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Only a fraction of the hell I experienced postpartum

“I think it’s important to note, that this story I’m about to share is only a fraction of the hell I experienced postpartum. It would take a book to share the full experience. When my daughter was born I was over the moon in love with her. She became my entire world. Covid shutdown quickly took the rest of my world away, so I held on tight to what I still had, this perfect baby girl that I had waited years, for and suffered through many fertility treatments to get. Then things changed. I remember at 4 months postpartum saying to a friend “I’ve been crying every day for a week. I’ll have to pay attention to see if it continues.” That’s the only memory I have of really being aware that my PPD was starting. Unfortunately, once I was really in it, I was too overwhelmed to see clearly and was no longer aware of what was happening. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, and obsessing over keeping my child safe, all while struggling with intrusive thoughts. I would sit next to her, watching her, but be in a completely different world. My body was present, but my mind was far from it. I lost that feeling of “awe” when I’d look at her. I knew I loved her, spoke about loving her, and couldn’t imagine a life without her, but I no longer felt that warmth and joy inside when I looked at her smiling face. No one knew this. After months of feeling the “awe”, it was easy to keep saying the right things, even when I wasn’t feeling it. I felt rage like I had never experienced in my life. It wasn’t until months later, after I found help, that I found outrage is a symptom of depression. My intrusive thoughts got worse and started coming as visions. One night I was rocking my daughter and feeding her a bottle while she fell asleep. She wasn’t fussing or crying, yet I was fuming with rage. Every ounce of my body was tense and wanting to let out this deep hot rage I was feeling inside. As clear as day I saw it. I yanked the bottle from her mouth and threw it as hard as I could against the wall, formula flying everywhere. But I look down and she’s still eating, still comfortable in her mommy’s arms. That was the first vision I had that involved me being violent around her. It was terrifying. I put her in her crib, went into my room, fell to the floor, and balled my eyes out. I was afraid to move, so afraid that I would hurt her. At some point I managed to text my mom, asking her to come over. I was afraid to be alone with my baby. My mom called the local women’s health after hour line. The on-call nurse had no idea what to recommend because I was “past the 3-month postpartum period”. The next day I saw my primary care provider. She did the postpartum questionnaire, said I had PPD, suggested meds but I refused and provided me with a link to the Postpartum Support International (PSI) website. Through PSI (godsend #1) I found out I had 8 out of 12 risk factors for developing a PMAD. I also found out what a PMAD is, a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PPD is not the only one). None of this information had been shared with me at any point in my fertility treatments, pregnancy, or postpartum appointments. I messaged the PSI helpline and they connected me with The Postpartum Resource Center of NY. Sonia, their Executive Director, was godsend #2. She texted me daily to check on me and sent me referral after referral for therapists. Unfortunately, it was next to impossible to find someone qualified who was taking new clients and who took my insurance. While all of this was going on, I continued to get worse. I became desperate enough to agree to medication. My PCP put me on an antidepressant and the very next day the violence in my visions became directed at my daughter. I had just finished clipping her nails with a pair of pointy vintage nail scissors, and she was in front of me laying on the floor, happy. In one swift motion, I grabbed the scissors and stabbed her in the middle of her forehead. But I hadn’t, it was only a vision. I moved the scissors out of my reach, making sure no one else in the room got suspicious and thought to myself “Thank God I started medicine, things just keep getting worse.” A week later I woke early. As I was noticing it was still dark outside, I heard a voice say “Drown her.” I immediately knew they were referring to my now 7-month-old daughter. This is the first time I have ever written those words. Almost two years later, I still have not been able to speak to them. Two little words, that still haunt me to this day. I was immediately put on a different medication, started doing online support groups 3 times a week, and eventually at 8 1/2 months, postpartum started therapy with The Motherhood Center (godsend #3). Though I am in an entirely different place than I was at that dark time, I am still far from the person I was before having my daughter. I see glimpses of her from time to time, and I hope that someday I will find her again.”

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