Editor’s note: I’m thrilled to present the first essay in a new series on Honest Mom: Honest Moms Speak Out. Every week, Honest Mom will feature a reader’s story about her mental health battles and triumphs. The goal of these essays is to give women who deal with similar challenges hope, and to help them to feel less alone. If you would like to contribute, read this (you do not have to be a blogger to participate). I want to give Lauren a special virtual hug for being our first HMSO essay. I’m honored to feature her!
This is a beautiful photograph of my son and myself, our smiles caught on camera during a candid moment together. I love this photo because it captures a good moment, one that betrayed how I really felt at that time. Taken just weeks after suffering my second miscarriage, I was in a horrible state of depression and well on my way to feeling suicidal. This isn’t something too many people outside of my immediate family know, but now I’m sharing it with the world.
My first miscarriage was devastating, and I was traumatized by the succession of medical mishaps that followed; but sadness turned to optimism when I found myself pregnant again three months later. Pregnancy is never the same for a woman who has suffered a miscarriage; there is always doubt and fear lurking when a woman, who’s suffered a loss, discovers she is pregnant again. I remember the mix of emotions I experienced, after the pregnancy test confirmed what I had already known: happiness (I could, indeed, get pregnant again!), anticipation (we were going to be expecting another baby!), and apprehension (would this pregnancy stick?).
I remember telling my husband that I wasn’t going to allow myself to get excited, or fully accept this pregnancy, until I hit the 14-week mark. If I have to be completely honest, the depression I was suffering, combined with the apprehension I felt, did not allow me to accept this pregnancy as a truth. Sure, I felt pregnant, but I had felt pregnant before — and had lost the baby.
I’m sure you know how this story ends. Sometime during my ninth week I began to bleed; days later, I stocked-up on prenatal vitamins during a buy one, get one free sale, and I lost the baby at home the following day. Oh, the irony. I was alone when it happened, holding my baby in my hand and wondering what the hell I was supposed to do now.
Devastation doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I was in shock, and quickly spiraled to depths so dark it rocked me to the core of my being; the only way to describe how I felt was that my mind was constantly sabotaging and betraying me. I was afraid to leave my house, my mind concocting nightmarish scenarios, the worst of which was being broadsided by a train when driving across train tracks. I had no energy, and spent each day counting down the minutes until my son’s nap times. Those times, between naps and bedtime, I spent on the couch, alternating between staring into space and crying uncontrollably. Those were the most difficult months of my life.
I had spiraled so far down that I was a miserable person to be around; I made life a living hell for my family. My husband worked long hours with a four-hour commute, and he bore the brunt of my abuse. My son; oh, my poor son. Not yet a year-and-a-half old, and definitely not understanding why mommy was crying all of the time, my son was a typical toddler. My throat was often hoarse from yelling, as my toddler wouldn’t follow any directions (as toddlers are wont to do), and I found myself having to fight the urge to slap my son when he didn’t listen. At some point, maybe after the first time I spanked him, while tussling during a diaper change, I realized that things were not okay. I was not okay.
In my grief over losing two babies, I had forgotten to cherish my son. I dreamed of going to sleep and never waking up; I asked my husband for a divorce, and told him that I understood why women abandoned their families. A constant struggle was taking place in my mind, knowing that it was wrong for me to lash out so quickly, but still wanting to walk away from it all. I questioned my right to be a mother.
If you had asked me about postpartum depression (PPD) before my losses, I would have told you that I thought that it was something women experienced after giving birth; something experienced by a woman in the throes of parenting a newborn and making do with only precious few hours of sleep a day. It wasn’t until I suffered my second miscarriage, the second in seven months, and found myself in an increasingly downward spiral, that I hit the internet in search of answers. To my surprise, I found that many women suffer from PPD after miscarriage, even with first trimester losses. I became certain that the abyss in which I was living was much, much more than grief in response to losing two babies.
Thankfully, my husband wasn’t too afraid to suggest that I get help, even looking into in-patient behavioral help facilities out of desperation. I found it difficult to get proper care with any immediacy, as I wasn’t necessarily in need of institutionalization. After going through the ridiculous intake process, I finally met with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me in twenty minutes, and I left with a prescription in hand. I re-established ties with my former therapist, and began the difficult work necessary to begin to reach a state of emotional health.
Within two weeks of starting medication, my daily panic attacks ceased. After one month, my outlook had become increasingly positive, and after two months I had stopped imagining horrible accidents happening with my son (those thoughts and dreams were the worst, leaving me shaking in cold sweats and fighting to catch my breath). I began to find joy in the unlikeliest places, and also came to the realization that I had been suffering from depression long before I suffered my miscarriages.
I have been blessed to have found a wonderful mental health team, with my therapist and new psychiatrist working together to guide me to achieving my mental health goals. With help from talk therapy, I’ve been able to find acceptance. I now respond to life with gratitude and perhaps an even disgustingly positive outlook, and I am enthusiastic about my future.
Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of healing is the patience I now have in all aspects of life, and the ability to empathize with the people I encounter daily. While I will always be saddened by my miscarriages (now numbering three), I am able to focus on all of the gifts my life holds, the greatest of which is my healthy little boy.