Postpartum Anxiety/Depression after the Loss of a Baby

July 26, 2012

I didn’t know this could happen.

I had no idea that you could experience postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression after the loss of a baby or a miscarriage.

I mean, it makes sense. I think I just figured it happened from lack of sleep, nursing, hormones, etc.

If you lost a child, you grieved. You were sad. I was. I was all of that and more. But it was all normal – right?

And then the nightmares started. Vivid ones, where I could see Bella falling and being killed, being run over, finding her dead – and there wasn’t anything I could do. I had them constantly at night. I’d wake up around 4am and toss and turn, unable to get back to sleep. When I did, I’d have another one. Sometimes they were about Sam. Always someone was being killed or already dead.

I felt a normal grief process during the day – for the most part. But when it hit me, it hit me so hard that I couldn’t function without forcing myself to move on, to ignore, to push it down. Or just explode into tears and grief and sob.

I felt like my life was this huge bomb waiting to explode on me again. I knew intensely now there are no guarantees in life – nothing says that tomorrow I or anyone I care for will wake up. Will make it. And it began to eat away at me, the terror of “What if this happens again?”

A thought would hit me about something from the hospital I could have changed, and then the rush of, “What if that was what caused me to go into labor?” Althought there isn’t anything I could have done differently, the guilt would pour over me. I would dream of Preston and Julian in pain and my mind would race about how I could fix it. Even though there was nothing to fix.

I’d snap at Bella and instantly think, “Wonderful Diana. If she dies you’re really going to regret saying that to her.”

I couldn’t think of my sons without crying. I pushed myself to get up, get things done, get back to normal every day – and while I did it, I felt like I was keeping busy to avoid thinking about the trauma that would come next.

I thought it was all normal. I thought it was grief.

And part of it is. But as my doctor told me a month ago in her office, some of it wasn’t normal grief. I just kept waiting for life to fall apart again and that every moment needed to be LIVED. Living like that is exhausting my friends, those songs and quotes about living like tomorrow might not come – that’s emotionally impossible. It causes you to become a crazy person with the reminders of, “But what if this is the last time I see/hear/kiss them?”

I spilled all this to my Dr while bawling. I had no idea I had postpartum anxiety, not that it was a total surprise since my anxiety levels were off the chart even before all of this, but something in me just snapped when the boys died. Instead of knowing I’d faced my worst fears and been ok, it started to reverse and make me even more terrified of what had happened and could happen again.

God has a plan for me – for my life. God knows where I struggle and need help. I believe he gave my doctor the wisdom to tell me that she thought I needed something short term in order to start to get past the PPA and heal in a different way.

So I am on Zoloft. And it’s taken me a month to tell you all this because I wasn’t sure how to say it. I know a lot of people are very anti-meds, and I do understand that. I am not, but I am very conservative with how I take them. So it took me 3 days to even get the prescription filled, and then I kept wondering if it was really going to do anything but make me a zombie.

Instead, it has helped tremendously in my healing and in my faith. While the nightmares aren’t totally gone, I am given a break from them most nights. My thoughts and fears that would almost paralyze me during the day have slowed – I can get out and play with Bella and stand in the Target baby aisle to pick out something for my friends little boy without crying. I am able to start to feel God’s presence in my life even more because I’m able to reach out to Him in a clearer manner. To seek Him in a different way.

I am able to think of my little boys in a wistfully sad way. But to really, really think about them. Not to have them pop into my mind and for it to be so incredibly painful I push it away. I think on them, I ponder them. I can see their pictures and cry but it isn’t so upsetting that I spend the day trying to pull myself back out of it again.

I’m a month in with Zoloft. And I know many of you reading this might be thinking, “This is me – do I need help? Do I have postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression?” I can’t say that, everyone grieves differently and your grief may indeed be normal for you. For me – it was beginning to entrap. I felt like my healing was stilted because of the PPA. I feel like a different person and yet still the same. Just able to see the situation differently and feel that hope and happiness I’d struggled to find again.

I feel God’s love for me wrapped so tight – I yearn to share it with you all and hope you can read it in my words on here. How much we are loved, how He wants to see us take life and make it a beautiful thing.

I’m trying, but I wasn’t able to do it on my own. I turned to the Lord, and He turned me to the wisdom and trust in my Dr. And I’m starting to see that there is a light and a hope after this. That my sons changed everything for us in ways I can’t even imagine. I wouldn’t have traded them, but I didn’t get a choice. So I take what I have and choose happiness.

I wanted to tell you all this because I’m not ashamed. I’m not afraid of the backlash that might come from it. I’m ok with where I’m at in my healing and walk with God.

I want you to know that you can experience more than grief if you lose a child, and there is no shame in reaching out and saying, “Something else is going on.” It doesn’t mean you don’t have faith, or haven’t prayed hard enough, or are using medicine as a crutch.

I firmly believe that God has a plan for me in all of this. I may be dealing with the loss of my sons and PPA, but I chose to find the joy in my life now. And if took medication to make it easier to do so, that’s ok with me.

51 Comments

  • Bethanygp

    July 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Diana, I always love your honesty in all of your posts. I am a Christian and don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking care of your health (mental or physical) with medication. I’m praying for you and your family. I’m so glad to hear the medication is helping you function better.

  • Sonya

    July 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Oh my gosh, your story brought the emotional turmoil of my own miscarriages and my post partum anxiety flooding back to me. My heart goes out to you and all women who suffer. Thank you for sharing your story and giving an insight! Post Partum Mood Disorders are hidden even with full term pregnancies but when loss is involved the result is the same – a drop in hormone levels! Such a shame that there isn’t more education out there. And while I too believe no one should feel ashamed for being on medication (I once tried that path) I do think it is a shame that doctors in North America aren’t offering other possible solutions like balancing women’s hormones naturally with bio-identical hormones with zero side effects.

  • Patty

    July 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    29 years ago I lost a child. I wish someone, anyone really would have helped me, pointed me in the right direction…or that I’d been brave enough to talk to my Dr. Instead I got pregnant and had a beautiful healthy baby girl a year later and that when things got really bad…see I never dealt with the old stuff and when she got here the PPD hit so hard I couldn’t function. Once again NO one said a word, my dear husband was at a lose and had no clue what my problem was it took my a year and a half to get better…oh and and anti depressant. Best thing I ever did. YOu have suffered a horrible loss take your zoloft find someone that will listen and give yourself time to heal.

  • Rebecca

    July 28, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I was on Celexa for PPD. What a difference that made! And reaching out for help is the smartest, bravest thing a person can do when suffering from depression or abnormal levels of anxiety.

    Hugs!

  • Rebecca

    July 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve been trying to write a post like this for a month, to share my own experience and the help I’ve received through medication, but I’ve simply been too scared. Thank you for being honest and brave. Those of us who have experienced postpartum depression and anxiety need to hear support from others. Praying for you!

  • Nicole

    July 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I’m glad you shared your story and also that you went to your doctor and told them how you were feeling. I’m so glad that the medication is working for you. I think that people’s emotional health is just as important as physical and spiritual health.

  • molly

    July 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Yep, that definitely sounds like more than grief. I’m so glad you recognized it and talked to your doctor. As someone who struggles with both severe depression and crippling anxiety, I know that you don’t have to live like that. Medication is literally a hard pill to swallow. After 17 years of being medicated I still sometimes get mad or upset that I have to take medication to control my illness. But that little pill is worth it.

    Hugs to you.

  • Katie

    July 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I’ve had an anxiety disorder most of my adult life, but my after my first miscarriage it started to spiral. I didn’t know it. Then I had Eddie and I ended up with an epic case of PPA AND PPD.

    I’m on Celexa.

  • Allison

    July 27, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Bless you, dear girl! I was in the same boat and the LORD gave me a dear friend who helped me see it wasn’t a spiritual problem or failure but chemical. Our LORD is so good to give us wise counselors and I’m grateful I listened! It took alittle bit but I emerged from the darkness into the light once more! 🙂

  • Stacy

    July 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Erin was born in August and I didn’t get on Zoloft until November when I was having meltdowns about people not coming over, or thoughts about going out with my little preemie baby and her getting sick and dying from some God-awful disease that wouldn’t bother a full term baby in the least. Yup, I’ve been there, but for a different reason. It’s been a night and day difference since I started the meds. I forgot to take them one day and talk about insanity! I’m glad you’re dealing with it, for your sake and Bella and Sam’s.

  • Amber

    July 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    So glad you shared this Diana! There is such a stigma about meds and mood disorders in the church. I have a lot of faith in God, but I’ve had anxiety (realized) for about eight years. Add to that PPA then my mom having terminal cancer, and I couldn’t avoid meds any longer. I prayed and had my group pray about it and that God would help me get on the right one immediately, and He did via my dr. I’ve been on Celexa for a little over a year, and I believe it helped me in the same ways your med helps you. Without it I was living in fear and couldn’t grieve freely in the arms of my Savior. Hold tight to Him! Psalm 121

  • Amanda

    July 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you so much. This gave me some hope. I suffer from pretty extreme depression and anxiety. Always have. I have to be on Zoloft while pregnant to even function. (talk about getting judged!). My problem is Zoloft is one of the only ones ok during pregnancy. It helps my anxiety but increases depression in me. I’m starting to feel hopeless, but your post reminded me that meds can help – I just need to wait until I can go on effective ones. Ive been in therapy for 6 years for it. Sometimes though, our chemicals just need the nudge.

  • Jennifer Stein

    July 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I had twin girls in 2010. Forty-eight hours later, I felt like my world was falling apart. I was convinced I, or someone I love, was going to die. My OB immediately recognized what was happening (I have a history of anxiety after several OTHER life events, including a husband who almost died from a TBI.), but I refused Zoloft. I was determined to pump for my baby girls who were in the NICU. I had to “feed” them. It was the only thing I could do for them and the nurses asked EVERY TIME I walked into the unit, “Did you bring me milk?” UGH! I was obsessed. MANY anxiety attacks and 3 weeks later, I gave in and asked for a prescription. It helped, life wasn’t perfect and, quite honestly, still isn’t two years later, but I lean on the Lord everyday and pray for His strength, help and guidance.

  • angela

    July 26, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    xo I know it’s not the only opinion out there, but I feel like God made man with the wisdom to develop medicine and the goodness to help our fellow men and women, like how your doctor is helping you. I’m glad you’re working through it. Hugs to you, always.

  • Suz

    July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Much love & support!

  • Michelle

    July 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    My son was premature, and I still to this DAY have the feelings of.. When is the other foot going to drop? He was a preemie and had a pretty easy time in the NICU.. but I am so scared.

  • grace

    July 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    good for you. proud of your openness, I know it will help many others.
    xoxo

  • Jen

    July 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I think you are doing wonderful, I think there are times in everyone’s life when they need help, either it’s therapy, meds, or whatever. I don’t think anyone should look down on you or say negative things they haven’t been in your shoes and they don’t know what your going through. You are doing what’s best for you and your family and that’s what is the most important!

  • Robin

    July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I am not sure why so many Christians are anti-medication. Luke (you know the one who wrote one of the four Gospels) was a doctor, who traveled with Paul (a man who had health problems). The Bible talks about using wine to treat stomach ailments. It was a medicine of that era. I cannot speak for God, but I will let Him speak for Himself through Scripture, and He included a doctor as a Gospel writer, as well as medicinal treatments (intentionally repeating myself).

    If you ask me, using medication does not show a weakness of faith (in case any Christian might think it does). It shows the good common sense God gave you. And it you ask me again, I think it might even be Biblical. 🙂

  • Anne-Marie

    July 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Good for you for taking care of yourself. I feel similarly about meds–they ease my anxiety enough to let me talk about what’s going on and move forward. Before, I felt like I was just running on a treadmill and could never stop. As you say, it’s not always the solution, but when meds help, they can really help.

  • Kim

    July 26, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    You’re brave and wonderful for sharing. Love and hugs to you my dear friend.

  • Jessi J.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I’m so glad that you talked to your doctor. I’ve told friends before that there is nothing wrong with needing help. I’m so happy that you got the help that you needed. Hugs!

  • Faith

    July 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It’s obvious that God is using you in your grief to be a comfort and a voice of wisdom to others. As a former pediatrician and wife of a physician, I know that God works through doctors and medical advances to minister to His children. For a Christian physician, your work is your ministry. It involves prayer, a caring, attentive ear, a gentle touch,and well chosen words to validate and guide, but also appropriate medical treatment. I also struggle with issues of depression and anxiety, as do many of my family members. Generations past, many of my family self medicated with alcohol and illegal drugs, and it destroyed them. I have now seen others of my family be blessed by much prayer, but also wisely prescribed medication. There are many ways that God helps us to become whole.

  • Tanya

    July 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Be gentle with yourself. Your hormones are raging and you don’t even have the babies as a distraction. I went through the same thing and yes, ended up on meds. I don’t like meds, and felt like some sort of failure. But as my wise Dr. explained it…if you have diabetes, no one questions you using insulin. So why would they question you taking a medicine to replace what you’re lacking in your brain? That made me think of it in a whole new light!

  • Christine

    July 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    It’s absurd to me that there would be any backlash over you taking medication, but I understand that some people vehemently disagree with it. The important thing to remember is that you’re doing what’s best for YOU. That’s all that matters!

  • Jen

    July 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I just want to say that I am inspired of what a brave women you are, and I am so looking forward to seeing you next week at BlogHer!

    Jen 🙂

  • Andrea

    July 26, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I’ve rewritten my comment three times. It doesn’t matter what I think. Wether I agree with you or not. (I do) You’re doing the best you can. HUGS

  • Ashley

    July 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Skye

    July 26, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I’m so, so glad the medicine is helping. I believe that everyone who writes about this is helping to erase the stigma associated with mental health, so thank you for your courage in sharing!

  • Mae

    July 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

    So happy you’re getting help and that the meds are a successful part of that. Keep reaching out and sharing with us. Please. Love you.

  • Amber.

    July 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

    After reading it again, just wanted to add this: I believe that it is when we are in the “pit”… that God truly opens our eyes. Not only to his love, but he opens our eyes to the hurting world around us and gives us a compassion like we never had before. We can see more clear and see the bigger picture of our life plan, or really, understand that we are part his great plan. Then we can understand that somehow what we went through/are going through is going to be used for the greater good. At least, that’s what happened to me 🙂 …sorry to sound so preachy… ironic if you see the title of my latest post. oh well. that’s my heart.

  • Amber.

    July 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Oh Diana! Hugs to you! Your authenticity is awesome. Thank you for being so transparent. You hit the nail on the head when you said that it would “paralyze” you. That is exactly how I felt. It took me much too long to recognize it. But eventually I did and went and got help. When I first started blogging, I said i wanted to be real. But truthfully, i didn’t want to share my struggle with depression and anxiety, but felt that if I didn’t, I wasn’t be honest with myself or anyone else. Once I shared it, it was so freeing! Thanks for your honesty. It will open doors and help so many others!

  • Jenny

    July 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Continued love, hugs and support to you. I’m glad you were able to realize and be strong enough to get help, and not be ashamed for it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m also glad your days and nights are better and you’re able to grieve without it crippling you. I’m sure your whole family is benefitting too. ((Hugs))

  • Meredith @ La Buena Vida

    July 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I’ve never understood the perspective from some Christians that if you pray hard enough, God will heal anxiety or other mental illness. Don’t get me wrong–I battle with anxiety (though on a lesser level), and spending time in prayer and in the Word helps…but I definitely don’t think it’s the only cure. Or even necessarily the complete cure. I mean, if someone has cancer, we don’t usually tell THEM to pray harder, and God will heal them. We ask when they’re starting treatment…which I believe is from God in and of itself.

    It’s like that joke about the guy in a giant flood who passes up offers of a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter ride saying, “I trust God will save me.” Eventually, the guy died in the flood, and asked God why he wasn’t saved. God responded, “I sent you a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter…what more did you want?!”

    Love your bravery and honesty in this. I’m thankful for you, because I have no doubt that it’ll help others struggling with this too.

    1. Tracy @ The UnCoordinated Mommy

      July 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      That joke about the guy in the canoe is exactly what popped into my head. Sometimes god sends us help and/or support in ways we might not at first recognize.

  • Liz

    July 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Hugs, dear sister. I didn’t experience what you did, but I did have some nightmares. Those aren’t fun. I’m so glad you’re able to enjoy life more and get closer to God. May He continue to pour His grace on your life.

  • Noelle

    July 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Lots of love to you!

  • Jill @BabyRabies

    July 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

    So much love and support to you!

  • Arnebya

    July 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I had a prescription once. Not for grief, but for the mental images: the impending doom, death, destruction, zombie apocalypse. I had vivid dreams about dismemberment, car accidents, feeding the kids bad food and they all contract some crazy rare, incurable disease. I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to have those things with grief and missing your boys and needing stamina and presence and patience for Bella. I never got my prescription filled. I am afraid. Afraid the big girl in CVS is going to scream my name followed by Prozac, pick it up! But. I kind of feel like I still need something; I just can’t make myself go back to the dr (so then I convince myself I don’t need something because if I did, I’d get it, right? Um, no).

    I’m glad you have faith in God and that he set you onto the path of dealing with PPA, whether it be through meds or not. I am not anti-med. I am just med-afraid. Still, I know. I know I need something. Your words today may just be that catalyst to go back in. So, thank you.

  • Kiki

    July 26, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I love how you write. It’s so honest. No one should ever fault you for it. God loves light! Evil hides in the dark.
    I know for me, after losing my twins, the hardest part was when my milk came in. I thought I was going to be okay and that sent me spiraling down the drain. I could not understand how God could abandon me. I was afraid to admit I needed more than what He could give me. What a big mistake! My son suffered because I was suffering! He was only one and I truly believe I changed him from being an easy going, happy child to a child with anxiety issues. All because I was afraid to take something. What a shame!
    You are doing the RIGHT thing for you and your family! Continue to lean on God (Proverbs 3:5). Many blessings!

  • Melissa @ Sisters ‘N Cloth

    July 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Thank you so much for being brave enough to share this post. I struggled with severe post-partum depression after the birth of my second child. I contemplated suicide regularly, and came very close several times. I was on medication for about 6 months, and it was so very needed. There is still a lot of shame in talking about the depression with those in the church. I’ve taken Zoloft for shorter periods of times after the birth of my next two children, which I think has helped the depression from getting so bad. True depression or anxiety is just as physical of an issue as diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer, but we don’t shame people for using life-saving medications for those. Continuing to pray that God will bring you His comfort and peace during this time!

  • Cate

    July 26, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I am not a Christian, but for years I felt like taking medication would somehow be “failing”…like it was taking the easy way out. I have severe PTSD and depression, and when I went on Zoloft, it was amazing. Suddenly I had the energy to take my daughter to the park or the library. I didn’t wake up wanting to go back to bed. I also suffered from postpartum anxiety after my son was born in February. I spend all of my time thinking about the horrible things that could happen to my kids. I increased my Zoloft dosage and I feel much better.

  • christine

    July 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I think it is incredibly wonderful that you are sharing this. I am a firm believer that medication can help, but know that not everyone feels the same way. Thank you for sharing your story and your journey. Hoping for you that things continue to feel lighter.

  • Kendra

    July 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Good for you! Mental health is so very important and there are so many ways to achieve it. I hate the stigma that taking meds or seeing a therapist has. I don’t think people truly understand how some of us simply can’t “get better” on our own. We aren’t crazy or weak. We are aware and we are strong. It took tremendous strength and courage to admit that “something else was going on.” I admire your strength and I am so happy that you are finding joy. I keep saying this because it is so true… Bella and your boys are so lucky to have such a strong woman as their mother. I know Bella will be just as strong as you someday (if she isn’t already) and that your boys are immensely proud of you. Keep it up! You are doing a great job. 🙂

  • Keren

    July 26, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. I know writing helps you in the healing process but this post helped me in mine. I’ve been dealing with PPA (nightmares, daydreams, ect). I am going to share this piece with my husband because I think it expresses a lot of what I have been feeling.

  • Leslie

    July 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Thank you for sharing. I hid my Zoloft for over a year. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t handle daily life on my own without panic attacks and crippling depression. I have been on it for 3.5 years. I want to get off, but I’m scared to death. I find it very encouraging when other people realize and admit that they need help. 🙂

    I’ve been following for a bit – since you went into the hospital with your twins. I haven’t commented until now. So, thank you.

  • Caitlin MidAtlantic

    July 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I love how you worded your decision to see the doctor and fill the Rx. That the Lord led you to trust your doctor. I was on Zoloft for nearly a year after Laura was born. Her birth was traumatic, and I spent months asking what I did wrong. The answer was nothing. Sometimes babies just aren’t born smoothly. The Zoloft – and counseling – really helped me. I hope they help you too!

  • Caitlin MidAtlantic

    July 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I love how you worded your decision to see the doctor and fill the Rx. That the Lord led you to trust your doctor. I was

  • Virginia

    July 26, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I struggled with being a Christian and going on medication. I waited a year with post partum anxiety and wish I would’ve gone on meds sooner. I shared a lot about it on my blog. Why is there such a stigma? For me it was a combination of medication and counseling and it’s still a journey I’m on. My heart still breaks for you friend. Praying with you on this.

  • Lucy

    July 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Hi,
    I’ve never lost a child or even had children but I’m a christian who has been on and off antidepressants for the last 15 years and I just want to share that I had a particularly bad bout of extreme anxiety and depression which was, to be honest, only made worse by well meaning people in my church telling me to just “ask God to heal me” which is at best naive and at worst insulting. As if I wasn’t spending every day asking God to help me just leave the house.
    Anyway, I started taking effexor again, 2 years after coming off it and was feeling very disheartened and down about my “failure” and in those first few weeks of being on it, I just felt how proud of me God was, where I expected judgement and condemnation, I received love and affirmation. And I felt my mind slow down and I was able to feel God’s presence with me where before I was so stressed and fearful that I was unable to feel that. I just really felt like that God was helping me in that situation and that the meds were part of the answer. xxx

  • Misty Pratt

    July 26, 2012 at 8:15 am

    *hugs* For the record, it took me 3 MONTHS to get my Zoloft prescription filled after the birth of my daughter – I was terrified of what it would do to her (while nursing), and how it would affect me as a mother. Instead, when my hubby finally forced me to go get it, it helped tremendously and eased my way through the PPA I was dealing with. Thank you for sharing this, and for talking about it. There’s still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, but it won’t stop until we begin talking.

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