Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Postpartum Depression

When I found out I was going to be a mom, that The Rock Star was living inside my body, that this miraculous dream was finally happening, I was in a great deal of denial.

I'm not really pregnant.
I won't believe it until I see the heartbeat on the ultrasound.
Oh, that, right there? That's the heartbeat? Couldn't it just be a hiccup in the machine?

Once I was ushered into acceptance by the realization that the nausea had a reason, I was absolutely, blindingly terrified. For about five months (I was already nearly two months pregnant when I found out) I lived in deep fear that something awful was going to happen.

I am going to lose this baby. If I make it to the second trimester, I will tell people I'm pregnant.
Now that I'm in the second trimester, I'm sure I'll have a late and hugely traumatic miscarriage.
I have to make it to 32 weeks. I know if I make it that far, my baby will have a fighting chance.

In early June, the doctor was slightly concerned and I started having twice weekly fetal nonstress tests. I did diligent kick counts, terrified that, because of my low amniotic fluid, my perfectly healthy baby was going to suddenly die.

From the moment I found out that I was pregnant, I prayed. Lord, let this baby live. Once I'd reached 35 weeks I began to believe that this thing might go off without a hitch. Certainly I prayed for a healthy baby and a safe and uncomplicated delivery, but I relaxed more than I'd let myself up to that point. And then I turned my prayer life in another direction.

Lord, please protect me from postpartum depression.

I just could not bear the thought.

All I really knew about postpartum depression was that women sometimes wanted to suffocate their babies. Or put them in the washing machine. Or, at the very least, make someone else hold him because she felt absolutely no attachment to the kid whatsoever. (Clearly I can't claim to have done much research on the topic.)

But the thought of anything less than idyllic bliss upon the birth of my baby sounded like horrendous torture. So I prayed and prayed and prayed against it. And our Father spared me.

I'm certainly not saying that every woman who experiences postpartum should pray harder. God calls each of us to our own trials and tribulations. I'm just ever grateful that postpartum depression after infertility wasn't a road I had to walk down. (And ever thankful that it wasn't something I had to deal with when my second son was born. There are some definite perks to adoption and the avoidance of postpartum depression is one of them.)

I looked at Garrett and he was perfect and I was head over heels in love with him and, other than very emotionally wanting to slow time down, I never dealt with the feelings that so many women have to struggle with after giving birth. I once went back to our infertility clinic. One of the nurses couldn't understand why I hadn't brought the baby to show off. Because, as much as I wanted to, I'd been where those women were. I'd been the one sitting in the chair watching women bring their babies in and it had felt like death. I wouldn't be the one to add to their pain. As I stood there, she asked me how I was doing and how he was. After gushing about how wonderful he was and life was, I explained that I was struggling with wanting to slow time down, with wanting to cry over every day that passed because he was already SIX WEEKS OLD and he'd never be SIX WEEKS OLD AGAIN. She said something about postpartum depression and how to deal with it and to make sure if it went on too long or got too intense I saw someone for it.

But if that was postpartum depression, I still have it. And I managed to get it with Matthew too. Because ALMOST SEVEN and FOUR and WHERE DID ALL THE TIME GO? It still hurts me.

That was not postpartum depression.

I know people who wrestle with the real thing. I know people who have felt the oppression of chemicals, the audacity of their own hormones. I am so thankful that it is not my story. But I have friends who have walked, are walking, the winding road. One of them is brave enough to be public about it in the present. It isn't her past. It's her life.

Please visit Renee's blog. Direct your friends there. If you know someone who is struggling with this or if you can help someone just by having more information, please follow Renee's story. Postpartum is so much more than what I thought it was when my baby was growing inside me. When we, as women, are aware of the issues that face us and our friends, we are empowered, we are empathetic, we are better.

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