I thought I was better prepared during my second pregnancy. I had survived postpartum depression (PPD) once but I was determined not to let it run my life again.
My husband and I struggled to conceive our second baby. After being told that I wasn’t a candidate for IVF, a surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and repair my fallopian tubes, then a natural fertility treatment plan, I became pregnant with my sweet girl. This entire process took over a year and a half from start to finish and took a toll emotionally and physically. So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I became pregnant.
I had PPD with my first and had very little support. I wasn’t very well educated on what having a colicy newborn was like or what kind of effect it would have on my relationship with my husband. I was tired, drained and I had no fight but for some reason, I felt like I had to keep fighting. I reached my breaking point a year and a half later. It had been 46 hours since I had slept, I was trying to get my shift covered at my job that I was working at and no-one would cover it. I was a complete mess, could barely breathe or put 2 thoughts together and I felt so alone. I was able to get into see my doctor to so that I could get a doctor’s note to miss my shift (which, they were still telling me that I needed to come in for...I didn’t go in and went on a medical leave. I ended up quitting because it wasn’t a positive place for me to be).
After being on anti-anxiety medication and finally being able to sleep, I started to think clearly. My heart wasn’t racing and I didn’t feel this urge to strive for perfection. I felt more alive than I had in a really long time and it was incredible.
During my second pregnancy, going back to that place wasn’t an option. I was in training to become a Perinatal Support Practitioner (birth and postpartum doula) with Carol Peat , which was going to help me to better support my clients and give them the emotional support that I didn’t have, I hired and incredible doula from Sweet Stella’s who was so supportive during and after my pregnancy, and had amazing Midwives from Talbot Creek Midwives. I had every little thing planned out. I wasn’t missing a thing this time!
My daughter came into this world like a bull in a china shop (she is still very much that way!), I was a little stunned. I was in labour one minute and she was born on my bedroom floor 3 minutes later--that’s what it felt like anyway!
The first few weeks were what you would expect with a newborn and a toddler. I felt good the first week, I was able to rest and everything was taken care of for me. My mom went home, my daughter started crying and didn’t stop. She didn’t sleep, she would projectile vomit every time she ate and my husband and I started to fall apart.
When he went back to work, 3 weeks later, that’s when the darkness really started to set in. I would sit in a dark room with my crying baby for hours on end, trying to get her to sleep as she cried. Sitting a one in a dark room singing and trying to soothe a baby to sleep, leaving my toddler alone to play should have been my first clue that something wasn’t right with me We decided that my son needed to go to preschool full-time. I couldn’t do it all and be by myself.
My Midwife was the first who noticed that I was struggling. My daughter was 5 weeks old, not keeping anything down and I was a disheveled. She referred me to have a public health nurse come to me. She even kept me on as a patient for a couple extra weeks to make sure I was ok. With the help of both my Midwife and the public health nurse, I began to feel better.
I had a final visit from my doula who also tried to help. She reassured me, brought me food and was available to chat when I needed. I felt supported and encouraged.
Starting to feel more like myself, I felt like I was strong enough. I went to my final visit with my Midwife, my doula visits were finished and I thought I was ready to be on my own.
A week later, everything came crashing down.
I was feeling like a failure again. I was trying so hard to find the control I needed but it didn’t exist. My daughter was 10 weeks old and I was drowning.
I started to notice familiar patterns and they weren’t going away.
Exhausted and my husband and I were at each others throat.
I had been awake for 36 hours. Crying. All I wanted to do was sleep and my mind wasn’t letting that happen.
I made an appointment because I wasn’t going to go another day.
Again, I went on medication. My doctor and I decided that anti anxiety should do the trick.
I began to feel more like myself within a few days. I was getting a bit more sleep and because of that, I was able to cope in a healthier way.
With my son I used obsessive nutrition and exercise because I thought that’s what healthy looked like. With my daughter, I knew I had to do things differently. My family needed me to be emotionally healthy. I needed to be emotionally healthy.
You see, as prepared and informed as I was, my PPD couldn’t be prevented and my anxiety is still an everyday challenge. What did save me was being prepared and better educated. I took my time to recover. I reached out when I was at a pretty low point so that I wouldn’t keep digging myself deeper.
It doesn’t matter how many services there are to help those with depression or anxiety. We, as a community need to talk and be open to end the stigma. We need to share our experiences with others and support one another without judgment. We need to be educated on what mental illness looks like because there are people out there that don’t “fit the bill”.
I lost a friend to mental illness a few years ago. She had been open about her fight and it still took her over. She was educated, beautiful, kind and successful. She had recently gotten married and had a full life ahead of her. She was loved and admired. We unfortunately lost touch in the last few years of her life and I wish I reached out more often but I took her silence personally. We were both fighting a battle at the same time and I wonder if things would have been different if we reached out to each other. Only one of us is here and I still have so much guilt that I carry. There are a lot of what ifs.
You never know what a person's battle is if you just assume like I did. I wish I kept trying. We were both fighting for our lives and we didn't even know it. We didn't have to do this alone. I can't imagine what she was going through. I will never get over my regret.
Here I am reaching out to you. #BellLetsTalk.
This is Melanie, my good friend who lost her battle with anxiety
and depression. She was the kind of person who would would
give her unconditional support to anyone who needed it without
asking a thing in return. She was one of those friends that everyone
needed and I’m glad that she was mine. I miss her.