*Oh hey, I’m here to rock your world.”
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about my third daughter, Lucie, for the past week or so. I’ve thought about how to start it and how I would try to make it witty and easy to read. I wanted to write something lighthearted about her infectious laugh, her beautiful blue eyes, or the way she jumps up and down when her big sisters walk in the room. But, there was something pulling at me to share the full story of how I became Lucie’s mother. It was different this time. It wasn’t like it was when we had our first baby or our second. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through or ever be myself ever again. What I’ve realized six months later, is that we are constantly changing and evolving as people and as parents. I won’t ever be who I was before I saw two lines on that dollar store pregnancy test. I’m ok with that.
I am a warrior.
When you become a mother everyone warns you. Watch the signs. Ask for help. You’re not alone. It’s ok if the baby blues become something else. Talk to your doctor. There’s no shame in taking medication. We’re here for you. We love you. Let us help.
How can you ask for help when all you feel is shame?
I remember after I gave birth to Fiona, I was hyper aware of postpartum depression. I struggled with depression for most of my life and had to seek treatment for anorexia and bulimia when I was younger. Three months after Fiona arrived, my best friend and my sister came in town to visit us. We were all hanging out and having a great weekend. I went upstairs to use the bathroom and all of a sudden I found myself on the floor. I was sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. Looking back, I realize it had been building up for awhile. At that very moment though, I was shocked. Sobbing on the floor, I called my doctors office and said I needed to get in ASAP. I did. They put me on zoloft. I went on my merry way. I felt fine. Not great, but fine. I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to be a great mom. Great moms don’t have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is shameful. How can you be depressed when you’ve just brought a life into this world? HOW CAN YOU BE SO SELFISH? … Those thoughts raced through my head over and over and over.
I told myself that it was normal not to feel great. I hadn’t slept through the night in months. I was breastfeeding around the clock. I was thirty pounds over my normal weight. My body ached at night as I tried to co-sleep without smothering my precious baby girl. I thought this was how motherhood was. I had to just get a grip and learn to live this way.
We decided to have another kid. I hate being pregnant, but I do love the mystery of having a life growing inside of you. It was a challenging time. My husband had been laid off. We lived in a state with zero family, a mortage, two cars, and an immersurable amount of stress. Somehow, we all made it through. My second daughter was born, and I felt like a rock star. I had succesfully had my unmedicated VBAC. I was a fucking birth goddess. There was no way that I was going to feel depressed. I had just achieved something amazing. Postpartum depression? Yeah right. Fuck off, I was a ROCK STAR.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
The first night home with Maeve, I was sitting in my room trying to nurse her. Everyone else in my house was asleep and I was halfway through season three of Lost (WHICH WAS STRESSFUL ENOUGH!).. That kind of environment was enough to put anyone on edge, but something didn’t feel right. It came out of nowhere. It hit me like a bus. My skin started to feel like it had bugs crawling on it and under it. My heart was racing. I started to sweat. I couldn’t breathe. I woke my husband up, handed him the baby and said we had to leave. We had to leave right then. We had to go outside. I couldn’t stay in the house. I couldn’t stay in my room. I was dying. This is what dying felt like. Tears just poured out of my eyes. I coudn’t control myself. I begged my husband to take me to the ER. I was dying from a heartattack right in front of my newborn baby.
Yeah. That was my warm welcome into the world of postpartum anxiety.
Once again, I called up my doctors office, had a few chats with my midwife and went back on zoloft. I was told that I was way more at risk to have postpartum anxiety, because I had already suffered from postpartum depression. Awesome. SWELL. COOL.
If I’m being honest with myself right now, I should have asked for more help. I knew I wasn’t ok. But, once again I said to myself, “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER THIS IS WHAT BEING A MOTHER FEELS LIKE YOU WEAK WOMAN.”
Months went by, the fog started to lift. I started giving my kid formula and breastmilk, because I needed a break once in awhile. I started to sleep more. I started to have my body back for myself. I was working out and raising my two rambunctious girls.
Let’s move forward to June 3, 2016.
The morning started off like so many other mornings. I packed up my kids, went to our music class, hit up the grocery store, started driving home. My birth doula was pregnant at the time, and I said to her, “You know, I’ve only had one period, but it’s kind of late…that’s weird.” She laughed and said, “ Oh my God! What if we’re pregnant together?”
I almost hit the car in front of me.
There was no way. No way. Nope. Not at all. Fuck that. I’m not doing that again. No. NO. ABSOUTELY NOT.
Twenty minutes later, I ran into the bathroom while my kids and husband watched Mickie Mouse Clubhouse in the living room. I didn’t even have time to see how long I would need to wait for a positive test, because the thing lit up like a goddamned Christmas tree.
*These must be false.*
I came out. Told my husband. He laughed. Then he looked at my face. He stopped laughing. He asked me what he could do. I told him to take the kids to a movie and pour me a glass of wine. (It was 10 am.)
I sat on the bottom step of my stairs for about two hours crying. I was getting better. I was getting so much better. This wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t meant to do this again so soon. I had a three year old and a nine month old.
I pulled myself together, called my family and slowly started to accept it.
“ It better be a fucking boy.”
That’s what I repeated to myself for the full nine months.
Somewhere around 20 weeks pregnant, I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t breathe. That same panic and anxiety that hit me after my second kid was happening again. Only, this time I was pregnant. And it was two am. I managed to talk myself off the ledge. I worked at a yoga studio. I knew all about meditation and breathing. I meditated and breathed my way out of that shit as hard as I could. I finally went back to sleep. Two hours later it happened again.
It happened again and again. It happened every single night, four to six times a night. It happened so much that I started to loose sense of my own reality. I scrambled to keep up with my children. I scramnbled to keep up with my marriage. I scrambled to make it to my doctor appointments.
When I did make it to my doctor appointments, I begged them to help me. I told them that I couldn’t do this. I was struggling. I needed help. They all kind of shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well, we can put you back on Zoloft, because that’s pretty safe for pregnancy.” I said, “Sure. Now. Please.”
So I did. I tried. I tried six different dosages.
It didn’t help. The panic got worse.
My poor family. My parents, my husband, my kids, my friends… they had to listen to me and see me in such a horrible state. I clawed at my skin. I tried to make it stop. It wouldn’t stop.
I went in for my thirty-two week check up and saw a midwife I had never seen before. Her name was Laura, and I’m pretty sure she saved my life.
She said, “There’s no reason for you to have to keep living like this. You need to see a specialist.”
She sent me to a psychiatrist and therapist at a place close to me that specializes in postpartum/perinatal depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis.
I went to my first appointment and met an amazing dr who looked at me and said, I’m so glad you’re here. You are going to feel better. You are going to feel SO MUCH BETTER.”
I didn’t believe her. I felt the baby inside of me kick and kick. She must have been agreeing with the doctor. I walked out of that office in a haze, with a prescription for another antidepressant that also tackled anxiety. She had reassured me that my mental health was the most important thing at stake right now. Without a healthy mom, you cannot have a healthy baby.
It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly the panic became easier. It slowed down. I could breathe.
And thank God it did, because on a sunny day in the middle of February this year, I gave birth to Lucille. Lucie. Luce. (Lucifer if she’s being bad.)
She’s beautiful. She’s loud like her sisters. She’s long and lean. She has blue eyes like her daddy and a smile like her mommy. She’s a handful like the other two, but she has a calming presence about her. She was in the thick of it with me. She is the only person in the world who heard my heart racing and heard my silent screams as I tried to silence the panic.
Since her birth, I’ve been taking care of myself and facing the truth of what it means to be a mother who struggles with this stuff. She wasn’t planned, but none of motherhood is.
My aunt said she’s like a feather.
She’s light and so joyful.
Without the struggle of my pregnancy with her and her very powerful (and fast) birth, I would still be sitting here with shame. I would be sitting here pushing these feelings down. I had no choice but to speak up and get help while pregnant with her. She pushed me into rediscovering myself as a person and as a mother.
Basically, she’s DA BOMB. She laughs a lot. She gives great little smooshy hugs. She just got two teeth, and she hardly made a peep about it. She lights up the room and adores her sisters. A year ago, I didn’t think this was where I would be. But, here I am.
Here we are.
Still going strong.
I’m a warrior mom.