This one is near and dear to my heart, and it is actually the one post that I knew, when starting this blog, that I wanted to write.
Why has it taken so long? Good question.. I don’t have a real answer for that, except I was scared. I was scared that I would be judged, scared that I will be seen as less of a mom, scared that people will only see me as my diagnosis, and not as the person that I am. I have started, and then restarted, and restarted this post far too many times.
So let’s get started..
Hi, my name is Brittney, and I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
There, it is out there. People know, and honestly I don’t care what you think about it. There were already some people who knew, but I am done hiding behind this secret. I am not ashamed of it, and it does not define me. The reason I am writing this post is not because I want any kind of sympathy. In fact, I don’t need it at all. I have good days, and I have some bad, but I have an amazing support system, and I know that I can handle anything that the world can throw at me.
This post is meant to bring an end to the stigma to postpartum depression and/or anxiety, and really all mental illnesses. It is meant to empower moms, so they know that what they may be feeling, is ok, and that they are not alone. Lastly, this post is to help me heal, along with many of these posts and this blog.
I have received so much feedback from so many people. People I am close with, reconnecting me with some people that I haven’t talked to in years, people I have only really met in passing, and people that I have never met. Every time I have a new blog post (I know, I need to get better) the amount of support I feel is overwhelming.
It has taken me a while to make this post. I told myself that this was going to be my next blog post, no excuses. But I couldn’t bring myself to write this. It has taken me days, weeks, even months, to bring my thoughts to words. To be honest, I didn’t want to confront this. I didn’t want to relive the bad days. This isn’t something that I am ‘proud’ of.. but I am proud that I am surviving life with it. I am my harshest critic, and bringing out my flaws, is something I can do, oh so well. I didn’t want to have to face this one again.
But time goes on, and still this post was not being written. I knew that I had to do this. This post was the fuel to this creation. I had to do it. No more excuses. No more putting it off. It is here, and it is happening.
So let’s go..
While you are pregnant, everyone asks how you are doing, also asking about the baby. But the minute that the baby is born, the whole mentality is shifted. People still know that the mom changed her entire body, mind, and soul, to carry and deliver a baby. All the baby had to do was grow, the mom on the other hand takes all of the brunt work to create and nurture the baby while it is busy growing. Sometimes changing lifestyles, sometimes making a few adjustments, sometimes sitting out of different activities.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved being pregnant. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I had the easiest pregnancy with the witch baby. Together we went through so much, just me and him. We were one. There is something to be said about the bond a mom has when she is pregnant. You are able to protect that babe inside you. He is only yours. You don’t have to share him with the world just yet.
Now, if you have been following along my journey, you will know that at about five months pregnant, Big D started to have an interest in the Mistress. He left me.. for her. My whole world came crashing down. Everything I knew to be true, just faded. I had spent the last ten years with him, one of which we were married (or almost a year). And then poof it was all gone.
Again, if you have been following along, him leaving me has brought me joys and experiences that I would have never had with him. It also, has nothing to do with how amazing of a father he is to the witch baby. We have our quarrels here and there, but that is always between us, never the witch baby. When it comes to the witch baby, he is always there through and through for him. I could not ask for a better person to co-parent the witch baby with. I am very thankful for him as a co-parent and as a friend, as he played the biggest part in me finding help and realizing that I had more than just the ‘baby blues’.
Most new moms experience postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.mayoclinic.org
70-80% of moms experience some form of baby blues. ummm, what? So many people, yet I only heard about this, when I first became pregnant, and read up on everything pregnancy related. How can about three-fourths of mothers feel some kind of ‘baby blues’, but the first time I hear about it, is when I become pregnant.. through a book, not even a person.
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.mayoclinic.org
1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression. One in five. Take that in… 20% of mothers experience some form of postpartum depression. Yet, I never really heard about it much, except in passing. Then, on top of it, postpartum anxiety is a thing too.
This! This right here is what I am talking about. Why is it so taboo to talk about these things? Why have we not brought an awareness to this or any other kind of mental health issues? I am here to say, you are not alone. You are more than a diagnosis. You are resilient. You are strong. You are you.
It was a Tuesday, the day my saving grace came into this world. Big D and I would spend the next two days in the hospital, because that is normal turn around time, until they let the mom and baby go home. Big D spent two weeks, living with me. We were both first time parents, unsure of what we were supposed to do. Even though we were separated, it was very good for us to go through that. During that time, we dove into some pretty heavy conversations that needed to be had, as well.
I was in such a weird place. My hormones were trying to work themself back to normal. My body was changing back. I was trying to figure out breastfeeding, both nursing and pumping. I was trying to come up with a schedule to make time fair for both me and Big D, but I didn’t want to give up time with the witch baby. I just spent every minute with this little boy for the last 9 months. Now I had to share my time with someone? I had the hardest time with this. On top of it, when I wasn’t with the babes, I still had to work around a pumping.
Pumping ended up being the biggest chore. I am so glad I was able to exclusively pump, but man was it a task. I pumped at home, in my car, at school, in stores, at family’s house. Around the clock. All the time. It felt like it never ended. I made it 9 1/2 months, but then I stopped. It was so much work. When the witch baby wasn’t with Big D, he got to do whatever he wanted. I was bitter about that. I didn’t like that there seemed to be an unbalance in responsibilities. But Big D definitely stepped up to the occasion when needed.
During those two weeks, and after, it was hard to keep up with life. Big D helped by making a lot of the meals and helping clean up when needed. After those two weeks, it was just me, and the witch baby. It was hard to want to get up out of bed. I was always tired. My mood changes were drastic, both highs and lows. Rarely, was there a happy medium.
I knew that the time I had, I should be nothing but happy, pure bliss. I have my baby outside of my body, he is here, I can watch him grow. That did nothing but make my anxiety sky rocket. I was so scared of what would happen if I was not with him 24/7. I couldn’t bring myself to let him sleep in his crib, in his new nursery. I had to be with him all the time. I would be a nervous wreck about him going to his dad’s place. Why? I knew that Big D would do anything to keep harm out of his way. I know that when I am rationally thinking, that it was absurd.. but I was not thinking rationally.
I don’t remember the exact moment when Big D had mentioned something about postpartum depression. I wasn’t offended, but I was almost in a kind of denial. I didn’t really know much about postpartum depression.
Into the web I went. I researched it so closely. I had almost every symptom of postpartum depression, except the idea of not being able to bond with my child. If anything, I was bonding so much with him, that I freaked out when anyone else came around and tried to bond with him. I was a nervous wreck. I knew that something was not right with me, and the my mind was all out of sorts. So I decided to call my doctor and made an appointment.
Confirmed. Doctors confirmed that I not only had severe postpartum depression, but I also had postpartum anxiety right along side with it. Both severe cases of it. This is not as common to have
I didn’t really know how to feel about the diagnosis. I was not mad or upset. I was actually very glad that I had caught it as soon as I did. I know that for some mothers, it isn’t caught until after their child is over a year old. But I was overwhelmed. I remember thinking that this can’t happen to me. But that is the thing about metal illness, it doesn’t matter who you are, it can effect anyone.
I remember talking to the Beast, right after leaving the doctor’s office, and asking him if the mother of his girls ever had postpartum depression or anxiety? His response was something along the lines of, he never knew that she did specifically, but he believes that all mothers had gone through something like that to some extent. This has always been in the back of my mind, especially on days when I felt/feel alone and like no one understood what I was saying.
The Beast played such an important part in my journey. No matter the hardships he was facing in his life, he always listened to me. Always. Not only did he listen, he brought a sense of calming and peace to me. He always validated what I had to say, and had the right words or advice to give, even if I was being a stubborn brat about it. He helped me face my demons and he helped me work through some of the hardest times I ever had to endure. I am forever thankful for him and our friendship we continue to have.
With my new diagnosis, I was prescribed medication. I am still taking that medication to his day. It helps. Sometimes I hate that it helps, because I want to be ok on my own. I still have mental struggles with this sometimes, but at the end of the day, this medication helps me be a stable mama for the witch baby, and that is all that matters. Finding the right dosage of medication was not the easiest for the doctors and myself, but working and having open communication with the medical team was very important. My medical team was very invested and listened to everything that I had to say and everything that I felt. I believe this is one of the reasons that I have been so successful on finding treatment. I had a team of professionals that helped, cared, acknowledged, and strived to finding a solution for me.
I was doing pretty good, and then school started again. Back to school professional development started while I was four weeks postpartum. The healing time that doctors want you off work, is for at least six weeks, eight if you have a C-section. The school district I work for does not pay for my leave, because I had the witch baby out of the school year, and the way it works with sick days and paid time off, I wasn’t able to get paid, although I was able to take up to a year off.. but it was unpaid. Is the United States really this far behind when it comes to mothers and their babies? Yes. The answer is yes. It is embarrassing the way we treat our mothers.
This was a huge dilemma that I had. I had to choose between going back to school and starting the year off my way, or I could use all of my sick days up in the beginning to make it to the six week mark. I choose going back to work. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I knew that if I used up all of my sick days, that I would regret it in the middle of the year when I would be sick, and not be able to get paid for a sick day. So at four weeks postpartum I went back to work.
Now, not only was I missing time with my son, because he was with his dad, but now I was missing time with him, because I had to go to work. At work I had to deal with pumping. Pumping was so difficult. I tried to correlate the times I pumped with when it was convenient for the students to take a break or go to lunch. It was a mess, but I did it. I had such a love hate relationship with pumping. After a few months, I invested in portable pumps that fit (awkwardly) in your shirt. I could do this while teaching.
I had the best class that understood when I would have to step out of the room to insert or remove my pump. They also always cheered me on when they say me emptying my pumps. They gave me snacks, and made sure that I stayed hydrated. To be honest, I couldn’t have asked for a better class than the one I had this year. I think they saved me more than they will ever know.
Once I started to tell some of my family about my diagnosis, some were supportive right away, and some were not. “You don’t seem like you have depression” or “That is just normal, every mom worries” or “You shouldn’t use medication to help you. That will just make you dependent on drugs.” were some of the things that I heard. Yep. My own flesh and blood told me those things to my face.
I was upset. I was furious. But I took that frustration to educate my family about what it can look like, and how it can hide. I can be very good at hiding things I don’t want people to know. This was one of those things.
I also received some really positive feedback when I told family and fiends. I was offered support and kind words. I even had a few people come out and tell me that they, too, suffered from that or something similar. The thing about postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, is that is looks different for every single person. Some people know how to mask their emotions in front of people, because they don’t want to worry them.
Once I came out to a few of my friends that I had been diagnosed, most of their responses were “How could you not be diagnosed with that? You have been through so much. It is not just catching up with you.” I guess that is true. I stayed so strong during my pregnancy for me and the witch baby, that I guess it all did just come pouring out after.
To this day, I still have a hard days where I have noticeable symptoms, but it is nothing like the beginning of my journey. I have a great support system. My friends and my family have done so much to make sure that I am doing ok. I have friends that text me sometimes to remind me to take my medications . I have family that helps me watch Theo while I take a shower or make food. I have friends that just check up on me and see how I am doing.
If you are suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or any other mental illness, please reach out. I am here for you, no matter what kind of history, or lack of, we have. It is always important to have someone on your sideline caring about you. I will help you find resources to get professional help. I will be an ear to listen. I will be a friend to give advice. I will be a reminder to drink water.. whatever you need, I can help. It is important to put you first and make you happy and healthy before you worry about helping others.