Thursday, August 15, 2013

Post Partum Depression is NOT a Life Sentence!

By Teresa Fleischmann, Guest Blogger
The five year plan. That was our goal. Five years of marital bliss, complete with traveling, fun date excursions, late night movie theater outings and fancy dinners. Once we got all of the “fun” out of our systems, we would settle down and start our family. We quickly learned, as many have, that God’s plan was very different than our own.

When I was 15 years old, I found out that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The doctor explained to me that because of my irregular menstrual cycle, and hormone imbalances, I would likely have a difficult time conceiving. At 15 it fell on deaf ears, but when my husband and I began trying to get pregnant, we were prepared for a lengthy process.  We were completely shocked and obviously ecstatic when we conceived our first baby just 3 months later. I was overjoyed! I remember finding ways to tell random strangers about my pregnancy. I felt different, and wondered if other people could tell I was pregnant.  I avoided caffeine, deli meats, perfectly pasteurized feta cheese, and treated the salad bar at Jason’s Deli like the black plague. We excitedly shared the news with our parents, but withheld the information from our siblings and friends wanting to wait until we cleared the “danger zone” of the 1st trimester. 

One and a half weeks into our new found status of “soon to be parents” we experienced what too many parents have endured, a miscarriage. I was devastated. I felt inadequate as a woman, as a wife. My husband, Derek, and I handled the news very differently. He quietly, keeping himself busy in the garage, while I cried and got angry, not understanding why it happened, almost wishing I had just never gotten pregnant in the first place.  After a couple of weeks of awkwardness, feeling like society told us we must grieve silently, we came to a mutual agreement. As soon as possible, we would try to get pregnant again.
From Kids

As the months blew past, with one negative test after another, we decided to seek medical intervention. We were already aware of my PCOS, but were dealt another difficult blow when testing revealed male factor infertility. We sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist, and after 2 years of infertility, which included Clomid, Femara, injectables and 5 unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), we decided we would take a break before one last pregnancy attempt with in vitro fertilization (IVF). The break was much needed. Sex on a schedule had become daunting, and my poor husband had a far too dramatic experience one day when he was stuck in traffic while attempting to deliver his precious, time sensitive, “specimen” to the lab. If you are local, and you recall seeing a fired up redheaded man frantically weaving in and out of traffic, shaking his fists in the air, trust me, you had NO CLUE why he was behaving so erratically! Looking back now, there were so many comical moments during that period of our lives. Well, at least they are comical years later.

This is where our story takes an incredible, miraculous turn. The morning that our IVF deposit was due, I found out that I was pregnant. Naturally. No drugs, no medical procedures, no scheduled intercourse. If my math is correct, it was a couple of drinks and some 4th of July “fireworks”. This time we decided to shout it from the roof tops. We told everyone. We laughed; we jumped for joy; we cried tears of excitement and also relief! It seemed unreal, and to be honest, I was cautiously excited.

From March of Dimes 
The first half of my pregnancy went well. I somehow avoided morning sickness, and as a larger framed woman, I really enjoyed the freedom to wear horizontal stripes!  Toward my 3rd trimester I developed preeclampsia, and at 30 weeks I was put on bed rest. The day of my 37 week appointment I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was 150/105. I was already taking 2000mg of blood pressure medication per day, so my OB decided it was time to have a baby. A few short hours later I was at the hospital being induced.

The birth plan that I had prepared was completely thrown out the window when I experienced complications during delivery. I had shoulder dystocia (which lead to an episiotomy and an insane 3 minutes of continuous pushing while a nurse palpated my abdomen) and placenta accreta (which caused hemorrhaging and the manual removal of the placenta by my doctor, which had also broken into numerous pieces.) My baby was born unresponsive, but by the grace of God, regained consciousness 19 seconds after delivery. He was born a hefty 8lbs 1oz, which was quite large for a baby born 3 weeks early! We named him Ian James (after his grandfathers) and our room was quickly flooded with family members who were head over heels for this adorable little boy.

From the Utah Dept. of Health Pregnancy Risk Line.
It wasn’t until later that evening, when our visitors had left and we moved into our recovery room, that we really had a chance to process what had happened. My doctor came and sat with us for a while, and explained both the shoulder dystocia and the placenta accreta. He joked that he was “getting too old for this” and in 20 years of practice he had experienced both complications on several occasions, but never together. We discussed how incredible it was that both Ian and I were completely healthy, and how 50 or 100 years ago we possibly would have both died, or at a minimum, I would have lost my uterus. I felt so incredibly blessed to be holding a healthy, happy little baby!

Our time in the hospital was enjoyable, and we had a constant stream of visitors. I was tired and sore, but also on cloud nine. We were discharged later than expected due to some complications from the circumcision, but we were so glad to return to our own home and our own bed. Our first night at home was hard. Ian slept so well that we had to wake him to feed him and I did not sleep at all.

Nursing was much more difficult than I expected and quickly became a chore. Ian was not gaining weight and scheduled feedings were not going well. I was committed to breastfeeding and had read all the books. Nursing sessions were taking more than an hour and it stressed me out that I didn’t know how much milk he was getting. I started getting irritable and couldn’t sleep. I was in a constant panic that he wasn’t getting enough food, and after four straight nights without a single minute of sleep I called my doctor’s office and told them I needed help. They prescribed me an anti-depressant, and the first night I took it I finally got a few hours of rest. The next day I felt like a rockstar, and even invited a friend over to chat and hold the baby. Unfortunately that only lasted for one day, and by that evening I was back to severe mood swings and insomnia. I was so upset with myself. I prayed and prayed for this baby, why was it so hard? Why did I have this feeling like I wasn’t good enough? Like I couldn’t take care of him?

Exactly one week after Ian was born I had my first suicidal ideation. It hit me like a smack to the face. I was nursing him in his room and out of nowhere I thought “Just do it, kill yourself. Derek can find a new wife and they can raise Ian together. It will be better for everyone that way.” Sadly, I also had thoughts of exactly how I would carry out the action. As quickly as the thought entered my head it also passed. I set Ian down in his crib and went and found my husband in the bathroom. I explained what had happened and told him he needed to take me to the hospital. We went to the ER, but decided, with the help of the my OB, a psychiatrist and the ER doctor that I would go home and attempt to take some sleeping pills to see if that helped. Lack of sleep can cause people to have crazy thoughts. That evening was a little better and I did feel refreshed. As the next day came, the mood swings returned, and so did the insomnia. One week later, I had another suicidal ideation, and after consulting my doctor, chose to be voluntarily admitted into the behavioral health unit of the hospital. I spent 5 days there, and was only able to visit with my baby for 2 hours each evening, in a supervised room. I began taking mood stabilizers, and was forced to discontinue nursing. I was devastated. To this day my heart is heavy thinking about the 5 days of his life that I missed. I still occasionally feel shame that I had to spend time in the hospital, but I remind myself that I am a better Mommy because of it. As a matter of fact, the alternative was leaving my child motherless.

After changing psychiatrists three times, regular counseling sessions, and coming off of mood stabilizers and back onto an antidepressant, my mood finally leveled off. My mother was able to go home (she lived with us for 3 months to help me care for Ian) and we were able to settle into our new life as a family of three. By the time Ian was 6 months old I had returned to my “normal” self. My final diagnosis was severe postpartum depression, borderline postpartum psychosis. I won the honor of being one of 2 patients with this diagnosis in the history of my OB’s career.
So, now that I have pulled you down into the dredges with me, let me offer up some hope. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This has become my life verse. As I finish up this post, my now crazy 2 year old son Ian is napping in his room, and so is my adorable 9 month old daughter Cora. I was blessed with a second child (rather quickly after the first) and by the grace of God, I experienced an excellent pregnancy, a complication-free delivery, and most notably, I have not struggled with any depression! I am exclusively nursing Miss Cora, and am thoroughly enjoying being a mother of two. Postpartum depression is not a life sentence! It is also nothing to be ashamed of. If you are struggling with depression, please, please, please, tell someone, and get the help you need.

I may not ever in my lifetime know why I endured miscarriage, infertility and postpartum depression, but I do know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. I also know that God specifically chose Ian and Cora as my children, and me as their Mother! Motherhood is not always glamorous, and at times is frustrating and just plain hard. But I promise this, IT IS WORTH IT! It is worth the pain of labor, the risk of complications, and even the deep, dark, misery of depression. This is proven to me daily in every smile, every coo, every giggle from my kids, and even in those shiny silver badges of honor on my belly!! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Teresa, this was amazing!!!! So very, very well-written. Incredibly honest and touching. We praise God that Derek, Ian, and Cora have you in their lives!