Motherhood has personally been a teaching journey, full of discovery, all wrapped in a rollercoaster series of emotions spanning over the last two years. It was December 2013, that we found out that we were expecting our first child. I was over the moon, excited. If there were two things I ever wanted in this life, was the love of my life and my own little family. In my mind, there were sounds of cooing and laughter and a toy-littered home, ever absent were the sleepless nights and the life-altering physiological changes. Changes, that I thought I would never recover or adjust to.
Before you continue to read, please be warned, that this could be a “trigger” post for some of you. Especially those with post-partum depression/depression.
One month before my due date, we moved from a quaint location near downtown Houston to an apartment near work. It was a holding pattern until our house in Humble was being completed. Two weeks before Natalie was born, I suddenly felt sad. I thought it was because I had built an emotional connection to our previous home, it was where we got engaged, and carried our unborn child to full-term. I was having withdrawals and went into a ‘mourning’ phase.
Then I thought well maybe, this isn’t what I wanted: my life had already changed: we had moved from a place I had grown to love: and now I am about to responsible for every aspect of a human life, and I felt immense guilt for feeling regret.
Every expectant mother reads about the preparations, signs and signals of imminent birth, and the good ol’ Braxton hicks, so every twinge and tug caused me to evaluate if it was just ligament pulling or actual contractions. About five days before Natalie’s birth, I started to have painful however very irregular contractions. We timed them each night (around midnight) and thought it would be best to call the nurse’s line and give an update. Both times they recommended we go in and get evaluated, so we did and both times got returned home, with some Tylenol PM to ‘get some rest’. HA, that was the biggest joke ever. I was beyond exhausted and so was Robert after about 72 hours of my irregular contractions.
The third time is always the charm, right. I swore to Robert that I would not go back to the hospital until the baby was already crowning. It took some pretty hard convincing to back the third time.
By this time, my body was already exhausted. Demerol was first, and some morphine, and I could hear the angels sing. I fell asleep finally. Then the epidural was ordered and finally it came time to push. I pushed for three hours, and nothing – only a fever. The attending physician told my hubby that we’ve got to do something. It was as if he was asking Robert on what he wanted to do next! Anyway, we had Natalie 15 minutes after being rolled into the OR. 8 pounds 2 ounces August 10, 2013, 11:19 p.m. She had wonderful round cheeks, something I felt she might have after seeing 3D ultrasounds of her face. She was every bit of perfect.
The days and months that followed were some of the darkest. It took about 3 months to get ‘used’ to Natalie and the fact that she was mine. Crying, her not so much. It was me, I bawled for days and days in the shower, on my morning walks with her. I felt completely different, and not in a good way. I had lost myself. I could not find me, I could not undo the previous nine months.
I lost all my pregnancy weight (about 45 lbs) within 2 weeks, and was 10-15 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight. But the cesarean was traumatic and post-healing was a long journey back, as I was broken in body and spirit. I felt extremely cold, I wore socks, sweaters, pajamas, and a house coat all day in Houston’s hottest month. I would forget to eat breakfast, or I had no appetite.
At this point I had no idea, what it was to experience or recognize post-partum depression or baby blues. At my two week check-up I was asked a series of questions, to all of which I responded honestly. I was then told to wait and moments later a nurse escorted me to the hospital where I gave birth. I was placed on ‘suicide watch’. I was never seen in the eight hours I was in a hospital gown, and I demanded to be released. Ultimately, one the hospital director’s tried to give a peace offering. But I was so done, I just wanted to go home.
I always managed to take care of my baby’s needs. Making sure she was fed, bathed, burped, changed, etc.
I was in a total fog, and that’s when Robert intervened and said I must seek help. With the help of my OB-Gyn, social therapist, and psychiatrist. I was able to hold on one more day, one more weekend, one more month. I got frustrated at the most trivial things that seemed world-ending to me. I battled thoughts and feelings constantly: feeling trapped, running from everything and everyone I loved. These thoughts then became almost physically/mentally painful. It was an internal pain, mixed with guilt. I had everything to be grateful for: a healthy baby girl, a good support system at home and at work. The only way to end this pain mentally was to end my life. I thought of running into traffic to running an idle engine in the garage and came close to executing my plan a few times. I was diagnosed with severe post-partum depression, and although it’s only diagnosed 6 months maximum, I was diagnosed with depression.
Fast forward a few months before Natalie’s first birthday, and I started to dread her grow. I started to ‘mourn’ her growth. I felt like I was losing my baby, everyday that passed was one day further away from when she was a baby. I sometimes dread talking about the future but some days I toy with the idea of having conservations with my grown children, and think yes this could be okay. I discovered what it was to love a child, with a love so deep that it hurts. Hello was great, but I know that ‘goodbye’ one day will hurt. I take comfort that we will always be a part of each other no matter where the journey may lead us. These feelings so vivid and raw can be physically and mentally draining, but with the right medicine and regular therapy sessions the pain and despair eased up a lot.
My therapist shared with me a few things, that help ‘ground’ me when I am having an episode:
1) For every negative thought, counter it with five positive thoughts
2) Mindfulness – It is okay to have an emotion, but step back and detach from the emotion, and remind yourself that the emotion will pass. Don’t try to quash or make the emotion more intense, but be an observer of the emotion. Do not respond by impulse, as we are not that emotion (anxiety, despair, regret, guilt) Practice ‘dealing’ with the emotion.
But in spite of all the work above I sometimes feel like I relapse. I hold on to some of their special garments, I take photos and videos of my now two babies, because it all goes so fast. I love these two with all my being, and would give up my life for them. Yes motherhood, is wonderful but it is also bittersweet, nothing is ever the same. They’re always changing, but happy thoughts, smiles, belly laughter does punctuate the depression here now and again.
I hope Natalie and Andrew always know how much they mean to me.
“I hope they grow in love and faith not doubt, and that they believe in good, In the world. In people. in themselves. And that their eyes can be trained to see that good before they see the rest, because no doubt it’s easier to see the rest. I hope when they are scared they know I believe in them and I’ll be here no matter the outcome, proud of their try, their accomplishments and also their failures that will, most certainly, grab a piece of their heart. I hope when they hear my voice it is comforting but also propelling and directs them to reach for the stars instead of go with the crowd.
I hope they always love each other, lift and listen and cherish each other.
And with my whole heart I hope they always know that God loves them and hears them and will carry them if they let Him. All the way home.” ❤️ – Kelly Jensen
‘The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.’ — Audrey Hepburn