The day I couldn’t hold my baby

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Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a rollercoaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.

 

Claire: a one minute poem 

I knew I was on the road to recovery when I felt inspired to write. I held my almost 3 month old daughter and could feel the words being created in our bond.  Postpartum depression/anxiety can rob you of a lot of things- but eventually you find your way home.  These words aren’t groundbreaking literature, but in that moment they were everything to me.  They were me breaking free from darkness and discovering my new self.  After 3 months of feelings that were hard to manage, I was allowed to feel the joys of a new baby. She was and always had been the biggest blessing- even when I had trouble seeing anything beyond fear.  I am grateful for this moment and will never forget it.

Claire

Breathe you in
Warm skin, loving lips
My hair around your fingers
Pulling me close
Covering you
Protecting you
Your skin so soft
Your will so strong
A simple kiss
A loving gesture to you
Your home and your protection
Keep me this close forever
Forever with you

Daily Prompt: Jump

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I wasn’t sure of what I would write about tonight… just that I wanted to write.  I’d forgotten how therapeutic writing is and how it always has been in recent years and even if I feel I have nothing to write about… it is important to just do it.  So here we go.

The prompt of the day is “Jump.”  Funny, when reading the prompt my mind jumped around to a million different things I could write about … including that song “Jumper” from the 90s ha.  Finally it settled on a memory that I don’t think of often but have recently for whatever reason.

My son was a few weeks old.  I was sleep deprived, hormonal, bleeding, recovering, scared… terrified actually.   I was responsible for a little life and this was sinking in.  Every decision was monumental in my mind.  It determined the health and well being of a little person.  My chest was tight… my heart was pounding.  Each day there was another new worry.  A new concern.  A new fear.  My heart hurt.  I hurt.  It was too much..

I walked outside to my back deck.  It overlooks a wooded area that is quite nice in the summer.  Very lush.  Green.  I’ve spent many days with a glass of wine admiring the leaves as they danced on the trees in the wind.  It is very peaceful.  This day I could feel the sun.  It was warm and comforting.  I stretched my arms and rested them on the railing.  I looked down at the ground and I was overcome with a desire to jump.  The thought entered my mind quickly and intensely.  I was caught off guard by it and began to analyze it.  Was I so depressed that I wanted to end it all?  What the hell was happening?  I knew I wouldn’t actually do it, but until that moment I’d never even thought about it.  I stepped back from the railing and ran back inside.

I never wanted to end my life.  Not then, not now.  I care too much.  I love too much.  The thought that entered my mind was a cry for help from myself… to myself.  I needed to relax.  I needed to step back and enjoy the blessings.  I was suffering from my own obsessive thoughts and worries.  They were killing me.  This thought of jumping… was shocking to me.  I had no desire to die so why did I picture it?  That’s the great thing about the brain.  I needed a moment.  I needed a wake up call.  I needed to be shocked into reality.  The reality was that I had a beautiful baby.  I was now a mother and there would be really difficult times… but there would also be amazing times.   Since that day I’ve thought back to that moment several times.  I’ve been thankful for the ability to determine that jumping wasn’t actually what I wanted to do … or what life was telling me to do.  I know that some aren’t so lucky.  I’m beyond grateful that I am on this journey of mental health and wellness.  I pray that I can continue to see life for all of its blessings and wonderful moments and learn from the ones that aren’t so great.

Jump

A glass of wine, a puddle of tears

raindrops-in-puddle-1171471-1279x849.jpgTonight I sit and drink my nightly glass of wine.  An all too frequent habit that I probably shouldn’t be engaging in at all.  It hurts my stomach and I regret it the next day but for the few hours I feel the alcohol in my body.. I feel relaxed for the first time all day.  I feel “happy.”  I feel carefree …I can breathe.

Today was hard.  Another set of doctor’s appointments, but this time for my sweet Claire.  She was diagnosed with a rare food allergy syndrome and the swarm of emotions upon hearing the diagnosis was overwhelming.  I had tunnel vision… tunnel hearing (if that is a thing).  My body started to escape itself… I wanted it to not be real.  I wanted to hear that I was just being an obsessive mother who was overthinking things.  I tried so hard to listen to the doctor all while processing my feelings and obsessing over whether or not she could tell  I was a million miles away.

And there was Claire.  Rolling around on the bed in the doctor’s office, her chubby legs kicking back and forth.  Ripping up the paper on the bed… bringing her left toe to her mouth to nibble on it.  I smiled at her and made a clicking sound with my mouth.  She returned my smile and there was the warmth.  Then… the guilt.

On the ride home I was silent.  Processing every real or irrational thought/feeling.  I was thinking several thoughts at once.  I could feel the grief and fear in my chest and could trace it to my throat.  We got home and my girl smiled at me again and this time I returned her smile with tears.  I changed her diaper and began to sob.  The sobbing left me no room to breathe and soon my husband noticed and so did my 3 year old son.  I was falling apart.  The room began to spin and I sat down in a puddle of tears.  My husband was pleading with me to tell him what I was thinking …but I couldn’t.  How could I tell him this was my fault?

When anything goes wrong… I immediately blame myself.  I should have eaten better when I was pregnant.  I should have tried harder to breastfeed.  I did this to my little girl and it hurt more than I could tell him.  He says that my mind is leading me in the wrong direction.  He said that I made this up and there is no scientific evidence to prove that those things have any correlation with her food allergies.  I didn’t care.  If anything was wrong with her it had to be because I did something wrong, or I missed something… or I could have prevented it somehow.

Really, there was no one to blame for it so I did what I always do.  I beat myself up.  I was angry, upset, scared and had no one to blame… so I took it out on myself.  Only recently have I been able to forgive myself for giving up breastfeeding too early… and with this, all of those feelings of guilt came back.  Could I have prevented this for my child if I had been mentally well enough to continue breastfeeding?

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know if it would have changed anything.  It probably wouldn’t have…but today, blaming myself was the easiest thing to do.  It was easier to lash out at myself and hate myself than to deal with anything else.  I wanted to hate myself more than I wanted to fear the future of introducing new foods, etc.  Hate is easier to experience than fear.  Anger is easier to identify with than grief.  So I jumped to those familiar feelings as a defense mechanism… to spare myself from feelings I couldn’t manage in the moment.

Tonight, I have this glass of wine.  My escape.  Another way of putting off feelings I don’t want to feel.  And tonight, in this moment, that’s going to have to be okay.

 

Daily Prompt: Carry

via Daily Prompt: Carry

I like to look through these daily prompts and try to get inspired.  Specifically when I don’t feel especially inspired.  Its funny, every time I leave therapy I feel most inspired to write.  However, I go home to a house full of kids and don’t get the chance.  I’m not complaining.  They are wonderful.

So here we go… Carry.

I’ve carried two children.  I’ve carried two beautiful children inside of my body.  I’ve cradled them in my womb from their first heartbeat until I heard them cry after hours of labor.  I’ve carried pieces of my heart in these two children and will carry them forever.

Carrying a child is a really beautiful thing.  If I didn’t carry the worry with pregnancy, it would be one of the best experiences of my life.  Unfortunately, I carry the worry so intensely.  I carry it in every single muscle.  Every breath is laced with it.  I carry it with me and it weighs on every bit of excitement I should be experiencing.

After having my daughter I thought that I could quickly get these worries under control.  I thought that I could overcome them.  I thought I had the power to do this.  The minute she was born I was overcome with such relief, joy, gratitude and fear.  The fear was intense.  It became my sole focus.

This would be the next 3 months of my life.  Every minute has been consumed with fear.  The first 6 weeks of her life I had to have my friends and family spend every day with me.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t be a good mother.  I could simply exist.  The guilt you feel when this beautiful life that you’ve created depends on you to be everything and you are …nothing.  You are weak, you are depressed, you are scared, you are out of your mind.  I carry that guilt with me to this day.  I knew that I had to call on those I loved to help me in this time and they did.  My baby was well taken care of and she was always loved.  I love her so much and always have.  I loved her so much I had to work through every single difficult moment to make it to the next.  The next was usually better than the last.  Over time it has become easier.  I am still working and I will never stop fighting to be the mother she deserves.

The funny thing is… she is blissfully unaware of any struggle I am going through.  She is 5 months and all she has to do is see my face in the morning and her smile is so warm.  When she cries and I pick her up she is comforted in my arms.  She loves me and I carry that with me during every struggle.

I carried her for 9 months and she and her brother have carried me every day since.  I love them more than I thought I could ever love anyone.  I am so thankful.

The glimmer

I’ve had panic attacks and anxiety my entire life.  I understand that it gets better… it gets worse… it feels okay… then you feel like you’re dying and its just kind of trying to figure out how to ride the rollercoaster.  It really sucks actually.  I’m tired of it truthfully, but it never stops and I just have to keep on.

At my last therapy appointment I spoke very highly of Prozac, credited it to making me feel like a new person.  I felt like I could enjoy the moment, interact with my kids a little better, interact with others in general a little better.  It felt like it took the edge off and I needed that.  My therapist was so happy to hear that I was getting some relief.  When I was telling her about how great I felt I knew that I was jinxing myself… but I didn’t want to think that way.   I just wanted that moment.  I needed that moment.  Even if I knew it would be gone soon enough.

Not to get into too much detail …but something set me off and it was over.  The panic attacks came and they were intense.  They hurt.  I felt crazy.  I went to the ER.  I called my doctor a million times.  I asked the same question 8 different ways, 30 different times trying to find some sort of reassurance about what I was stressing about.  My kids saw me run around with my head somewhere else completely.  They saw me pacing the floor and although I was with them physically– mentally, I was a million miles away…

In a way I felt manic.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I felt like I was crawling out of my skin.  I couldn’t eat.. I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t do anything.  I only felt okay when I was driving somewhere.  I didn’t want to sit still… I wanted to run away.  I needed to be somewhere else.  My body knew it.

When I did finally get some sleep I would dream horrible things.  My dreams are rehearsals for real life dangers and often times I can’t even escape in them.  This month I’ve had crazy dreams but perhaps the craziest of them all… was a dream that was wonderful.  It was so out of the norm for me.  It was so short but it meant everything.

In the dream I was at the beach.  I had a bikini on and I didn’t care how I looked in it.  I was sitting…staring at the ocean with the sun on my back.  The sun was warm but it wasn’t burning me.  It was perfect.  I could feel it and I didn’t worry about melanoma or …if I was getting sunburned…or if I even had sunscreen on.  I just knew that in the moment I felt really happy and relaxed and well.  More importantly- I was IN the moment.  I was actually present in a moment… even if it was in a dream.

I thought about this dream throughout the week.  I thought about it when things felt like they were becoming too much.  When I was losing my mind … the dream was always there.  It gave me a few seconds of calm in a really bad storm of emotions.

In therapy last week I cried for a solid hour.  I spoke about my fears and the rollercoaster of my emotions.  I spoke about the fact that my kids are seeing their mother in such turmoil and how I hate that I’m doing this to them even when I’m trying SO hard not to.  I told my therapist that I was just ..tired.  I’m so exhausted.  Thinking 3289 thoughts at once takes so much out of you.  Having 2 kids takes so much out of you.  Working part time and being a mom full time takes a lot out of you.  I’m just… tired.  I vented and I wept and I finally just felt paralyzed.  I couldn’t move anymore.   I just wanted to sit there until something changed.. anything.  I didn’t even want to blink.  Everything hurt.

And then… there was the dream.  Before I knew it I was telling my therapist about the dream.  I had no idea WHY I was telling her about this dream that I hadn’t told anyone about …but there I was …explaining it in such vivid detail.  My crying stopped, I felt warm.  I felt the warmth of the sun in me when telling her about this dream.  I needed this moment.

I looked up to find my therapist crying.  She had chills.  She said something I will probably NEVER forget.  She said, “Catherine… that is the glimmer.  That is the glimmer of hope.”  She explained that my body, deep inside… knows what I need.  It knows how to heal itself.  It knows how to carry on.  It knows exactly what I need to do to feel better and have a fulfilling life.  My anxiety is just beating the hell out of it.

I realized that there is a threshold with pain, fear, anxiety.  Everything has felt completely out of control and mostly because I feel like I can control everything and realizing that I can’t …kills me.  I couldn’t control this dream, or any other dream that I have but somewhere deep inside me… I was given a gift from myself.  I was given that glimmer.  That hope.  I was being reminded that there is a way to feel something other than pain.  Maybe it lives inside of me.  I just have to find it.