My boys are reaching 9 weeks old and I’m just now starting to see through the fog of what the last three months have been. (How in the world did I not feel as big in my 9th month of the pregnancy as I looked?)
There are still countless posts I want to get down some day but I’m overdue with checking in with the intertubes to say things are getting better each day, little by little, we are making progress. Thankfully we had spring babies so we can get our daily breaks out in the fresh air to gain perspective on the world.
Around the five week mark after my boys were born I came to the realization that something wasn’t right with me. Yes I was recovering from major surgery, yes all new moms are exhausted, yes there were hormones to process but I was so fatigued I couldn’t take care of my boys without significant help. I was too tired at times to hold one of them and no matter how long I slept or what kind of meal I ate I was just dragging.
Could it be I was dealing with something more serious, postpartum depression perhaps?
I’d never been diagnosed as depressed before and didn’t have any of the typical symptoms you hear about – fear about hurting your babies or yourself. Feeling like you were stuck in a situation you didn’t want. Not happy at all, all day long. Crying non stop.
I didn’t have any of that.
Okay I cried a LOT in that first month but at least half of the time it was over happy stuff like seeing my husband change a diaper and talk to our sons, having our family at the house helping us with anything that needed to be done or just looking into the wide open eyes of either of our boys and thinking about everything we went through to become parents. The rest of the time I cried out of frustration of not being able to do more and be more as a new mom. Being basically on bed rest while I got through my c-section incision infection was torture, I just wanted to be able to do more for my boys.
As the weeks progressed and I was still crying and feeling exhausted I was surrounded by encouraging family members who listened to me and reassured me I wouldn’t be left alone with my boys until I was strong and ready. But still something didn’t feel right. I was just too exhausted all the time.
After a good morning with my husband and mother-in-law at the house and with the boys down for a nap I went to take a hot shower. During my shower I started crying and couldn’t pin point what I was crying about. Just getting a chance to relax was enough to cry over but something in the back of my mind said this didn’t feel right. In that moment I decided it was time to get professional help. I finished my shower, pulled myself together and went downstairs with a box of kleenex in hand to make my announcement.
I couldn’t even get two words out before I was crying again. “I’ve decided I need to get professional help…” I don’t know what my husband was thinking as I looked at him, maybe another few days and he would have been deciding for me, but it was time. Time to feel better, to do something active to make progress towards being a full mother for my boys.
The next Monday my husband made the phone calls for me and got in touch with a psychologist through my obstetrician’s recommendation. I also scheduled a physical exam with my doctor so I could rule out any physical symptoms. I had blood work done and a counseling appointment scheduled. Taking action on a problem sometimes feels just as good as actually overcoming the problem itself.
The blood test revealed normal levels of iron, estrogen and thyroid (all suggestions from friends of things to have checked out). My Vitamin D level was a little low so I was prescribed a Vitamin D booster regimen of 50,000 units once a week for six weeks.
The following week I met with a psychologist who talked with us and diagnosed me with having postpartum mood disorder. Not full blown depression but being chemically off and needing some adjustment. We scheduled weekly counseling sessions and a prescription for Zoloft – an antidepressant most widely tested on breastfeeding moms and the safest thing I can take. I’ve never been against medication and I believe in the reality of depression being a chemical imbalance, something you can’t just snap out of. But still I struggled with the decision to take Zoloft. I’ve always considered myself to be a happy person and now that I was finally at the point in my life where I was exactly where I wanted to be – how could I be depressed? I knew being a new mom was going to be the toughest thing I’ve ever done, a job with horrible pay and terrible hours, but I wanted it.
I did some research online, posted some questions on a twins club forum and talked with Husband a lot. I think if I had time to work on therapy and diet I might have just done the Vitamin D and saw how my body reacted to it, but I didn’t want to miss six months of my boys growing up because I was too exhausted and weepy to take it all in.
I picked up the prescription at Target and held my husband’s hand as we walked back to the car. Crying. How many more times did I need to be crying for no reason before I realized it was time to take the Zoloft?
I’m now starting my third week of the medications and am already feeling so much better. I still get dizzy spells and am tired if I don’t eat enough but I can now feed my boys, change diapers, rock them to sleep, get down on the floor with them for tummy time (though getting up is another story) and I’m no longer crying three times a day.
I’ve blurted out to several friends “I’m taking Zoloft!” as if it was a confession and you know what I’ve found out? So have many people I know. I had no clue. It’s as if it’s some secret we must all keep and don’t want to talk about. Although I wouldn’t announce to friends if I was taking vitamin C every day so I don’t know why an anti-depressant should be any different. But for some reason it is.
I’m posting this choppy blog entry to help get the word out. If you’re not feeling like your normal self don’t hesitate to get professional help. You might not be depressed or you might not need medication but it never hurts to talk. Even if you’re a self aware, psychology college minor like me, sometimes you need to take extra steps to be the best person you can.
I wish I had taken those steps two weeks earlier than I did but I’m thankful I have supportive friends and family who encouraged me to move forward and didn’t look down on or discourage me from taking anti-depressants. And I’m thankful I listened to my instincts instead of pushing away the feelings of frustration and over exhaustion.
Life isn’t easy and I’m just beginning down my path of being a mom but I’m so much happier being tired from 4am feedings and walking loops around the kitchen to rock my boys to sleep instead of a chemical imbalance in my body. There’s more hugs and smiles from this new life of exhaustion than my old one.