**This post me graphic and upsetting, but this is my story and I feel like I need to share it.
I was always that girl who fantasized about her future. I dreamed of my perfect family, the wedding, the honeymoon with the bells and whistles, the white picket fenced house, and most of all… I would be the PERFECT mom.
Maybe it was because of my own broken family growing up, watching my parents fight for as long as I can remember, but all I wanted to do was start my own family. Even after going through a nasty divorce between my parents as a teen… I still couldn’t wait to grow up, start my own life, my own family, and I couldn’t wait to be a mom. I wanted to show the world what I had to offer, even though I was raised from dysfunction.
Well typically as life goes, my life blueprint didn’t exactly go as planned. At 22, I was just finishing up my prerecs for the nursing program. My long time boyfriend and I were enjoying our first apartment, we were just about to get engaged…. and then those two little lines appeared in our life.
I was filled with fear, shock, and disappointment in myself that I had failed my own plan. That dream wedding every girl always imagines was quickly axed. We jumped to the courthouse, and had a very basic vow exchange with a dinner at good ol’ Olive Garden to celebrate our love; deciding that house hunting was a better option than the wedding hooplah.
Given that this was the first baby in the family, and also in my group of friends, everyone’s shock wore off quickly and changed to excitement. Their support made it a lot easier to turn my guilt, and shame to the bright side, I was going to be a mom! It’s what I’ve always wanted! We can do the wedding thing later, no big deal. Let’s do this thing!
Nursery ready, car seat installed, birth plan written, oh yeah. I was ready. We went in for one of my final 39 week checks when suddenly his heartbeat sounded abnormal, so they decided to admit me that day and induce me the next morning. Ok scratch the birth plan, and oh man was it scratched.
My induction failed, my epidural failed, baby got stuck, I swelled… BUT, because little man’s heart rate was still kicking. I had to wait. (2 OR’s, one was being used, and I wasn’t considered an emergency) I waited for an operating room to open for an hour, swelled and dilated at 9.5cm, failed epidural, stuck baby. I’m screaming, my doctor is screaming at people to get me into surgery, my mom is crying, my mother in law, and my husband.
My screams probably terrified the whole floor. We finally get back to the operating room! At this point, I keep blacking out from the pain and exhaustion, until they started cutting. I felt it. I felt everything, and my cries at this point were going unheard. Maybe it was because I screamed too much in labor, but no one listened to me. They didn’t believe I felt anything until after I had the baby. (when I was able to move my legs almost immediately in recovery) As they pulled him out the doctor said, “Oh! That is why it was so painful, he was sunny side up!” (Meaning, he was coming down the canal face up, instead of face down like he should be) They continued to work on me, and discuss their lunch menu for the day over my cut open stomach. I cried to see my baby, finally after he was all clean and bundled, I was able to see my beautiful baby boy! It was over.
Now, maybe it was this birth experience that set me up for disaster. Maybe it is the fact that mental illness runs in both sides of my family. Maybe I set too high of perfect expectations of myself. Maybe it’s the fact that birth set off my new undiagnosed disease taking over, but things went downhill. They stayed downhill for a long time.
I struggled being a mom for the first five years of motherhood.
After my first son, I was very emotional. I linked all my feelings to my traumatic birth, and just normal feelings that happen when you have a baby; them crazy hormones! I brushed things off for a long time until I started experiencing a racing heart, and hot sweats like I was going through menopause. I ended up being diagnosed with Grave’s Disease and had to “kill” my thyroid by drinking radioactive iodine, so now I have hypothyroidism. It was such a blurry time, I never took my diagnosis real serious. I just popped the pills I was prescribed, and went on with my life.
Three years passed, and I found a new normal throughout that time. I enjoyed being a mom…. we were great, things were great!! So great we decided we wanted to be a family of four! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! I got pregnant! I was super excited to see our son with the new baby, excited to be a family of four, this was it! Perfect!
Months on, I started to feel off. I wanted this pregnancy, I wanted this baby; but deep inside, my feelings and brain were starting to go numb. I felt as if a cold, dark, thunderstorm started to take over my body. I felt the clouds coming, but I couldn’t react. I just watched them coming, taking over my brain.
The darkness took over. I distanced myself from pretty much everyone, including my husband. Our marriage became very strained, I blamed myself even more. I hated myself for these feelings. I wanted to die. I blamed this on the crazy pregnancy hormones, and now I have a thyroid problem too… It’s just that. “You’ll get through it, then it’s over.” I told myself.
Many nights I would cry myself to sleep, begging God to take me. My son would be better without me, the world would be better without me. While I was struggling with this darkness inside of me, the maternal instinct in me was trying not to drown. “You need help” I thought, but “Don’t endanger your baby with medication, don’t get yourself in a situation!” would continue to snap back. I struggled with this back and forth my whole pregnancy.
Finally, it was time for our little man to arrive. I was panicking. The thoughts of my last birth were taking over. I was literally shaking with fear as they prepped me for my anesthesia. Thankfully I had an AMAZING nurse who helped me through, until my husband could come to the rescue. Minutes passed and our second sweet little baby boy was born!
I was ecstatic things were going right this time. I started to feel the clouds slowly go away.
We were just starting to get him ready for his first bath, when things took a turn.
The nurse noticed he was jittery. She checked his blood sugar, and noticed it was abnormal and whisked him quickly away to the NICU to be checked out. Given that the night before I struggled to sleep with the coming morning’s events, that I had just given birth, and also got myself super worked up prior to; I was exhausted. (Hubs too) We passed out for the night as we waited for some news about our son.
I woke up the NEXT MORNING with no sign of my baby. I called my nurse to see where the heck he was and what was going on? Why was he not back yet?!
She says, “the doctor didn’t come talk to you? He said he did” Ummmm. NO?! So she led me to see our baby in the NICU. There he was, attached to machines, with an IV in his head. Tears filled my eyes. I wasn’t prepared to see my baby like this. I didn’t get a heads up, I got nothing.
The dark cloud in my head immediately roared back with a clap of thunder, screaming at me… “THIS IS YOUR FAULT! How could you fall asleep with your baby like this, you should have ate better during your pregnancy, ate better before your c section. THIS IS YOUR FAULT”
I ignored the cloud and continued to do my motherly duties, walking to and from the NICU to feed every 2 hours, pumping, trying to recover somewhere in between. Finally after the longest 18 hours of my life, he was able to be back with me, but I missed precious, and important bonding time with him. “Your fault” My brain reminded me.
Now, Mr. E was never the easiest of babies. He wanted to use me as a pacifier, he was collic-y, team no sleep through the night until he was more than a year old, only liked to sleep when he was held; Plus I still had my now three year old who is going from being the center of our world, to as he saw it… second best. It was rough trying to keep the balance, and my brain made it even harder.
One day, it happened. It was four months post partum. I woke up and my dark cloud took over. My brain was on repeat “Die bitch, you are a shitty mom, they will be better without you, no one loves you, you are not needed, you suck“
I really can’t even look back and remember what happened that led me to that point. But I grabbed a knife, and I held it to my throat. I wanted to kill myself. My husband walked in right at that moment and grabbed the knife, cutting my hand. I fought with him, I wanted to die. How dare he take that from me. I ran downstairs and grabbed a bottle of bleach and held it to my lips, he chased after me and knocked it away. “You need help!” He screamed. I agreed. I didn’t want this, but I had no control.
I mean it. I literally had no control. It’s like I was a robot and someone was just controlling me on the inside. Or like sleep paralysis. You are aware of what is going on, but you can’t do anything about it.
We went to the emergency room. I was admitted for being suicidal and having post partum depression. They made me take off my shoes, socks, jewelry, give my phone to my husband and then I sat in the hallway of the ER on a gurney for 8 hours. I was never given a room. I had to sit and be monitored with a group of 3-4 other people sitting in the hall, all of whom were coming down from drugs or withdrawing. I’ll never forget the girl next to me, pacing back and forth, screaming she needs a phone call, she needs her drugs. Did I mention one of my nurses was an acquaintance in my group of friends?! I never felt more uncomfortable in my life. This was not me. How could I put myself in this position.
I cried to my ER doctor not to put me in a ward. I need to be with my babies, I am not dangerous. This is NOT me. I want to be better for my family!
They decided start me in a day program in which I got dropped off in the morning, got to spend my day around others who are struggling mentally and go home around dinner. We spent most days just coloring adult coloring books. Other times we’d be doing group therapy, or one on one with a psychiatrist. After 4 days of this (and witnessing some very uncomfortable breakdowns of others) I begged them to let me go. Just the fact that I knew my husband was missing a week of work for this, and now we had a new hefty medical bill coming our way made me feel even more guilt and shame.
They agreed, as long as I continued to see a therapist. I reconnected with my psychologist who helped me through my parents divorce and troubled teenage years. ( Back then, I was diagnosed with what was thought to be BPD-Borderline Personality Disorder, but we have now figure out it is PMDD-Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, we can talk about that another day)
Side note…guys and gals, if you don’t have a therapist… GET ONE. Everyone needs one. She helped me clear the dark clouds. She reminded me of my worth, she allowed me to have feelings, reminded me this isn’t me and this is an illness. Most importantly, I could just VENT to someone who wouldn’t judge me for my struggles. Another thing that really helped? ELLEN. Ellen was my happiness when I had no friends. Feeling sad? Watch Ellen. Feeling guilty about your life? Watch Ellen. Ellen is free therapy on TV (no not really but she sure does feel like it sometimes)
I finally started to feel better. FINALLY. We were just starting to get back on track, financially, mentally, even physically. It wasn’t for long though until I started to feel off. I wasn’t sure why. I was on birth control, I was exercising, really feeling good. Then I missed my period. I took the test, and there they were again… those two little lines.
Those same feelings from my first pregnancy quickly took over. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?! Mom of THREE?! How could I possibly? I don’t want this baby! I was just re-learning how to take care of myself and this new family of four. I have a seven month old who still needs his undivided mom attention, and a 3 1/2 year old?! O.M.G. I was angry, resentful.. really just beside myself.
For the safety of the baby, *with my doctors guidance* I weaned off my anti-depressants, although I was already in a pretty sad state. I started to experience some pretty bad morning sickness, and started slipping into a depression again. I didn’t want to take care of myself, or my kids. I wanted to be a blob. I wanted to sleep. My husband took a day off here and there to help, worried I might have another breakdown if I didn’t get some relief. Wrong move.
He was laid off due to taking too much time off (direct link to my mental mishap) Did I mention he works for my family? Ok, I guess we can scratch off the family support I was hoping for. Word got out that I was pregnant before I was ready to announce to my family and friends, due to the work lay off. “Oh my word, she is pregnant again?” “Don’t you use birth control?” One grandma asks. Guilt consumed me. This was so far from my perfect life I dreamed of.
The thunderstorm crashed a loud thud of thunder. “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!”
Thankfully, I still had a pretty supportive group of friends to helped me stay centered as my world around me was still a whirlwind of stress. My best friend just got engaged and I got really excited to begin the planning and prepping for that! We had talks about colors, dates, the wedding party (in which she told me, had she not had a sister, I’d definitely be her maid of honor!) I had something to look forward to aside from just being the mom! Friends really made this time easier.
My husband struggled to find employment during my pregnancy, we struggled to keep a roof over our head, and now had to provide for one more… but ready or not, 40 weeks came and went, it was time to have baby.
My third c-section went smooth sailing. No problems, healthy, happy baby boy. (Yep, three boys) Thank. The. Lord. He was PERFECT. This time around was going to be different. I have already been through it ALL. I wasn’t going to let myself get back into that hole!
I was so proud of this little creation, although I struggled with some guilt about the feelings I had during my pregnancy. How could I not want this baby?! Shame on me. What a bad mom you are. I tried to shrug off the feelings and move on.
Now during this pregnancy, we closely monitored my mental health. I continued to see my therapist and we discussed what the plan was post birth. I felt very strongly about wanting to breastfeed as long as possible and as soon as I started to feel off, I would go back on anti-depressants.
Side note-Yes, I know you can take anti-depressants and breast feed. But in my eyes, I’m still exposing him to an unnecessary chemical, one that effects the brain. Yes, it is “safe” now but 15 years from now, is it safe? Or will it be the next class action lawsuit commercial you see on TV? Exactly my point.
Ok, so. We get home, things are going swimmingly. He is the MOST. PERFECT. BABY! Sleeping through the night almost immediately, happy as a clam all the time. I was feeling pretty good aside from that little whisper of mom guilt from before.
I started to feel some baby blues and my therapist suggested I put myself out there, and get social again! I tried to reach out to friends, plan nights out, see if anyone wanted to come meet my awesome new little man.. but I got crickets. It got to the point, I reached out, even to my best friend and said, “look, I care about our friendship and I’m worried we are drifting apart” and her response I was I need mom friends. Sure, let me go just find some new friends… easy. Why the sudden change from my support group? I was lost and confused.
Weeks past and I’m adjusting to being a mom of three when suddenly a dagger hits the family. My grandpa passes away. My rock. The one who picked up where my dad left off. He next to my own family, was my everything. I was devastated.
I went into my doctors office, in a matter of 10 minutes I was in and out with nothing more than a new prescription and a pat on the back to feel better.
I woke up the next day with tunnel vision. My cloud was back. The dark, awful, bullying cloud in my brain. “Sup loser? Why you have no friends? What did you do? No one cares! No one! You’d be better off dead!” Over, and over, and over. I didn’t know who to reach out to, I was suddenly getting the cold shoulder from all my friends. My cloud reminded me of this. I texted my only friend I could think would still be there for me, although now she lived in New York, and I live in Michigan. She told me she loved me, she made me feel better, and wished she could be there with me, or I could come to New York.
A day passed, and I couldn’t take care of the kids. I had my husband come home from work. I was losing it. I felt it. I was angry. I was stressed, I felt like I was losing control of my body. My brain was screaming at me at this point about what a horrible mother I am! “Can’t take care of your kids… again?! What a piece of shit! No friends, shitty mom…. loser” ENOUGH! I scream. I run downstairs to the dark basement and just sulk down crying by the dryer. I noticed a pair of scissors and grabbed them. I wanted to get rid of my feelings, but at this point.. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted to die and make my brain stop screaming at me. So I began to cut my arm to try and create pain somewhere else. I just wanted my brain to STOP. My husband came down to see what I was doing and found me. We just sat there crying together, unsure of what to do next.
I told him I want to go New York.
I mean… I was NOT going to go back to the emergency room and put myself through that situation again. I was NOT going to kill myself. I was NOT going to do something crazy to risk something happening to my family. I was not going to rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills AGAIN. I needed to do something NOW but I was not going to put myself through that same horror again, so let’s try something different this time.
I packed my bags and the next morning I drove my ass 11 hours across three states to my friend. I spent the weekend talking, relaxing, and just finding myself again. Reminding myself, I am more than just a mom. I felt guilty for leaving my family, but reminded myself of the guilt I would have if I were to leave them forever. I wasn’t doing this just for me. I had to do this for my family. My kids need a happy, healthy mom.
After my trip, my meds started to kick in, I got back into therapy, and I started to feel better. It took time to heal but I am better now. I’m not the perfect mom, but dammit I’m trying, and I’m never going to quit! I’ve had a lot of time to process everything I’ve been through and I’ve come to some realizations.
First off, if you have post-partum, or ANY kind of depression. DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF! The brain is so freaking powerful, and you cannot control it! Like my neurologist told me- just like diabetes, depression is linked to chemicals in your brain. You can’t always keep those in control!
Remind yourself, it is a phase. THIS SHALL PASS! Your life is worth living, don’t take it away because of a moment in time! Seriously. I am SO glad I didn’t take my life. The thought of leaving my kids now, just makes me shudder. I couldn’t imagine leaving them. They are my world, and to think that I was ready to give that all up. Ugh. I still struggle with that.
We need to stop aiming for perfection. Perfection does not exist when it comes to the human species! We need to stop sharing just the good online, and making it out to be perfect. We need to share our stories of triumphs AND struggles.
We need to talk. If you know someone who is struggling or going through some shit… BE THERE FOR THEM! Even if it’s been a while, if you CARE about someone. Reach out, show them that you care. Because if you don’t one day it may be too late. You will care if they were dead right? Well then do something then. Remind people of their worth to you, before you are doing it at their funeral. Yeah, harsh but true.
Lastly, moms just need more freaking support. All the way around. Emotionally, mentally, physically…. All I got when I was diagnosed with PPD was a script and a pat on the back. I had NO idea who to turn to aside from my therapist. What about those who don’t have that though?
So that is why I am doing something. I’m taking action, sharing my story and trying to support the moms of the world. There are too many moms driving their cars into rivers, and abandoning their babies in horrific ways. Mental health is a huge issue right now and we need to bring more awareness to it! Happy moms=happy families. It’s just that simple!
Share your story. Don’t be afraid. Don’t blame yourself. You are loved. I love you. Don’t forget it. xoxo -Sarah
If you ever need a friend or someone to talk to. Reach out! I am always here! firstname.lastname@example.org