There comes a time in most women's lives that baby fever begins to hit. Hard!
For me, I was 29. I had been married a few years and was ready to begin the next chapter of our lives. When we got pregnant, I was ecstatic; I couldn't wait to meet our baby girl, be showered with gifts and have the perfect little family.
Lucky for me, I got all of those things. What I hadn't bargained for, though, was a severe case of Postpartum Depression, which was by far the worst thing I have ever gone through in my life.
I delivered at Prentice Women's Hospital (Northwestern) and had a very quick birth (four hours from start to finish); it was a whirlwind, really. Everything appeared to be going great and we were in awe of our perfect little daughter.
By my own choice, we left the hospital the day after I gave birth; I was ready to get home and be in my own surroundings and I wanted out of that hospital.
I felt fine until day three. That’s when the stress of breastfeeding, on top of the “baby blues,” started to take hold of me. All of a sudden something hit me—like, “What the heck have I just done?! I don’t have any business taking care of a child. I know I thought I wanted this life but I've changed my mind and I need to leave NOW!”
All I wanted to do was get in the car (by myself) and drive away from everything and everyone. I felt terribly guilty but I also felt like I was living a life that was no longer mine; I wanted to be the old me—footloose and fancy free!
I recall pacing up and down the hallway of our condo with clenched fists, ready to burst into tears at a moments notice; the sound of Ava's cries would send me to through the roof with panic, worried that I wouldn't know what to do for her.
By day five, I wasn’t getting out of bed, didn’t want to shower, eat, etc. I just laid in bed and cried. I wanted nothing more than to run away. My mom was staying with us by that point because I was worthless and Ken had to go back to work, which meant somebody needed to care for Ava. My mom was tremendous; I owe her the world for taking care of us that week.
Since I wasn’t feeling any better and was concerned it was Postpartum Depression (not just baby blues), I called my general practitioner, who had me come in immediately for what I soon found out was a psychiatric evaluation (thinking I was going to harm myself and/ or Ava). He said he would need to refer me to a psychologist who could get me the appropriate meds since he didn’t really deal with patients who suffered from PPD, which royally ticked me off considering I needed something like YESTERDAY! Can you say waste of time and a copay?!
So, not wanting to see a psychologist, I called my obstetrician next, who I thought could give me something. They had me come in the next day, where they proceeded to do ANOTHER psych evaluation and then proceeded to tell me they couldn’t prescribe me any medications, either.
So there I was on day seven, no meds and no help. I decided it was time I called the psychologist. I got an appointment for the next day. After a short discussion, she classified my condition as Postpartum Depression and recommended some heavy-duty meds (Klonopin and Zoloft) which meant I would have to stop nursing if I wanted to feel better. So I quit breastfeeding, and I must say, it was the best thing I could have done for myself; I started the meds right away and (thankfully) the Klonopin helped me feel better immediately.
I wasn’t my old self for a few weeks or so but I gradually started to come around. Later I weaned myself off of the Klonopin, but I still continue to take the Zoloft (even through this pregnancy).
Given my history, I am scared to death for what will come with Baby No. 2. I suppose I'm fortunate, though, to at least recognize the symptoms and feelings should it happen again. Best of all, I know that the world will not end if I have to quit nursing and begin taking the medication again. Ava was raised on formula (besides the seven days I breastfed her) and she is about as close to perfect as a kid could get. Perhaps I'm a wee bit partial.
Many people will tell you that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of a child and that is the ABSOLUTE truth. When I was breastfeeding, I was a crazy person. Ken said he looked into my eyes and he knew “no one was home”; to this day, he laughs and said I was “coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.”
The reason I'm dedicating a column to PPD is because I feel that it's something that many women suffer from but are too afraid to discuss. To say out loud, "I'm not happy with my life right now," is probably the last thing people expect to hear when you've been blessed with a beautiful baby. Truth is, though, many women feel this way. And you know what? You're not alone. I'm not at all ashamed of my battle with PPD, and nor should anyone else be.
If you're expecting or suffering with feelings of withdrawal from your child, seek help immediately. Find someone to talk to (that won't judge you for sharing your true feelings). Talk to friends that have been there. Call a doctor. Bottom line: arm yourself with support and try to do something to get back to the person you really are. Don't let PPD make a nightmare of those precious, sweet moments you should be having with your baby. Because you know what? Sadly, you will never get them back.