The last two weeks have been a real joy. Due to a migraine I took a sleep aid really early in the evening on a Saturday and got a solid 12 hours of sleep. Sunday was the start of a few days of feeling like I had stepped out of the fog and into the sunshine. I wasn’t having to pretend to be happy by smiling to make other people feel more comfortable and keep their pity at bay. I was genuinely happy and being silly again.
Almost 13 weeks of aggressively seeking help, taking medication, doing all the right things… I was so afraid that the PPD foggy me was my new permanent self. No, I was terrified. And I fought through serious anxiety any time I tried to talk to anybody about it. Thankfully the therapist I saw was wonderful and did an excellent job connecting with me and giving me a sense of safe whenever I was in her office. Having her to help me process what was happening to me was priceless. And I will forever be eternally grateful. I accept that there may be dips in the road as it does take a while for those hormones to settle but I am aware of my surroundings now.
One of the difficult things for me in the beginning of realizing something was wrong, was that I had this mental image that PPD was somebody that just sat around and cried all day. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is how PPD manifests itself in some people, but it isn’t a one size fits all list of symptoms. So when I was walking around in a Tylenol PM type fog for days on end I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. But I did know I did Not want to put that official label of PPD on my forehead so I researched other possibilities to the point that I refused multiple support groups and took about a month to finally contact a therapist at the strong urging of my OB’s office.
Another big anxiety about my experience, and it came up many times, was the fact that this was my first surrogate baby and my first experience with PPD. Do you think it’s because you’re tired or disappointed or giving up the baby or … “Like anything else, you’ll never truly understand it until it happens to you, and even then, it takes a while to understand it.” If you haven’t experienced PPD, or anxiety, or any type of depression, it is really hard to relate to what is happening in the scrambled eggs brain of a PPD mom. Each time somebody tried to pinpoint what I was going through on the most amazing thing I have experienced it tore through me leaving wounds. The Mayo Clinic says, “There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.” You may be a first time mom, or a veteran, and experience PPD only once or after every pregnancy. And if anybody tries to tell you that PPD is more common in Surrogates the only reason they may think that is Surrogates tend to be much more open in communication with each other. But we are by no means more susceptible.
Some of the main symptoms that I experienced included: Rage (0-60 in 0.2 seconds), Fog, Forgetfulness, Numb, Deep Sadness, Insomnia, Anxiety, Guilt, Some Tears, and Intrusive Thoughts.
I am not a crier and never have been. So for me to cry over something other than a death or extremely emotional moment (and even then sometimes not) is a really big deal. Tears weren’t a daily event during this rough period but they made a debut quite a few times.
Intrusive thoughts make you feel crazy. The harder I said “stop!” the more vivid they would become. It wasn’t until I would dissect the awful image and logically explain it away in my head that it would go away. “Your child is not screaming in the truck, you did not just slam the door on her foot, you saw her in her car seat before shutting the door, you will see her again when you get in the driver seat and she will be just fine.” They were all so bizarre and painfully vivid! Some would come at me in the beginning when I was trying to go to sleep and follow me into my nightmares.
OK, let’s talk Rage. Most PPD symptom sheets say “irritability”. Oh, that’s nice. No, it’s Rage with a capital R. Little things that would have mildly irritated me before made me blow up instantly. There was no filter or fader switch, it was just off/on. Unfortunately my sassy, boundary pushing, going on 16, 4 1/2 year old daughter flipped that switch on a regular basis. It wasn’t until my therapist suggested some intentional space did things start to improve. By intentional space it meant more play dates, or splitting up errands with Daddy so I could have some fun time with our younger daughter, those types of things. I hated that she effected me that way. It brought about a deep sense of guilt. But that is a clear sign of PPD, only in my case it was triggered by my older daughter instead of a newborn.
I want to help raise awareness and get rid of the shame associated with PPD. Too many women go without help and struggle far too long for fear of the shame and guilt of not being a good enough mother. Please know that you are a good mother and that getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Talk to someone. Don’t sit in silence and let the poison eat away at you. And friends, if you know somebody struggling with postpartum issues, please reach out to them. Offer a meal, an ear, a coffee. It could save a life.