When I think back to Avery’s first year, I think of all the incredible moments. First words, first steps, first friends, first adventures. However, I also think of the struggle. The first year was extremely difficult for me. I was a new mom, struggling with all the typical feelings of “Am I doing this right” and “Am I screwing things up”? as well as all the intense pressure of the “Mommy Wars” but, on top of those typical pressures, I had the demon of Postpartum Depression and anxiety clawing at me.
Avery’s birth is what I consider to be a trauma. While nothing happened that was life threatening to either myself or Avery, It was not an experience I’d wish on any other mother. 2 years later, even thinking about it makes me cry, and I still lose sleep over it every now and then (and it is a major factor in our decision to have another child or not) When they handed Avery to me after she was born, my first thought was not “Oh my god, she’s beautiful, my daughter, I’m in love” It was “thank you god, that is over!” I was in such a horrible state that I wasn’t able to enjoy the birth of my daughter, I missed out on that magical moment, and I think that is where the postpartum depression really started.
The first 3 weeks were absolutely brutal. I didn’t sleep, I barely ate, I spent every day huddled on the couch, holding Avery and crying. I relived the complete trauma that was Avery’s birth, over and over again. When I did fall asleep, I’d be thrust back awake, in a cold sweat, either from a nightmare about my labor, or one about Avery not breathing in her bassinet. I sat awake at night watching her breathe, and if I thought she took a strange breath, or took too long between breaths, I’d touch her, and in turn, wake her, making sure she was still alive. I couldn’t tolerate anyone else holding her. Dave would come home from work, and try to give me a break by taking her, but it would just make my anxiety skyrocket. It felt like every cell in my body was short circuiting. Every synapse firing (or misfiring) at once. I’d feel shaky, weak, sick to my stomach.
When Dave was at work, I sat there imagining every accident that could hurt or kill him at the shop. I sat, waiting to get a phone call from his boss that he was at the hospital, or worse. When Dave would take our dog, Daisy, out for a walk, I’d immediately start scanning the local news stations on TV and Facebook because I knew he’d be hit by a car, or attack and killed. I’d cry until he came home, and then I’d cry more.
At no point did I want to harm myself, or Avery, or anyone, but I wanted to run away. I wanted to bundle Avery up and run. I don’t know where I thought I’d go, but I felt like I couldn’t stay in our house. I was in a 24 hour a day state of panic. Fight or flight.
It didn’t help that I struggled with breastfeeding, compounded by everyone and their mother telling me that I “COULD do it if I just _____” I felt like a failure every moment of every day. When you’re already depressed, and anxious, being told that you just aren’t trying hard enough is like a hot blade through your heart.
And then Avery started throwing up every ounce of formula I gave her. Every. Ounce. Every. Bottle. She was starving, and she cried, and I cried with her. I reached out for help at this point, calling her pediatrician, and calling the hospital, and got the same answer every time “It’s not ad much as you think, all babies spit up, she’s fine” Nobody, not one person believed me, not one person would listen. I felt even more alone.
It took about 4 months before I was finally starting to feel a little better. We figured out the “spit up” issue–after taking a photo of the mass amount to her pedi–a very short torso and reflux meant that every time she burped, the entire contents of her belly would come up. Avery was sleeping better, and I was sleeping better, and we had a routine and a group of moms and babies to hang out with. I felt like I had control of my life, and I was able to be happy, and calm.
Avery is two now, and while I no longer suffer from postpartum depression, I still don’t think I’m 100% “myself” However, I’m definitely very close.
It has been a hard journey, a scary road. It too me awhile to realize that I had postpartum depression. I was fortunate to travel it with my incredibly supportive husband. He stuck by me despite my constant mood swings, attacks on him when he’d done absolutely nothing wrong. It was hard, but eventually it got easier.
I still have my not so awesome days, I think all moms do, and I am still not “over” the trauma of Avery’s birth, but I’m no longer thinking of taking her and running away to live in the woods. Sometimes I do think about running away, but it’s to Disney World, and that’s a whole different story.
So, why am I sharing this story again?
On June 2oth, Postpartum depression survivors and supporters, all over the world, will be climbing mountains or hiking in local parks to symbolize their rise out of the darkness and stigma of maternal mental illness. I am co-leading the Rhode Island climb, and helping to raise funds to support Postpartum Progress, a non-profit organization in the U.S. founded to help support moms around the world.
Unfortunately, I am unable to participate in the Climb this year, due to a work commitment, but my heart will be with all my fellow warrior moms on the 20th!!
Climb Out Of The Darkness is the worlds largest event that raises awareness and support for maternal mental illness. This year there are over 100 walks all over the world including the US, Canada, England, Switzerland, and Australia!
The Rhode Island Climb wil be held at the John Chafee Nature Preserve (Rome Point) on June 20, 2015 at 9:00am. Moms and others are all welcome to join the local Climb by registering here: https://www.crowdrise.com/courtenaypetracca-COTD2015/fundraiser/sarahbouvier Registration is free. You can also find information on the event on FACEBOOK
If you’re unable to walk with us, please consider making a donation HERE!
If you are not in Rhode Island and would like to find a Climb near you visit the CLIMB MAP
To learn more about Postpartum Progress, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders visit postpartumprogress.org
If you think you are experiencing postpartum depression, do not be ashamed. Get help, talk to someone–a loved one, a counselor, a nurse, anyone. Let someone know how you are feeling. Don’t let it go beyond the “Baby Blues” While it is normal to feel some sadness and anxiety, if you feel that you want to harm yourself or your baby or if the sadness and negative feelings last longer than a few weeks after the baby is born, you need to reach out for help. You can even reach out to me, if you don’t have anywhere else to turn!