After three years of marriage, I became pregnant. The pregnancy went well, just a little nausea in the first couple of months. Joe and I were really looking forward to becoming parents!
I was two weeks overdue when my OB decided to induce labor. At the hospital, I was hooked up to the Pitocin and eight hours later was sent home. What a disappointment! No baby to bring home. The following week, on June 4, 1990, I came back to the hospital and went through the second induction, 18 hours of labor and an hour and a half of pushing. My doctor shouted at me to stop pushing, then without warning pulled out the forceps and delivered Danielle. Why did he shout at me? I was exhausted and had no feelings of happiness when I looked at her. This was not how I had dreamed it would be. I went home with this new baby, feeling scared, sad and very strange. Why is it so hard taking care of this baby? Why did I ever think I could be a mom? Did any other moms ever feel this way? I wasn’t going to share these feelings with anyone.
We had been home for 10 days when Danielle was diagnosed with a severe reflux. Her doctor gave us instructions on how to best feed her. With this monotonous feeding routine, I grew more anxious every day. Every time I glanced at the clock, only five minutes had passed. I couldn’t sleep; I would hear her crying, get up to check on her and she would be sound asleep. For three months, I was sleeping two hours in a 24 hour period. Thank God we had so much help from both of our families, friends and neighbors! There was someone with us 24 hours a day. Even so, that didn’t take away my feelings of guilt and isolation. I just wanted someone else to take care of her! My husband was exhausted; he had to go to work everyday, then come home to take care of his wife and newborn daughter. He did a great job keeping it together; he just wanted his old wife back. It was our little secret. No one would understand.
Three months postpartum, I was having weird thoughts about my baby and knew I no longer wanted to live like this. How could I get out of this? Could I take her back? Was there another way out? Someone else would be a much better mom to her. I called my OB to talk to him about some of my feelings. He said that I’d get over it soon, that most new moms feel this way. Each day after that became one and the same, or worse. I called him back a second time; he would not even come to the phone to talk to me. His nurse came to the phone and said he recommended that I see a psychiatrist. There was no explanation of why, and I thought “I must be crazy.” The phone call to my doctor provoked even more anxiety. I looked for some type of explanation or name for what I had. In one of my pregnancy books there was a very brief description of my symptoms; my illness had a name, Postpartum Depression, something I had never even heard about. I called a national organization recommended by the book, Depression after Delivery. They gave me the name of a doctor who treated PPD and the location of a support group. I began taking medication and attending group meetings where I found women like me. Riding a roller coaster of feelings, they knew how I felt. About eight months postpartum, I began to feel like the old me. I was going to be okay!
Two years later, I felt normal enough to want another baby. I did some research to find a doctor knowledgeable about PPD. In May, of 1993, I had Angela. The depression returned this time, still devastating, but not as severe as the first experience. Along with my medication and support group meetings, I added the component of counseling, which was very helpful in dealing with my feelings. At six months postpartum, I was feeling good and looking forward to life with two children. Today, at 14 and 17, my daughters are more love and joy than I ever could have imagined. They make me proud to be their mom. The journey has been both incredible and frightening!
The greatest gift of motherhood has been my ability to share my experiences with other women and help in their recovery. The encouragement and support that we give as PSI coordinators and moms, will in some way, small or large, touch the life of a woman who is suffering and help her to continue in her role as a mother. She will be forever grateful and you will be forever fulfilled