This post comes with a warning. May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. I am going to talk about some dark moments after the birth of my third baby. If you are feeling sad or scared today, you might not want to read this. If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This is the most important thing I have ever written. And I am asking you to share it with everyone you know.
Last year, after the birth of my third baby, I had postpartum anxiety/OCD, bad enough that I needed intervention, meds and therapy. It started in my third trimester, but leveled me at four months postpartum, which is prime time for this kind of thing.
Annie hit a growth spurt and wanted to eat every two hours. At first, I was able to fall back asleep at night. Then one night, I didn’t. It happened again the next night, and the next.
After a few days, Annie settled down. I did not.
It was like a switch had been flipped and locked to “ON”. She would go down at 8 and sleep until midnight or 1. I watched her, heart pounding, thoughts racing, songs playing over and over in my head.
I just knew that the moment I fell asleep, she would wake up.
I started having 10 pm meltdowns, pacing and sobbing. I’d eventually tire myself out, and sleep for a while.
I felt like a mirror that had dropped and cracked into a thousand lines.
My primary care doctor was hesitant to prescribe anything because I was nursing. The pediatrician said she would really prefer me to “Try a hot bath and a warm cup of tea”.
Her complacency lulled my husband Shea, but I knew I was in trouble. It was hard to ask for help in the first place, and it seemed that no one was listening. I felt so alone.
Then this day happened:
I had not slept more than two hours together for a week, and the previous night, not at all. I was in a place where the fear of not sleeping actually powered me through the day. It was the third day of Shea’s new job, so even though he was worried, he had to go. My parents were in Europe. My girlfriends were here, but I had lost the ability to communicate.
I took my kids to the mall. My phone rang, but I ignored it. I sat at the playground, holding the baby, thinking that my kids were the only ones who loved me. They were all I needed.
On the way home, I thought about driving right on through and disappearing. That would show everyone who was against me, which was clearly everyone.
But then a jolt of fear ran through me that even if I ran, I would still not sleep.
I thought I cannot live like this.
Then I thought I cannot leave my babies alone.
And far, far, far away from this being a reason to live, I suddenly understood how it is that a woman kills her children before she kills herself.
She cannot live like this anymore. And she will not leave her babies alone.
It never went beyond that flash of understanding. But the fact that the path from here to there looked like level ground was terrifying.
I came home, said a prayer and sent an email to my friends. One of them said “Call your OB”. Dr. Selinger told me to come immediately. She held the baby. She gave me a prescription for Zoloft, assured me that it is ok for nursing moms and told me to call Postpartum Support International (PSI). She said none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.
The first lady I spoke to at PSI spent 45 minutes on the phone with me while I sobbed, telling me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.
One of their therapists called me on a Saturday—she talked to me for an hour, told me that none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.
She gave me the name of a counselor skilled at handling post partum issues. Lisa returned my phone call that same day, Saturday. She too told me none of this was my fault, and I was going to be ok.
Lisa is trained to deal with postpartum issues. She helped me see how much my family history of anxiety and OCD, and my thyroid issues, played a role in what happened to me. It really wasn’t my fault.
And now I am ok. I am more than ok. If I ruled the world, everyone would take Zoloft. I didn’t realize how much of my life was affected by anxiety until it eased.
Shea went into counseling as well—something suggested by the folks at PSI, where they have an entire section dedicated to helping the husbands. What we went through was traumatic, and our marriage and trust in each other needed some healing.
I really believe that after calling your OB/GYN, PSI is the most important phone call a mother, husband or family member can make. They will help you. They helped my cousin, in Canada. She called because she knew I was not right, but she didn’t know what to do. They told her what she could do. This organization is phenomenal. They are saving lives.
I’m not ashamed that I was broken, or of those very dark and scary feelings I had. No one should be ashamed.
May is Postpartum Depression/Anxiety Awareness Month. Postpartum depression and anxiety affects over a million women a year, almost 20% of those who get pregnant. It can happen to anyone, across cultural, socio-economic and educational demographics.
If a pregnant or post-partum woman tells you that she is hurting or sick, listen to her. She is asking for help AND warning you. Don’t hope that she will help herself. She probably can’t.
Not all counselors are created equal. PSI can find you someone skilled at handling PPD/PPA. I believe this is really important. Lisa knew how to help me.
If it is happening to you or someone you love, call this number: 1.800.944.4773 (US and Canada).
Visit this website: www.postpartum.net.
Tell your OB/GYN.
It’s not your fault.
You will be ok.
<div align="center"><a href="http://postpartum.net/Join-Us/Maternal-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month-Blog-Hop.aspx" title="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop"><img src="http://unexpectedblessing.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/psi-blog-hop-badge.png?w=104" alt="PSI Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Hop" style="border:none;" /></a></div>