Have you ever experienced something terrible and assumed you had “paid your dues"? Despite all of my head knowledge about the likelihood of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder a second time, my heart was convinced that my first experience was a fluke. There were warning signs. With Ian I had struggled through miscarriage, infertility, difficult pregnancy, traumatic birth, and he was my first baby. After having an amazing delivery with my second child, my daughter Cora, and experiencing no anxiety or depression postpartum, I figured “been there, done that!” What I failed to recognize, was that every pregnancy and postpartum experience is unique.
In August of last year, 2015, I gave birth to my third child, Luke Jeremiah. To be completely honest, I was not super excited when I found out I was pregnant again. After the birth of my daughter we knew our family was not quite complete. We could see God revealing to us that there was another child in our future. Unfortunately, in 2013/2014, we suffered two consecutive miscarriages, with the later one requiring a D&C. Seeing that second line on a pregnancy test had become terrifying, instead of exciting, as if I was just waiting for something to go wrong. I remember telling my doctor that if we lost this one, I was done. My faith had become fleeting, and I was not sure how much more I could take, emotionally, or physically.
God is Faithful and Luke grew healthy and strong. Aside from the annoyance of Gestational Diabetes, my pregnancy was complication free. Delivery went a little awry when I experienced a repeat shoulder dystocia (I had that with Ian as well), but by and large it was nowhere near as complex or traumatic as my first birth. Luke came to us at a hefty 8lbs 15oz, and instantly I knew our family was complete. The first few days at home where enjoyable, but on day 3 I felt the onset of anxiety, OCD and insomnia. I quickly filled my Lexapro prescription, and within 4 days, I was sleeping well again (at least as well as you can with a newborn!) My husband and I clumsily settled into our new life as a family of 5.
Several weeks later, when Luke was 6 weeks old, I got very, very ill. It’s a long painstaking story, but in summary, I had a stomach and intestinal parasite that led to a bacterial infection. I could not keep anything down, and within 2 weeks I had lost more than 30 pounds. I looked sickly; I was weak. My muscle was deteriorating. The doctor threatened to hospitalize me. It was scary. The stress on my immune system caused me to break out in the shingles. I quickly started spiraling downward. We decided it was time to ask my mother to come stay with us to help with the kids. She got there just in time.
Have you ever experienced something terrible and assumed you had "paid your dues"?
Within a few days of her arrival, the intense insomnia began. I started having flashbacks to my postpartum period with Ian. I became terrified and detached. My anxiety and OCD became more crippling, and my antidepressant wasn’t cutting it anymore. By the time we put all of our “if the crap hits the fan again” plans into place, I was experiencing full blown paranoia and horrible, horrible intrusive thoughts.
My psychiatrist added an antipsychotic medication to my treatment plan, and within a week or so I became stable. My mom stayed for about 6 weeks to help me get my feet back under me. I attended weekly counseling sessions diligently, and my AMAZING support system of family and friends surrounded me and helped in any and every way possible.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it is hard to fight the stigma. Hard to admit that I experienced a Postpartum Mood Disorder again. Hard to swallow antipsychotic medication. Insanely hard to remind myself that those horrible, horrible intrusive thoughts were not my own. But, alas, it is only a stigma. I have battled a real, miserable, horrible, monstrous beast named Postpartum Depression AGAIN, and by the Grace of God and the help of my support system, I have come out victorious!
If you or someone you know is experiencing a Pregnancy Related Mood Disorder, please reach out for help. Fight the stigma. Fight for your family. Your family needs YOU! With the proper treatment plan you absolutely will get better!!
I am so very thankful for the two following resources. Both provide free materials, information and social support for women and their families.
Postpartum Support International www.Postpartum.net
Postpartum Progress www.postpartumprogress.com
Teresa Fleischmann is a volunteer at home wife and Mom. She is a Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum PTSD, Postpartum OCD & Postpartum Depression survivor. She founded the Huntsville Postpartum Support Network providing in person and online support to women experiencing PMADs. If you are a local mom in need of online support, you can email your request here. She is also a state co-coordinator for Postpartum Support International, and co-leads an annual fundraiser for Postpartum Progress called Climb Out of the Darkness. You can register to join her here athttps://www.crowdrise.com/teresafleischmann-COTD2016/fundraiser/teresafleischmann