After my initial post “Frozen Top Ten”, a few beautiful people asked me to share more about my experience with depression – specifically, post partum depression. My reflections on this story are too long for one blog post. This is not just for women. It is not just for parents. I offer this series in honor of anyone who suffers and feels alone. And I offer it to those who might have experienced or have loved ones experiencing difficulties as young parents.
Our experience having our first child was joyful. Yes, we went to the hospital and were sent home and then induced the next day. Yes, I had back labor and eventually had an epidural. Yes, the epidural helped half of my back more than the other half. But, YES! We were rested and ready! We were very excited to welcome Amelia into the world to the tune of “Testify to Love.” Happy. For a long time, there was happy.
Then around December in our second pregnancy, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The demands of my body and a 1 ½ year old were wearing on me. Looking back, I believe this is where depression set in. Five months later, it was time to have our second baby. We went in for a check up one morning and were told to come back to the hospital around 5:00 p.m. so they could induce and deliver that night. We didn’t think much of the request at the time. Our doctor would conveniently be on call and my body was indicating that it was a good time. We started the process around 6. I settled into the whirlpool and Aaron settled into the Lakers game. What came next was fast and furious. I realized very quickly that I wanted the pain meds I had previously hoped to do without. And I wanted them BAD. They never came. I will spare you the details.
Here’s what I felt I lost in the next few hours:
- My voice. I had plans for how this birthing process would work, but when things got rolling, nurses were (what felt like) dragging me to the bed and telling me what to do. I felt like they were making decisions for me. They acted like the epidural would come, even though they knew it was too late. I felt like a child.
- My emotional stability. It took me a few months to realize this, but I discussed it with a friend-psychologist and we determined that I likely had a panic attack during labor. I literally thought I would AND thought it would be better if I would just die in labor. I feel bad even saying that. But it’s true. I’m going to say it because maybe I’m not the only one.
- My dignity. I felt incredibly exposed and ashamed of my volume, tone and word choice as I cried out and writhed in pain.
- My self-respect. When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is also really hard to say. *Big Breath*
- My ability to move. For a long time (maybe an hour, I don’t really know) after birth, I couldn’t relax my awkwardly positioned body. I continued to experience pain after pain and I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask for pain medication for quite some time.
- My husband’s respect. This is a tough one, but it is real. I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him. I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.
- Sleep. Grant was born at 11:45 p.m. They took us to our room around 1:00 a.m. and I did not sleep. I lay there tense and in shock, all night long. No one knew. I didn’t sleep well for months.
The next couple of days in the hospital were a struggle as I attempted to feel and act like I felt as joyful as I did when Amelia was born. One nurse caught me in a weak, tearful moment and gruffly asked, “Are you depressed?!” I pulled it together enough to sternly pronounce, “No. I am a counselor. I would know if I were depressed.”
She backed off.
And I backed into my shell.
I pray you will tuck these insights into your heart:
- I rejected help. I think I was so embarrassed from the experience that I refused to accept or seek help. I closed up like a clam – hard and tight. But I was a wreck on the inside. If you feel as I did, please open yourself to help. Reach out to someone you trust in your head – even if your heart feels it can’t trust at all.
- I was unable to be my own advocate. Sometimes people break down and are unable to speak for themselves – even “strong” people. We were not prepared for this to happen. If you know someone who is closed like a clam, be curious! They may act like they don’t want your help, but if you offer it tenderly, confidently, respectfully and consistently; they just might let you in.
- Joy is what I felt I should feel after giving birth, so I hid my pain. But honestly, most women struggle. My expectations for what “I should feel” made it harder to accept the pain and sadness I experienced.
Our beautiful, worth-every-bit-of-it kids (a few years back).
Working on this piece reminds me how troubling this season of our parenting experience was. It has been a while since I shared this intensely personal and vulnerable story with anyone. I believe that is why most parents do not share their emotionally traumatic birthing stories or the pain they experience afterward.
I believe that is why I must.
I do not claim to be an expert in the area of depression. I share my reflections of our experience but if you are concerned that you or a loved one is depressed, please inform your doctor (or encourage them to inform theirs) – especially if you are pregnant.
When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared