It’s been over a year, until recently, since I last blogged or wrote anything personal to be shared publicly. I would be being deceitful if I said that this year flew by. It honestly has felt like a long 12+ months.
For those who have just started following me, this entry may seem a bit uncouth and my transparency could, possibly, make you uncomfortable. I apologize. My hopes, however, is that my honesty helps someone or, at the very least, excuses me of my lengthy, unannounced hiatus.
My third child, Benjamin, was about 2 months old when I wrote my November 2014 blog entry. While I had managed to maintain sanity throughout the majority of my unplanned pregnancy, I was crippled by emotional distress just weeks after his birth. I wish that I could blame it on my stretched out stomach, stress about breast milk production, or raw cesarean scar but the culprit was postnatal depression (PND). Yes, depression. Even with a healthy baby, lovely children, and strong marriage, I couldn’t figure out how to talk myself out of a dark hole.
The Initial Trigger
My doctor subscribed the mini pill as a form of contraceptive when I went to my 6 week postnatal check-up, 3 weeks early. I was breastfeeding and estrogen, found in traditional birth control pills can decrease breast milk if started before 6 months postnatal. The mini pill is only made up of the hormone progesterone and this is considered safe immediately after giving birth. While progesterone did not compromise my breast milk production, it did cause some major hormonal imbalances for me. It made my processing of emotions and decisions illogical and quite dramatic. I cried about everything and nothing at all. I felt myself losing myself as I often chanted, “don’t be crazy, please don’t be crazy.”
I tried to be “normal.” I really did. I talked less, fought hard to block out the negative thoughts, and pulled away from people, as I didn’t trust myself to maintain or establish relationships. I saw these changes and noted how they affected those around me and yet, I continued birth control longer than I should have. I was choosing the lesser of two evils: I could stay on the pill and be crazy or get pregnant and be crazy. I chose to stay on the pill. More damaging than the daily intake was the withholding of all information from my husband and doctor. I didn’t want to hear someone tell me to get off of the pill as if that was the only logical solution. I didn’t want to have another baby right away and I wanted to, selfishly, make all decisions regarding that on my own.
After 3 months, I finally gave in and called my doctor to let her know that I thought that I was going crazy due the pills. She confirmed it. After crying uncontrollably and picking a ridiculous fight, I broke down and told my husband the same. They both told me to get off of the pill. I did, both reluctantly and with much relief.
While I felt a little better, I was still depressed after I stopped taking birth control. My doctor explained that this was due to hormonal imbalances that can occur after childbirth. Whatever it was, it still made it very difficult for me to feel like, me. I continued to cry often as everything felt like a trigger. I spent more time than I would like to admit, in the corners, on the floor, at my job and locked in bathrooms and other empty rooms in my home, gasping for air while I suffered from panic attacks. These, along with my tears, happened when both nothing and something occurred. I hated my job, I doubted my friends, and I questioned my marriage and ability to be a mother. I had zero self-confidence and just didn’t trust myself to make sound decisions.
This entire dark period lasted from about October 2014 to February 2015. Those were long, hard months for me.
In March I found out that I was pregnant with our fourth child.
My struggles with PND taught me a lot about myself as it forced me to answer some hard questions about some of my habits and outlooks.
- I need help. I am a control freak. I wanted so badly to do it all on my own: figure out ways to not get pregnant so soon, comfort and console myself, and just beat depression on my own that I ended up making the entire ordeal worst for myself and those closes to me. It was actually a cowardly thing for me not to ask help. I feared rejections, strange looks, or just silence as I felt that no one would understand. Yet, I confused obliviousness with uncaringness so that caused resentment. This past October I sought help outside of myself. I started counseling in hopes that it would teach me strategies to better deal with PND should it rear it’s evil head again after my fourth child’s birth. Al Ain is not an easy place to find a counselor or general parenting support. I am very grateful for the openness of people around me, as I would have never known that could get help here. I also talked to my husband about my struggles, current fears, and different ways that he could help me. He has been very helpful.
- I should accept and be honest about the way that I feel. If I’m tired it doesn’t help if I try to talk myself out of needing rest. The same is true with mental and emotional health. Things became much easier for me after I stopped telling myself not to be crazy and just accepted the fact that I was…well, crazy. After admitting that, I was able to work from where I truly was and not from where I was trying to convince myself to be.
- I am lonely. PND has several triggers. Hormonal imbalances are the cause but there are quite a few things that can get the ball rolling and cause ongoing depression. Loneliness was probably my biggest trigger. The few people who I have shared this story with are always shocked when I admit to being lonely. They refer to my family and stare at me with confusion. Yes, my husband is great and my children are wonderful but I don’t have any other outlets here. That isn’t healthy and that is one of the downsides of raising a family abroad and being an expat parent. I am away from my traditional support system of family and friends and I have been really busy being pregnant and having babies since 2011 so, I haven’t had nor, if I am completely honest, made time to develop many relationships. This has caught up to me. One of my focus words for 2016 is: relationships.
Mommies if you feel like you’ve changed, negatively, after having a baby, you probably have and that’s OK. Your body, hormones, and emotions have really gone and are continuing to go through the ringer. Don’t make my same mistakes: be honest with yourself about the way that feel and then seek help by allowing others to aid you. You can only be the best when you are at your best and maybe your best is talking to a counselor, utilizing your support systems, or taking medication. Either way, just know that emotional imbalances or PND is not your fault nor is it your battle to fight alone. Also, exercise. I started exercising consistently in February and I think that helped tremendously.
My Current State
I can tell that some changes, hormonally, have occurred since having my last child. I am overly sensitive and bit emotional at times. I am so grateful for the strategies that I learned in counseling, as I have had to use a few of them already. I am happy though and I feel, as much as I possibly can 5 weeks postnatal, like myself.
I do need a huge favor, however. If I disappear again or if you notice that I become distant or different, ask me about it. I could, very well, need your help.
Thanks in advance!
Below are some of the coping strategies that I learned and have used: