. My highly sensitive nose was putting me over the edge. I was laid off from my job at 25 weeks pregnant and had already been in the hospital with a miscarriage scare. The scares continued with each growing week and I was being carefully observed. With each scare, the need for the baby inside me grew more intense.

I couldn’t wait until the baby got here. It was going to be so much fun. I had dreams about what we were going to do, where we would go and what I would teach her. As the due date grew closer, I was advised that the baby had dropped and was ready to go. It was possible I would deliver before June 3rd. I was so excited to have her here that each day I paid special attention to my body. The mucus plug fell out and I was sure that I would go into labor any day.

Two weeks went by and our baby still wasn’t here. Another few days and we had hit my due date with no baby. Another week came and went and still no baby. Nine days after my due date and after a very long, intense labor, Haley was delivered via c-section. She had not come into this world the way I hoped. It was as if someone had taken my birth plan, completely reversed it and then put it in the shredder. I didn’t care. She was finally here and our journey was about to begin.

I should have said something the second I noticed something was wrong, but I was so exhausted and drugged from the c-section I figured I would feel better after I recovered. I was in the hospital for 4 days and had friends and family around to help me. I was a little anxious and felt a bit off, but I had just gone through a large procedure to get Haley here. Who wouldn’t have felt a little off? On the fourth day, when I was to be released from the hospital, I thought I would feel so much better when I got home. I acted happy when the nurses were in the room and actually was happy most of the time while in the hospital. Who wouldn’t be? I had Haley in my life now.

Before my husband Simon and my mother Betty helped Haley and I to the car for our first journey home, one of the nurses came in the room with some paperwork for me to fill out. I looked over the paperwork and filled it out, but there was one sheet left. It had information regarding Postpartum Depression and asked questions about how I felt emotionally.

I’m sure you don’t have this, as you have a perfect little angel, but you need to fill it out anyway,” the nurse said as the as she handed the Postpartum Depression form to me.

I might have told the truth before she said that, but there was no way I would tell the truth now: the horrible truth about all the fears, anxiety and those damn thoughts.

Haley and I were very lucky because we had a lot of help from the beginning. Simon had taken off 8 weeks from work to help me. Because she was 9 days late, Simon had approximately 6 weeks left to help me adjust at home before going back to work. Friends and family also stopped by to help and we even took a few trips before he went back to work. Simon did most of the work with Haley as I adjusted back from the pregnancy and birth, but something was still feeling a little off and I knew that Simon noticed too. We briefly discussed it, but felt that we just were adjusting to new parent life and that I would soon snap out of it. We had a smart, beautiful baby girl, but I still had so much anxiety. I had a hard time doing the basics such as showering, cleaning, and even going outside. I felt crabby and tired most of the time, but hoped it would get better.

A few weeks later, it was time for my 6 week check-up with my midwife. She did a routine check-up to make sure I was healing okay. Then she asked how I was doing emotionally.

Oh, everything’s fine. I love being a mother. There’s nothing wrong at all.” I knew I should have said something to her about the way I had been feeling, but I didn’t want to be embarrassed or be perceived as weak. I wanted everything to be perfect and I made sure that was the image I portrayed.

Simon had been back to work approximately two weeks when things took a dramatic turn for the worse. It was Sunday afternoon and Simon and I had just finished eating a late lunch.

Simon, can you get me a glass of water with some ice?” I asked.

When he handed me the glass, I looked at him and screamed at him for putting too little ice in the cup. Then I started to sob. He took me in his arms and told me he thought there may be more going on than just being a new parent. We talked about it and decided that the best action would be to call my midwife and speak to her in the morning.

On Monday, I was feeling great, better than I had in a long time.

I’ll give the midwife a call,” I told Simon, “but I’m feeling so good that I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Simon hesitated. “I think you might still want to call them, but it’s your choice.”

On Tuesday, I woke up and had so much anxiety that I could hardly focus. I started to have intrusive thoughts. Every time I walked into our kitchen, I saw our knife set and I imagined picking up the butcher knife and stabbing Haley. I knew it was something I would never do, but it was an image in my head that played like a movie, over and over again. I tried and tried to get the image out of my head but it got to the point where I had to cover up the knife set up so I could no longer see it. Simon saw the panic in my face and told me I must call my midwife.

I called her office and asked to speak with one of the midwives about the possibility of Postpartum Depression.

We would like you to talk to the midwife that did your 6 week checkup,” I was told, “but she’s not in today. Can you wait or is this an emergency?”

For the first time in my life, I stood up for myself and faced the ugly truth I had been hiding. “I need to speak to someone. It is an emergency.”

The receptionist told me the midwife was in a room, but she would like me to speak to a nurse. I agreed and briefly told the nurse what was going on. She took down all my information and asked if it would be okay if the midwife called me back within the hour. I said yes and told her I would be waiting for the call. I hung up the phone and updated Simon on what was going on. I told him I was going to take a bath to try to relax. My head was spinning with all these insane thoughts. He promised me he would bring the phone to me as soon as it rang.

I was sitting in the bath tub trying to calm down when Simon walked in and handed me the phone. I tried to keep it together when the midwife asked me what was going on. I briefly told her how I was feeling and she explained that she understood the depression, as she had been a victim of depression her whole life. She asked more specific questions to get a better idea of what I was going through.

For the first time in my life, I said it. “I’ve been considering suicide.”

My midwife began to talk me out of my low and told me she was going to call in a prescription for Zoloft immediately.

I’m not really thrilled about taking an antidepressant,” I told her. She answered that it was probably best. I wouldn’t have to be on it forever if I began feeling better. She explained that my body was no longer producing the right amount of serotonin and that it can happen after women give birth. I hesitantly agreed to start taking it.

She proceeded to tell me about a support group of women that have PPD that met once a week. She told me I should call the group leader because she thought the group met on Tuesday nights and I should try to go tonight. She also suggested I should see a therapist and gave me a few contact names.

After hanging up the phone I called Simon, who had left for work. I spoke to him about the information I had received and he told me he thought it was important for me to go to the group. I called the group leader to get the meeting information and asked if it was okay for me to bring Haley, as I didn’t have a sitter. The group leader said that children and a support person are always welcome to join us. I didn’t know then that this group of women would become a life line for me.

I anxiously waited as the clock ticked down to the time for me to go to the meeting. My head was spinning with questions. I was worried these people would tease me or wouldn’t understand. I didn’t want to speak the truth because I was afraid it would lead to me being committed as a mental patient. I didn’t believe that other people could possibly understand how I felt.

When I entered into the building where the meeting was held, I held Haley’s car seat carrier tightly as I looked for the room number. Once I reached the room, I went in and took a seat and waited for others to arrive. Almost immediately people started to pour in the doors. The group leader I had spoken with on the phone greeted me and handed me a booklet of information. She told me there was a test I should take and should continue to take each week.

The test had questions related to PPD and after making my choices, I tallied the score. The higher the number, the worse the condition and the highest score I could get was 30. After meeting a few of the women in the support group, I took the test and received a score of 29. I was embarrassed and felt ashamed, but as the girls starting talking and introducing themselves, I became less concerned with the big fat number 29 staring at me and more interested in what they had to say. Their stories were similar to what I was thinking and what was happening to me. Most of the women spoke about taking medication and seeing therapists to help cope. Although I introduced myself and asked a few questions, I mostly listened on that first night. To my surprise, I realized I wasn’t alone and what I had been feeling was normal for someone with PPD.

To this day, I still go to the support group. Haley is now 10 months old and I am still struggling with PPD. I have found that it goes in waves and the better I feel, the worse the crash. I can go a few weeks feeling fantastic, but when I crash, I crash hard. I have had a lot of days where I feel horrible and have thought about suicide, cutting, and harming Haley. I know I would not do anything to Haley or myself but having the thoughts makes me feel so guilty and the worst part is that I cannot control them. I have also recently experienced my first panic attack. It was as horrible as people say. I couldn’t control a thing.

I am still taking Zoloft and, in fact, I have started taking a higher dosage. After the panic attack, I decided I needed a little more to take the edge off and it seems to be working. I saw a therapist for approximately 5 months, but toward the end it just wasn’t doing anything for me. I have considered seeing a new therapist, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

I have found that there are some people that I can speak to about my illness and others who think it is a load of crap. The people that I can speak to about it are some of the best people around. The others can go take a long hike off a short cliff. I have broken friendships because of PPD, due to the lack of support I needed from them, and I am okay with that.

I owe my life to the women in the PPD support group. I have called on them multiple times when I could not find the courage to take a shower or look myself in the mirror. These women know one of the most intimate details of my life, a detail that most won’t ever know. These are the same people to whom I can say, “Today I wanted to kill myself,” and no one wants to put me in a straitjacket in a padded room. I can be who I am and say what I need to say to deal with this horrible illness. I have also made great friendships with many of these women; friendships that will carry on far beyond our round table talks of PPD.

Other people in my life have given me great support through this mayhem – a few friends, my mom, and Simon. Not only is Simon my husband, but he is my biggest supporter. He has been to multiple PPD meetings where he sat and listened to a bunch of women talk and cry about our issues. He participated in group discussions that ranged from birth control to menstrual cycles. He has always listened when he is at home and even when I need to call him at work. He is always there as a shoulder to cry on.

PPD sucks. It is a horrible illness that doesn’t go away quickly and I don’t know if I will ever stop battling it. I don’t know if I will ever be able to stop taking Zoloft, but I hope to. I use other methods to cope like exercising and eating relatively healthy, so hopefully someday I can. But as I go down this roller coaster of a ride, at least I have hope and a great support system.

I am so proud of Mimi for sharing her story.  I know it helped her just to write it out.  She states that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever stop battling postpartum depression, but I believe that she will, and that she’s taken the first (and most challenging) steps to rid herself of PPD.  Thank you, Mimi!  You are an amazing mother to Haley!

If you would like to submit a Guest Post to the Lorix Chronicles, please contact me.  It does not have to be about Postpartum Depression – anything about motherhood (the good, the bad and the ridiculous) will be considered.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jill
    Jun 05, 2011 @ 12:02:20

    I’m sorry for what you went through, and I applaud your courage to speak out. You will stop battling it eventually so hang in there 😉 I too had postpartum depression but I also have a long history of panic attacks. The depression did eventually go away and I went on to enjoy early motherhood. A support group would have been a Godsend, I’m glad you had and still have the support of others who really understand because they’ve been in your shoes.

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  2. mary
    May 12, 2011 @ 18:07:15

    Mimi is one of the strongest people I know. It takes a lot to stand up for yourself and ask for help. There will always be people that will downplay what you’re going through and imply that you should “suck it up” but to get the help you need, sometimes you have to advocate for you and your child. I am pregnant right now and know that I will be better prepared for all things motherhood including the possibility of ppd b/c of people like Mimi who went through it first and had the courage to share.

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