Postpartum depression and anxiety… Wowza! Hands down the hardest most painful journey my family and I have ever gone through. And….I had everything I ever wanted. It was the craziest most debilitating sadness and fear I’ve ever felt. I had thought about sharing what I went through several times and chickened out! I was scared that I would be judged and I couldn’t kick the feeling of embarrassment. At that same time, I was witnessing new mothers all over social media and in the public enjoying motherhood and it made me feel ashamed. That’s when I decided that I would most definitely share. What if someone out there was feeling like I did and needed to read this in order to survive another day? What if it helped just one other mama who was so desperately struggling? I knew I had to share! It’s all about Jesus anyway! Amen.
Lord have mercy that was hard! But we made it! Praise Jesus! I’ve dedicated myself to paying my support forward. I found a literal stranger on the internet who helped me more than she will ever know. I will never be able to repay her or explain to her the hope she brought me each day when I was going through the thick of PPD. I am convicted she was sent from God and I hope to be blessed enough one day to hug her neck and tell her thank you for all she did for me. I hope to be that for someone someday.
Ppd was hell on earth! I don’t say that light heartedly by any means. I was not bonding with my son like any happy healthy mama should have been. I was going through the motions. It was pure agony for me for many many months. When people don’t understand the depths of darkness and sorrow I tell them to imagine the worst thing possible happening to them and having to live with that constant dread everyday…..only in my situation nothing bad happened at all. Quite the opposite happened and it was supposed to be one of life’s greatest blessings. Only I wanted to die. I never attempted suicide, but thought about it a lot because I truly believed my little family was better off without me. Waking up in the morning was the absolute worst and realizing that I had to survive another day was frightening to my soul. I cried for the most part of every single day. Sometimes in the shower. Sometimes right out loud in front of God and everyone. It was not something that I could physically hide. I was in misery.
I can still remember my first panic attack. After a night of rough feeding and changing of baby’s wet clothes, we really were lacking so much sleep. Luckily, my husband had two weeks at home with us. Luckily makes me chuckle! Thank God Almighty Scott was home with us. I so badly needed him and his help and his constant encouraging despite my struggles. He had two weeks with us; one from his Christmas break from work and he took the second week using paternity leave. I can remember feeling this awful scared feeling in my chest as I opened my eyes. I could feel the same pain down in the pit of my stomach. I knew it was time to nurse again and it was not going well. I told Scott I thought I was having an anxiety attack. Of course, he offered to take the baby downstairs and give him some formula so I could catch up on some much needed sleep. I did want to sleep; I did need to sleep. But it made me feel so guilty for some reason. I felt like I was solely responsible for this baby and I should not need breaks. I agreed to try to sleep some more, but absolutely could not rest. I kept having these rushes of fear run through my body; it felt like the feeling when you get bad, sad, and/or devastating news. Your stomach sort of flips and your heart races and you lose your breath. I soon gave up on the sleep and would head downstairs sobbing. Scott would have me lay on his lap while he held baby in the other arm. I continued to have these attacks back to back. It physically hurt and I still could not rest.
I can remember being continuously obsessed with SIDS and all of the awful things that could happen to a tiny baby like our son. I obsessed over these thoughts. Not to mention, every time the stolen purse came into my mind, I would start to sob. I could not rationalize that, most likely, this criminal was not going to harm us further from the fraud on my credit card. No one could console me. I told Scott we needed to get an alarm system for the house immediately. I would picture someone breaking in and stealing my little baby. I would picture all of this while trying to go to sleep after baby and my husband had drifted off themselves. I could not stop these racing thoughts. I would wake hubby up and tell him how scared I was. He continued to promise me that he would protect us, but I was afraid for his safety too. What would I do if I lost one of them? I felt so incredibly vulnerable. After I pushed for the alarm, he said we could definitely get it installed as soon as possible. Then I moved on to telling him I wanted to get a gun soon and learn how to use it.
These thoughts I have had before here and there. I have actually always wanted to register and own a gun after learning necessary gun safety. But this was intense and non stop. I was all consumed with fear that something terrible may happen to my family. During the times my mom had come to lend a hand with errands and chores, I would fear for her safety every time she left in her car. Sometimes I would cry and beg her to be very careful and to text me right when she got to her destination. Sometimes, she did not call right away so I would call her for reassurance. I FELT AWFUL! I was so afraid of something bad happening and no matter how much my husband reminded me that all was just fine and that God had control of our lives. I could not shake the fear; it was devastating. I was in complete anguish and I could not rationalize with anyone. I thought I was a lost cause. I thought something had gone terribly wrong with my brain and I would never be the Sandra I once was.
All of this anxiety caused more anxiety no doubt. I did not know what the heck was wrong with me. I have been anxious before, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy, but I did not suffer panic attacks so close together. In fact, I had been looking forward to finding some relief from the anxiety during pregnancy after baby’s birth. Little did I know, antenatal anxiety was a risk factor for Postpartum depression and anxiety. I really thought I was just merely overwhelmed by it all. I have always been an anxious person-a perfectionist. I just thought I needed to settle in still.
This was not the case. The anxiety became worse and worse. It started happening EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. I dreaded waking up. It was like receiving the worst most awful news as your eyes opened up for the first time each and every morning. Soon enough, I started to realize that something must be wrong. These panic attacks were paralyzing. I began to cry every morning because they would not stop. I can remember on my birth board a woman describing her very similar experience as “a swarm of bees descending upon her” the minute she woke up in the morning. This is exactly how it felt…EXACTLY; it was as if something terrible or scary had just happened and that ache in my throat all the way down to my belly was constant and for absolutely no reason. All was well; I had a Christian husband who loved me dearly, a baby boy, happy, healthy, and cuter than any baby I’d ever seen (bias intended), a comfortable home, and family support coming out of our ears. We also were very fortunate to be more than financially stable during this time, especially while I was on maternity leave. None of this constant anguish and fear made any sense, but that did not matter. It was real and it was terrible. It became routine for Scott to either take baby down to try to let me sleep, or he would motion me to come cuddle up next to him and the baby so he could comfort and hold me.
I was starting to think that I had made a mistake; that I was not fit to be a good mother. What good mommy fell apart like this? Why was I not thoroughly enjoying this time? I should be enjoying this time. I would go onto social media accounts and see these pictures of new mommies or moms having multiples and they seemed radiant. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? These women seemed to be in a euphoria and I was riddled with anxiety. I was so confused. My family kept encouraging me that this would pass, that all new mothers had trouble transitioning. I knew something about this was not normal. The anxiety was so intense I began to miss my old life. I know now that I missed it because I just wanted out of the pain and suffering I was experiencing day in and day out. At the time, the desire to go back to a time before the baby made me feel incredibly guilty again. How could a mommy wish to go back to a time before her baby arrived? I was miserable, and miserably guilt ridden for feeling miserable. I was a mess.
This anxiety and panic attacks continued for some time! My mom had offered to come help out more and more. I can still remember sitting in our living room trying to attempt to watch TV. I had lost all interest in anything and everything I previously enjoyed. This included food. My appetite was long gone and this was completely out of character. Eating is my favorite part of the day. I just was not hungry. My stomach sort of ached with all of this anxiety. And ironically, the anxiety was causing more anxiety. Scott would ask me what I wanted, whatever I wanted, he would go get for me. I was not interested. He would never take no for an answer and he would always bring me something back to the house and damn near force me to eat it.
I can remember one time him coming home with chicken nuggets from a fast food joint. Normally, these were little bits of heaven in my mouth. I could barely digest a bite of one. He was handing them to me and waiting on me to chew and swallow. I remember my mom had been at my house that day and offered any help she could. I can remember during one of the panic attacks sitting behind a TV tray and a box full of uneaten chicken nuggets, I looked right at her in her eyes and wished I was her. She was paying her monthly bills and also helping me write thank you notes for my bridal showers. I wanted to be her. I wanted to be anyone else who felt normal and put together. I just began to uncontrollably sob again and she and my husband reassured me that all would be well and to try to relax. Then they had me walk outside into our backyard for some fresh air and sunlight. It was so crazy and unexplainable, but even my backyard seemed totally unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I thought I was broken, literally.
My weight had dropped a great deal after giving birth, but I knew it would considering I had only gained about twenty-five pounds during pregnancy. But soon enough, I was weighing less than before I had become pregnant. The pounds were dropping daily. I can remember looking at myself in the mirror naked many times and seeing my hip bones that I had not seen in a very long time. I did not see myself. I did not know this person. I was so lost and confused and scared. And the worst part about it was no one in my family had ever experienced anything like this after having babies. I felt like the most terrible mother to ever live. I could not control it; I felt like my mind was possessed. I had become a different person I did not know and someone my husband did not marry. This began to really worry me that I was literally the only problem; I started to feel like a burden.
I could cry now just thinking of the despair that took over my body and emotions. I felt all hope was lost. It was at this moment that I began to think about death and how it may possibly be my only escape. I DID NOT “WANT” TO DIE! I wanted to badly to LIVE this blessed life my God gave me. I wanted so badly to enjoy these moments with my newborn like I had the previous evening; I wanted to badly to feel like myself again and “come home” permanently. But-I could not do any of those things. I felt like I was lost forever and I would never have relief again and my only option may be dying.
did not speak about this to anyone because I did not want to be put into some mental hospital. It was at this moment when I realized seeing a doctor was inevitable. I would try anything and go any measure to fight to live and find myself for my little family. My sister had arrived that morning and encouraged me to call and get an appointment with my OB. I wish I could say the journey brightens at this point. I cannot say that. I truly feel like I was let down by the medical community in particular to what was provided by my insurance, but we will get to that. I made the appointment and felt a sliver of hope; maybe I could take something and feel better. They were actually able to get me in quite quickly.
My husband accompanied me to see the doctor. I think I was given the Edinburgh PPD ten questionnaire as protocol, but that is exactly why I was there. I was honest! I had to be! I had to fight for my family. After filling this out, the nurse put me into a room to wait for the doctor. I was so scared for the future. Could they label me unfit to parent because I know I already had failed that test, or passed with flying colors? Could they take my baby from me? Would they be able to see how miserable I was and would they judge me? I was so freaked out. First, a nurse walked in and said that she was so sorry I was feeling so poorly and that I scored extremely high on the scale for Postpartum Depression. My heart sunk; even though I knew it, it still sunk right down into my gut. She encouraged me to join a therapy group in their Behavior and Mental Health Department for support. She encouraged me that I was not alone and that many women experience this same kind of complication after childbirth.
I cannot describe the world of hurt I was in. I was so sad, oh so sad, and angry. Why me? Why couldn’t I be a normal mommy, swooning over my baby, enjoying every minute? Why was I going to have to jump through hoops to get healthy again? I wanted so badly to wish it away and snap out of it. I wanted so badly to be someone else. I told the nurse that I would see someone and she kindly said she would set it all up for me. Before she left, she said she was sorry to push for the therapy, but that many moms have committed suicide or hurt their babies and they needed to take all precautions to avoid this type of tragedy. YUCK! I could not believe that this was happening to me and that I was a threat to my safety and the safety of my newborn. How horrific to feel this way!
The doctor finally arrived and could see in my eyes that I was so unwell. She said she had read my charts and saw my history of depression. She recommended therapy and said she had already prescribed my previous anti-depressants I had been taking, prior to pregnancy. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I did not want to breastfeed while taking meds. I had been researching about different meds before the appointment and read a lot about Zoloft. I asked her if she could prescribe this instead so that I may be able to continue to breastfeed. I asked her several questions in between the crying spells. I asked her about the safety of the baby and she actually printed me an article on different research done to find out the effect on babies. Zoloft seemed the least dangerous, but I still was not convinced I would take it. I was just happy to have the prescription. I asked her for her personal opinion. She said if it were her and her baby, she would take the medication and continue to breastfeed, but it was a very personal decision. She reminded me that it was important for mommies to be healthy in order to best care for the baby and that I should not allow myself to suffer this way at the expense of our relationship. I thanked her for her help and we went to fill the prescription.
I left the hospital feeling worse. Now I was left with a very difficult decision. I cried and begged Scott to tell me what to do. I was incapable of making decisions. My brain was so messed up. He encouraged me to wait until evening to see if I felt any better or wait a day or two to see if I came out of it, but the best thing was that we had it in our possession should we need it. I agreed. I would wait. I was so torn because breastfeeding at that point was literally the only connection I was having with the baby and probably not to the potential of healthy moms. It was something only I could do for him while all of my family was doing so many other things for me. It was my only half successful thing I felt like I was accomplishing at all! But I could not live in this misery forever. I couldn’t feel this pain and desolation for very much longer, so something had to be done. The options were continuing to breastfeed and wait it out, stop breastfeeding and take the meds, or continue to breastfeed and take the meds. I dwelled on this decision for way too long. I could not think rationally and I kept thinking I did not want to hurt my baby. However, the more and more research I did and the support I found on one of the baby boards all supported the breastfeeding and Zoloft decision.
Some of these moms on the online support group said they had taken meds while breastfeeding, and some were still breastfeeding two and a half years later and had not seen any negative side effects in their children. Some posted about how only a very small amount, if any at all, was found in breastmilk, particularly Zoloft, and that it was the best option for moms who did not want to give it up. This made me feel confident about my decision. I was still scared about side effects on baby, but I knew that they positive outweighed the negative, and our relationship mattered most. That evening, I took my first dose of fifty milligrams and hoped for the best. The worst part about anti-depressants was that they took a while to really take effect, and sometimes up to eight weeks or more. I knew this, but I did not know the struggle ahead of me to find the right meds at the right dose. I was living in a dream world and believed that this fifty milligrams would be the key to my recovery. Hmmm, not even close, but I am glad I did not know that at the time because at this point, I needed a bit of hope to continue to fight for my life.
I started to read through the postpartum depression and anxiety support groups online. Wow! So many women felt EXACTLY as I did; it seemed so much more common than I had thought. I can remember finding these stories of people who made it through and came out on the other side, finding their former selves. These stories meant everything to me. I saved these positive stories I found on the internet so that when I felt discouraged like I would never get better, I could pull these up and reread them. I did not write my own post for some time; I did not know what to say or how to ask for support. As things worsened, I did began to post and received so much support. I also started to research these ups and downs I was having. I was starting to worry because women did not really discuss this on these birth boards. They talked about having a few here and there in recovery, but nothing like the extremes I was experiencing. Actually, one of the women told me I should probably mention in to my doctor to see if it was of any concern. I am talking EXTREME highs and lows; the more and more I thought about it and researched, the more and more I convinced myself I had bipolar disorder. I have always been the type of person to jump to conclusions and use google to self-diagnose. By the time my little fingers had raced through the internet researching my symptoms, I really was bipolar in my mind. It made me feel sick, sad, disheartened, angry, you name it. I had a baby and now I would be messed up forever, or so I thought.
Slowly…… so painfully slowly …. I started to see the “neon” light at the end of the tunnel and I began to feel like the old Sandra. It was literally as though I had died and I was slowly coming back to life. I felt like I was getting another chance to live the life I wanted. I will forever be so grateful to my family and especially my caretakers Candee Bright and my mama – you never wavered. Thank you to my amazing and most dedicated husband who was my rock Scott Poncy I do not know a better man and to my Heavenly Father who carried me through this battle. He can truly make beauty from ashes. And to my baby boy Scottie Jr who loved me unconditionally through it – he’s all I’ve ever wanted
Do not believe PPD’s lies! Trust me. I did so many times, day after day, and was in such grief, agony, and pain that I wanted to end my life. I am here to tell you there is a light at the end of this and you will come out on the other end even stronger if you just hang on. People told me this many times and like I said before, I didn’t believe them; I couldn’t. I only believed what I was feeling and it was the most awful feeling that I would not wish on my worst enemy, even though those non-believing/understanding stigma inducing people, although tempting in my worst moments. You will be well again and you will be the mommy that you always hoped to be. I am on the other side rooting for your quick recovery. You are not alone!
I have gone on to have my second child. Her name is Stevie Suzanne and she’s almost 5 months old. It was so scary and I worried a whole lot (understatement of the friggin’ year) about having it again. BUT God had a different plan for us. I am having the postpartum experience I always wanted.