Monday, December 31, 2012

Postpartum

Many of you may have read on facebook that I have been going through a pretty rough time lately. I know people have their opinions about whether or not I should be sharing about my recent visit to the psych ward, my postpartum and my day to day struggles to cope with parenting Jacob without having major anxiety. Regardless of people's "advice" that I should be more private I am going to share what life has been like for me this past year and a half. People (probably well meaning people) have made me feel as though I should be ashamed, embarrassed and secretive about what I am going through. They have said that I should "never" have put anything on facebook about it, that it's no ones business. Others have thanked me for my openness, sent me encouraging messages, texts, calls or visited me. There have been times recently when I have been around people, crying, falling apart and everyone has ignored what is going on. I know that that is because they don't know what to do, can't understand what I am going through and think it's best for me to have my privacy. Everyones needs and wants are different when going through something like this. I need people. I need to feel supported. I need to feel like I have people I can call on in dark moments. I need people praying for me, rooting for me. I have some amazing people in my life right now who are helping me get through each day. Friends and family who are caring for Jacob, Steve and I. Friends who take me out so I can feel a little normal for a short time. Friends who I drop in at their houses when the noise at home is too much and I need to escape. I am so very thankful for these people. They have been a God send.

When Jacob was born I cried for weeks. I couldn't control the crying. I was so happy that he was here. That he was healthy. That he was beautiful and that he was ours. I was so protective of him. Didn't want him out of my sight. I was constantly checking to see if he was breathing when he was asleep. I was terrified of SIDS. I was scared to do anything wrong. I wanted to be the perfect mom and I was daily failing. When he was 6 weeks old he started crying and crying and crying. I could do nothing to stop him. I didn't know what was wrong. I hated that I didn't know and couldn't fix it. I would walk the halls rocking him for hours while he screamed and i cried. Steve would come home, I would pass Jacob off, lock myself in the bathroom with the shower on to block out the sound of the crying and cry some more myself. That went on for 6 weeks. I don't think I have ever felt so helpless and useless. Jacob cried more than he didn't during those long 6 weeks.

Once that ended all of Jacob's doctor appointments and testing started due to his shaky arms and very stiff body. It was really hard on me mentally and emotionally. I felt like I was constantly noticing the things that weren't "normal" about him. People would say "Wow, he is so strong he can already stand" when he was 3 months and I would be quick to chime in with "it's not that he's strong, it's that he is incredibly stiff." I was so scared and stressed about what life would look like for Jacob if he did indeed have cerebral palsy or a metabolic disease. Because I couldn't envision the future I felt out of control. I needed to know what was wrong with him. I needed to know how to fix it. I needed to know what it would mean for him when he goes to school. I was thinking so far ahead that I wasn't enjoying the present.

Jacob got better. All the stiffness and shaking went away (for no medical reason, thank you God) and our boy was given a clean bill of health other than needing to do a little bit of catch up developmentally. I still continued to compare him to every other child his age. Or ask parents what their kids were like at Jacob's age. When people expected him to be able to do something and he couldn't do it I felt like a failure of a mother. When he amazed people with what he could do I would think "yeah but he is still SO far behind in other areas". I couldn't, wouldn't let myself see the good. I was so caught up in thinking that I am the one who controls what Jacob can and can't do and I was doing a horrible job. The self-talk was toxic.

A couple moths ago my anxiety had gotten so bad that I was majorly affecting Steve. He was struggling to deal with me when I was overwhelmed or having panic attacks. Can't blame the poor guy, he was watching his wife unravel before him and was wise enough to know that we needed help. He told me that I had to do something soon because he couldn't deal anymore. So I took action (apparently I needed that push). We went for prayer at church. The couple who prayed with us came to our house a second time and prayed with us again. Our Bible study group prayed with us and supported us. I started life coaching with an amazing woman. I started reading lots, praying lots, figuring out my triggers for panic attacks, taking time for myself so I would be better able to cope with having to be selfless most of the day (or at least that's how I feel when it comes to parenting...you need to be totally selfless and I had such a hard time doing that and carried a lot of guilt for not doing it perfectly) and spending time talking to friends. The bad thing that I did was stay in my house whenever I was alone with Jacob. I pretty much didn't leave for 6 weeks. I get overwhelmed when I am out with Jacob (because he whines, cries, throws tantrums and I always think that everyone around me is thinking that I am the worst parent in the world) and because I was TERRIFIED of all the germs he would pick up this time of year. So I thought avoiding circumstances where I would feel so much anxiety was the way to go.

A few weeks ago Jacob got a horrible stomach flu (apparently keeping him away from germs did nothing). He threw up and had diarrhea for 4 days. We had to take him to the ER because he was dehydrated. This was my biggest fear coming true. I was consistently convinced that I was going to get sick. I washed my hands so many times that they were raw. They killed, were very red and dry. I poured olive oil over them to relieve the discomfort but in a matter of hours I had washed them so many times again that they just kept getting worse. I felt sick for days (even though I never actually got sick, neither did Steve). I didn't know how to care for such a sick kid. I was reading everything I could, calling the nurses help line, asking family for advice but I was so full of fear. My heart was constantly racing. Every time he whined or cried I immediately thought he was going to vomit and would cry and usually end up having a panic attack. I know this all sounds SO ridiculous but I was having a bit of a mental breakdown. Even though I knew my thoughts and body's reactions were irrational and over the top there was nothing I could do to stop. I was in deep.

I went to the doctor and he gave me some options. He upped my anti-depressants (which I had started a few weeks prior) and upped my other pill (for anxiety...i had only been taking it for about a week) and told me to come back and see him in 2 days and see if I feel any different or I could go to the hospital. I couldn't decide. I went home, cried and cried and cried (I had been crying for probably over 24 hours), talked with family and friends and made the decision to go to the hospital. My doctor faxed over the paper work. I sat in the ER for a few hours, met with a psychiatrist and a social worker and was admitted to the psych ward. I felt a lot of relief. Once I stepped foot in the psych ward that relief was quickly replaced with a lot of fear. I won't go in to all of the details about the wards rules, the people I met there and was rooming with but it didn't feel like the place for me. They were going to drug me up so much without me having any say about the pills, doses etc that I felt out of control again. I so desperately wanted to feel control and my world was spinning so fast around me that I couldn't keep up. I sat with Steve for a long time and contemplated what to do. I couldn't make a decision. We chatted with my nurse and she pushed for me to stay. I didn't want to stay but I didn't know if that was just because it was all new and new causes anxiety for me, or if it was because this really wasn't right for me. I was not in a position to make a decision rationally. All I knew was that I wanted to get out of there and get out of there quickly. I felt sick to my stomach telling the staff that I was leaving. Worried that I was disappointing them, annoying them, frustrating them because they had done all this paper work for me to get in there and I had only been there for hours before asking to leave. Because I wasn't a danger to myself or anyone else I was a voluntary patient and therefore allowed to discharge myself. I signed some paperwork and practically ran out of there.

Back at home I continued to cry and be overwhelmed. I saw my doctor again and he agreed that I shouldn't be alone with Jacob right now. It's too much for me. Steve took a little time off work and then family and friends have been with Jacob whenever Steve can't be. It's been difficult to accept the help but very necessary. Sometimes I am home with Jacob and whoever is caring for him. Sometimes I am out with a friend or at a friend's house because the crying and whining is too much for me to handle. My heart still races when he is upset. My body's reactions to him are not normal. Not yet at least.

I feel like I am crying less and less. The pills seem to be stabilizing my emotions. My anxiety is still really really high. I don't sleep much but am tired constantly. My mind races all the time. I can't seem to slow my thinking down. I try and put myself together when I go out but inside I am still a mess.

This is postpartum. It has many faces. Everyone who deals with postpartum has different symptoms. I love my son. I love him more than I can bare sometimes but right now it is not best for him or for me to be alone together very much. He senses that I am struggling. He feels my anxiety. For days he refused to go near me because I was crying all the time and he was so confused. It broke my heart to see how I was affecting him. The last few days things have changed between he and I. He asks for "mama" a lot. He calls for me to calm him in the night. He wants me to feed him his bottle. He seems attached to me again and it feels good to be wanted and needed by him.

This is a journey. Possibly a long one. I am on my way to health but there are hills and valleys along the way. I need to give myself patience when I am in those valleys and tell myself that I am not failing. That I am doing my best. That I WILL get through this.

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