I was never one of those girls who grew up always wanting kids, just like I was never one who always dreamed of getting married. So I didn’t just surprise my husband when I came to him one day and said “I want a baby.”
I found out I was pregnant February 23, 2010, about two months after we got engaged. The pregnancy itself was not pretty. I didn’t glow — except while sweating in the awful North Carolina heat — I didn’t feel sexy, and I sure as hell didn’t feel beautiful in any way. Instead, I spent most of the 9 1/2 months bent over the toilet throwing up absolutely everything I ate, I couldn’t even keep water down. I developed carpal tunnel, had to wear a maternity belt, was hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum, severe hydration and put on Zofran and Promethazine, wore Sea Bands, developed a horrible itching sensation on most of my body as well as pre-eclampsia, which ultimately led to me being induced at 39 weeks.
My little girl, Rayne Teagan, entered this world at 9:19pm September 30th, 2010 and she was beautiful. I wasn’t able to hold her until the next morning because we were both running fevers during delivery, but once I was able to I was in awe that this little person was just inside me hours beforehand. We left the hospital three days later but her first week of life was actually spent in and back out again for severe jaundice that ended in phototherapy treatment. Around the time she turned a month old, I believe, is when the problems started.
At first I was just anxious when putting her down for the night; my husband was working 60-70 hour work weeks doing construction and was up every morning at 5am so I took the night time feedings Sunday night through Thursday and began to develop sleep envy. At 3am I would find myself bawling on the couch for no apparent reason while rocking my daughter to sleep. Then came the irritation over the little things; the reflux, she’d spit up every feeding, the endless game of Wheel of Formula, she wouldn’t sit still while feeding, she wouldn’t nap when I wanted her to. Then the thoughts; why did I do this? I don’t want to be a mother. Can I give her away? Can I just run away?
This went on for close to five months before culminating one evening while I was taking a shower. She had finally gone down for a nap so I snuck in to relax under the hot water. Once I got out, she had already woken up and begun to cry so I stuck her in her bouncer and brought her to the bathroom door so she could see me, which didn’t work. As the crying continued I could feel the anger boiling and every inch of my body begin to tense. I began talking loudly and banging on the bathroom door to get her attention. Then it turned to yelling, then screaming, then finally walking away and punching a hole in our bedroom door because I was resisting the urge to go over and shake the bouncer with all my might… with her in it. When my husband walked through the door that night I simply said, “I need help”.
It took another three months before I could get in for an appointment and start medication and therapy. My husband would later confess that he thought long before then that I had PPD but wasn’t sure how to bring it up with the state I was in. The next year was a blur of medication changes, weekly therapy visits and yes, relapses. There was one particularly scary bathroom incident that still rocks me to my core today. Even now, there are things I said and did that will never leave the room in which I met with my therapist. The looks of horror and lack of understanding I’m sure I would be met with are too much to think about.
Even after all that, we had another child. Another girl. And the experience with her was SO vastly different. No anxiety, no anger, no horrible intrusive thoughts. I still carry some guilt with me, however, and I think I always will about the birth of my first. It took longer to bond with her and some days I feel like somehow she knows that, knows about our horrible beginning. Still, each day gets better, even now three years later. I find new things to love about her and new ways to let the guilt go. So for those of you still struggling, there is hope, there is a light at the end, and you will find it. Until then I send you love and strength.