Monday, August 12, 2013
On and On
My third child, my first son, was born August 1st 2005. Weighing 9 lbs even and delivered by C Section (he had a transverse lie during labor) he was completely healthy. It was a little scary having him through a surgery, but I healed quickly and was soon home nursing my new baby and resting through the chaos of two little girls who were VERY excited about their new brother, but also demanded an adequate amount of attention.
My then husband worked through the days and came home to eat dinner and play video games. I asked him to hold the baby so I could take a shower and came out to find him dozing off with the baby. Dinner needed to be made and it was 10 at night. I drove to the store with tears in my eyes. Everything was done with tears in my eyes so this was nothing new. But this time I pulled over to sob, and I couldn't. It was ridiculous but I tried. Gave it my all, trying to cry. Not even one tear. If someone had seen me they would have thought I was screaming my head off, but inside the car no sounds were escaping my mouth. I wanted there to be a release to this frustration, an exit hatch that I could open and poke my head through to breathe. Crying has always been my release and when I was young I would often kick open the bathroom door at school, sit with my feet on the toilet lid and sob silently with my dirty hands covering my face. If someone came in I would wipe my tears and walk out as if nothing had happened. It's all I needed to get through my days of being a child who was slow to learn to read, had a hard time with math and wanted nothing more than to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and live in a sewer and SCREW YOU I AM NOT BEING APRIL AGAIN. I just wanted to do Ninja tricks and maybe not get the tether ball smacked in my face on purpose. So there I was, in my car, violently not sobbing. This was the start of the things that were a little strange and not like me.
The next strange occurrence was I realized I hated nursing. No, scratch that, I hated sitting down, or being forced to sit down to do anything. I ate standing up in the kitchen and was constantly on the move, cleaning, picking up after someone, and doing way more than a woman who just had a c section a couple of weeks before, should be doing. Soon I hated being touched. My daughter would sit on my lap and I would pick her up and put her beside me. It seemed natural to me, but it wasn't. It wasn't until my new baby, my precious son was crying and I picked him up, that I felt something strange. I will never forget looking at his face and speaking without thinking. "I don't want to hold you, stop crying." I gasped. It came out so quickly that it's like I heard it coming from someone else. But it was me. I put him down, ashamed with myself and sick to my stomach. He stopped crying and I thought about what I said for days. This wasn't like me, I love him! I love him and I love him. Over and over I played this "I love him" game. I would never not want to hold him because I love him. I nurse him even when I don't want to, because I love him. I watch him sleep every night for hours and hours because I am making sure he's alive, because I love him. Yes, this was spinning into a creepy as fuck Hand That Rocks The Cradle, situation. I didn't see it. Instead it progressed. And then I started seeing things.
I was giving him a bath, and I saw him under the water. Except in reality, he was never under the water. But, I saw it. In my head. I still to this day remember exactly what he looked like. The vision flashed through my head, and was gone. I took him out of the bath and I dried him off avoiding his eyes searching for mine. I turned my head in fear that he somehow could know what I had thought. I didn't speak a word of this to anyone, for fear that they would think I WANTED him to drown. It was my biggest fear that someone would say I didn't love him and that I wanted him gone. I didn't give him a bath for weeks and instead showered with him, or wiped him down. The baby bath tub stayed outside and when I did glance at it, I would have a vision of my sweet son with his beautiful eyes under water. It wasn't until months later that I learned this is called an intrusive thought and it is not in any indication of what you desire. I would have other intrusive thoughts, like a fear of him being taken from me so much that I would leave the store with a cart full of things because I felt like someone was watching and was going to take him. Other fears were even smaller than that and started to relate to every day things.
I saw a psychiatrist soon after the thoughts began. I never told this person what I was seeing or hearing in my head. I didn't trust anyone with that information and was certain I would have my children taken away. I didn't want anyone to think I was Andrea freakin Yates if I was doing everything in my power to be the polar opposite of Andrea Yates.
Instead, I told him I was horribly sad, and tried to cry. He never looked up at me, so he didn't realize I had zero tears.
I spoke with a few friends about my feelings but never my thoughts. I told them I was having a hard adjustment and they all agreed that it would get better. Only one friend admitted that she never got better on her own and had to see someone for medication. As the months passed quickly, I never got better. I just got better at hiding it. Suicidal thoughts would come and leave as quickly as they arrived. I was terribly frightened that one day I would just suddenly die. Or I would kill myself on accident. I created lists of instructions at 3 a.m. for whomever was raising my children if/when I should die. I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees at 5 in the morning, so my family would have a nice clean place to live in. They would remember me as the most hard working, loving mother ever. This was all I could think about. I was obsessed with showing everyone outside my home that I was capable of raising 3 children, and that I without a doubt, was the best mom for the job. On the inside, I hated myself and I wanted my mind to shut up.
The medication I had been put on did nothing for me and I soon started feeling like I had a ringing or a buzzing in my head. I stopped taking it and the noise stopped. I didn't tell anyone and assumed my new way of thinking was just something I would have to get used to. Everyone else thought since I was on meds and seemed to be coping just fine, going out for play dates, having a clean home, all kids dressed, clean and fed at all times, that things were just fine. I continued with my obsessions and fears, right through Christmas. It was around then that I would wake up on the couch and not remembering how I got there. I clearly recalled going to bed, yet I would be on the couch. With all the lights on, staring at nothing. Even scarier is finding myself in a chair at 6 a.m. and the baby on the floor in front of me. I couldn't recall how I got there, how the baby got there, why the fuck was I not in bed? In my exhaustion, I didn't even realize that I may have been sleep walking. I just figured it was weird and oh well, it happened.
In February, I decided it might lift my mood to get Valentine's pictures of the baby. I had made an appointment and planned on going to the mall after I dropped off my oldest daughter at school. My younger daughter, Sprite, wasn't easily roused that morning. Despite calling for her several times, she slept right through breakfast. She had a rough night, and wound up in my bed the night before, so I assumed she was extra tired. When it was time to go, I figured she might be in her room playing. She was still asleep. I tried shaking her, pulling her up, near yelling at her, before I brought her to the couch. I called my mom and told her something strange about Sprite was happening. I figured she was just playing around and maybe if my mom came over she would be so excited she would rouse easily. My mom arrived quickly, took one look at Sprite, and ordered me to call 911. Wait what? I did as I was told and thought the whole thing was pretty ridiculous. I mean, she could just have a sudden sleep disorder, or maybe just not feel good, right? The 911 operator ordered me to have her legs put above her heart. My stomach dropped as I stayed on the line. My mind raced and I began to sweat. The paramedics arrived quickly, looked her over, and then my mind goes hazy. "Un responsive" "Extremely low glucose" "coma" "helicopter"
I went to the sink and threw up while people talked over my daughter.
When we arrived at the hospital, they stripped off her clothes. The doctors were shouting questions at me. An intern walked away with tears. I answered the best I could, and told myself to not pay attention to the needles searching for her veins. To refrain from walking over to her and grabbing her and scream her name in her face. She was so still. And so horribly beautiful. This is it, I thought. This might be the last time I see her alive.
Even now, writing this, many years later, I will never forget wiping my tears out of my eyes quickly, so her perfectly formed face would not be a blurred memory.
A huge needle entered her foot, and a syringe of glucose was pushed into her.
She opened her eyes immediately. "Mama?" she said. Then she threw up and went to sleep. Everyone relaxed. A sudden calm washed over the doctor's face. He touched my hand and said "That was close. We will give her another dose in an hour."
The day before these events took place, we had been at a friends house and sweet Sprite had spilled some popcorn on the floor. I told her to put it in the trash, but she impulsively shoved a handful in her mouth before she listened. My friend's husband was diabetic. The pills are small, almost tasteless. There must have been a pill on the floor, because Sprite's near death reaction to an accidental overdose, was textbook.
She was admitted to a near by hospital for observation and although she had a hard time with the affects of the glucose, she recovered quickly. We were back home in a few days.
Everything after is a haze. I can't tell you exactly what happened or how, but I know I went to another therapist. I am guessing there are 3 months that I absolutely do not remember after Sprite's accident. I do know I was diagnosed with PTS and started counseling and medication immediately. And I remember that because I remember the psychiatrist telling me this wasn't my fault. I had told her everything. My thoughts, my visions, my obsessions, my fears that I was actually a horrible piece of shit mother and everyone is going to find out and take my babies away. "Just take them if I am crazy" I told her. She responded with "this is not your fault." Then the tears, the real ones I had been sucking up and the tears that had been lost and were instead hiding in my head and in my throat, all came out.
The medication she prescribed took a few different tries, a change up in doses here and there, but soon I started feeling better. I went to counseling religiously and learned all about my mental illness. Not the text book stuff you can read anywhere, I learned about ME, and how MY mind works and how mental illness works in my life. For a long time, I was ashamed to tell people that I had something more than just post partum depression. Post partum depression and depression is becoming more "socially acceptable" to admit, actually it has become so acceptable that some people misuse the term "depressed" instead of "I had a shit afternoon and got a case of the sads." But no one ever talks about ya know....being actually psychotic. I was diagnosed properly with post partum psychosis, bi polar, and post partum OCD. Yes, it happened to me.
And it wasn't my fault.
After Note: I continued treatment during my 4th pregnancy and stopped shortly after having her. I felt like I was okay and had learned enough from counseling and could use tools that I had learned, to gauge my symptoms. I also built a huge support system of friends and family, that kept tabs on me. I was very well for 4 years. And then this happened.
To find help for you or a friend please check out the following sites. If there is something I missed or something that helped you, please comment your info and links! Also, feel free to share your stories. You have no idea the power of your own story, it may be just the thing someone needed to read today to feel a little less alone, and more like things can get better, and that things can be beautiful again.
http://www.postpartum.net/ local to you resources, support groups, provider contacts, facts on PPD and other mental illnesses
http://www.postpartumhealing.com/ more support groups, personal stories, HOTLINES , and facts on PPD and other mental illnesses
Mothering.com a group forum for parents with PPD
Breastmilk & Meds a good resource for nursing moms, look up any med and see if it's safe for nursing babies.