There are many things I wish I knew before having children. How difficult it would be, how wonderful, how rewarding, how humbling. But most importantly I wish I’d known about Postpartum/Perinatal Mood Disorders.
Oh sure, I’d heard of baby blues. I think most women have. It starts shortly after birth, you feel miserable for two weeks, then things get better. (Please note: I’m not trying to be flippant or belittle the way a woman experiencing this feels). I’d even heard of postpartum depression. It can start up to a year after the birth of baby, it lasts longer than baby blues and the symptoms are more severe. Then there’s postpartum psychosis. You know what that is – it’s when moms kill themselves or the ones they love. (I’m referring to the cases we tend to hear about – the most severe form).
Honestly, even as a nurse, I didn’t really know much more than that. In our area, when a woman has a baby they screen for postpartum depression (PPD) at every appointment for either mom or baby. During the first few months as a new mommy I had one nurse suggest I had PPD. So I took the screening again. Each time I took the screening things came back normal, not borderline, but normal.
At the time I didn’t know there were other forms of postpartum disorders. I certainly didn’t know the screening tool used isn’t capable of screening for those disorders.
Which disorders do I mean? Postpartum Anxiety Disorder, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Panic Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It wasn’t until after the birth of our second baby that I discovered these existed.
It was a cold winter day. We were stuck in the house. I needed to wash the floors, I needed to clean. I don’t remember much more than that. I do recall that if I told Ella to stop something, she’d do it more. If I said sit, she’d jump. And the more upset I got, the more she laughed at me. Ryan was at work. I was exhausted, the house was a mess, and I wanted so badly to make my little girl stop smiling. I wanted her to feel as miserable as I felt. However, my saving grace was that I knew doing that was wrong. I knew that even a little swat would be a bad idea. I had no idea what to do. I had no one. So I called the crisis line. I thought if I talked to someone for five minutes ‘d calm down and they could give me some ideas on how to get through the day. I needed the support of someone that agreed hitting my child was wrong.
What I needed and what I got were two different things. First, they called my husband to come home from work, sent the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to my house until he could get there. The person on the the phone told me everyone had bad days, and I should suck it up! She also told me I likely had PPD. Before Ryan got home I was also told that until a psychological profile could be done and a home visist follow up completed I needed to have someone with me at all times, or my children would be removed from my home.
I was devastated. I’d had a bad day. I asked for help. I never hit my children. Not even a small little smack. Despite the thoughts in my head, I knew it was wrong. I couldn’t do it. I asked for help, to make it so I wasn’t thinking like that. Because I called I could loose my precious girls. Yet the people around the corner frequently hit their children and they also get approved to foster? Would my girls end up in a home like that? My entire world crumbled around me.
Ryan stayed home, we saw the nurse, I passed the screening, again. The follow-up completed and we were apologized too and told I did the right thing to call and please call if I ever feel like that again. Even on my worst days I’,d lock myself behind a door, but I wouldn’t ask for help again. (I later found out the person I talked to wasn’t actually part of the support team, she over-stepped her job description, she was supposed to forward my call to someone else, but choose not to. Please do call for help if you need it).
However things really didn’t get better for me. For us. I needed to clean constantly. But only certain things. I had a crawling baby – the floor had to be clean enough for her to eat off of. And heaven help anyone that attempted to load my dishwasher for me. It had to be done just so – or else. Each night I checked the doors and windows several times, and if Ryan was home, I often made him check them as well. I slept with a baseball bat close at hand – for protection. I don’t even want to mention the thoughts that went through my head when I went to the mall. I was a nervous wreck – and it effected my family.
It really wasn’t like me – but by then I’d been like that for over three years. It started after we lost our first baby, and the longer I went untreated the worse it became.
Shortly after that I saw a naturopath. I discovered I had under-treated Hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s I started taking cytomel as well as increasing my synthroid. Things improved. Drastically. I also discovered I have celiac’s disease. As I cut gluten out of my diet things continued to improve.
I looked online for information. Read blogs. What I found made me angry. Thyroid disorders are very common during and after pregnancy and account for a lot of mood fluctuations. I also discovered all those other postpartum disorders.
Realizing that I controlled my thoughts, not the other way around, helped immensely. It wasn’t easy, but I’d manage to leave the floors unswept for an extra two hours each day. I’d let Ryan load the dishwasher, and I wouldn’t rearrange (much). I made a point of getting back outside, walking, breathing deeply. I still needed to keep the buggy enclosed so the girls didn’t get dirty or cold, but I was able to open the side vents without cringing. Things improved.
Then one day they got a whole lot worse.
It was one of the worst days of my life. I have no idea what triggered it, but I couldn’t handle anything anymore. I banged my head on the wall, I wanted so bad to hurt someone, anyone. I paced liked a tiger in a cage. I knew hitting was wrong. I knew it only made things worse, but that was all I could think of that might help release the way I felt. I wanted to hit something. I threw stuff. Anything out of place got thrown. Things broke. I tried to calm down, but everytime I’d start to calm down something else happened to trigger an outburst.
My thyroid was off again. I adjusted my medication doses and things improved again. It took a few episodes like that to discover the subtle warning signs.
As of right now I feel more and more like my old self again. I’m able to go to bed without checking the doors and windows a million times. The girls can have craft time without me warning them not to make a mess. I even help make the mess. Ryan loads the dishwasher, and the only time I need to rearrange is when something really is in the wrong spot (i.e. covering the water spout).
It’s been a long road. A scary road. A road we don’t want to find ourselves traveling again.
Ryan hasn’t said anything, but I think he’s nervous it’ll happen again. Right now I cling to the knowledge that we have; we know what triggered it in the past. We can treat it so much faster this time around.