PTSD and Postpartum
Well this pain felt too familiar. My mind started to make connections to the pain I felt after the rape years ago. My already disturbed sleeping patterns from breast feeding a newborn were then riddled with nightmares and flashbacks. My body was sore from convulsing during flashbacks, bruises were beginning to form on my legs and arms, my stomach was in knots and I was beyond exhausted. It felt like all the progress I had made over the past few years went out the window when my son was born. I knew I loved him with every fiber of my being but a little part of me resented him for the re-traumatization I was going through. I was surrounded by supportive friends and family but I reverted back to old coping mechanisms, doing my best to hide my feelings. I spent many nights trying to cry silently next to my husband in order not to wake him. During the day I would lock myself in our bedroom or my office and sob, not understanding what was happening to me. I was angry, resentful, sad, hopeless, anxious and conflicted. I knew how I should be feeling but it was not what I was experiencing, I felt like a failure. I was one of the first of my friends to get married and one of the first to have children. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I didn’t know who to talk to. I felt weak and ashamed by my thought process. I thought that my family would be better off without me ruining them. I strategized ways I could still be in their lives with doing the least amount of damage (this is one of the hardest things to admit). I thought that if they moved in with family that my husband and son would be better off or I could move out.
It wasn’t until months after the birth of my son that I heard about postpartum depression. I called my best friend Amanda one day frantic on the phone, sobbing telling her I didn’t know what to do, that I didn’t want to leave but that my family deserved a mother and a wife that was whole. At that moment she told me she thought I had postpartum depression and anxiety. At first I was absolutely furious. I told her I didn’t want to and I didn’t need to speak to anyone. I even started to avoid her calls short after but she was right. Little did I know, that by having PTSD I was prone to having postpartum mental health complications. There was no easy fix. It took me admitting I had a problem and finally talking to my husband to come up with a strategy to combat these feelings. My husband, in his usual style, handled it with grace. He gave me the time, space and support I needed to put myself back together. Postpartum became a battle that I was finally aware of. I became proactive in identifying the issues and their solutions. Once this happened, I was finally able to be the mother and wife I thought I would be.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. If you settled on an average of 15% of four million live births in the US annually, this would mean approximately women get PPD each year in the United States alone.
What is my advice? Speak up! I will say it a million times on my blog but the key to getting help and healing is to step out of isolation. Whether it be your doctor, spouse, friend or family member, voicing your concerns can make all the difference. If neccesary counseling and medication can help keep your symptoms manageable. You don't have to suffer in silence to be superwoman, you grew a human being in side of you, asking for help doesn't make you weak. To be honest I think it takes alot of strength to admit help. If it was easy I would have done it right away the first time!
After I got a handle on my postpartum, my husband and I still felt our family wasn’t complete. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the thought of going through postpartum depression and anxiety didn’t make me second guess our decision to try again for another. The second time around we experienced secondary infertility. It took over 2 years to conceive our daughter. We had two miscarriages during the process. The miscarriages were heart breaking. No one warns you of the hormone drop after miscarriage! Each time felt like postpartum depression was knocking on my door waiting to take me back into the abyss and sometimes it did.
Almost four years after having my son, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter. My pregnancy was a nightmare suffering from severe hyperemesis (picture throwing up over 2 dozen times a day for 9 months!). I prepared myself for postpartum depression, but at first it didn’t come. Our whole family had been put together like a puzzle and I couldn’t be happier. I breastfed my daughter for about 15 months and donated over 5,000 ounces of breastmilk to local mothers in need. Once I weaned the hormone drop came. The sadness started to creep into my daily routine. This time would be different. I had pledged to be proactive. Once my flashbacks started up again, I reached out for help and set up counseling. I wish I had done this the first time. It has made such a difference in the way postpartum depression has affected my life. I do not feel like it controls me this time around. I am in control of my treatment.
Sadly not many mothers can get the help they need. My insurance does not cover mental health/ counseling anywhere near me, the closest counselor covered is 3 hours away. Many families cannot afford the out of pocket cost of counseling when not covered by insurance. Since my Postpartum is PTSD related I received a referral from CARE Florida (Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies). I am so thankful to them in assisting me to get the help that I need.
Since many are not as lucky to have the resources that I have access to, I will be joining Maternity Mental health Coalition (MMH Coalition) May 16-18 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to speak to my local representative about my story. A group of mothers and myself will be advocating for more maternal mental health support. Isn’t it about time we take care of our mother’s bodies and mind?
To read more about MMH Coalition days please see the official events page at http://mmhcoalition.com/advocacy-days/