Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stacy's Story - Postpartum Depression

I am honored to have my dear friend Stacy guest post today and share her heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of learning to love her son Leo.  Her story brought me to tears and I hope that you enjoy it just as much as I did.  If you are or know someone who is dealing with similar postpartum symptoms please read all the way through and seek help.

Stacy, thanks so much for sharing your story so honestly. 

Stacy's Story - Postpartum Depression

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. My hope was to have four kids. All girls. But like most things in life plans changed, and they changed in a big way.  This is my story. Well, maybe that's not right, it's mine and Leo's story. Who's Leo? My baby boy. My beautiful, smiley, happy little guy. Already seeing the change? There's much more to it. This is not a funny story. It's not even a strictly happy story. It is raw. It is real. It is painful. And if any of it is familiar, please, force yourself to read it through.

Two years ago my husband and I gave birth to a beautiful, 7 lb baby girl. She was perfect. Dark black hair and gray eyes. Like the sea on a stormy day. Within one hour of her life she was taken away from my arms and placed in an oxyhood. My baby couldn't breathe.  She needed oxygen pumped straight into her tiny little lungs for 7 days straight. We finally got to bring her home on day nine. After that Bill and I had a serious talk about having any more children. God granted us this amazing gift and very quickly showed us how fragile she was. We decided not to be selfish. We would be grateful for the one angel baby we were given. It was much easier than we thought. We loved her so much! How could we ever have enough room in our hearts for another child? It was decided, Penelope would be our only child. Spoiled, loved and cherished above everything in our lives. Then, one month after celebrating Penelope's first birthday I found out I was pregnant.

An unplanned pregnancy, and though I denied it at the time, an unwanted pregnancy. We weighed the options and finally decided to put our faith in our Faith. If God wanted us to have another child we would have another child. I had a knot in my stomach when we told my mother. Felt nauseuous when we told my in-laws and then my father and his wife. By the time we were teling our friends the disdain was evident in my voice. I covered by saying I was fearful of a delivery like Penelope's. It was a viable excuse. No one could imagine going through what we went through once, let alone twice. Of course I was afraid. Inside I told myself I would feel better once I knew for a fact I was carrying another little girl. 

And its a boy. My husband is elated. My sister is ecstatic. My best friend actually does a little dance up and down the hallway. And I am miserable. I feel nothing for this alien child inside me. This child that I even refuse to think of as mine. I have no bond with him. I begin using his name, Leo, hoping it will help. It doesn't. How can I feel anything for this child I didn't want? Still don't want. Especially when I am watching this beautiful little girl grow. When she laughs, I melt. When she tells me she loves me and gives me kisses, I feel my heart bursting with love for her. There is no room for this other child. This boy. And I don't just mean in my heart.

We live in a two bedroom apartment. We are struggling to pay our rent already. And now we have a fourth mouth to feed. And where are we going to put him? Questions like this keep me up at night. Cause tension in my marriage. Make me feel even more resentment towards the baby inside me.  Then one night, three weeks before he is due, I go into labor. And barely make it into the delivery room before he comes out.

He cries right away, a sound we never heard with Penelope. And for a moment I think I can love him. I think I just needed to see him. To hold him. And all will be alright. But then I find out Penelope has had a terrible asthma attack and almost ended up in the hospital the same night I was giving birth. And suddenly this new baby doesn't matter anymore. My child, the child I've gotten to know and love for almost two years, needs me. Bill will take care of Penelope. All will be well. I need to focus on bonding with Leo.

I breastfed Penelope for nine months. I never had a problem. I cannot breastfeed Leo for even a week. He doesnt latch right, and my nipples become chapped and bleed. This does not help. It is like he doesn't want me anymore than I want him. Leo also suffers from acid reflux, though I do not know this for two months.  For two months all I know is I have a newborn who cries incessantly. And then my help leaves. The novelty wears off, the holidays are over (Leo was bornDecember 7), and everyone returns to their homes and jobs. Bill too, goes back to work. I am home alone with two very young children.

I will not go into all the details, but will cover some highlights. There were times when I locked myself in the bathroom and cried, while they both screamed on the other side of the door. There were times when I left Leo in his crib screaming while I held Penelope and acted like I couldn't hear him. There were times I would hold him, but away from my body cause I couldn't bear to look at him. There were times I would scream at him-scream-to shut up and go to sleep. I thought about giving him up. I thought about leaving him naked in the bathtub with the window open. I thought about taking Penelope and running away. I hated him for taking time away from my sweet girl. I hated my husband for not understanding. And in the few moments of clarity I had, I hated myself for having such thoughts and feelings. I talked to no one, for who could possibly understand. I didn't understand!! This was not me! I am a loving person, a compassionate person. A person who had dedicated her life to bettering the lives of children!  I have a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. I worked for a year in a preschool with special needs children. Surely, I could find some love for my own child?  I needed help.

I finally talked to my prenatal nurse. I did not tell her everything. She would hate me for being such an awful mother. I told her I was feeling overwhelmed. It was hard taking care of two young children. She gave me rules. Whether she knew that I was suffering from post pardum depression or just suspected, I don't know.

These are the rules:
1 Get our of bed.
2 Get the kids out of bed
3 Get dressed
4 Get the kids dressed
5 Take a shower
6 Make sure to eat and feed the kids 5-6 meals/snacks/bottles

Anything beyond that- ANYTHING, washing dishes, picking up toys, folding laundry, grocery shopping or even giving the kids a bath,-was extra. A bonus. A gold star on my chart of life. There were several days where I did not get a gold star. I only did the things on my list of rules. There were days where I had to force myself to complete some of the rules. But I forced my self to complete my to do list every day. And every day little, by very, very little, I felt better.

And then the day finally came. The day came when I looked at Leo and cried. I held him and cried, and apologized over and over and over again. I told him I loved him and I meant it. I loved this precious little boy more than my own life. My heart was full of Penelope, and it didn't make room. Instead I grew a second heart. A place for Leo alone. A place full of this sweet child. A part of me will never forgive myself for things I thought, said and did, but I will spend the rest of my life loving this little boy and being the best mommy I can, to try and make up for it.

If you are or have ever gone through postpartum depression. Or think you might be, please, talk to someone. Anyone. You are not a bad mother. You are not weak. You are a woman who has gone through a major life event. And most importantly, you are not alone. Follow the rules. Do not live day by day if that is too big. Live hour by hour. Minute by minute if you have to. But most importantly, have hope. You will come through this, and the love you have for your child will be so much stronger, because you had to fight for it so much harder.


Katie @ Loves of Life said...

oh my gosh, this is heart wrenching...but so glad when people share their stories because more momma's will get help when they feel these same things. xo

Meg G said...

Wow, thank you for sharing this.