Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Postpartum Depression and the Battlefield of the Mind

Within the last year, I've had a few ladies reach out to me regarding Postpartum Depression (PPD). Their ages vary and each have a different story, but all have struggled with the same set of feelings. I'm thankful they have trusted me enough to be open and vulnerable.

In a previous blog I shared a bit about my PPD with my last pregnancy. Today I wanted to share a more in depth look at PPD and the different ways it portrayed itself in my life.

My first baby boy was born in the spring of 2013, he was a whopping 8 pounds 6 ounces! My delivery with him didn't go as I had planned, which totally bummed me out. This was the start of my PPD, I just hadn't realized it yet. See, I am the type of person who dreams about the upcoming event every single day leading up to it; which in this case was labor and delivery. I always have the perfect scenario and plans lined up in my head. The expectations I set are very HIGH and when those expectations aren't met, I hit a deep low. I've always been like this and it's still a work in progress for me. So as you can imagine, when the doctor told me at my 39 week check up that I had developed preeclampsia and needed to be induced ASAP, I was pretty disappointed. The delivery was long and hard, which is completely normal, but not how I had planned. My expectations weren't even close to being met. I began to hit my low. In the early hours of the morning our healthy boy was finally born. The disappointment faded as I held my chunky guy that we had waited so long to meet.

Due to my preeclampsia we had to stay in the hospital for 3 days. I had to be hooked up to a couple IV's the day after birth, making it hard to get out of bed, use the bathroom etc. I was not expecting to be in the amount of pain I was in. Everything hurt. Nothing went how I expected it. I had a perfectly healthy baby though, so why was I feeling so much disappointment?

Once we finally made it home, I cried ALL THE TIME. That is not an exaggeration. I would cry when thinking about how I wasn't pregnant anymore. I would cry when I thought about the last time I walked through the door and I was 9 months pregnant, so full of excitement, not pain. I would cry when thinking of a week prior when I would sit in the rocking chair awaiting the birth of my baby, instead of nursing him for the 6th time in 2 hours. I would cry that he was 1 week old. I would cry when he burped without needing help. I would just sit and cry. This was so bizarre to both me and my husband since I had never been a crier! Yet here I was bawling my eyes out because our baby lifted his head for a second.

All the stories I had heard after women having babies never included them crying as much as I had. They were all so happy and loved visitors. Breastfeeding created a special bond with their new baby. But that wasn't me. My baby wanted to nurse every single second. I couldn't supply enough milk for him and absolutely hated being attached to him all day. I didn't want anyone to come visit because I would just have to feed the baby the whole time anyway. A few weeks in, I developed a horrible case of mastitis that in turn made me hate breastfeeding even more. I felt like a total failure of a mom because breastfeeding made me despise my baby instead of bond with him. The feeling of failure continued when I had to switch him to formula at just 6 weeks old. Within that time frame he had a bleeding diaper rash that freaked me out. I felt like a failure once again and my thoughts would quickly downward spiral. "I probably didn't change his diaper enough which made him have a rash and I wasn't paying close enough attention and now he screams when I change his diaper and I don't know what I'm doing and now I'm going to call the pediatrician again and probably my mom too and I'm so embarrassed because I thought I'd be a good mom but I'm clearly not and my husband must think I'm crazy so I need to stop crying before he gets home and now the baby just puked out everything he had in him on me and I haven't showered for a week and how could I ruin our simple, happy marriage like this?"

My mind was foggy all the time. I felt so alone for those 6 weeks, but the weird part is, I didn't really even know it until after I was out of it. I think it was because I didn't want to admit to anyone, especially myself, that I felt sad my baby was born. My husband was the only one who even knew I had this battle going on. Thankfully, after we started formula, the baby was significantly happier, other people could help feed him, he slept better, and I liked him better! My baby blues faded and I honestly didn't think about them again. This was a mild case of PPD that left quickly, but it still caused me to have bad postpartum memories.

Our second baby boy was born 18 months later in the fall of 2014. His labor and delivery were exactly what I hoped for with no complications at all. We got discharged as soon as we could so we could get back to our firstborn waiting at home. To be honest, after that, I don't remember much about his newborn days, haha! Two in diapers will do that to you. There were days were I had more tears than others, but nothing that I would classify as PPD.

Three years later, in the fall of 2017, we welcomed our third baby boy! If you've been following along for awhile, you are probably aware that I had some complications after his birth. I hemorrhaged three separate times the month following his birth causing me to fight for my life. Before those complications though, I had already begun to feel the baby blues. Similar thoughts to my first round of PPD were popping in my head. I wrote in detail about my feelings of guilt and failure pre trauma in this post. My hope was they would pass before turning into a full fledged-depression. Unfortunately, after the trauma I endured, PPD hit me hard! There was no stopping it.

Welcoming our third baby boy into the world!

Once again my expectations were not hit and postpartum certainly did not go as planned. I was in the hospital for a total of 13 days. Almost two weeks that our newborn, 3 year old and 4 year old had to live without their parents with no warning. We didn't FaceTime or talk to them on the phone during the hospital stay because the situation was too confusing to explain and I for sure didn't want them to see my extremely swollen face with tubes coming out my body. I painfully missed them, but knew talking to them would make them sad and miss me, which was horrible to see! It ripped my heart out every time I'd think about that scenario. Thankfully, we had some amazing family who sacrificed their time for those two weeks to take care of our boys! We were so blessed!

My husband and I returned home late in the evening on our 13th night away from our boys. The transition of us coming back home was hard on everyone. The older boys were feeling and expressing every emotion. They were excited we were back, but also frustrated because I couldn't do much but lay in bed and Brett was occupied with the baby or taking care of me. They were ready to go to all our Halloween events we had planned on attending, and then upset when we weren't able to make it. All they wanted to do was snuggle me, but my body hurt so bad they could only sit by me. They had much more fun when their aunt, uncle and grandparents were in charge! They were exhausted and constantly fighting. My head throbbed from the noise of their yelling and crying. I couldn't handle being around them. It broke my heart. Our parents would take turns taking them out of the house. I'd weep in Brett's arms. I felt it was my fault. I've ruined our happy kids. My depression got heavier.

The baby was 3 weeks old when we came home. I had spent 14 of the first 20 days away from our newborn. During the 7 days we did spend with him he was an angel baby. Slept great, ate great, easiest baby ever!! While we were gone though, it was a different story. When we returned home, he wasn't eating well. He was having constant diarrhea which resulted in a horrible diaper rash. The worst I'd ever seen! He wasn't sleeping well. He'd cry from what I imagine was belly pain and of course when he needed another diaper change. I couldn't believe the baby he had become in such a short amount of time. On top of that, my arms were so swollen and in excruciating pain due to the numerous IVs I had. I couldn't even bend them, making it impossible for me to hold the baby and feed him a bottle. Someone else had to do that. I was absolutely terrified of moving, fearful that I'd start bleeding again, so someone else would also have to change his diapers. My depression became even heavier when I couldn't do "mom" tasks. When the kids constant fighting and the baby's inconsolable crying were added to my physically pained body, my mental state became dangerous.

With the sound of the big boys fighting in the background, tears would stream down my face as I'd sit and stare at my crying baby in his swing. My mind was completely blank, yet filled with depressing thoughts at the same time. Through my tears I would tell Brett, "That's not the baby I left 2 weeks ago. My baby was easy and happy, this baby just cries. My baby was a newborn, this baby is almost a month old. He doesn't even look the same. His flaky skin is gone and he barely fits into my favorite newborn pajamas anymore. My baby snuggled and we had an unbreakable bond. This baby doesn't want to be held and honestly I don't even want to hold him." I'd cry, "That's not my baby!"

I'd wake up in the night crying from a nightmare of events that happened in the hospital. I was living in a thick dark cloud that was suffocating. My heart constantly felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. I was weak with no appetite. My stomach was in knots. The depression was the darkest, heaviest feeling I've ever felt. I had lost control of my mind.

One morning I had the biggest breakdown of all. My mother in law was downstairs taking care of the kids. I told Brett that once again I needed to talk through some thoughts and feelings I was having. I knew they weren't really how I felt, but I needed to get them out of my head. Before I could even talk, I was bawling in his arms. Slowly I'd mutter out a word or two. Eventually I expressed to him the darkest thoughts I'd had yet. "I don't want that baby. I don't want to touch him. We have no bond and I wish we never would have had him. If we wouldn't have had him, life would be good. I feel like life will never be the same and we will never be happy again and its the baby's fault. All I want is the normal, happy life of routine that we used to have." I rolled into my thoughts of how bad of a mother I was and a terrible wife. "Everyone would be better without me. I'm completely useless here. I just want this pain to end." This is the closest I felt to suicide. I didn't actually want to die, but I sure did want out of the physical and mental pain! I saw no light at the end of the tunnel while in the dark, air deprived tornado of depression.

My doctors, family and friends were all aware I was feeling quite dark and heavy. I was even warned before I left the hospital by a psychiatrist that PPD and PTSD would hit me hard. The doctor laid out the exact thoughts I'd be having. He was actually spot on. They had prescribed me medication just in case. I resisted it for a few days because it made me feel like even more of a failure. Obviously I knew what I went through was traumatic and warranted unwanted feelings, but my mind would tell me that if I was normal I would be able to move past the PPD without the help of medication. I felt as though medication displayed yet another weakness. Thankfully I was surrounded by supportive people who encouraged me to start with the medication. Once it was in my system, my anxiety subsided and I was eventually able to get past the depression and reconnect with my kids.

If you are feeling like you're struggling with Postpartum Depression, here is my advice coming from personal experience.

Find Your Support System!
As soon as I could feel the baby blues rolling in, I immediately told my husband. I also reached out to my closest friends and family so they could be praying for me. There were a few that I even asked to keep checking on me so I didn't sit in the house alone with my thoughts for too long of a time. You have to find a support system, whether its your doctors, parents, friends, partner, or counselors! People you can count on to check on you and encourage you.

TALK, TALK, TALK!
You read above, following my first birth, I had PPD where I didn't talk to anyone about it and it was horrible!!!! This last time I struggled, I talked to everyone in my support system consistently. I often would repeat myself to them, but I needed to get out my thoughts every single time I had them. Listen, no one can help you if you don't talk about what you're feeling!! And if you have a good support system, they will never shut you down or turn you away! 

Talking also helps connect you to other moms who have struggled with PPD or are currently. It helped me so much when another mom would share her story and we could relate to each other.

Have Patience!
Girl, have patience with yourself! Healing takes time. I am just about a year postpartum and I still have days where I feel PPD or PTSD lingering. For the most part it is gone, but it didn't happen over night! I had to have patience with myself in order to heal. 

Having patience is a shoutout to your support system too. Make sure whoever is in your system is going to have patience with you. Brett was so patient with me. He talked me through every single feeling until I felt better, every single time. This was literally weeks and even months! He spent days listening to me cry and repeat my absurd feelings to him. Never one time did he displace my thoughts. He never acted annoyed. Instead he would help justify why I had those thoughts. He would pray with me and encourage me with scripture.

Take the Medication!
Like I mentioned above, being prescribed medication for my mental health made me feel like a failure. This will more than likely be the case for you too. You will feel like there is something wrong with you. I am a firm believer in modern medicine and living proof that it works. Take the medication! It will help.

However, along with medication there are also side effects. Be aware. Talk to your doctor about them beforehand. My doctors talked all the side effects through with me. I'm not here to lie or sugar coat anything, so with that being said, once I started the medication, I got worse before I got better. It was intense. I literally felt like I was going to explode, but then one day it was better. Most of them time I felt numb, but it was better than what I was feeling.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
If you take away anything from this post, let it be this. You are not alone! You will feel alone, but I promise you are not! You have to remember this.



Be Thankful!
I will be the first to admit that this is not easy. In fact, I didn't even want to try it. My husband would encourage me every time I felt depressed, discouraged, and defeated to give thanks. He encouraged me to not only think in my mind what I was thankful for, but to speak it aloud. I fought this hard because most of the time I really didn't feel thankful for anything. That's what this dark cloud the enemy will surround you with will do to you. You have to push through! As I would lay there in our room, filled with insomnia and flashbacks of what had just happened to me, I slowly began thinking of what I was thankful for, but it was physically impossible for me to speak it out loud. I literally could not do it. The enemy would pop in my thoughts and convince me that I wasn't really thankful. We would battle back and forth as he'd try to fill my head up with lies. As the nights passed, I fought back and would make myself give thanks out loud. The first few times were hard, but once I got the hang of it, thankful thoughts starting flowing! Being thankful was a huge part of my freedom from PPD. You will not feel like being thankful, but I promise it will draw you out of your depression!

Understand the Battlefield of the Mind!
One of my aunts from my support system mailed me a book called "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Let me just say this book changed my life forever. Every time I read it, I felt as though she wrote it specifically for me. Once I began to understand the battlefield of my mind, I was able to form a more effective strategy and win the battle! I wish I could share all the parts of the book I have highlighted, but that'd basically be the whole book!! One day I hope to do a few blog posts specifically on the book, but today I'd like to share a couple paragraphs that helped me through the dark time of Postpartum Depression.

Chapter 12: An Anxious and Worried Mind
"Anxiety and worry are both attacks on the mind intended to distract us from serving the Lord. The enemy also uses both of these torments to press our faith down, so it cannot rise up and help us live in victory.... Because I was constantly worrying about something, I never enjoyed the peace that Jesus died for me to have."

So good!! When I read and digested that paragraph, it clicked that I was under attack. I realized I had just won the battle of overcoming the fear of death and the enemy did not like that, because he knew I would use my story to influence others to the goodness of Christ. The enemy was using anxiety and worry to distract me from living in the major victory I just had. He was continually working on replacing my peace with fear, making my mind foggy, so I was preoccupied and not able to hear the Lord and serve Him to full capacity. I also felt as though I was being selfish for not living in and enjoying the peace that Jesus had died for me to have.

Chapter 12: An Anxious and Worried Mind
"Jesus gave us His peace, (John 14:27) but He said we must not allow ourselves to be fearful, intimidated and unsettled. In other words, peace is present in us, but it must be chosen over what our fleshly mind thinks. We can choose to be peaceful by choosing to think on things that promote peace rather than things that open a door for worry and anxiety."

This went hand in hand with what my husband had been encouraging me to practice: giving thanks. I was thankful for the confirmation and extra push from the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded us to not allow ourselves to be fearful, but abide in Christ by resting in Him. I was far from abiding in His rest, but I didn't give up! I made the choice moment by moment to think on things that promoted peace rather than anxiety. 

You really should go read this book, even if you aren't struggling with PPD. Here is a link for you.... it will be the best $10 you ever spend! Let me know what you think when you read it!

I will leave you with this encouraging scripture!
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you need someone to talk too! I would love to be in your support system! Leave a comment here on the blog, send me an email or connect with me through Instagram at @taylormadelifeblog.


Sending my love and prayers,





5 comments:

  1. Postpartum is truly hard. I know a few of my friends who had babies had postpartum depression and it was hard for me to watch them go through it. I didn't have postpartum myself but I did have anxiety and depression especially after my third was born. I loved hearing your story great advice for those who are suffering!

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  2. Amen. I had a traumatic birth and postpartum ocd. It’s so rough. Your recommendation are spot on great advice. Thank you for sharing. When we speak openly about the rawness of PPD we fight the stigma!

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    1. Wow, read your blog post!! PPD is crazy!! So happy you also made it through!

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  3. Currently going through PPD... I am so thankful for your blog! Thank you for being brave enough to share and thank you for your perfectly appointed references to scripture! God bless you and your family :)

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    1. Oh friend! I am thankful you read it and I pray it encourages you greatly! If you wanted, you can send me a message on Instagram or an email. I'd love to help you!!

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