I am in the fetal position on the cold, tile floor of our basement. I feel as though I can’t breathe. Like someone is standing on my chest, hands around my throat. I’m shaking. But my palms are clammy and I can feel a drop of sweat run down my spine. I’m crying. I’m crying so hard, I feel like I am going to puke. My face is covered in a mess of tears, snot and mascara. Shawn is holding me, rocking slowly and stroking my hair. He whispers in my ear, “It is OK. You are OK. I’m right here.”
It’s a panic attack. Another one. Neither one of us know what set this one off. It could have been something as crucial as a discussion about our finances and determining what bills we can pay this month. Or it could have been something as simple as deciding what we want for dinner. Whatever it was, here are we, on the cold tile, rocking back and forth, back and forth.
I have postpartum depression. I’ve had postpartum depression for 11 months now and this moment in time, this panic attack, is just a tiny speck of what my our life has been.
I found out when I was 24 weeks pregnant that I was at high risk for postpartum depression. My doctor had warned me that I met most of the pre-determining factors on her little checklist. I did some reading on it and my doctor and I built an action plan. When my son was born, I felt everything, but depressed. When I was discharged from the hospital, my doctor said she would be in touch, and we would re-evaluate at my six-week follow-up.
At six weeks postpartum, the Baby Blues had come and gone and yet, I was still a crying, hormonal mess. I had spent the last six weeks on the couch, leaving a permanent imprint of my butt on the middle cushion. I was too scared to leave my house. I didn’t want to see anybody, but somehow I had made it to my appointment.
When the nurse called my name, she informed me that my doctor had left the practice and I was seeing someone new. This new doctor, this doctor that didn’t know me, who didn’t deliver my child and who had absolutely no knowledge of the plan my original doctor and I had put into place, checked me over and asked the routine questions.
“Do you feel, at any time, that you want to hurt your child,” he asked?
“NO!” I immediately responded.
“What about yourself?”
I paused. The truth is, at that moment in time, no. I was just sad and I was tired of being sad.
“Nope,” I said.
“OK then, everything looks great. You are cleared to resume all normal activity and I’ll see you in a year,” he said as he scurried out of the room.
In hindsight, I should have stopped him. I should have told him I had a plan. I should have told him I was sad. I should have told him I needed help. But I didn’t. I don’t know if it was because my son was ONLY six weeks old and I thought this is what motherhood was supposed to be like. Maybe I was scared of the stigma or maybe it’s because I was afraid he would pump me full of anti-depressants. I don’t know what the reason was; I just know I should have stopped him.
Three months passed, then, six months, eight months and now eleven months.
For the past 11 months I have fought a war with myself. I have battled panic attacks with no rational explanation or trigger. I have spent hours laying in bed, crying because the sadness has consumed me. I have canceled plans and made excuses because the thought of interacting with other people was too much to bear. I have blocked all of our doors with furniture out of fear that someone is trying to kidnap my child. I have been so angry I’ve lodged laundry baskets down our hallway, broken plastic bottles and beat the living daylights out of our kitchen counter.
It wasn’t until I was standing on the Broadway Bridge one day after work, that I decided to finally ask for help. I had pulled over on my commute home because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the road anymore. I hadn’t had a bad day. I was just broken and tired of feeling like a worthless, lonely failure.
I remember thinking, “I could jump and nobody would know I was gone. It would all disappear.” I listened to the cars zoom by and as I envisioned myself, hands on the cold rail, it was as if someone snapped me back to reality. A voice asked, “Who would pick up Maverick?”
I called a counselor that day, and I’ve been working really hard to become the person I once was. Things are definitely getting better. I still have bad days, but there are some good ones sprinkled in between now.
My son will be one-year old in less than a month and when I think of his first year of life, I don’t really remember much. I just remember that I almost missed it all.
So tonight while I’m rocking him to sleep, I will end another day, stronger than I was yesterday, and like always, I will whisper in his ear, “Thank you for choosing me to be your mommy. I promise to do my very best and I’ll never leave you.”