Many of my friends know that I had severe PPD (Postpartum Depression) with my first daughter, Ellie. I kept it a secret for quite awhile after Ellie was born, but eventually told my family and close friends. The details that I have told to family and friends have been limited because of pure humiliation. Yes, I was humiliated for a long, long time. I was ashamed and scared to share the details. But now, I am not ashamed and I am not scared. I know there are thousands of woman who have experienced and will experience this. These woman need to know they are NOT alone and that there is hope. I have taken pictures of my journal that I kept through this experience and will put them throughout my story. I may not be the best writer, but this story comes from my heart. So here I go...
Becoming a mom was something I have always desired. I started babysitting when I was very young and very fast people noticed my love for children. What can I say, I was pretty darn good with them. People would say, "Jessica, you are going to be the best mom! You are meant to be a mom." Yes, I was going to be the best mom, or so I thought.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, Ellie, I can't even describe the joy I felt. FINALLY, God has not just blessed me with a husband, but now a baby. "Can you believe it?" I would ask my family. All my dreams were coming true and I was incredibly happy for the first time in a long, long time.
Pregnancy was all I talked about and you can ask my old co-workers to prove it. They probably rolled their eyes to each other when I would talk about the baby in my tummy. Yup, I was extremely annoying and I did not care. Not one bit!
I researched everything from natural birth to safe car seats. I was going to try and do the best thing for Ellie because from the day I found out I was pregnant, I loved her. I wanted the best for her, as most moms do. As I researched different things, I would sometimes come across postpartum depression information. This TERRIFIED me to no end. I could not experience this. If I did, I could not bare it. So I just would push it aside in my mind because it scared me so badly.
My doctor came back in after an hour and checked me. Yup, still 3cm. Sweet, here goes my natural birth out the window. I had Doug decide what to do because I did not want to make the decision. Doug choose the epidural.
After two attempts to get the epidural in, it finally took. I could immediately feel the pain go away. I was in H.E.A.V.E.N! The horrid contractions were diminishing.
Then.... all hell broke loose.
"I have this funny taste in my mouth," I said to the anesthesiologist.
"What?" He said with a concerned look.
Then, the room started closing in and things began to get dark. I literally thought that this was it and I was dying.
"What's her blood pressure?" The anesthesiologist frantically asked the nurse.
"60/40!" The nurse quickly replied.
My blood pressure went from 160/110 to 60/40 in a matter of seconds. And you better believe it, I felt that drop like someone was sucking the life out of me. Mr. Anesthesiologist gave me a nice injection of Epinephrine (which is like adrenalin).
Ummm, wasn't this day suppose to be the best experience of my life? So far, it's crap. I was scared, confused, and just wanted the whole thing over.
I started to spike a fever from the lovely epidural and my blood pressure continued to drop numerous times. The nurse would run it with a syringe of Epinephrine and inject it in my IV. Then, Ellie started having decelerations and I still wasn't processing.
"We recommend a C-section." The doctor told me.
The anesthesiologist turned the epidural up for the c-section and they wheeled me down the hall to the OR. To be honest, I was terrified. I knew my blood pressure would drop yet again. They put me on the table and put a huge drape right in front of my face so I couldn't see.
"I can't feel my arms! I can't feel my neck" I said with pure terror as I vomited over and over.
I was over medicated and I numb pretty much everywhere and my blood pressure dropped several times. I was in hell, so I thought. I would pass out and wake up and think, "Still here. I'm in hell. God help me!"
They got Ellie safely out and I heard her cry. I sobbed and said, "My baby! My baby!" The anesthesiologist told me to look at my baby and he tilted my head to look at her. I screamed, "I can't! I can't!" The room was spinning and I couldn't move my head.
Doug was crying as he held our precious, beautiful girl. He held her in front of my face and I could barely open my eyes to see her. I did see her slightly though and I could not believe her beauty. Doug took her back to the nurses and I was laying there still scared out of my mind.
"HELP ME! JESUS, HELP ME!" I screamed. That's all I remember because the doctor knocked me out.
I woke up and Doug was holding Ellie. It had been a few hours since she was born and the nurse put her on my chest. I could not feel her because I was still numb throughout my body. The tears poured as I held her (well actually has the nurse held her for me on my chest). It was over.
Now the Real Nightmare Began:
Most of my postpartum period is blocked out. One of the things I asked God to do was have me forget the most devastating times. He answered that prayer so I will only tell what I remember.
The depression came almost immediately. I felt empty and alone. I was so so alone and felt like I could not talk to anyone. I did not feel anything for Ellie. This feeling made me want to die daily. I was filled with guilt and shame. I was a walking zombie. The social, energetic Jessica was gone and I didn't know who I was anymore.
I opened up to my mom that I wasn't feeling right and told her I was "crazy." She tried to encourage me to go to the doctor and that I would get better. So, I went to the doctor when Ellie was 2 weeks old to be put on an antidepressant which was Prozac. For some reason, this made my depression and anxiety intensify. I don't remember a lot of this time period, but I do remember asking God to take my life.
I sobbed all the time. I had horrid visions of Ellie getting hurt which scared me half to death. I couldn't possibly ever be alone with her because I was scared that one of those visions would happen. Every emotion, thought, feeling was fear based. Fear consumed me night and day. I had no rest. I sobbed at home, at work on my breaks, in my car when I was alone, and with my husband. Sobbing was apart of my day to day routine. I was in complete anguish.
Not only was I dealing with PPD, but my daughter had some issues with her bowels and bled in her diaper from 5 weeks to 3 months. She was admitted to Children's at 6 weeks old and needed surgery at 3 months. Thankfully they didn't have to actually make an incision, but she continued to have issues and we had many ER visits to Children's. This added to my depression and fear.
A few months after Ellie's surgery I found out I was pregnant again. How could God possibly think I could have another baby? My second pregnancy was a roller coaster and I was certain I wouldn't be able to handle it. The depression and anxiety worsen. It got so bad that we moved in with my parents.
I'm sure most of you of had a moment with God where you told Him that you could not go on, that you were in anguishing emotional or physical pain. I had many moments like this with God. I even scream out loud for God to help me one night and I think Doug decided his wife was clinically insane at that moment. Poor guy.
I remember talking with one of the awesome counselors I saw and saying, “I wish you knew me before I had a child. This isn’t me. You don’t understand… this isn’t me.” I always could get a grip on life with other tough times, but I couldn’t get a grip on this. I have fought everything in my life, but PPD was destroying me more and more each day. At times I felt that PPD had defeated me. I did not want Ellie to have a depressed mommy. She didn’t deserve that. That is how I justified that I would be better in heaven.
Anything that could potently hurt her triggered scary thoughts. If a knife was lying out, I would frantically put it away. It scared me to have the oven on, the dishwasher running, or the washer machine going. One of the most basic things to do to care for your newborn is give them a bath. Giving Ellie a bath was the worst for me.
“Why, God, Why?” is what I asked God daily. Whether I bonded immediately with her, I always loved her. I loved her so much that I couldn’t imagine my life without her and I felt like if I truly bonded with her, I would lose her.
A doctor explained PPD to me like this. “Woman who experience anxiety and depression have an intensified effect when they have a baby. Your mind is on over-drive and you are constantly in adrenaline mode. Your mind will not rest. You enter a room and you scan it to see what could harm your baby. Normal moms do this, but it’s more severe with woman with PPD. I have actual doctors as patients with PPD. I have upper class, successful woman with PPD. I have met many, many woman who have experienced this over the past 25 years.”
After two months of living with my parents, I felt I was ready to live home again. Ellie was about 9 months old.
After trying different medications, different counselors, and praying to God to heal me, I started to get better.
How I Finally Got Better:
1. Finding a good counselor who is compassionate and has experience with PPD. This was the most important thing I have found in my healing. Talking to someone honestly about your feelings and thoughts is so empowering and helps you feel like you are not alone. I have quite a few names of some great counselors, if you are interested.
2. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins! Depression can be from a lack of B-vitamins or vitamin D. I take a B-Complex and other vitamins to help with my prior depression.
3. A small dose of an anti-depressant. It took months for me to find the right medication and just a little of it helped me so much.
4. Some sort of exercise whether it was cleaning the house or taking Ellie to the store.
5. Journals and reading my bible. Also, studying scriptures about fear.
6. Talking openly with family and close friends.
7. I FOUGHT. I fought like I had never fought before. God gave me this little child and I was going to choose joy over sorrow.
8. Finally, accepting God's gift, my beautiful daughter.
I want to thank my amazing husband, Doug, for supporting me and helping me heal. I love you! Also, I want to thank my incredible family and friends who listened to me. Thank you and I love you.
My Precious Girls