Accepting the Unacceptable

October 23, 2012

Katie blogs at Sluiter Nation about life with her two boys as a working mom – and is also an amazing human being. It’s an honor to have her tell this story of second time PPD on my blog.

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Four years ago I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son.

This was my third pregnancy, but first baby. The pregnancy was rough–wrought with horrible sickness and undiagnosed depression that lingered from previous miscarriages that I never let myself deal with.

When Eddie came into this world, it was after 36 hours of labor and an extremely necessary and very emergency c-section.

I’ve blogged endlessly about the lack of bonding and the spiral of postpartum depression I fell into after his birth.

The short story is that I tried to do it all myself and cracked open after Eddie was 9 months old. I finally asked for help. I was put on meds, referred to a therapist, and started cutting back on obligations.

When I was pregnant with Charlie last year, I fell into some dark antenatal depression. It scared me.

It scared me because I was positive that I was going to be sick again while postpartum with Charlie like I was with Eddie. I was sure he and I wouldn’t bond and I would hate myself and want to quit life.

I started having flashbacks of hurting myself so I wouldn’t hurt the baby.

It made me more depressed.

My therapist and all the PPD Warrior moms out there kept telling me it didn’t have to be the same. I knew what it felt like now. I could head it off before it got out of control.

I wanted to believe them.

Then Charlie was here. And something that had been scared and ugly and broken…healed.

I felt wonderful.

Except when I didn’t.

This time was so much better. Except when it was the same.

Eddie had been a difficult baby right down to the most classically awful case of colic ever.

Charlie was a textbook example of an “easy baby”.

With Eddie, it felt like I had something to “blame” my depression on, even though I knew that was not what caused my depression…only what triggered my episodes.

This time there was nothing to blame except my chemical imbalance.

I had to admit that the bad days? Were totally me and not the baby.

And I was faced with the fact that it was happening again.

I was not a “success story” as I hoped and prayed to be.

I read so many posts about women who experienced NO SHRED of ppd the second time around, and when it started out completely different for me, I was SURE I was one of those women.

Charlie and I bonded.

I was at peace.

Iliked having a baby.

Except when I had an anxiety attack which triggered severe depression and my calling my husband to come home early from work so I could pull away from the situation.

When he walked through the door, I couldn’t look at him in the eye. I just kept crying and repeating, “I am so ashamed. I am SO ASHAMED.”

He held me and urged me to call my therapist.

That led to me being re-evaluated by a psychiatrist and getting a new diagnosis…or a few of them…along with a med increase.

I have had a few people–Diana included–ask me about struggling with PPD again. It seems that while women will admit to it happening once, it’s even harder to admit that it happened again.

I am here to tell you that while admitting it the first time was difficult for me because I wanted to be the mom who could do ALL THE THINGS and do them all super well, admitting it got me a second time was humiliating.

The first time for me felt like ripping off a bandaid. It hurt, but after the hurt, a bunch of us commiserated about how much pulling off our bandaids hurt and we told our war stories and we were survivors and warriors.

We had beat the beast!

The second time felt like a failure.

After all the fighting and all the rallying and all the standing up to the stigma of dealing with a mental illness, to be hit with it again felt like a punch to the gut.

I had mocked the disease for not winning against me and my support group. I had called it’s bluff and gotten pregnant again determined not to let it rule my life.

And yet…

It still showed up. It called my bluff.

The last thing I wanted to do was admit my failure…to admit that I had somehow allowed this back into my life.

Until I realized that depression and anxiety and all the other things listed in my charts are not because of my weaknesses or failures to do a good job.

None of those labels takes away from my worth as a mother…as a human.

It’s the way my brain works…or doesn’t work.

And I realized that if I covered it up and didn’t talk about it, I was letting it win. That treating it and then ignoring it was the second worst thing I could do (the worst thing would be to ignore it and leave it untreated).

I had to give it words.

I had to throw my words all over it and expose it.

I had to do it to get it out of my head and to remind moms out there that yeah, it can happen again. It DOES happen again. But look…itstill doesn’t get to win.

Not then. Not now. Not ever.

*************

When I am not traipsing around the internets doing guest posts for amazing people like Diana, I am either blogging over at Sluiter Nation or teaching the 159 high school students that walk into my classroom daily or trying to be the best wife and mom I can be to my husband and two little boys. I struggle to do the first two, but I always make time for that last thing. You can follow me on twitter, pinterest, facebook if you are so inclined. I do love to meet new people.

35 Comments

  • Amber @Beyond Postpartum

    October 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    You’re right. It’s SO “I felt wonderful. Except when I didn’t” the second time. I certainly can’t articulate it any better than that. You put a lot of words that were on the minds and hearts of us PAPPD (Pregnant After PPD) moms onto “paper” and gave so many of us a voice. Thank you! xo

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:43 am

      Thank YOU for coming over and reading my words, Amber. I do my best to put my feelings to words as best as I can. I don’t ever want anyone to suffer alone.

  • Margaret

    October 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I have 3 kids. All different birth experiences. All different brushes with PPD. I only recently realised I had had it with #1. #2 was horrid, and I blamed the birth. #3 was a surprise baby, but I was healthier and thought I was prepared. It still got me, despite a great birth and a wonderful baby who has saved me from myself countless times. This time I have been public and open about it. Only a trusted few knew about the previous one. While I’m more comfortable talking about it now, and hope that will help somebody else, I still struggle with the shame. I dread everybody’s reaction if I ever get pregnant again.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry it’s been such a difficult journey for you.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Thank you, Margaret. Yes, it’s been difficult, but also beautiful. Through all the pain, I have been so blessed with many things. Those are the things that get me through the troubles. Thank you for reading my words.

  • Emily at Tales Of Fruit and Cake

    October 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I have 3 kiddos.

    With my first it was the worst. I was the most depressed and the least bonded.
    Second time around things were easier, there was true joy but it was still pretty rough at times.
    Finally, at 7 months postpartum with my third things are easier still. I’m much more myself but I am still in need of my happy pills. And that’s okay with me!

    Good for you! Lots of hugs!!

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:37 am

      Yup, I am the same way, Emily. If I have to take my antidepressants forever, I will. My kids were so worth it.

  • Jenn

    October 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    You expressed this perfectly! I had a very similar experience. After my first bout I seriously thought that if I just DID better – planning, therapy, etc. – I could DO so much better. True, it was a little better, and my 2nd birth and baby experience was tremendously better, but there was no denying that PPD was ultimately something out of my control. Now I’m pregnant with #3 and I actually take comfort in the fact that I’m not in total control. The guilt, shame, and feelings of failure will always attack but like you I know they are undeserved. I will continue to do everything I can to avoid or lessen PPD but my hormones may have other ideas. In the end, it speaks to the amazing gift that children are. No one would go through PPD more than once if there weren’t that perfect light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:36 am

      oh Jenn, you are SO right. Children are SUCH huge gifts and blessings that we are willing to go through they horrible physical challenges of having them, but also the possible personality/mental changes that happen due to the hormones and chemical stuff. They are worth fighting for, for sure!

  • Jess

    October 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Thank you Katie. I am terrified of the next time, but I can’t let there not be a next time because of the fear. xoxo

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:31 am

      That is ultimately what drove us to get pregnant with Charlie. I refused to let fear of what will happen in the first year mean I wouldn’t have more children. That just couldn’t be the deciding factor when I wanted another baby SO bad.

  • Kerrie

    October 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Can’t express how grateful I am to read this. I got hit twice, hard, except the first time I didn’t completely let myself accept it as ‘true’ PPD – my first baby was colicky, we had just moved, etc so I held out a lot of circumstantial evidence as the cause. So the second time was it was all just the disease, or rather me letting it take hold as I saw it. My second was a dream baby, I was convinced I was beating it, every time I felt so bonded and connected to him I said to myself ‘ see I don’t have PPD’ until a first time panic attack pushed me over the edge and I then felt like the world’s hugest idiot for not seeing signs earlier. The second time was so different and so, so, so much worse. Like a PPD train hit me in the face while I was happilu pushing my happy baby and I in our new happy life.
    He’s three now, it’s still hard to come to terms with. Forgive the ramble – but all this to say thank you for this. Having your experience echoed back to you is so comforting.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:24 am

      sounds like we had extremely similar experiences. And I remember that “See? I don’t have PPD!” thing. Even when I would have intrusive thoughts I tried to brush them off as not real because THIS baby was so GOOD. Those thoughts were ridiculous.

      So glad I didn’t sit in that place and got the help I needed. You can ramble to me about this any day 🙂

  • Mary

    October 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I’ve been holding back 6.5 years from having another baby for the same reason. My heart says yes but my mind says no it’s not time. I don’t want to tumble around in the undertow of mental hallucinations as I did with my first son. It was so bad my son was taken away from me and I was thrown into a ward. It began to feel as if everyone around me really saw me as mentally ill. My conscious was my friend and enemy. The worst part of the experience besides my son being taken away from me while still breastfeeding him was handing over my decisions, existence, my mind and not having any say.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:21 am

      Oh Mary. I am so SO sorry this was your experience. I wish I could tell you it would be different if you try again, but it might not. Know that if you ever do decide to try again, there is a whole army of women out here willing to support you in any way they can.

  • Arnebya

    October 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    You’re right. It doesn’t get to win. I want more people to realize there is no shame in diagnoses. It is so much harder to suffer alone.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

      SO MUCH HARDER to suffer alone. You are right. You don’t have to get a blog and talk about it with people you don’t know, but you don’t have to be alone. There are those of us who WILL talk about so no one has to be alone.

  • Julia

    October 23, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are doing a great job at balancing this life, truly. Sharing your struggles and your triumphs gives hope to so many, including me, that it will and it does get better.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:16 am

      I don’t feel like I am doing that well with the whole balancing act, so it feels good when people think I do 🙂

  • Phase Three of Life

    October 23, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Thank you for telling your story – the story that so many others are afraid to tell. You are such a good role model for your boys. You are teaching them by example to ask for help when they need it – and that is something that will be so, so important to them in life. It

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

      This is such a huge compliment; thank you!

  • Andrea – @ParalegalMom

    October 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

    “it still doesn’t get to win. Not then. Not now. Not ever.” This. This gives me hope. I struggle mightily with the thought of having a second child. I don’t know that I’m strong enough to deal with PPD/PPA again. But this? Gives me hope. I can’t let it win. Thank you.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:02 am

      I struggled with that too. in the end I had to believe that I was in a better place to deal with it if it came back. It came back, and I was in a better place. Because I saw it, it didn’t get to consume me like before. Still sucked, but I was able to punch it in the face because I saw it was coming.

  • grace

    October 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

    i can’t even describe all the ways i love this post. kate, you are such a warrior. i love that you are speaking up once again. you are the bravest of them all.
    much, much love.
    xo

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 6:00 am

      thank you, grace. so much love back to you. thank you for always having my back in this war against this stupid thing.

  • Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog)

    October 23, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Great story Katie. This is wonderful. I’m so glad you’re throwing your words all over this. Please, please, please don’t be ashamed.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 5:59 am

      It’s so hard not to feel shame in the moment when your brain is telling you to do something you know is awful. Having intrusive thoughts about a perfect baby…it’s just…so hard not to feel…wrong. But I feel like if I keep throwing my words on it, I will at least take away it’s power over me.

  • Kristin

    October 23, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Katie, thanks for sharing your story. It takes such courage to come through devastating miscarriages, a tough pregnancy, PPD etc., and to get pregnant again because you know in your heart you want another baby. I’ll be cheering you on!

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 5:48 am

      Thank you, Kristin!

  • Amber

    October 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

    It is so beautiful of you to share your experience. I know a lot of women who have suffered in silence, feeling like something is wrong with them. Something about our society of Facebook statuses and Twitter updates makes us forget that sharing our trials, not just the pretty shiny things, makes us human and helps others.

    “None of those labels takes away from my worth as a mother…as a human.

    It’s the way my brain works…or doesn’t work.”

    So well said. I hope that other moms going through have an opportunity to really hear those words.

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 5:48 am

      Thanks Amber. There ARE too many women who have no idea that they are not alone. It’s why I continue to push through the stigma and share.

  • Susi

    October 23, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Katie, good for you. You are standing up to it, owning it and pushing it away… I remember reading that first post, the agony of your words. You are wonderful and your boys… all 3 of them are adorable!!! 🙂

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 5:39 am

      Thanks, Susi! Your support has helped more than you can know!

  • Alison

    October 23, 2012 at 7:00 am

    You know it’s not you, it’s not like it’s your fault. I’m glad you KNOW it’s not you. I’m glad you are getting help and support. I’m glad you’re writing about it, because your words matter to someone out there, will help someone out there.

    xo

    1. Katie

      October 24, 2012 at 5:39 am

      Thanks, Alison. I sure hope I do help someone with my words. I can’t imagine going this alone feeling like the only one.

  • accepting the unacceptable | Sluiter Nation

    October 23, 2012 at 6:36 am

    […] See you over there. Share this:EmailFacebookStumbleUponTwitter Filed Under: Katie, mental health, my writing elsewhere Tagged With: ocd, ppa, ppd, ptsd Just a small town girl…wait no, that is a Journey song. Although I do live in a small town. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a writer. We have joys and we have struggles. Just like you. whatcha lookin’ for? […]

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