Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry: My Postpartum Silence

Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry: My Postpartum Silence

Once upon a time there was a girl who fell in love with a boy. She was a therapist. He was a lawyer. They got married, went through the highs and lows of infertility, finally had a son via IVF and lived happily ever after. 

The end. 

 My Postpartum Silence

As much as I would love to end this post right here I can’t because I would be a big, fat liar. In reality, the story ends with “had a son via IVF and the girl couldn’t stop thinking this miracle baby was  a huge mistake and she wanted to pack her bags and drive far, far away.” 

I can tell you the day it started, too: the Monday after Mother’s Day. How screwed up is that? Mother’s Day. A day I dreaded for years and the first time I wasn’t full of dread I was instead hit with postpartum rage and depression harder than Thor’s hammer. 

  Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

  The Monday after

The Monday after

I couldn’t explain it then. I didn’t want to explain it then. Ryan knew something was wrong when I sobbed crying every morning when he left for work and again when he left home after his lunch break. I spent my days surrounded by the hysterical screaming of a 3.5 month old who our first (and not current) pediatrician found nothing was wrong. Spoiler alert: he had horrible reflux and an airway disorder. I wanted to crawl under my covers and never come out. Instead, I cried and simmered all day then slapped on makeup and a smile and headed to my office to see clients in the evening. Did I mention I was also leading a support group for new moms? I’ve always been great at compartmentalizing my feelings so work and group were much needed breaks.  

The Fourth Trimester Ends {and Hell Begins}

John Hayes turned four months old and shit hit the fan. More like it exploded and found its way into every nook and cranny of a high powered turbine. He stopped napping. He stopped sleeping at night. This provided more awake time for him to be inconsolable and for me to get more and more tearful and angry. Angry at him. At my friends. At my dogs.  At my husband. At my family. At my in-laws. At the world. 

I was mad at the new moms pretending to be so in love with their babies. I was mad at my family and in-laws because they lived so far away and were no help on a daily basis. I was mad at friends who had family live nearby and could call them on a whim for help, a break, anything. I was mad at friends who seemed to have an easier time because their babies slept all night and only cried when they were hungry.  I was mad at Ryan because he got to go to work and escape nine hours of hell. I was even mad at random strangers whose babies didn’t become psychotic when strapped in their car seats. And yes, I even got mad at my dogs because they were just there. 

I would get mad at John Hayes because he wouldn’t stop crying. I would scream at the top of my lungs in a pillow and it evolved to yelling at him directly, “Just stop crying!”  This clearly escalated the situation and I would crumble to the floor feeling like a monster. I kicked Ruby. My precious Ruby. I think I kicked Molly once, too. I was trying to calm John Hayes down and she kept walking in front of me. I was a monster.

I remember at his four month well baby appointment practically pleading with his pediatrician to help figure out what was wrong with him. I showed him videos of the hysterical cries every time he was in his car seat but still, he found nothing wrong. Now I was a helpless monster. 

Know the Facts, Friends

There are many misconceptions about postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD/PTSD/psychosis. I never, ever wanted to hurt him. I just didn’t want to be around him. I never wanted to hurt myself. I just wanted time to speed up. I felt overwhelmed, couldn't sleep and felt like I was drowning. I was desperate to find respite and support. We started co-sleeping again because when he was asleep (and quiet) I could look at him and feel gratitude, love and peace—it became my only bonding time and I started to love it. 

I also reached out to a new-ish friend at the time who I knew had experienced similar struggles. God planted her in my life in the most beautiful way.  I’ll never forget where I was when we had the text message exchange. I had successfully rocked John Hayes to sleep and sent her a not-so-cryptic text. She knew. And she dug in deep. If there was a Chicken Soup for the Postpartum Soul she would be the featured story. For the first time there was someone I could relate to and confide in. She will tell her story one day and it’s a beautiful one, too. 

My Postpartum Silence | The Infertile Mama
My Postpartum Silence | The Infertile Mama
My Postpartum Silence | The Infertile Mama

I started taking my anti-anxiety medication more regularly, booked an eight day sailing sabbatical with two girlfriends and added an extra day to the Mothers Day Out program he would be starting in the upcoming weeks. 

Then there was light. 

Catching My Breath

At six months old his medical concerns starting bubbling to the surface. We saw several specialists—a pediatric neurologist, pulmonologist and ENT— received answers, prescriptions, instructions for nectar consistency formula, came up with a solid game plan and things began to improve for all of us. It wasn’t because of a proactive approach by his pediatrician (although he did refer us for a helmet because John Hayes had such a flat head. Hard pass.) God had conveniently planted another gem in our lives that helped facilitate the referrals. She was his Occupational Therapist that had been seeing us weekly since birth. I found so much comfort in our sessions and she knew something wasn't right. 

Aside from the confirmation of GERD and laryngomalacia, we also discovered he had obstructive sleep apnea. 

 Sleep Study #1

Sleep Study #1

Then there was the seizure incident. 

 The Seizure

The Seizure

Before I knew it I was more focused on his medical issues and somehow my mother instincts put on their boots and went to work. 

Where ya at, God?

You know in the book of Esther that God is never mentioned? Not once. But He was all up in that story. I didn’t turn to God during those dark times. It honestly never occurred to me to do such a thing. We went to church and said our prayers but I never turned to him for help. I didn’t feel abandoned by Him—I didn’t think much about Him in relation to my situation. When looking back over those months I can’t help but to see that His presence was everywhere.  He had placed individuals in my path that served such an impact on my journey. 

I'm Good Now 

Fast forward to the present. Do I still yell? You betcha. I’m human and dealing with a toddler who still doesn’t sleep at night. Do I still cry? Umm, yes. but it's usually when I'm really, really tired or listening to powerful worship songs. Do I fantasize about running away? Daily. But it’s more like running away to sit in silence for a few hours and then coming home. Do I still get angry at friends? Yes but it’s more envy than anger. Envious that their babies qualify for sleep training or crying it out in order to get some shut eye. Envious that they don’t worry about a slight fever and have to carry around Diastat in case another seizure happens. Ryan and I have learned to depend on each other 100% and we still haven’t mastered the art of asking for help. We are slowly working on it. Molly still trembles when he screams and that is heartbreaking. It's like she is waiting for me to morph back in to full blown monster mode. I keep telling her that I'm ok!

I’ll never be one of those moms who says, “I can’t remember life before I had my baby!”  This makes me laugh. I vividly remember times pre-John Hayes and all of the freedom I had. Now though? I don’t want to go back to those times. I just want a babysitter for date night every now and then. Am I “so in love with my baby”? Ha! Hell to the no. He’s got a temper and is usually cranky all day. But God do I love him so. 

 Mother's Day 2018

Mother's Day 2018

My Postpartum Silence | The Infertile Mama

Sneaky Little Jerks

The first 3.5 months of his life were easy peasy. Great sleeper. No colic. That’s the thing about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs): it can happen anytime during pregnancy and up to one year after you bring your squishy bundle home. You don’t have to have a hysterical screaming baby like John Hayes either. Or one with medical issues. You can be affected by PMADs with the sweetest, most angelic baby in the land. You can be an adoptive mom and still be at risk. Dads can get it too. 

There are so many risk factors.

Infertility ✅ 

Lack of primary support system ✅ 

History of depression or anxiety ✅ 

Pressure to breastfeed when you didn’t really want to ✅

Y’all! We have to talk about this more. It affects up to 21% of new moms. 21%! Gestational diabetes affects 6% and we hear about that all the time.  PMADs are the number one medical complication of childbirth. We have to help the moms. 

I’ve shifted my private practice to focus on not just infertility and miscarriage but also on perinatal mood disorders. There are only a few of us therapist out there who do this and it’s so, so important. 

What Can You Do?

OB/GYNs: please pay close attention to your moms. Not just your first time moms either. Don’t glaze over the screening questions because you feel like you can trust your patient to be honest if they are struggling. That’s probably not going to happen. Also, know the resources out there and make a dang referral ASAP. 

Pediatricians: you see moms more than any provider out there during the first twelve months. I know the baby is your patient but please keep an eye and ear on your moms. 

Pharmacists: please do your research on the updated studies on psychotropic medications and pregnancy/breastfeeding/etc. If you aren’t up to date on the research then please just shhh. I’ve heard some scary and inaccurate advice from pharmacists and it has left moms unnecessarily struggling for way too long. 

Family & friends: everyone is focused on the new baby but don’t forget to ask Mom how she’s doing. How she’s really doing. She probably won’t open up at first but keep asking. This is a great website to know where to start. 

Dads & Partners:  Read, memorize and recite this. 

New moms: if you can relate to anything that I’ve said please know you aren’t alone. You aren't a monster. You are a wonderful mom.  Help is out there. 

Moms on the Other Side: Share your story.

 

Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry | My Postpartum Silence | The Infertile Mama
On the Count of Three: The Embryo Afterlife

On the Count of Three: The Embryo Afterlife