Happy Birthday…we survived!

February 17, 2014By 6 Comments

IMG_5755My baby girl Tatum is one today.  That’s right, one year ago today I was too drugged up on morphine to care that I had just had a 10.1 lb hairy little monkey surgically removed from my stomach.  She was too special, beautiful and perfect for me to care about anything else in the world, especially my diabetes.  Luckily, I was in great hands with the delivery nurse from Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, and she completely took over my blood sugar management for that first hour in the recovery room while I bonded with and nursed my baby girl. She was healthy, happy and was able to stay by our side every moment after she was delivered.  My husband and I couldn’t stop smiling.

The next 365 days that proceeded were a complete web of emotions; including joy, elation, mind numbing exhaustion, anxiety, panic, contentment, laughter, insomnia, frustration, helplessness, gratitude, peacefulness and finally a rollercoaster of blood sugars.  These were just some of what we, but namely me, were about to experience.

I shared with some people, not many, some of the emotions that had taken over my mind and body.  But even those that I did share my most personal thoughts with still didn’t quite understand.  Unless you have ever experience any sort of post-partum mood disorder you cannot understand the depth and the destruction that occurs every second of every day deep in the brain.  I was never depressed per-say; I never had feelings of not wanting to hold my baby or not having a deep connection with her.  In fact, it was the opposite.  I didn’t trust anyone but myself and my husband to care for her the way she needed to be cared for and I was obsessed with soaking in every second with her.  It wasn’t until she was about three months old that the avalanche of post-partum panic/anxiety and OCD hit my life like a wrecking ball.  I couldn’t breathe on most days.  I would get in the car when I was supposed to be headed into the city for work and either drive aimlessly or go and sit in the grocery store parking lot up the street from my house and just pump my breast milk, stare out the window and wonder what it was I was supposed to do that day.  My mind was completely out of focus.  The panic attacks were daily.  The anxiety had reached an all time high around five months and the insomnia that was a direct result of the anxiety and panic attacks would never ever allow me to sleep at night.  This also led to severe obsessive compulsive disorder and so when I couldn’t sleep I would find myself cleaning the dust on the baseboard in the bathroom or checking to make sure Tatum was breathing for the 20th time that night.  I would cry because I was so exhausted that I couldn’t see straight.  But I couldn’t sleep.  My husband would hear me tossing and turning and tell me to just relax and close my eyes.  If only it were that simple.

I never had feelings of wanting to hurt myself or my baby.  I think it is very difficult to explain to people how I felt because anytime you say ‘post-partum depression or mood disorder’, they assume you’re the mother who wants to drown her kids in a bathtub or drive off a bridge.  My heart breaks for those mothers who experience any sort of post-partum psychosis, which is the proper definition for those sorts of emotions, but what I was feeling was definitely not normal and I knew that.  It is so difficult to ask for help or admit to yourself that something isn’t quite right.  I was beyond overwhelmed with my emotions.  I just wanted to keep Tatum’s sleep schedule, nursing schedule and anything else I could control in order.  Is this because I have spent most of my life trying to always be in control with my diabetes?  I do actually believe there is a direct correlation.  For someone as Type A as me, who has lived with a chronic disease for a quarter of a century and who had just spent the last 9 months all on a tight rope, how was I supposed to shut all of that off?

The most frustrating thing was when I would try to ‘poke’ friends or anyone I knew who had had a baby in the last couple of years, by saying things like “ugh, I just cannot snap out of this, I swear my anxiety is at an all time high.”  All I would get back was; “oh, that’s totally normal…it will pass…everyone goes through it…. I had the baby blues a few weeks after so and so was born…”

This was not the baby blues, and it didn’t really hit me until months after she was born.  This was an exaggerated feeling of deep anxiety and loneliness that constantly left me screaming in my head “someone please help me!”  It wasn’t because I wanted to do anything stupid, but because I just wanted to feel normal again.  I wanted to enjoy my baby without feeling like I had an elephant sitting on me 24 hours a day and that the world was out to get me.  I had my husband, but his eternal happiness and sunshine couldn’t fix this.

They say that people who are most prone to any post-partum mood disorders are those that have some of the following traits:

–          People who have a history of depression or a family history of depression or anxiety

–          People who have experienced a death, loss or traumatic event while they were pregnant

–          People with diabetes can be at a higher risk…etc.

Hmmmm…. I fit this bill.  I couldn’t talk to my family about it though, for fear that I would just be lumped in with the rest of the people we knew who had dealt with their own emotional battles.  I didn’t want to talk to any of them because some how the pain that I was so helplessly experiencing would have been connected too closely to situations that I have tried so hard to get away from.  I was completely alone, exhausted, and just desperately wanted to love my child with every ounce of happiness I could drum up.  So that is what I did.  I used every ounce of energy I had to control every minute I could spend with her and keep any bad energy away because I had barely enough to get through the day.  I’m not sure if this makes sense to people, but this is the only way I know how to explain it.  My husband traveled about two days a week for 18 of the weeks of Tatum’s first six months of life.  I felt completely alone.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have people who wanted to help me, I had people begging to help me, but I needed to be able to control every moment that I could still control because I was so helpless in every other way.

I knew that I needed help, medication, but I wasn’t even comfortable taking antibiotics or Tylenol while I was still breastfeeding.  I also believe that some of the extreme pain and difficulty I had while breastfeeding contributed in part to my post-partum emotions.  In hind sight I probably should have stopped a lot sooner than I did so that I could take medication and get some rest.  Tatum nursed non-stop for the first three months, hence the complete collapse of my emotional state.  With all that nursing I experienced extreme pain, mastitis once, blocked ducts twice, and two rounds with thrush/yeast for both of us.  Never mind the skin missing.  I tortured myself.  I knew that if I could make it to six months I would decrease Tatum’s chance of getting Type 1 diabetes by 37%.  Damn it I was determined.  I fought every second until we hit exactly six months.  I then somehow crawled to my therapists couch, barely in one piece.  She said to me “Regina, I can’t even have a conversation with you until you get some medication, you can’t even talk, and you’re all over the place.”  So finally, I got help.

It took about a month for the medication to start really working, and FINALLY I felt a little bit more like myself again.  I was able to want to hang out with my husband at night and watch TV.  I was able to not completely collapse on the floor every time I heard Tatum crying.  I was slowly starting to get myself back.  I have a major stigma about being on any medication, for a lot of personal reasons.  I don’t think it’s the answer to everything, in fact I plan to try to avoid it for my daughter unless absolutely necessary.  However, I learned that even bundling us both up and walking every day in the cold wind last winter, drinking plenty of water and eating healthy, still was not working for me.  This was something bigger than me or anyone else could wrap their words around.  This was in fact a diagnosable condition that if it weren’t for medication I was fearful a deep depression would have indeed set in.  I was probably only a few weeks away from it.

It’s a full year now.  I feel better than I have every felt in my life.  While we are celebrating the happiest day in our lives today, the anniversary of our daughter’s birth, I can’t help but blow out a candle for myself.  I made it. I survived.  Am I still a control freak? Well sure, but I can at least laugh about it now and fall asleep without a worry in the world.  I have my family and my healthy baby girl to remind me that I made it out of the darkness and have the best prize in the whole world.

This morning, we picked her up out of the crib and brought her back to bed with us, singing ‘happy birthday’ and watching her grin and giggle and suck her thumb as she snuggled peacefully.  “Could we ever have imagined she would be this beautiful and perfect?” I said to my husband.  And then we high- fived each other…for making it through the last year and coming out together and in one piece as a family.

Side note…This topic NEEDS to be discussed more.  Too many women (the statistics are staggering) suffer silently with post-partum mood disorders that can severely effect their lives in many different ways.  This is a condition that unfortunately has too many stigma’s attached to it and many people who are uneducated about it, therefore leading to complete denial of it’s exsistence.  If you or someone you know is not willing to open up about ‘something not feeling quite right’, especially months after giving birth, please speak up.  I can only hope that there is enough strength in people who love the women who are in a post-partum state to recognize when something is happening that is bigger then anyone can control with a smile, kind words or a little sunshine.  Sometimes life is bigger than all of us.  Ask for help and keep asking until someone finally listens!

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Comments (6)

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  1. Susan says:

    OMG- I had some PPD, but not nearly as bad. My heart aches for you. I am so happy you got help and you are enjoying your family.

    • Tonya says:

      Wow, thank you so much for sharing this. You are brave and wonderful! Every ones experiences after having a baby is completely different…in some ways we can understand each other and in other ways we will never fully understand. I understand some of these emotions fully. I am so sorry you went through this and felt so alone. I had quite a tough time after having my first son, losing my mom that same year, and also being a Type 1 diabetic for twenty years now. It was such an adjustment to say the least…but eventually the happiness and joy was enough to melt away the memories of the heart ache. I truly believe the stress of the pregnancy itself, with the diabetes management and the feeling you had to control every blood sugar so tightly or else it would be YOUR fault if something bad happened to the baby…I could not live with that! It was scary and stressful and now after having my second healthy, beautiful baby boy I realize the stress was unavoidable that first pregnancy yet completely unnecessary. The only way we learn these things is by going through it and boy does it make us stronger!! You now can help others in this position get through! Again, thanks for sharing and happy, happy birthday Tatum and and YOU!!!

      • Diabetes says:

        Thank you for your comments. I am so glad to bring this issue out into the light, as it is something that is unfortunately not talked enough about.

  2. Veronica says:

    You are truly amazing. This story is going to help so many women. You should be so proud of yourself.

    Tatum has a wonderful Mom and she is absolutely incredible, just like you.

  3. Christine says:

    I have chills thinking back to the year after my Daughter’s birth and how conflicted I was in knowing that we were so blessed yet I was paralyzed with anxiety. To get my brain back to focus, I had to temporarily let go of trying to have control over anything (including the intensity of my T1D regime :(. I, like you, am so much better, my Daughter is thriving and I feel like I truly have gotten to enjoy the miracle of the small moments of our family’s happiness. Now trying to figure out what is meant for us next. We want another child; but the reigns I lifted on my T1D are still unruly. I don’t want to go back to the obsessive sugar management because I feel like my #’s will be good, but I won’t be ‘living’. That being said I also know that finding a balances medium is required because future pregnancy or not, I won’t be able to join in life’s pleasures with my Daughter or Husband in the long-term with an a1c over 8 🙁 One day at a time:) Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Diabetes says:

      You’ll know when it’s right for you to have another child. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first though!

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