Monday, March 1, 2010

My Personal PPD Nightmare

As I watched PPD Nightmares I was stuck my many memories of my own struggles and how much I connected with each of the women featured.

The show highlighted several times something that I probably knew in the back of my head, but that finally crystallized when watching this. Traumatic birthing situations tend to lead to PPD and PTSD as the brains way of coping with the situation. The very first mother they show had a traumatic birth, all three of the mothers had hard labors. While it was happening I wouldn't have called my birth "traumatic", but looking back and revisiting it with this show it was.

I had to be induced because my water broke and after several hours I was still not having contractions. (I want to add that the only reason- in my opinion- my water broke is because my primary OB stripped me membranes, without telling me or asking my permission, 5 days before my due date). Pitocin is not a good thing and is very hard on your body. After almost 24 hours of Pitocin and monitoring, and waiting, waiting, and more waiting, my baby could not get passed zero station and was showing signs of distress (I have hip issues, he was big, they believe he wouldn't get through, or that he already was stuck).

I had an emergency c-section. The section wasn't as scary or traumatic as all the other surroundings of the procedure and the events of the day. I had two infiltrated IV sites, one on each arm. One that could have been prevented if a nurse had come when I called and not allowed my IV to run dry. (Full moon and full labor and delivery, I actual spent some time waiting in the hall for a room!) Once they announced that we were going to need to do a c-section the comfy room I was in suddenly filled with people and walls and cabinets opened to revel surgical prep tools. My epidural was wearing off (I could feel every thing they were doing) and everyone was moving so fast they weren't stopping to answer our questions. I proceeded to have an anxiety attack, which I thought was an asthma attack. I used to work on a post-surgical floor, I have observed surgeries and knew what most of the equipment and things they were doing were for and I was still exhausted and terrified. I cannot even imagine how much more traumatic this is for someone without my background and experience. Post surgery 3 staples fell out leaving a wound that I had to take care of, even after showing several doctors and residents no one bothered to even put a butterfly band-aid on it.

However worst still was the professionalism of two doctors in my practice that saw me afterwards. One, an older male doctor that was the head physician came in to see me the first day post-op. I was very nervous about what post surgical me could do. When could I carry the baby, how could I get up and down the stairs (we lived on the third floor) etc. He brushed off my concerns and with my husband in the room said "don't you want to know about sex? because you can have it now if you want" I was so shocked I couldn't even answer. That was not the worst.

Other than my abdominal pain I was suffering from terrible back pain. Remember I was confined to a bed for 24 hours before giving birth and 24 hours after. Hospital beds are not comfortable. I was taking the pain meds I was allowed at the regular intervals and I was still uncomfortable at times. When my primary OB came in to do the discharge papers she asked what I had been taking for pain and I told her. She literally gasped and tsk tsked me. Commented at how that was "addict levels" and she knew women who had "been through more" and done it with out meds. I could not have felt like a bigger failure at that moment. I couldn't labor, I couldn't hold my baby because my arms were swollen from the infiltrated IVs and my doctor just called me a wimp and an addict. In my mind I was the definition of failure and I had only been a mom for a few days.

Looking at it now, from the outside, I could not have been more susceptible to PPD. (needless to say I also left that practice and never saw my primary OB again). Than I went home.

In the show Alyssa (second mother story) was the mom I really connected with most, our stories were so similar. She says in the show (paraphrased, not direct quote) I was working and than I was at home. With no adult interaction, no brain stimulation - out of touch with the people in my life.

That was exactly me. My husband was home with me for a week and then he went back to work. I was at home, alone. We were in a city and neighborhood that we loved but I did not know one person in the town. I was the only one of my local friends to have a child. I literally would go days, sometimes a whole week, without ever leaving the house or talking to someone other than my husband. I lived and breathed carrying for that baby, it was the only thing on my mind. It could be days before I realized I hadn't showered, or hours before I realized I hadn't eaten.

I have a background in healthcare and biology. I was pretty smart, I knew the symptoms. I knew I was depressed. I had no idea, really no idea, that it was not normal to obsessively check on your child. I had no idea that it was not normal to be imagining every worse case scenario of every moment of your day. Every single moment. I would be changing a diaper and I would wonder, in vivid detail what if he rolled off, hit is head, was sitting in a pool of blood. What if when we were crossing the street a car hit the stroller, would it drag it, would it flip over, would he fly out and hit the cement. Scary reading huh? Imagine seeing it, in all its gory detail when you look at your child. This was my life and I thought it was normal. Until I read an article in Self that described Postpatrum OCD and anxiety. It told ones more story and struggles to get through it. It was like a light bulb in my head went off. I don't want to know where I would be if I hadn't seen that article.

However like one of the moms featured in the show, I didn't get help, I didn't admit to anyone what was going on until I was confronted. My husband could tell something was wrong, he knew it. I started crying one day when he checked in from work. I said something along the lines of thinking that I was going to die if this baby didn't stop crying and sleep. He listened. He came home early and said very clearly, we either sit down, talk about this and figure out what we are going to do or I am taking you to the ER NOW. I cried, I talked, I showed him the article and I told him what was in my head. As we like to talk about it around here, "I let all the crazy out".

I beat my PPD with my husbands help. I did not seek medical help for my PPD. In hind sight maybe I should have, maybe I would have gotten over it quicker. However I did not want to be put on drugs and my primary had already offered that when I talked about being depressed with him. I was more scared of being on drugs, not being myself or totally in control of my thoughts and actions than I was of any of the thoughts in my head. I did not trust, like, or respect my primary OB after my delivery. I was not about to go to her and tell her what was going on. She had already basically called me a wimp and an addict.

What I did is what WORKED FOR ME, I am not recommending it for anyone else. I followed a very similar course to Alyssa's. I mediated and prayed. We made sure I was getting time for me. To run, to exercise, to socialize. I joined a moms group and got out of the house. I stopped eating junk food, we switched to a more natural diet and I gave up alcohol for several months as it was not helping. My husband stepped up and started doing more and more for me and the baby when he was home. In the show she says how you have to make yourself a priority, than your husband, and only then can you take care of an infant. She was so right. I had poured my whole self in to child care I had gotten lost.

Again this is what worked for ME.

This was my nightmare and I recovered. I also want to make clear, probably for my own self consciousness than anything else. For me I never thought about hurting my baby. I was never the one that caused him, in my thoughts and images to be hurt. I only ever thought about hurting myself. I thought he does not deserve to have a mother as incompetent as me. In the show they validated these feelings, they said most moms with severe PPD become suicidal to protect the baby, again putting our child's needs before our own.

I hope you never have to go through anything like I did. If you do, know that there is help, you do get better and you will not ruin your children. I have two beautiful children. My son is a very bright and amazing boy. The times I had to leave him in his crib, alone and crying because I was loosing my mind from the crying, sleep deprivation and PPD did not damage him, they protected him and me from horrible things happening.

Most importantly, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You can get help.

Some other good reads and resources online:

The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in plain mama English)

How Does a Mom with Postpartum Depression Get Help When She Can't Even Brush Her Teeth

Mayo Clinic: Postpartum Depression

ACOG: Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Progress

Postpartum Support International


Sara Joy said...

I am so glad to hear of your success. I can't imagine your experience, but the hope in your story is beautiful.
I can see myself doing this. Especially after what we've been through. In fact, it's hard to see myself NOT behaving this way. Many thanks for the heads up that I'll need to keep an eye on myself.

WeaselMomma said...

Wow. I've never experienced PPD. All I know about about it is what I have read in the media. I had no idea of the stress and struggle it put into your everyday life.
Thanks for being a survivor.

Megan Cobb said...

You are not/were not alone. I suffered a great deal of depression while I was pregnant with baby #2 (I blogged about it a little bit at the time) and have struggled with it off and on since he was born (he's 18 months old now). I think your course of action was smart, sound and well-thought out and I'm really glad it worked for you. I find most of the things you list are the things that helped me, as well. It's great to see Discovery shining a spotlight on this common problem. I hope the show and your honesty will help other women know they're not crazy and that they can and will get better with the right understanding and support!

LutherLiz said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Grace said...

I also waited about 5 months after bad symptoms started to get help. Big regret. I encourage women to seek help immediately. I'm glad you were able to get through without meds. I'm sure it was excruciatingly hard, but good for you!

Stephanie said...

"Traumatic birthing situations tend to lead to PPD and PTSD as the brains way of coping with the situation." Oh, this was me. My counselor said at my last appointment that my depression/anxiety was brought on by postpartum and part of me has been avoiding that term for so long. But reading your words here made me realize just how much the struggles with the births of both my children led me down this road. There are many other contributing factors that have made it worse, but that's where it started. Thank you for sharing your story and for being a voice for something that is so hard to talk about.