Warrior Mom Kass shares her infertility story today as a guest contributor. Although she knew she was at risk for developing postpartum depression and anxiety because of her existing bipolar disorder, she was still surprised and disappointed to find herself in the fight of her life against PPD. She shares more about her experience with new motherhood over on her own blog, This Journey Is My Own. If you have any words of encouragement for this mama, I know she would love to read them in the comments.
For nearly 5 years, my husband and I struggled with infertility. All we wanted was to get pregnant. After a round of IVF treatment, our longtime dream came true.
I was optimistic about my pregnancy. I planned to have an epidural-free birth at a birth center with midwives. I made the tough decision to stay on my mood stabilizer and antidepressant medications throughout my pregnancy. I knew we were committed to raising this baby no matter what the outcome.
But things didn’t go as planned. The midwives were concerned about neonatal withdrawal syndrome from my mood stabilizer. Soon, it was discovered that I had 2 large fibroids, one of which had the responsibility of pumping nutrition and oxygen to the placenta. My baby turned breech, had slow weight gain, and needed to be delivered early via C-section. I ended up in the hospital with a spinal in my back.
As soon as my baby was delivered, my hormones plummeted instantly. I gazed at my son in complete disbelief that he was real. I cried the night of his birth and nearly every day thereafter for 5 weeks. I was overwhelmed with the task of motherhood and suffered severe panic attacks. I endured scary thoughts. What should have been a joyous occasion turned out to be bleak and sad for me. The first week of my son’s birth, my husband was home with me to help me take care of the baby. The second week, he went back to work and I was on my own.
It really is a miracle that my son survived that second week. I was in pain and still struggling to wrap my head around the fact that I did not come home from the hospital with a doll. No, he was—and is—a living, breathing human being. I still suffered from scary thoughts regarding my son. Then, the scary thoughts turned on me.
I was on medication throughout my pregnancy so I didn’t have prenatal depression other than “normal” hormonal changes. I thought the meds I took during pregnancy would be sufficient to carry me through my early postpartum period.
They were not. I felt hopeless and worthless—all kinds of negative feelings applied to my mothering skills. I had issues bonding with my son. Because we were exclusively formula feeding, I felt as though he gravitated toward anyone who would feed him. I thought he didn’t love me and looked past me. I suffered extreme guilt. I had wanted him for so long and now that he was here, I felt as though I didn’t love him.
I stumbled upon Postpartum Progress and read through the symptoms of PPD. I thought my crying, anxiety, and obsessive thoughts might be the “baby blues,” but my symptoms were so severe that I nearly ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I finally admitted to myself that I might have postpartum depression.
I made the appointment with my psychiatrist that I hoped I wouldn’t have to make. He increased the dosage of my medications to combat my PPD and anxiety. He even diagnosed me with OCD-like tendencies. I began to participate in #PPDChat on Twitter. Thanks to my husband’s urging, I started therapy at the Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, PA.
This was all within the first 5 weeks after my son’s birth.
I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was 12. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 24 years old. What in the world made me think at 32 I would not suffer from postpartum depression? I knew that those with a history of mood and/or anxiety disorders before the introduction of a child are prone to PPD and related disorders afterward. I was no exception.
I realize now that it’s never too early to get treatment. Many women wait 6 months to a year before getting help, but if the symptoms are tackled right away, they can feel better sooner.
I’m now 11 weeks postpartum and still struggling with mood and anxiety issues. My son is alive, healthy, and thriving. At times, I still feel hopeless about my ability to be a good mom. I still cry when he cries. I get frustrated. The thought still crosses my mind, “Maybe I shouldn’t have had him.” Not because of him, but because I feel wholly inadequate to be his mother.
But the online support and in-person therapy I’ve received have given me hope. Motherhood is hard. It’s one of the most difficult things I will ever do. But many women who have suffered from postpartum illness have come out on the other side to encourage me. They say it gets better. They say I’ll make it through. So far, I have. And I hope that the tenacity and determination that led to overcoming infertility will carry me through.