Thursday, June 30, 2005

postpartum depression: realizing something wasn’t right

A year ago today, the boys and I were driving to Texas for my brother’s wedding. I had been feeling rather low ever since Rowan was born, but I attributed it to hormones and typical new-mommy uncertainty. There was no reason I should have been suffering from postpartum depression, I thought. After all I had a healthy baby, supportive husband, helpful relatives, and encouraging friends. But in March 2004, I had quit a job I loved, we bought our first home, moved into that home, and I broke out in a pregnancy-induced rash that itched like mad. Then I birthed Rowan. Fortunately the rash disappeared, but I missed my friends at work who made me laugh every day; our house was a shambles, and being a lover of order, it drove me nuts; and my baby nursed around the clock. To top it off, my only sibling was planning his wedding, and being geographically faraway as well as consumed with parenthood, we couldn’t attend the showers and engagement parties. So, actually, with all that was going on in our life, I had plenty of reason to be depressed. Looking back now, I think I was in a bit of denial.

Then we were off for Texas. I was anxious about the trip. It’s a good 12-hour trek from here to there, and that with pleasant weather and no road construction. But this time we had a baby along for the ride, and the baby wouldn’t take a bottle. That meant pulling over to nurse every few hours in the suffocatingly sticky heat of a southern summer. We drove to Little Rock and stayed with friends overnight on Thursday. After a restless night, we left for our destination early the next morning. We wanted to get to town in time for the attendants’ luncheons but arrived late afternoon, missing the events. We had been told that the rehearsal and dinner would be a casual affair so I wore a t-shirt and capris only to find the other bridesmaids dressed up in pretty frocks and heels. As if I didn’t already feel schlumpy enough sporting my drastically changed, wrinkly, stretchmarked postpartum body! I tried to choke back my frustration. It didn’t help that I was feeling invisible either. It’s not that we expected everyone to get up and dance on the tables when we arrived, but we had just driven all the way from Tennessee with a newborn.

As I stood in my spot at the front of the church during rehearsal and realized I would be staring at the rear end of one of the groomsmen during the ceremony, my blood boiled. The wedding coordinator looking directly at me and made some sarcastic comment about how we all needed to smile and "look happy". It was all I could do not to blow my top.

As Brandon drove us to dinner, I cried in the car. My mom sat behind me with her hand on my arm all the way there, none of us speaking. At dinner I sat with another new mom on the porch while we nursed our babies. I enjoyed talking to her but felt like I was missing out on this hugely significant moment in my brother’s life. I had wanted to put together a one-of-a-kind gift for my brother and new sis-in-law, a cool video or something, to honor them, but there was no way on God’s green earth that I had had any kind of time to put something together. So I just sat there in my frazzled, frizzy state, trying to keep Rowan from fussing, on the verge of tears, feeling very much like an outsider.

I slept only three hours that night. Felt like crap on Saturday morning. The bridesmaids went to the spa that morning, but since Rowan was so anti-bottle, I couldn’t leave his side thus making my participation physically impossible. I was starting to feel resentful towards, well, pretty much everyone. Both physically and emotionally weary, I asked my brother if I could sit during the ceremony; I felt so horrible that I didn’t think I could stand up for an hour.

I survived though. The ceremony was beautiful. This being the first time our extended families had met Rowan, we were swamped with people fawning over him, wanting to hold him. The little guy was such a trooper. His mom…not so much. I was in the restroom nursing again when the best man gave his toast at the reception. My brother and sis-in-law left for their honeymoon amidst a spray of sparklers, and I felt a pang of jealousy, wishing for the day six-and-a-half years earlier when Brandon and I left for our own honeymoon. Things were so much simpler then.

Sunday was Independence Day. We attended my parents’ church, had a family lunch at my relatives’ house, and caught a few fireworks downtown that evening. On Monday my parents graciously opened their home to host a party for Rowan. We felt honored to have our friends drive in from all over Texas to meet our three-month-old. There wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up with everyone.

On Tuesday I crashed and burned. Hard. I was nearly immobile with nausea and exhausted beyond belief. Wednesday morning the dam burst and I wept as we traveled to visit Brandon's family. I was so, so tired. The fatigue was something like I’ve never felt before. I didn’t have the energy to smile, laugh, or even converse. On Sunday we drove back to Tennessee. The trip to Texas had been painfully emotional; it just reminded me how far away from our loved ones we actually were. Suffice it to say, the trip pushed me over the edge and into the valley of depression.

I thought for sure coming back to our home, our familiar surroundings, our routine, I would feel better. But only a few days later, anxiety washed over me, drowning me in panic. Two friends and my mom suggested I talk to my doctor, so I made an appointment for Thursday. My doc said she thought I might be suffering from postpartum depression (maybe when I told her I had imagined digging my fingernails into and dragging them through the skin on my legs?). She prescribed an antidepressant and suggested counseling. I wasn’t excited about either, especially taking medication. Wasn’t improving my mood something I should be able to do myself? On Saturday morning Brandon mentioned buying a garden hose and I lost it. In my mind, buying a garden hose just signified one more thing for me to do; I had neither the time nor the desire to water the plants outside our residence. So I sat on the patio, staring into space, tears streaming down my face. I cried for an hour. That morning I decided to take the antidepressant. I set up an appointment with a therapist. And I cleared my calendar for the rest of the year.

An excerpt from my journal, July 2004: “I’ve been feeling more and more hopeless and overwhelmed. I’ve been feeling less joy towards Rowan. I want to enjoy his coos, smiles and laughs…and it seems like I’ve been enjoying them less over the past few weeks. Lord, PLEASE HELP ME. This is horrible, how I’m feeling. I wish Brandon could be home all the time. This morning I even thought about asking him to take me to the hospital so the nurses could take care of me. I was trying to think of people who could come stay with me this week. I don’t have an appetite. I’m exhausted. I want to feel the way I did before Rowan was born. I want to feel joy, laugh, have peace.”

16 Comments:

Blogger kenny said...

Wow Jana - thank you so much for sharing your powerful story. Remind us again why you don't want to see War of the Worlds? :)

8:29 AM  
Blogger Malia said...

I just said this same thing on Tony's blog...what a difference a year makes! God is good, God is faithful! Praise the Lord!

8:45 AM  
Blogger Tony Arnold said...

I am touched by your recounting. Thanks for sharing your inner emotions. You will be amazed at how it will help others. They won't feel so alone knowing that others suffer too.

And as Malia says, oh what a difference a year makes.

Tony

10:15 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

*crying*

I'm so glad that things are better for you now.

Thanks for sharing that with us.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Bar Bar A said...

I agree with all your readers, sharing this is going to help others have hope and know they are not alone.

Thanks for your story. I'm glad I found your blog, I'll be back.

Bless you!

11:30 AM  
Blogger DigiGirl said...

I can totally relate. My senior year in college, I went on a progesterone-based birth control that made me go CRAZY! I know what it's like to slowly loose yourself and not know what's happening until you're on the edge and ready to crack.

Luckily someone made the connection and I began to see light at the end of my long, dark, lonely tunnel. But I still had to wait 6-9 months for the hormones to wear off and my balance to return.

I'll share my story sometime. Thank you for sharing yours.

12:23 PM  
Blogger jettybetty said...

**in tears**
I am so glad you are better now, too.

There's so much misunderstanding about depression. The biggest may be what you said here:
" Wasn’t improving my mood something I should be able to do myself?"

I wonder how you would answer that question now?

Blessings!
JB

2:30 PM  
Blogger kenny said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks, Jana...very moving to hear your story.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Chel said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm glad you're feeling better now and more able to enjoy Rowan. I think if we all keep sharing openly with one another, we'll be able to reach more common ground more quickly. And we get this wonderful support and encouragement when we share!
Michele

2:48 PM  
Blogger Clarissa said...

Thanks for opening yourself, Jana. You describe much of my life, beginning in my teenage years (the depression part, not the postpartum part, though that does encompass a good bit!) Thank God for his faithfulness, and for allowing me (and YOU) to live in a time when and where modern-day medicine can help life be so much more livable. Blessings on you this week.

5:51 AM  
Blogger jake said...

Wow. It is one thing to hear from others close to you about some of these struggles you were confronted with, but it is so much more powerful to hear the details, emotions that you went through from you personally. It seems difficult to ask someone about their struggles when I know they are dealing with them. Your openness and honesty is powerful - even emotional. You are amazingly strong - though you may not have felt that a year ago - you truly are. You 3 all actually being at that wedding through that difficulty makes it that much more a gift - for all who were there.

By the way...I should have told the best man to wait for you - his speech would have definitely put Rowan to sleep.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Little Light said...

Jana - Thanks for sharing your story. The more people know, the less stigma there will be.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

THANK YOU. I'm in the middle of the exact same thing, only it's my maid of honor getting married tomorrow. I have been there for none of it and have actually not been asked to be a part of any of it which makes the pain all the more. My beautiful daughter turned 6 months on Monday and I love being her mom but I'm struggling lately. I keep thinking it's just all that's going on, but either way, you're post made me feel less crazy, more sane and less alone. THANK YOU for your honesty. Does it get better (emotionally/hormonally)?

12:01 PM  
Blogger Jana said...

Laura - Yes. A resounding YES. It gets better. With counseling and medication and lots of prayer, things have improved for me. Please keep reading my posts about my journey; I pray it will continue to give you hope.

12:13 PM  
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12:54 PM  

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