Hindsight is always 20/20

When the doctor put my daughter in my arms for the first time, I smiled.  She was beautiful. And I remember being amazed at how soft her skin was.  The whole thing was amazing.  The drugs probably didn't hurt, either.
One minute old

What a contrast to my birth experience with Winston (W1).  He came fast and furious, which had a detrimental effect on me.  I don't remember any of those first moments after he was born.  I was in too much pain.  It was the kind of pain that I will never forget and wasn't even comfortable talking about until almost two years later.  I remember really seeing W1 when we were settled in our overnight room several hours later, after the narcotics kicked in.  When I found out I was pregnant with W2, I had all kinds of issues.  I started having panic attacks at work anytime I thought about delivery.  My heart would race, I would become hot, I'd get a headache, and I couldn't function for the rest of the day.

Eventually, I brought this up with my therapist.  She had me tell her my experience with all of the gory details.  This led to me being diagnosed with PTSD from W1's delivery.  Never saw that coming.  She also met with John separately to get his version of the story.  The next time we met, she said we both were traumatized.  She said usually patients tend to exaggerate their experiences but after talking to John, she thought I might have downplayed it.  (In all fairness, John remembers more than I do and he watched the entire event.  I had my eyes closed, so I was unaware of some things like the total chaos, a nurse passing out, or amount of blood I lost).  I do remember that shortly after W1 was born, John said to me "If you don't want to have any more kids, I will never ask you to go through that again."  From that guy that always wanted two kids.

A precipitous labor is one that is defined as labor that lasts 3 hours or less, from the first contraction to delivery.  With W1, it was 1 hour and 45 minutes.  I never knew there was a name for it until I was pregnant with W2.  People will say things like "you're so lucky your labor was fast!"  When in reality, precipitous labor increase the risk of trauma for mom.  It increases the risk for PTSD and postpartum depression by significant amounts.  There is nothing "lucky" about it.

I didn't know any of this and looking back, I can almost guarantee I had postpartum depression.  I couldn't talk about it, because even thinking about delivery made me sick to my stomach and want to vomit.  I burnt out at work and changed jobs about 7 months after returning to work.  I almost left engineering entirely, but luckily John talked me down.  I didn't talk about how I was feeling because I had this beautiful, healthy baby and I felt guilty that a healthy baby wasn't enough.  Goddamn you Facebook and Pintrest and all other social media that portrays new motherhood as being all sparkles and glitter.  I felt like I wasn't living up to expectations.  I felt isolated and ungrateful and completely alone. 

All of this came crashing back when I was pregnant with W2.  The fear was like a lead weight on my chest.  I was afraid of the pain, of the loss of control.  Every piece of research and anecdotal information is that subsequent deliveries are faster than the previous. I could not fathom having a delivery any faster.  There were new fears to consider: what about W1?  Who will take care of him?  What if I go into labor at home and scare him?  What if we have to take him to the hospital with us and I have to deliver without John?  What if we don't make it to the hospital on time and I rupture blood vessels again?  

Thank god for licensed therapists.  And thank god I was able to get in at the hospital for a scheduled induction at 39 weeks so W2's delivery was completely controlled (and fully medicated).  

Looking back, I should have gotten help sooner.  Two years is a long time to carry around that kind of fear and trepidation.  I should have gone to a new mom group or breast feeding support group.  I wish someone would have told me that being a new mom is hard.  Really hard.  And while there are great moments, they aren't all great moments and you shouldn't feel guilty for that.  I wish I had been kinder to myself and had more realistic expectations.

At the same time, I am a firm believer that there really are very few mistakes in life that should be regretted.  Everything we do or don't do, every decision and mistake we make, take us down life's path and mold us into the people we are.  I have very few regrets in life because that would mean I regret where I am today.  Like I said previously, maybe I needed to break down completely to be able to build myself back up and really feel whole.


Me too

Hitting the publish button on this blog post will be the scariest thing I've ever done.  

I'm a private person and I'm really good at keeping secrets.  Really good.  But secrets can eat at you, like battery acid slowly dripping into your soul, robbing you of laughter and joy and making the entire world seem like a dark place.  The world isn't a dark place.  I'm ready to trade a few secrets if that means I get a little more laughter and joy. Two big things happened this year that brought me to this place.

The first happened this winter (on my birthday, to be exact), while laying on a table in a doctor's office getting a sonogram.  Something broke.  I broke.  I fell into a million little pieces and this time I couldn't pretend I was fine and that I could put the pieces back together myself.  After a week of severe depression and constant crying, I finally realized I needed help.  I still need help. I found a therapist and only after we had our first appointment did I tell John.  I was too embarrassed, too worried about being judged to tell him beforehand.  But I knew I had to tell him, if only to explain the charge on my credit card.

Then just a few weeks ago, I found a picture online that resonated with me so much, I book marked it and reread it every day for a week.  Just to look at the picture.  Here's a link to the article.  If you don't want to read the whole article, just look at the second picture.  It's a tattoo that when facing the woman, reads "I'm fine".  However, from her perspective (which would be upside down) it reads "save me."  

I read and reread the article and all I could think was 'me too.'  It is the simplest and most eloquent way to describe depression.  Two words.  And outward I'm fine, but the inward cry for help. I finally admitted to myself what I have been denying for so long.

I suffer from depression.

OK Sam, take a deep breath.  It's out there.  Your heart won't stop, you won't be branded or given a scarlet D to wear on your chest.  It will be OK.

Will it be OK?  What if a co-worker somehow stumbles on this and figures out who I am?  Or heaven forbid, what if any of my family read this?  There is still a stigma around mental health issues and that is exactly why I refused to admit it for so long. Will anyone even care?  I don't know.  But I know I suffered in silence because I felt (and sometimes still do) that admitting I was depressed was a weakness (it's not). That it made me a bad wife and mother. That in admitting that flaw, I was opening myself up to a whole host of mental health issues that seem to be passed down through the generations of women in my family like a screwed up family heirloom.  "Here you go Sam! A diagnosis of depression, just for you!"

I'm not looking for attention, sympathy, or anything along those lines.  I'm a work in progress and I'm just trying to lighten my load.  To be happier.  To be happy.  Sometimes I watch John and Winston play and they're having so much fun and there is something that holds me back.  I can see it and feel it and I can't stop it.  I want to stop it. I want to be able to be silly and have fun.

If anything, I hope maybe someone else sees a part of themselves in my struggles.  Someone else goes "me too" and realizes that maybe it's not her fault and she's not failing everyone around her to.  "Me too" can be powerful, especially when you've felt alone and adrift for so long.

I'm also hoping for understanding.  One thing I know firsthand is how hard it is to watch someone with depression.  Before my own experiences, I had a front row seat to some pretty serious depression and other issues in my immediate family.  Maybe I'll explain that later, but suffice to say that I didn't understand.  I was hurt and angry and I tried to understand (although I was pretty young for that anyway) but I couldn't.  Why can't you get out of bed?  Why don't you want to play?  Why do you say nothing for days or weeks on end and then explode?  I get it now.  Maybe I can help someone understand who has been fortunate enough to avoid this for themselves.  A little compassion and understanding goes a long way.

I guess I'm finally ready to take that risk and open myself up.  Maybe sometimes we're meant to be broken down completely. If my birthday had been spent some other way, maybe I never would have found the courage to get help.  Maybe spending time being broken is the only way that I will ever feel whole.  I'm trying to do right by my kids and they deserve a mom who is whole, a mom that can laugh and be silly.  The least I can do is try.