I’ve had the pleasure of getting to spend IRL time with today’s featured blogger: she’s just as sweet as can be. And I’m honored that she’s using her guest post to talk about something she hasn’t blogged about before: something I know a lot of you can relate to. Please welcome Lisa of Two Bears Farm. Be sure to show her lots of comment love and visit her blog, facebook, and twitter.
Today I’m writing about something that I’ve wanted to blog about for years, but have never had the nerve. But I’ve been reading Shell’s blog for ages, and have always been so impressed with the way she empowers moms as parents through her validating and open words. I’m not as expressive as Shell, but I’m gathering my courage from her today to try come out about postpartum depression. Thanks, Shell, for offering me the chance to guest post on your blog!
I knew I was at risk when I was pregnant with the twins, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, women who have twins are at a much higher risk for postpartum depression. All the extra hormones in the system from carrying two babies can wreak havoc. And on top of that, I had a history of depression (from many years prior) when I battled an episode of situational major depression my junior year of college.
But I hoped I would be okay. I didn’t have any problem after my first pregnancy, and overall my experience carrying the twins was positive. Comparatively, I had an easy multiples pregnancy, was fortunate enough to carry the twins to term, and delivered naturally. I got the birth story I so longed for, and I was elated with my my sweet baby boys. And then the struggle with breastfeeding one of my twins began. Why is it that breastfeeding is so raw and emotional? After numerous consultations at the hospital with lactation, and by phone with my doula, we finally overcame this issue and all should’ve been well. But the battle took a lot out of me emotionally, and I never quite felt like I recovered. I was sleep deprived, exhausted, and I had a not-quite-3 year old at home that was clamoring for my affection too. I felt tugged in every direction by so many demanding little people, and yet completely alone.
At night, when all 3 boys were tucked in for the moment, I sat alone in my room and the weight of the situation would decend. I should’ve taken the moment to sleep, but instead I sat, watching my babies breathing, and wishing I was anywhere else. I loved them – so powerfully – my heart wrenched with love and affection just watching them, but my mind was so screwed up. I knew, from my background in neuropsychology, that my issues were chemical. I could almost feel the neurotransmitters struggling to work in my brain. I imagined them sputtering, groaning in trying to crank out the chemicals I so badly needed, yet failing, flopping limply in their synapses while my brain screamed in vain for help. I told myself it would pass. That I just needed time. But each night my anguish grew worse.
At my 6 week postpartum appointment, I asked for help. Having the previous week lost my temper with my toddler when he climbed on me while breastfeeding the twins, I knew I couldn’t go on. Although he wasn’t harmed, and wouldn’t remember it later, it wasn’t fair to him to have a mom that would yell and push him aside when he was in new circumstances and crying for affection. My own affect when I arrived at the doctor was so low I couldn’t even talk about the depression in detail. I couldn’t tell my ob/gyn how bad it had become, about the thoughts of self-harm or about the raw internal screaming in my brain. I did tell him I needed medication.
He prescribed Zoloft. I felt guilty with each pill I took. I worried it would poison the twins, even though it was considered safe for breastfeeding. But take them I did, out of love for my children. I had no love for myself. I wished I didn’t exist. I told no one and hid the situation the best I could, although a few people may have suspected. I didn’t even talk to my husband because he tends to become insensitive over emotional circumstances, and I’ve found over the years it’s easier to bear the burden alone than hear words from a partner that don’t help (he does, however, have many other redeeming qualities). And I didn’t tell my family because I didn’t want them to worry about me. So I suffered in silence, other than a couple of bloggers with twins who read between the lines and reached out to me. I’m still thankful for their kind words.
That winter was one of the most harsh, weather wise. Snow after snow blanketed our region. I was unable to leave the house; our driveway was impassible without four wheel drive. Once every 2 weeks I would try to venture out to Sam’s Club, but the effort of hauling 2 carseats, a 3 year old, and bulk groceries up the long steep hill of our driveway was so foreboding that I couldn’t bear to do it more often than twice a month. Locked in by day, I tended to my children the best I could. I breastfed all the time. I read Brooke Shield’s Down Came the Rain and Heather Armstrong’s It Sucked and then I Cried. The latter only served to make me feel worse – I was subsequently terrified people would discover how badly I was coping and take me away from the twins so that I could take more effective meds. I called my doctor out of fear, and he increased the dosage of Zoloft.
I waited and waited for my brain to heal. I stopped running for a month – something I never, ever do unless injured (or in the latter part of my pregnancies). My one healthy outlet of joy, gone. I just couldn’t pull myself up to do it. I could have gone to counseling, but we didn’t have the money for $40 copays every week and I told myself it didn’t matter because what was happening was chemical. In retrospect, I probably could’ve used the support, had I actually been able to open up to someone. I was so afraid that I would be hospitalized if it was discovered how much I obsessed of walking out into the snowy woods, curling up in a hole, and never waking up. Every single night I fought the battle with my brain not to hurt myself. While I couldn’t control what my brain was thinking, I could still control my actions, and I told myself if I felt like I was losing control of my actions that I would then ask for serious help. I was thankful I had the psychology foundation to tell myself, over and over, night after night, it’s just chemical, it’s just chemical, it’s just chemical.
I called my doctor again. I couldn’t talk to him, not really, but I told him I was not better; that I needed something more. He switched me to Lexapro. Over the next two weeks I proceeded to start running again, which was an improvement, but I also gained ten pounds. And I still had plenty of postpartum weight I wanted to lose. Spring was coming and the twins were turning six months old. I didn’t want to try another medicine. They weren’t productive and I felt lousy. So I just stopped taking it. I knew that this was against all recommendations, but I started to feel like the meds couldn’t do anything for me.
I don’t think it was stopping the meds that ended up helping, but rather the fact that the long winter was over, and perhaps six months was just the time that my hormones finally settled. Suddenly, the sun was out, and the boys and I could go for walks in the sun. I started to feel better. The more I got out, the better I felt, and the more I was able to venture out more. Bit by bit, my mind healed. I ran in some spring races. I started taking pleasure in small things again – the buds on the trees, the twins fumbling through crawling, my 3 year old’s imitation of Baby Jaguar. I rediscovered myself, slightly shell-shocked from the ordeal, but still the person I had always been.
I hope that if you are struggling against postpartum depression, you know that you are not alone. Ask for help, when you need it, and please feel free to email me for support. I know the emails I received from twin moms who had been through the same thing were little gifts of hope for me during my hard time. I’m a private person who has a hard time reaching out, but there are people who are happy to listen, and I’m offering myself up as one of them.