Posted in All, Musings, My Story

Postpartum Precipice

One of the reasons I started doing this blog is to work past my postpartum issues. I got hit HARD with that shit. And I mean shit, in every sense of the word. I spent a long time working on my mental health issues before I got pregnant, too. I felt immune to Postpartum, which was probably one of the reasons it caught me so off guard.

After writing like a thousand words on my mental health journey I decided to keep it separate and just talk about postpartum. Stay in one lane, you know? But if you do want to know about all that, it’s in another post I’ll put in a newly created My Story section. Fill ya boots!

Pre- and Post-Pregnancy

I did NOT enjoy pregnancy. I didn’t really get depressed or anything but I was sore, barely slept through the night but was always incredibly tired… Plus I cried at EVERYTHING. I hate crying, but I couldn’t control it. It was so frustrating. I wouldn’t even be sad or overly emotional. Just.. Crying.

People warned me about Postpartum Depression. My doctor especially, because he knew my history and wanted me to be prepared. I was pretty cocky about it. “I’ve already dealt with all of my mental health issues.” “I’ve been through so many groups and therapy sessions, I’ll be fine.” It didn’t even enter in my mind that it would be a problem. And at first, it wasn’t.

The kids were in the NICU for six weeks, and I’m not sure when all the mood shit started. It was definitely more anxiety at first; in my head I’d see them choking on their food or spit up, their IV’s popping out and them losing a lot of blood… If someone was holding them, including my mother who raised four kids, I’d be picturing her dropping them.. Even when I was holding them I’d be abnormally concerned about hurting them, or holding them too tight and suffocating them. It was really insane shit, even as I was worrying about it I knew it was absurd but that just made me even more anxious because I knew I was going crazy. The depression started around three or four weeks in, but I figured it was just the stress of having the twins in the NICU. And fair cuz it was super stressful. They used to pull their feeding tubes out, and I couldn’t handle when the nurses put them back in. It was a pretty simple process and the kids didn’t fuss that long once it was done, but I’d cry like a child. I watched maybe twice and then I’d start leaving the room until they were done. Birdy was the first one to have to go under the bili-light for jaundice. They put this blindfold on her, and I just couldn’t fucking handle it. I really don’t like not being able to see (who does) and it bothered me so much that her eyes had to be covered and we couldn’t explain to her what was going on. She hated it too, poor thing. It was when they were like four days old, and it was only for like a day. When they’re so young, a day feels like an eternity. It broke me. Anyways.. Everything really wore on me. Dave and I both had PTSD from the beeps on the monitors. They were always fine, but it was just a lot to deal with.

I started taking Citalopram about four days before we were let out of the hospital. I waited so long because I really didn’t want to be on meds and I wasn’t sure if I was experiencing postpartum anxiety/depression or if I was just really burnt out from being at the hospital for at least 8 hours a day every single day for the past six weeks. I decided it wasn’t worth waiting to find out, so I started the drugs. They were going to take a couple weeks to really kick in anyways, so I might as well prepare for the worst.

Anyone who’s had kids knows that first few months with a newborn is fucking excruciating. Especially those first few weeks. We had NO idea what we were doing, and we had two of the little demons. And we’d just spent the last six weeks part-time parenting so you’d think we’d have had an idea of what we were in for. Nope! My friends – there were tears. So many tears. I’d have panic attacks just about every time they’d start crying… I think for he first two weeks I’d cry every time they cried. I had Dave home for a whole month and it was still so much to deal with. And the breakdowns… Oh man.. Every night I’d be bawling to Dave about feeling inadaquate, not knowing what I was doing, feeling super overwhelmed. God bless that man, because I know he was feeling a lot of that too but he was holding it together for me and the kids. He’d hold me as I was sobbing about the kids, and then sobbing even more about the fact that I was sobbing about what felt like nothing. I hate crying.

The day Dave went back to work was one of the worst of my entire life. My wonderful mother-in-law took two weeks off so she could come and help me. Then she got sick. And this was when all of the COVID social distancing and isolation started. She didn’t have COVID, thank god. But still. I think Dave went back for two or three days before we decided I wasn’t ready for him to be back at work. Every day he’d come home to three crying babies, one of them fully grown and looking like someone died. So he took another week off, maybe two. Its kind of a blur. After that I knew we couldn’t afford for him to be off work any longer and I had to deal with it. The meds were starting to really kick in, and I’d upped my dosage so I felt like I at least had feet to stand on. But still.. The first month or so of him being back at work was so intense. Most nights I’d have to go for a drive and just decompress for a half hour or so. Cry it out, maybe smoke a little bit of pot to take down the panic attack. Or take an ativan.. Either way. I couldn’t handle it.

I didn’t see the end. I felt like I was drowning in sludge, and none of the therapy or tools I’d learned over the years were working. Dave was doing his part and then some; he works full time, he kept up on dishes and made dinner most nights PLUS helped me feed and take care of the kids when he wasn’t sleeping. (I seriously lucked out, he is the most amazing man in the world.) Him being a superhero made me feel even worse about how little I could handle being a mom. There were more panic attacks and breakdowns.

Eventually my mother in law was able to work from home, or maybe she took a bit more time off. I can’t remember. But she started to come by for a few hours a day so I could get some sleep. I was getting like four or five hours a night between pumping and feeding, so an extra few hours a day made a world of difference. One weekend she invited us to her house for a night. She offered to watch the kids while we slept, and then during the day the next day while we went and had a date. Since then, it’s become the norm on weekends. We pack up half the house, roll down island to ma’s place, have a nice dinner and a few drinks and then a wicked sleep. Then Dave and I will usually go for a nice long country drive the next day and just spend some time together. We’re best friends and we’re always together, but we’re also always either working or taking care of babies. We miss each other even when we’re in the same bed because we never get to hang out.

Lately things have been pretty good, but I still have rough days. I am raising newborn twins in a pandemic, shit is really hard! I had so many offers for help that I can’t accept because we’re not allowed to be around anyone. MIL and her husband are being pretty good about isolating as much as possible so we aren’t upping the risk for anyone, I mean if anything Dave is the problem because he works with the public. We’re not trying to spread the virus, we just really need some help. Without my MIL and her husband, I think I’d (or we’d) still be in the depths of misery. Between their amazing help, the medication leveling out, and just the passage of time I’ve found my way out of the mire. Things are still hard – as I always say, two babies is a lot of babies! Usually on Sunday when we’re heading back home from the in-laws’ place I have a serious pout as I ride in the back seat of the truck with the babies. Sometimes I even still have minor panic attacks about the week ahead. Actually, quite often. But I’m finally at a point where I think I can do it, and I can recognize that it gets easier every day.

I never thought I’d understand those moms that up and bail on their families. I’d be lying if the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Sometimes I was even so miserable that I could relate to those moms that drown their kids in the bathtub. I never EVER had any inclination to do that myself, but I understood how it was possible for things to get that far. The misery is so intense. SO intense. I’d hit some pretty intense lows in the depression of my 20’s but that was just a rainy day compared to the hormonal typhoon that was Postpartum Depression. There was no control. Nothing I could do to abate the instant mood swing that had me from OK and stable to a tense and sobbing mess in less than two minutes. And it was that fast. I really understood the whole ‘triggered’ thing, because it would be all of a sudden and seemingly for no reason. We’d watch a movie and some sad music would start, bam. Dave would make a lame but obvious joke, bam. I’d miss a spot on one of the dishes I’d washed, bam. Pumping also set me off, I got (and sometimes still get) really claustrophobic when I pump. Getting a pumping bra was a total game-changer for me – I could read or screw with my phone while I double pumped. Anyways… Postpartum was really different than anything I’d ever dealt with. It was very much a hormonal issue, and there wasn’t really anything I could do about it. It scared me. I still don’t feel super in control of myself and my life, but again. At least now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and broken like I was, please know the storm will subside. I know damn well how it feels when every day takes a year, like there’s no end to the misery or the insanely hard work you’re doing. There is an end. If you care enough about your baby/babies to be this concerned and upset about it, you’re a much better parent than you think. You’re probably crushing it. There’s a reason people call the first few months a survival phase – this shit is INTENSE! You’re trying to keep a tiny, fragile little creature alive that can’t express to you what it needs other than crying and shrieking at you. You don’t know any of the queues, there’s no hope of establishing a routine… It’s like running through a maze in the dark at full speed. You just keep hitting walls. No one has it figured out right away, even if it’s their second child. Every baby is different. Every situation is different. And even if people knew what was going on and how to do this right off the bat, it’s still incredibly overwhelming.

As hard as it is, try to give yourself some credit. Just a little bit at a time. Feed a kid? Give yourself some credit. Change a diaper? Give yourself some credit. Do the dishes? Holy shit, you need some credit. Do literally anything other than those three things (or really the first two) you’re a fucking superhero. Give yourself some credit. Mom is the absolute hardest job in the world especially when the kids are babies. Please don’t hate yourself and make it any harder.

I was really, really not into taking antidepressants. I had bad experiences on them in the early/mid-twenties. Plus I did all that work on my mental health, it made me feel like a total failure. Now that it’s working and keeping me afloat, I honestly don’t know how I would be getting through this insane time without it. If you’re being obstinate about it – take the pills. If not for you, for your babies. Like I said, being a new mom is hard enough without adding extra pressure on yourself.

Last thing I want to say, is that if it gets really bad – PLEASE seek out emergency help. Call your doctor. Call your midwife. Call the crisis line. Go to the emergency department at your local hospital. My city has a Community Outreach Response team that will come to your house and assess your state and give you some options, maybe there’s something like that where you are. It’s way to easy to think there’s no end to the misery when you feel like this, and when you feel that helpless you’re not likely to make good decisions. It’s a good idea to have some contingency plans in place. Seek help. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you responsible.

You are a super mom. You are doing amazing. This too shall pass.

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