I have contemplated whether or not to write this post for a month now. In true "Taylor fashion", I have decided and learned that sharing my experiences and not keeping them to myself have helped so many people. I know this because I get random messages from people saying that. To those that have messaged me, thank you. I am so glad that anything that I have written has helped you put obstacles in your own lives into perspective. As mothers, it's important to support one another instead of judge. It is important to realize that none of us truly know what we are doing and are all just trying to do our best and make the most effective decisions in raising our beautiful babies.
As I sit here, I am watching my daughter play with a cardboard box with The Backyardigans on in the background. This post may take me a while to write. She is now VERY interested in outlets, cords, the scarves that sit in my bottom drawer and any piece of furniture that allows her to pull herself up on her feet. So, up and down, up and down for mama. :)
Most of you that have followed my blog for a while now know about Millie's birth story and my experience the morning of her birth. After she was born, I was on this extreme high that I had never experienced before. It masked the pain from the c-section, it made me feel like I wanted to have 10 babies, it made me feel invincible. I guess they call that "falling in love." I had truly fallen in love and felt this love come over me that I had never felt before…a deep love for my sweet Millie. That's why when people asked me if my c-section hurt, I told them it really wasn't that bad. The adrenaline masked the pain to the point where I was refusing pain medication.
Millie spent her 7 weeks in the hospital and there wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't there for at least 7-8 hours a day. Sometimes I was there from 9am until 10:30 that night. I just wanted her to know me. It wasn't an ideal situation. Most babies know their mamas right away. They are put on their mama's chest directly after delivery, they begin breastfeeding and then are never separated. Millie was being fed through an NG tube and I didn't even get to hold her for the first time until she was 2 days old. So, after that 7 weeks spent in the NICU, Tyler and I brought her home, put her in her crib and when we stopped filming her "going home video", we looked at each other and both said, "Okay, now what?!?"
That's when reality set in for us and that "dream period" was over. There was no nurse to step in if we were doing something wrong. There was no one there to remind us of diaper change time, feeding time or vitamin time. We were completely on our own with a 5 pound baby that felt breakable to us.
As the days and weeks went by, I began to notice I was different. I just attributed it to the little sleep I was getting, the fact that I could never really shower and I knew my hormones were completely thrown off from just having a baby and the breast feeding. I noticed I cried every day. Sometimes for no reason. I think I even mentioned in one of my posts that my favorite time to cry was when I was in the shower and no one could hear or see me. I just kept telling myself, this is the new norm. You are just adjusting and it WILL get better.
All of my motherhood posts for the most part were completely positive, hopeful and faithful. However, I was always completely real and honest when it came to adjusting to life with a new baby and all the trials that come with it. That's just who I am. I am not the type of person that only shares the good things. I share things that are true and that really put things into perspective. Life raising children is not a cake-walk.
One night, in the middle of the night, I awoke from a terrible nightmare. I sat straight up and realized I had just had the most vivid flashback of the worst 5 minutes of my life. You all know those 5 minutes... the rush from my pre-natal hospital room into the operating room and the 3 minutes where they couldn't find my baby's heartbeat, were trying to insert a catheter, a nurse's entire arm was shoved up my cervix holding my baby off her cord, the anesthesiologist no where to be found, and the last thing I remember: the doctor looking at me saying, "We have to get her out now because we can't find a heartbeat" and me screaming and crying out "Just do it!!!"
I continued to have these nightmares for months and I never told anyone. They even began occurring during the day. I would daze off out of nowhere and then snap back out if it after it was all over. It brought chills up my spine every time.
My mother, God love her. She is a psychologist and has always psychoanalyzed everything in my life. "Tabey, I think you have anxiety." Tabey, I am worried about you. You seem somewhat down lately (finals week in college) and I am worried you are depressed." "Tabey, you just cleaned your bedroom and vacuumed yesterday. I think you have OCD." "Tabey, you are eating really healthy lately and exercising a lot. Are you sure nothing is going on?"
Haha. Love you mom.
She knows she does this. I've just gotten used to it. And every time she did it, I would snap at her and tell her to "just be my mom and stop analyzing everything in my life!"
A couple months ago, I got a random email in my inbox from her. The subject line stated: "The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English)".
There was no message from her…just a link.
(She later would tell me she was scared to death to send that article because she knew I was going to rip her apart.)
I immediately rolled my eyes and closed the email. Then, later in the day, while I was putting Millie down for her nap, I decided to check my email and I clicked the dreaded link. I began reading each symptom the article listed and felt my body go numb part by part. Then I felt my eyes welt up in tears. Then, I felt extreme fear and embarrassment. "Oh my God. I have this. She is right. What do I do next? Can I fix this on my own? How am I supposed to share this with my husband? I want him to think I am strong and that I would never let anything like this happen to me."
My husband returned home from work a couple hours later and I was standing in the kitchen holding the baby and I immediately began to bawl upon seeing his face. (Poor guy. He told me later he thought something terrible had happened like I had dropped the baby or something.) He came over to me, hugged me and said, "Whats wrong?" I mumbled, "I think I have postpartum depression." I showed him the article and realizing the signs he had noticed as well, without hesitation, he was on the phone calling Millie's pediatrician. When they told him to call my OBGYN, they directed him to call my General Practitioner. When they referred him back to the OBGYN, they began to say that it had been 10 months since I had my baby. I didn't have postpartum depression, I was more than likely just depressed. Feeling very frustrated and like we had been sent in circles, he got on the internet and began researching therapists for PPD. We came across a woman named Meeka Centimano. This is a woman who has not only experienced this but decided to point her specialty towards childbearing women who have had preemies and difficult and traumatic deliveries. He made a quick phone call, and within 15 minutes, I had an appointment set up for that week. I began to think, no wonder women never get help and are afraid to come forward. We were sent in so many different directions from the healthcare professionals that I thought were supposed to take things like this seriously. This disappointed me greatly.
I have to pause for a quick moment and say how incredibly thankful I am for my husband. He didn't judge me. He didn't get mad at me. He acted. At that time, I didn't have the strength to call or speak to anyone. He was my rock that entire evening and did everything he could to take action.
My first appointment, Tyler joined me. I explained to Meeka that instead of feeling extreme gratitude that my baby, my beautiful healthy baby was perfect and what could have been a horrible situation turned into a great one, I felt resentment. Not towards anyone or anything in particular. I just felt resentment that I didn't get to have that perfect birth. That perfect first moment where my baby latched on to form that perfect bond between a mother and her child. After we told her our entire story, she began to tell me that she believed my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety was brought on by something called Post Traumatic Stress.
Those 5 minutes.
I can't believe 5 minutes of one's life can change everything and make someone's brain completely shift from being normal to "off".
After that revelation, I felt so validated in just knowing what had been wrong with me for the past 10 months. I finally felt relief that it was nothing I did to cause this. I have continued to see Meeka and am slowly but surely healing from the inside out. She has helped me to realize that there is no correct way to parent. Expectations in life will ruin you and that I am in fact a strong woman and just because I am dealing with this right now, does not make me a lesser person.
What made me write this post?
Education and awareness.
Had my mother not sent me that article, who knows how long this could have gone on for? My marriage could have suffered. My ability to cope with certain situations would have gotten worse. I would have gone on being miserable and missing out on soaking in experiences and my life's greatest gift. My baby. I do need to say that of all the symptoms I had, I NEVER ever felt like I was going to hurt myself or my baby. That would never in a million years cross my mind. But unfortunately, that is the case for some women which is why awareness and education is so important. Some women don't have the support I received.
I have shared my story with 5 people. My mother and father, my husband and two friends. So the fact that I am posting this today, is going to be a shock to most of my friends and family that I speak to on a regular basis. It just felt like the right time to share and I know that my words come out better through writing.
If you or anyone you know is showing signs of PPD, PPA or PTSD, please share this blog or the article I linked in this blog with them. Be aware of the women around you. Look for signs. You could be their saving grace.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for constantly praying for our family and for following along on our journey raising Millie. She is a special little girl. She has that spark. And since she was born, I just have had this feeling that she will make an impact in her lifetime. I am so proud to be her mommy and will love her to the ends of the Earth and back again for as long as I live.