A couple weeks ago on Thanksgiving, I (Natalie) made a post on my personal Instagram page expressing my gratitude for my little family and my current health status. In that post I very briefly shared a small glimpse into what I had experienced this past year while battling Postpartum Depression. I was overwhelmed by the love and support from those who read my post.
What is troubling me though and why I feel inspired to share my experience more fully with you is because of the messages I received from friends who told me of their struggles both current and old with PPD. I had no idea so many women so close to me were facing the same battle. The thought that continues to haunt me the most is that the majority of these women who reached out to me are fighting their battle in silence when they should be screaming at the top of their lungs for help and support!
So today I am sharing my experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in hopes that I might be able to offer HOPE to any of you that may be suffering.
I was induced three weeks early with my second daughter due to preeclampsia. My blood pressure was high and continued to rise so my Doctor (who I trust with my life) felt it was best for me to have the baby. The labor and delivery was a breeze! It went so quick! Like were talking dilating from 5 to 10 in less than 15 minutes quick. Baby girl was in my arms before I knew it and I was in heaven.
The first night with my new baby was stressful and scary. Moments after arriving in my recovery room our baby was taken to the nursery for monitoring and testing due to her breathing. My husband and I spent the entire night by her side in the nursery while she was being monitored.
Several hours later, the next morning, we were finally able to take our baby back to our room with us. We were relieved and felt so blessed to have a healthy baby. We invited our families and some close friends to come visit and we were so happy. My tiny 5lb 7oz baby girl was perfect and I once again felt like I was in heaven.
That night I had a hard time falling asleep. In fact I hadn’t slept a single minute since we had been admitted to the hospital to deliver the baby. At this point I think I was pushing 36 hours straight without sleep. I also hadn’t eaten much. Delivering a baby three weeks early by induction, combined with the anxiety of the first night’s scare, lack of eating and sleeping while taking strong pain meds was about to hit me full force.
I had finally dozed off for a few minutes when I was woken suddenly by a strange feeling. I remembered jumping a little bit (as if I had just had one of those falling dreams) and I opened my eyes quickly. My legs felt heavy so I pulled my blankets off my feet. To this day I don’t know if I was hallucinating or if it was really happening but I thought I was watching my feet swell and my legs couldn’t move. I began to panic and tried to wake my husband who was asleep across the room. My voice was horse and I couldn’t yell. My heart began to race and then I started gasping for air. My body felt like it was on fire and I had the feeling of pins and needles stabbing my skin all over. I was searching for the button to call my nurse to come help but couldn’t find it. I finally yelled “TYLER! Help me!” He jumped up and kept asking what was wrong and all I could say was “something is wrong! Help me.” “Help me!” He ran out to the hall and I could hear him calling for a nurse.
In that brief moment (that felt like eternity to me) I began to pray out loud. I remember saying “Heavenly Father, don’t take me right now! I just had a baby, I haven’t seen my other daughter and my husband cant do this without me! Please, God don’t take me, don’t let me die!” In that moment I thought I would never see my family again and I was absolutely terrified.
Before I knew it countless doctors and nurses surrounded me. I couldn’t open my eyes to see them but I could hear their voices as they were trying to figure out what was happening.
One test lead to another but there was no obvious reason for concern. The only thing visible was my elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate. They had put me on oxygen to help control my breathing and I was given some medicine to calm me down. The medicine helped but I was still so scared and begged them to keep the oxygen on me and they agreed. I finally fell asleep.
Two hours later I woke to my husband and my Mother talking to my doctor. They were trying to explain to me that all of my tests had come back normal and that they had diagnosed me with experiencing a severe a panic attack. I was in disbelief and had so many questions but felt so exhausted that I couldn’t even carry on a conversation with them. My doctor said it was best for me to rest and recommended that I stay an extra night in the hospital to be monitored, just in case.
The next morning I woke up still feeling awful. At this point my body felt like it was battling the worst case of the flu ever. I couldn’t eat solid food and even drinking water was painful. My body felt like it had completely shut down but regardless I was discharged from the hospital that same morning.
That was just the beginning of the scariest time of my life. After returning home the panic attacks became more persistent and the anxiety I felt amplified… My body was completely traumatized. I still couldn’t eat or sleep. The worst part of it all that still breaks my heart to this day is that I couldn’t even bring myself to hold my TINY (5 pound) baby because I hurt so bad. I was in pain physically, mentally and emotionally. I couldn’t sit still, and I hated the way my body felt. I remember squeezing my fists as tight as I could and telling my Mom to “make the feelings leave my body!” But it wouldn’t leave. In fact it stayed and at times it got even worse.
We ended up moving in with my parents because I couldn’t take care of myself and obviously couldn’t take care of my family not to mention my newborn baby!
My Mom and my husband took over EVERYTHING. They cared for my baby and my almost 3 year old daughter both day and night. They held me and pushed me to go on and reassured me that they wouldn’t stop until they got me the help I needed. My incredible husband and Mother were my saving grace! They never gave up on me and they never let me give up on myself.
They didn’t stop trying to get me help. I lost count of the number of doctors I saw and the medications I was prescribed. I also lost count of how many times I was told I “just had Postpartum Depression.” For anyone reading this, please don’t ever label it as “Just Postpartum Depression.” It is REAL! It is SCARY! And it NEEDS to be recognized!!
Postpartum Depression is a silent beast that sneaks in and robs a woman of her most precious identity, being a Mother. It doesn’t care if you just gave birth to your first or your fifth child or whether you are a single mother or have been happily married for years. It is a bully and it is MEAN!
One of the hardest parts of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety is that there isn’t much known about why it happens or how to treat an individual for it. Looking back on my experience, the one thing I remember wishing for was for someone, ANYONE, who could look me in the eyes and say, “Natalie, I’ve been through what you’re going through and it’s going to be OKAY! It will go away and you WILL be you again! I know what you’re going through because I HAVE GONE THROUGH IT, AND I SURVIVED!”
I am now 13 months Postpartum and I am finally to a good place in my life where I feel like I have overcome the worst of it all. I struggled severely for the first few months after giving birth but after learning ways to cope with my anxiety and seeking medical help, I was finally able to return to my own home and take care of my family on my own again. I have had a few panic attacks throughout the last year, the most recent being a few weeks ago, but I am able to overcome them and cope with them when they happen.
I have learned so much this past year about my true strengths as a Mother. I have learned that not only is it perfectly OKAY to ask for help, but it is necessary too! We don’t have to go through hard times alone. I have also learned that talking openly about my struggles helps me to heal and reminds me of the strength that resides within me. I’m finally becoming ME again!!
To ANYONE struggling with Postpartum Depression I want you to know “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! I know what you’re going through because I HAVE GONE THROUGH IT, AND I SURVIVED!” Please, please PLEASE seek out the help you need!
Please help bring awareness to Postpartum Depression by sharing this post or your own experience using #raiseyourvoice and #endthestigma
To learn more about Postpartum Depression and to find support or help in your area click here
Natalie -Two Sisters & a Story