This being my first child, I really didn’t know what to expect when she was born. Sure, we had taken the classes. Read the books. Talked with other parents. Everything one is supposed to do as a new parent. But what happened during the first two months, nobody could have prepared us for, although I wish they at least talked about it. Let me say now that this story ends on a happy note. Mom, Dad and daughter are all doing extremely well, are happy, and have an amazingly close relationship.
While parts of this story may be quite scary at times, I think it’s important to share what happened to us, for it may help you be more prepared. And, know this, you and your family can and will get through whatever happens. Just don’t ignore it. And believe it will get better, for you have to BELIEVE; it’s the most important part!!!
When our beautiful girl was born, it was the most amazing experience of my life. Bringing a real, fully alive, human being into the world is an amazing experience. The intense rush of emotions, the depth of our love, and the stress of it all just took us over. And so it was that the first couple of days and weeks were pretty much all about being amazed, adrenaline, and coping. There are no classes that can really teach you how to be a parent. So, you trust your instincts and what comes naturally. And it seemed to be working, or so we thought.
After being home for a couple of weeks, I began to notice that Mom was not quite herself. She just seemed very emotional about everything. She monitored and tracked everything about our little baby girl; her schedule, her sleeping, her playing, her eating habits, her diapers, her lack of diapers, etc. Mom seemed to cry constantly, was very anxious and, although one hears all the stories about no sleep, seemed to have major insomnia. Every decision was tough. What brand of diapers? When should she sleep? Was she hungry? What should we do about her diapers not being wet enough? It was at this time we realized that maybe it was a little tougher than we expected and that Mom might need some help. So we talked and decided that we would look for help. Initially, it was post partum books, which were helpful in explaining that feeling this way is very common. When a mother (or father) doesn’t feel the love that society says she should, it can be a major blow to the inner core of the person. Learning how common these feelings are, can be very enlightening and freeing. Knowing you are not the only one suffering. After the books, it was non-medical doctors, including our chiropractor offering herbal treatments and a counselor specializing in Post Partum. More on her later, for she was an amazing influence in us having our family today. And then, finally at about five weeks, we sought help from Mom’s general physician.
When you have a baby, there is so much sleep deprivation; we just thought what we were going through was normal. It wasn’t. Mom had a disease and we didn’t know. I wish I had known, for if we could have gotten help earlier, the next couple of months might have been completely different.
Since Mom was breast-feeding, she was prescribed a medication that we hoped would make things better. It didn’t and this is where the story really starts. For the next 8-12 weeks, we suffered, we struggled and we looked for help to get beyond this disease that just three months earlier, we didn’t even know existed.
I remember when it took a turn for the worse. I still, to this day, have a hard time believing it happened to me. It started on a Friday morning when at the last minute Mom decided not to go on a business trip with me. And so, I left on the plane and Mom went to Grandpa’s house for the weekend. As we talked that weekend, Mom just kept talking about how tired she was and that she was trying to sleep but wasn’t able to. Each night grew worse, but I just thought she needed more sleep and all would be okay. The night before I came home from my trip, she finally got prescribed medication, but given her state, it did not help. In fact, at this point, it made things worse. On Sunday, when Mom picked me up at the Airport, crying, I knew something was not right. She was upset because the doctor had not called her back, but it was much deeper than that. I was just so happy to see my little girl, in the back seat, six weeks old, beaming, that I didn’t notice how bad it was. On the way home from the airport we stopped for a sandwich and I hoped that would make Mom feel better. After about 15 more minutes in the car, it all turned weird, scary and very out of control. Mom started talking funny, saying she could not handle this anymore and just wanted to die. She wanted out, wanted it to end. She began to roll the window down and threatened to jump out of the window while we were driving 65 miles per hour. Then she stared talking in strange voices and I didn’t know what to do.
Mom had a severe case of Postpartum Depression that affects about 1 in 1,000 new moms, complete break with reality, post-partum psychosis.
So, I called Mom’s sister (she’s a twin) and asked her to talk on the cell phone. Mom started talking into the cell phone telling her sister that she loved her and to take care of her daughter once she was gone. It was so scary for me, and I just went into auto-pilot. I raced us home, put my little girl at the neighbor’s house, and took Mom home. She was hallucinating and out of control. Fortunately for me, Mom had reached out two weeks before to a Post-Partum specialist. This was a life-saver for me. I called her and she explained to me what was happening, how these kinds of things can happen. She talked me through what I needed to do, offered her complete support for me, and was able to calm me down so that I could do handle the situation. After a couple of hours, I realized I could not calm Mom down, and so I called 911. The police, the fire trucks, the EMC, the neighbors, all showed up. It was decided that Mom just needed rest and since there was a prescription at the pharmacy, we decided to use that to help her get some sleep. o we tried that, but at 2am, Mom woke up and was still in the same situation. Sleep had not helped. We gave her some more of the medication, and hoped that in the morning all would be okay. But it wasn’t.
The next morning we decided that she would have to go to the hospital. This was a very difficult experience. Emergency rooms at Hospitals are not the greatest place for this type of situation. They do not work with a lot of post-partum mothers that need special help. It was at this point that I realized Mom was hanging on for her life. And it’s at this point that as Fathers and Husbands we need to be strong, make sure we have our support network in place, and get as much help as we can.
As Mom’s family members starting showing up, things got even more difficult. This can be a very trying time for family members, and I found that all the pressure was getting pretty tough to handle. They were going to admit her to the psychiatric ward that afternoon, but fortunately she responded to some medication and we were told we could go home. We were recommended to a psychiatrist that had a lot of experience with Postpartum Depression. This I suggest from the beginning onset of Post-Partum. Begin asking around for a psychiatrist to work with in advance, so that you are not caught completely off guard and helpless. In our case, our psychiatrist was a major, major factor in Mom being okay.
After leaving the hospital that day, we decided, for the safety of our daughter, to have her stay with the grandparents for a week. Those were very tough days. I would visit my little girl everyday, but Mom was not well. She was medicated, listless, emotionless, and I would say pretty much gone. Not there. It was so tough to see Mom hold her daughter and there be nothing. No love, no affection, no caring. It was so tough.
After about a week, we thought we were making some progress, for our daughter was now home, but Mom was still sick and very sad. She talked often about not living, the songs she would like at her funeral and other suicidal signs. I looked around furiously for a program that would work for her, but I could not find any. We spent time with the post-partum counselor and pretty much waited for the medications to start working. One thing about medication is that it takes weeks to kick in and sometimes Mom didn’t respond to them too well. This was tough, but eventually the right medications were found and she did get better.
Before that time, we found an outpatient depression program, but they wouldn’t admit her for she was still too suicidal. They suggested she spend time in the hospital psychiatric ward and this was truly the bottom for me, and for Mom too. It was at this point that I really couldn’t handle it alone anymore. I was happy to have at least one-night away from Mom, but felt very guilty that I could not take care of her. And what made it even tougher was to see someone I loved going through such a hard time. Unemotional towards her own daughter, unable to care for her, and all the while wanting to leave this world because she felt so bad, so guilty for feeling the way she felt. I now knew deeply that Post-Partum is a vicious disease.
But we survived. Mom only spent one night in the hospital, for it was not a good place for her. The psychiatric ward of a Hospital is more of a prison for people with mental problems, not a place for help and support. The next week, we were able to get Mom into an outpatient depression program. This was critical. Here she was able to get help and support everyday. Professionals worked with her, medications were reviewed, and this allowed Mom a place to begin to heal. It also helped me, for I was able to get professional support. I took a leave of absence from work and stayed home to watch our little girl. And without the stress of Mom there all day, it was good.
Meanwhile, Mom things started to get better. I remember going with her to the psychiatrist and it was the first time I really felt like there was hope for us. He was very smart and I was so happy he was helping us. And every week things seemed to get better and better. Slowly, Mom was becoming her old self once again. After six weeks, she completed her stay at the outpatient program and things got better. The medication was really working. Mom started feeling good about being with our daughter and things were looking up. I decided to go back to work, Mom found other post-partum mothers to talk and meet with, and the whole experience began to fade like a dream.
As I look back, one major challenge was building trust up again. It can be hard to be afraid of leaving your child with her Mom, but over time the trust can be built. For us, we attended meetings together at the outpatient program, we reached out for help from other families, and we took baby steps. We talked a lot and began to feel our love for each other and our family grown stronger. We got tremendous support from our families and our friends, and asked for lots of support. They watched our daughter so we could get out and enjoy time together. We found other families to spend time with, and started to develop a deep knowing that we were going to make it.
It was important for us that we communicated our true feelings, how scared we both were, and our commitment to living a good life. Having a reason to live can often times be so tough. When you have a baby, the social pressure, the way you are supposed to feel, etc. can be the most difficult part. But get support, find people who understand, know that you are not alone, and you will make it. Post Partum depression is so common, but people are afraid to discuss it or let it be know. Search for those people who are real, authentic and true. They will be your best source for support.
And we got it. Today, we have found our peace, and are working on being the parents we always knew we would be. Mom and daughter have an amazing relationship, a closeness and love that is so deep. And we live our lives, one day at a time.