This post has been on my mind for some time. Since October, to be exact. I wasn’t sure where to start or what to say, but recently a few women I admire shared their own experiences, and it opened a discussion between us that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It also made me feel less alone. The more people share the “real” stuff, the more comfortable we get talking about it. Lindsey and I started this blog because we wanted to share the real and hope to provide a safe place for anyone who may be right there with us. I say this to let you know that if you are struggling in any way, I’m here to talk. Lindsey is here to talk. We’ve found that we’ve gotten through the hardest parts of motherhood simply through a text, phone call, or DM to each other or our friends.
With that being said…
I’m 1 in 7. 1 in 7 women that will be diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression. I honestly think that number is way higher, as many women likely don’t recognize the signs or seek help. I didn’t reach out with H. I brushed it off as normal feelings for a mom with a fussy baby with reflux. Only months later, after we emerged from some tough days, did I recognize what I felt likely was postpartum anxiety. Luckily, my hormones adjusted, life leveled out, and I began to feel like me again – on my own. I know that’s not the case for everyone, though.
This time around, I knew the signs, knew what to look for, and wanted to be sure I sought out help if needed because I not only had myself to take care of, but two kids and a husband who need me.
I’ll admit, right after Wy was born, I was riding high. I had the birth experience I wanted and had planned for, he was gaining weight well, H was adjusting to being a big sister with ease. Everything seemed to fall right into place. Until it didn’t.
You know how they say your heart grows and you are capable of loving even more with the addition of each child? Well, I felt the love for both, but I also felt the most immense heart ache of my life. I couldn’t shake the feeling of not having that one on one time with H any more. While I was in the throes of newborn life with a baby who relied 99.9% on me, I couldn’t give my attention to H the way I had in the past. My heart literally ached. I wondered if I had made a huge mistake and ruined her childhood. The feelings of “what did I do?” crept in. I knew they were ridiculous, but at 2 am when you’re rocking a baby who has been awake for hours and won’t go back to sleep, those thoughts can easily creep in. Nighttime was the worst. I don’t do well on little sleep (I mean, really – who does?), but I REALLY don’t do well. Logan jumped in to help where he could, but I was so adamant to nurse Wy that regardless of whether I was nursing or I pumped and he received a bottle, I was still awake. Which brings me to our first struggle — breastfeeding.
Wy was gaining like a champ. He was doing so well the doctors sent us home after the first appointment and said “see you in two weeks”. We were in the office every other day for those first two weeks of weight checks with H, so this was a huge win. Or so I thought. Around a month, I realized that the pain I had been feeling while nursing (not to mention, the gaping hole in my right nipple) wasn’t normal. Everyone had said his latch looked great in the hospital and at later lactation consults. Well, his latch looked fine but something was wrong. Someone finally pointed out that he may have a tiny tongue tie, and sure enough, he did. Luckily, somewhere around 4 weeks I took him in for a revision. However, it wasn’t an immediate fix. Two rounds of mastitis, around the clock nursing/pumping, and multiple home remedies later… we were still working on it. It wasn’t until around 10/11 weeks that I could feed him exclusively from both breasts without pain. Chalk it up to my stubbornness, or my desire to breastfeed him for a year the same as H, but I would not give up. It took a lot out of me, though. I spent the better part of my maternity leave between lactation appointments, doctor’s visits, and breastfeeding support groups. Looking back, I should’ve given myself a bit more grace – and a break. Thankfully, we are still (7+ months in) exclusively breastfeeding (except when I pump at work), and it’s the mutually beneficial relationship I had hoped for. If he had been my first child I’m not sure I would’ve lasted past those first 4 weeks, though.
During the time when I felt torn emotionally and was dealing with actual physical pain from breastfeeding, H was diagnosed with hand foot and mouth. And then Logan caught it. I can barely write about it… those 2 weeks from the time Wy was about 8-10 weeks old were the worst of my life. I wish I could say I was being dramatic. Anyone who has seen their child suffering gets it. But HFM is even worse for adults. We’re also pretty sure Logan had one of the worst cases of anyone we’ve ever talked to. His fever was 104 at one point. He didn’t come near me or Wy for about 2 weeks. He slept on the couch and couldn’t eat for 11 days. I basically single-parented a newborn while he and H tried to avoid us. Also, try telling a 3 year-old she can’t go near her brother or his things. Or touch her mom. Honestly, it was soul crushing.
It was right around this time that I had my 6-week postpartum appointment. A few weeks late, honestly. I already knew I was experiencing signs of PPA/PPD. It was a lot to deal with – and hormones are insane. I’m pretty sure I would’ve experienced with or without all that happened in our lives during those early days, but everything piled on at once.
So I filled out the questionnaire and my doctor walked into the room… “you scored a little high…”. I looked right at her and said “yea, I already know.” We talked about options, but agreed a low dose of anti-anxiety meds would be the best course of action for the time being. I could still breastfeed with no implications and would hopefully feel a bit more like myself without the constant worry/guilt/extreme emotions.
At first, I didn’t want to take the prescription, but after talking with a few friends who had experience with PPA/PPD, they convinced me to give it a shot. I remember one friend telling me she felt like she actually slept when she took it. At that time I wasn’t sleeping more than 3-4 hour stretches at a time, but remember having constant dreams and would wake with my head and chest pounding. I was exhausted and couldn’t sleep when Wy slept. After a few nights on the prescription, I realized I was sleeping again. Like really sleeping during those stretches. Sleep changes everything. It’s really unfair that as mothers we go through pregnancy, childbirth, hormone shifts, all the while not sleeping. It can wreak havoc. So, here I am – to say that I’m beyond grateful for modern medicine. And sleep. (**Update: Thankfully these days we are sleeping “mostly” through the night. Wy has early morning wakeups sometimes, but he usually sleeps a solid 10-11 hour stretch, so we are lightyears away from those early sleepless days, thank goodness.**)
I actually looked at Logan a few months ago and said “my heart doesn’t hurt anymore. I can do both.” I was sitting on the floor with both kids – Wy rolling on his blanket while I helped H put together a puzzle. It’s become second nature to focus on both of them, and now watching the two of them interact is the sweetest thing. I honestly feel like my heart may burst – in a good way now. It was hard to see it in those early days, but over time it’s all evolved, and only gotten better – just like people say it will. Because it does.
We also just took our first trip as a family of 4. To a family wedding in Florida, then on to Disney for a day. Talk about a whirlwind trip. Each of the 5 days were something different – wedding events, 2 different hotels, and a day in Disney. And you know what? It was actually one of the best trips we’ve ever had. The kids did great. We hit a few bumps along the way, but honestly it went better than expected (I had so much anxiety anticipating everything that could go wrong). I’ll recap the trip later, but I think it’s during this trip that Logan and I really hit our stride as parents of two – and I felt like maybe we can do this whole 2 kids thing after all. Remind me I said this during the next toddler meltdown, though 😉
I now know my heart can handle the love for both kids, and understand what people mean when they say your heart grows. It just took a little time. I still don’t have it all together – nor will I ever, but that’s okay. Who really does, after all? My kids are happy and healthy and more importantly – they have a happy mom. Right now, that’s all that matters. I’ve started weaning off the medicine (I actually forgot to take it on vacation and felt great! But then I started having what I think are side effects of stopping abruptly and am now in the process of weaning off. In hindsight, I should’ve had a convo with my doctor before stopping so quickly. But you know… I like to think I can do things by myself *eyeroll*)
So, if you wonder why I didn’t share much those early days…or even the past 6/7 months – it’s because it was really hard. There’ve been a lot of emotions to process and finding our groove as a family of four. I went back to work at 12 weeks, changed jobs just shy of Wy turning 5 months, and have dealt with random life stuff along the way. However, I truly think we’ve started to emerge from the “fog” and hit our stride again. It took a good 6 months or so. I don’ think I was ready to share any of this while in the thick of it (though, looking back, I probably should have). I’ve been quieter on social media because it was really hard to look around and see all the happy families with multiple kids, moms who seem to have it all together, and talk about the love in their hearts growing. It was hard to admit that it wasn’t the case for me at the time. I’m there now, but when I was IN IT, I couldn’t see that it was all happening. BTW, that’s probably my biggest flaw – I get so wrapped up in the NOW that I have a hard time looking forward and imagining what is to come. Thankfully, my hubs is better at that and forcing me to “remember when..”. Like “remember when Wy would wake every 2-3 hours? Remember when you didn’t think you could ever get 2 kids to/from daycare every day?”. So thankful for him and his unwavering support – not to mention, his always calm, collected demeanor. So opposite of me!
This season of life we’re in is a hard one. It’s also so so beautiful. And like all seasons, it will come and go. I’m sure I’ll look back on these days and realize while they were some of the hardest, they were also some of the best. For now I’m trying to soak in every moment and focus on this precious time with my family – and make sure I make a little time for myself, as well. Self care is something I’ve tried prioritizing more recently.
So, if you’ve made it all the way through this long post – thank you. And if you’re reading this and wondering why I didn’t say anything… please don’t take it personally. I can count on one hand all the people in my life who know about my diagnosis – my doctor and hubs being two of those people. It just wasn’t something I wanted to or was ready to share. I also wanted to get a handle on it, deal with it, and move on without it being a “thing”. Right or wrong, that’s been what’s worked best for me. I’ve had a few people I can talk to about it, and that’s been really helpful. So, I encourage anyone struggling to reach out – to anyone – as hard as it may be. Motherhood and postpartum can be lonely enough. No one should have to struggle alone. And to those who have checked in on us, brought my family a meal, sent a text message/DM/email/etc at some point in the last 7 months – THANK YOU. I truly have the best support system, and whether you know it or not, you’ve all helped our little family immensely.