You all were right! It's the hardest and best thing I've ever experienced! In the first days post-delivery I only hoped I would get to a place where I could write about my story. At just over five weeks as a Mom, I'm finally at a place where I can share what I've been through without falling to pieces. My hope is this post is not used to judge me but rather helps me continue to heal and perhaps can help other women going through a difficult pregnancy, delivery and post-partum period.
As I stated in my last post, the delivery was a nightmare (along with most of the pregnancy though we've chosen to focus on only the good that came from our experience). The first week home from the hospital I was a basket case! When the baby cried so did I. Extreme swelling over took my lower extremities (to the point I could not fit into my maternity clothes when we took the baby to her first appointment with the pediatrician) and my anxiety was so severe I ended-up in the doctor's office with symptoms of a heart attack only to realize I was having an anxiety attack. Since the late 90's I've been on different kinds of anti-anxiety medications but in 2010 during my annual visit with my OBGYN she told me the medication I was taking was not safe during pregnancy so I decided to go without it and was able to control the anxiety with exercise, healthy eating and counseling. Jump ahead to October 22, 2012, and a trip to a New York City hospital with three months of bed rest and all-of-a-sudden my coping mechanisms immediately disappeared and I was left with the worst anxiety I've ever experienced. Coupled with the delivery and raging hormones, I was in one of the worst mental states I've ever been in.
Bonding was proving to be a challenge and the guilt associated with that just about did me in. The only thing I was able to do successfully was breastfeed but after a week the baby's latch wasn't right and I was left with blisters on my nipples that were so painful I was in tears every time she ate (thankfully we sought help with a lactation consultant and that issue has been resolved).
As my amazing husband said best, "No one can adequately prepare you for sleep in two hour increments." So, it goes without saying, the sleep deprivation was a bitch! To be honest, I don't remember much about sleep during those early days. I did try to nap during the day but the anxiety proved to make that a challenge as well.
The hardest thing for me to deal with is something I've only shared with one other person until the last few days, I have OCD that manifests itself in obsessive thoughts. Since high school I've been plagued with the condition and only recently have come to realize what causes them (the thoughts began when I was 15 and my step-sister was convicted of accomplice to murder and put into prison until 2010) and am working on how to overcome them (anxiety triggers the thought episodes). After 20+ years I finally found a book called "Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" and realized I'm not crazy but rather have figured out what has been, at times, debilitating thought patterns and a method to stop them.
I felt like I was so alone in what I was experiencing. I knew the "Baby Blues" were real but I was heading for full-blown post-partum depression, which was one of my fears prior to having the baby. At my two week OB appointment I had a full-fledged breakdown in the office and thankfully my physician recommended I go on Zoloft to help control my unrealistic fears and OCD. Having to go on medication made me feel like an epic failure as a mother. I'm not sure where that thought comes from as I'm a huge advocate of counseling and mental health awareness but for some reason I felt as though a real Mom would not need medication to get through this time. It's a stupid thought really!
Yesterday my sweet baby girl turned five weeks old and I had a break through. I drove with her by myself from north Austin to New Braunfels and though there was anxiety prior to leaving the house, once I was in the car I did beautifully. I spent the day with my grandmother, aunt and cousin and rejuvenated my heart, mind and soul. The time spent with these amazing women was the first time I've felt more like myself and know I'm finally on the path to mental and emotional healing. It's a beautiful thing!
In summary, no one could have prepared me for motherhood and I suspect that rings true for all women experiencing this gift for the first time. What I do wish, with all of the reading I did before hand, is that someone would have told me it's normal to have increased anxiety and for those with anxiety disorders, hormones and lack of sleep can trigger other issues too. But alas, if they had I probably would have told them to stop with all the negativity and just share the great parts of motherhood. After all, even with the unpleasantries I've experienced, every time I kiss those plump little cheeks, hear a new sound out of her sweet little mouth or watch my husband melt in her arms I think to myself, "I'd do it all over again to experience this moment again."