As I mentioned in Part 1 of this story, my Fall and Winter got very dark. So I warn you to proceed with caution. Because if you know me, you know that I am a happy person. That I’m always smiling, that I love children and that I have dance parties every day. This is a different kind of story.
In the beginning of November, I started to experience Postpartum Depression. Thank the lord, none of my depressed feelings ever had to do with my children; I was never overwhelmed by having two, I was never resentful at them, and I certainly never wanted to do anything but love them. I did not wish to hurt them in any way, which, as crazy as it may sounds, happens to mothers. And some other very crazy things did happen to me, so that’s why I feel the need to be so clear and forthcoming.
I decided that in order to be the best mother I could be, I would begin to seek therapy for my depressed symptoms. They were classic; I was tired, grumpy, sad and weepy, could no longer find joy in the things that once made me happy…and then there were worse things. I thought about my life a lot and why it was worth living. I knew that it was, but it was hard to feel it.
So I found a wonderful therapist, someone who did not judge me, but took me seriously, and was willing to work with me and my family in order to get me out of my funk. At that point, it was a funk. She prescribed medicine for me, which was a first. I have never before experienced any kind of depression, but she put me on an antidepressant that was safe for breastfeeding. I was still very committed to nursing my son, as I nursed my daughter for 18 months. It was something that I was not only consciously proud of, but something that I felt had defined me as a mother. I was a nursing mother. My daughter never once had a bottle. And so it was not an option for me to give that up with my son.
And then I started to face some resistance. My symptoms were getting worse. My bad moments were getting more frequent than my good ones, and stronger medicines were encouraged. But that would mean giving up breastfeeding. I heard the expression “It is better for your son to have a mom without a boob than a boob without a mom” but it was still hard for me. So I kept on nursing and kept on going down a spiral of deep, deep devastation.
People started to notice around Thanksgiving. It was a holiday I have always adored and even written about. This Thanksgiving I spent in the corner of my aunt’s living room, speaking to no one, falling asleep in a the chair at one point, and keeping my month old son in his carseat next to me. It seems surreal.
I was withdrawing from my friends. I was quiet in my online presence. I was slipping away.
And then things got worse. A lot worse.
The feelings that I had been having about my life and it’s meaning started to take over me like a demonic plague. I couldn’t thing rationally. I couldn’t feel happiness or love. All that I could feel was pain. So in order to keep me safe, my family members had to stay with me at all times, taking shifts. I was never left alone. The therapist reached out to my husband. She told him I needed to be hospitalized and found a program at Brown in Providence, Rhode Island. She feared for my safety. So did my parents and best friend.
So I made an appointment to check in to a Postpartum treatment center, one in which I could keep my son with me, keep nursing and try to recover before it got worse. This was a very hard decision to come to and I was feeling everything from ashamed to terrified, but I said I would do it. So my husband and I went out to the movies. We saw American Hustle, the day before I was supposed to leave my life and daughter and admit to needing to be admitted. And during the movie, we were in and out of the theatre, taking calls from my therapist and the coordinators at Brown. It was all happening so fast.
And I got home from the movie and kissed my son. And he was hot.
I took his temperature. 100.4. The magic number for a baby 3 days shy of 2 months. We had to go to the hospital.
So at my darkest moment, I had a sick baby to take care of. I thought it could not get any worse.
To be continued…