PTSD. PPA. PPD.
All abbreviations I have come to know in the last 5 years. First came the PTSD from the NICU stay and premie challenges during my first born’s year after arriving 6 weeks early. Intermingled with that was PPA that presented in a deep fear of germs and sickness after many ER trips that first year of his life. After a year of carrying the weight of the unexpected early arrival of my first I finally walked into my therapists office I’d come to know as a safe haven. It was there that I did some of the deepest and hardest internal work (and continue to).
Fast forward to postpartum with my second I came to uncover that my postpartum anxiety (PPA) has a delayed response. I bask in the hormonal oxytocin filled bliss post-positive birth for two months when I crash into all the anxious thoughts triggered by weeks of sleep deprivation. 18 months after her birth the rage and despair really reared its ugly face on my 32nd birthday. Yet another time yelling at my young kids, putting a plate on the table too firmly with my lunch only to have the plate shatter and ending with me crumpled on the bathroom floor in tears with my husband miles away on tour. I shudder when I think of my children, especially my then 3 year old, holding images of mommy like that.
Mere months later came our sweet surprise pregnancy with our third. Admittedly crying the night I saw the positive appear knowing that PPA would emerge likely even more intensely and how could I handle 3 little souls while I barely survive caring for 2? The easiest of all pregnancies led to a wildly amazing surprise breech birth and again a flood of oxytocin goodness riding the wave for 2 months. Then the anxiety crept in, but this time depression at its heels.
Panic attacks became a weekly occurrence. I would become paralyzed unable to make a simple decision of what to do next and my husband having to repeat to me over and over again that this baby was not our first, he was healthy and safe as I hyperventilated in tears. Every day was presented with fear of how to balance three little ones the moment my husband left for work. I became even more fixated on germs in fear of my baby getting sick. The thought of returning to work was too overwhelming and I seriously considered just quitting to stay at home in the safety of our home 24/7. The yelling at the older two began again, especially at any sneeze, cough or snotty nose. This time the tears began every night as the sun set and the day ended. Instead of savoring the days I mourned every day gone knowing this was my last baby.
Finally one night after getting my older two to bed I laid next to my youngest tears rolling down my face and thought “these kids deserve better, I am not worthy to be their mom”. That was my wake up call. The next day my husband lovingly said it was time to get help and after opening up with my midwife, a trusted friend to me, she encouraged the same sentiment. I’ll never forget her words: “don’t let this anxiety steal these precious years with your young children” and “motherhood is not meant to be this hard”.
My doctor called immediately after I sent a message saying I think it’s time for medication and got me in the next day. I woke up that day thinking I’d walk in and say it was all ok, I could manage and nevermind on the meds. But then my empathic doctor walked in, looked compassionately without judgement at me and asked genuinely how I was doing. I broke down, like ugly cry big tears broke down, before I could say a thing. I didn’t need to say anything, she knew I had hit my rock bottom and it took all the courage I could muster to ask for help.
That was the day my life began anew. I picked up my prescription for Zoloft and started my journey on antidepressants. Once the fogginess cleared, the overwhelming sleepiness and nights of snoring from my nervous system finally getting a break and ability to get deep sleep, the clouds began to subside. Initially it felt like a battle in my head as the medication took effect. Like someone saying “shhhh” loudly to the millions of anxious thoughts. Now 4 weeks later and I yell a lot less, sleep more soundly and the tears are few and far between. I feel I can breathe finally. I get to enjoy the kids instead of feeling them as a burden and as if time is slipping away at a speed I cannot keep up with.
Just as every mother who has walked this journey too shared with me: I wish I had done this earlier. Hindsight is 20/20, but oh how I wish I could get that time back that instead of enjoying time with my kids I was incessantly cleaning, googling, or just plain worrying. I can finally see myself as not failing for using the support of medication, but for being strong. Strong for knowing when to ask for help. Strong for being the best mom for my children. Strong for taking care of me.