About 1 in 6 women experience postpartum depression or a related illness, so there is a very good chance that someone you know is suffering right now or has in the past… and there is also a good chance that she suffered in silence.
Initially, I was excited on that fall day of 2010 when I received the call from my primary care physician with those wonderful words, “you are pregnant”. All that changed, however, when I reached 6 weeks of pregnancy.
I started with symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), leaving me sick with nausea, vomiting and dehydration 24 hours a day. I remember driving to my presentations for work, asking for a bathroom, throwing up, doing my presentation, going back to the bathroom to throw up, and returning to my office. That was every day for me for 22 weeks straight! It was all day, every day.
If that wasn’t enough, at around 32 weeks I became extremely itchy on my stomach. Within a week, this had spread throughout my body, causing a poison ivy-like rash. This was called PUPPP, also known as pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy and the only remedy for it was delivery of the baby. Needless to say, this was not a comfortable pregnancy.
Throughout the pregnancy, I started to feel constant worry and regret. I regretted being pregnant, I regretted bringing this baby into this world and not even feeling excited.
When people would ask me about my pregnancy or make those annoying comments about the size of my stomach being as large as a watermelon, I cringed at having to put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy for this choice I made. I never shared these feelings with anyone and definitely did not say how I felt out loud. I never experienced depression, so I chalked these symptoms up to “pregnancy hormones”.
August 26, 2011 should have been the happiest days of my life. Instead, it was the start of my climb into the darkness. My daughter’s birth was traumatic in so many ways I wouldn’t have ever imagined. We had complications and things happened that were not on my birth plan. Everything that happened that evening was a blur. Once she was here, I constantly worried about everything. I was second guessing every choice I made and eventually felt like I wasn’t a good mom for her.
I wanted to run away.
I didn’t sleep for days on end.
I would watch the clock and listen to her sleep constantly, making sure she was breathing, but also thinking of everything I did wrong that day and all that I couldn’t accomplish. I couldn’t make my daughter happy, she cried often and I couldn’t soothe her.
I had no faith in anything I did, I doubted the way I fed her, how I put her diapers on, how I rocked her to sleep.
I lived in constant guilt, over things I didn’t do and things I couldn’t do. I put on a fake smile but had a constant lump in my throat when I spoke with friends and family.
Knowing I wasn’t myself, at my 6 week check up I spoke with my OBGYN about my fears, with tears streaming down my face, and his answer was to prescribe me a medication that had a very serious adverse reaction and left me with even more severe symptoms and no follow up from a physician or treatment provider. I didn’t seek further treatment until my daughter was 6 months old.
I was in the dark, crying alone while my daughter cried in my arms for days on end. I suffered in that horrible state for over 180 days….. over 4,380 hours of fear, guilt, turmoil, anger, and darkness. I went through the whole gambit of treatment. It was not an easy road and it wasn’t a straight path either.
I was assessed for the day program at Women and Infants and was approved to enter the program, however it was full. I had to wait over a month to get into treatment. I remember leaving the assessment crying that day. I had already taken a huge risk opening up to someone about the terrible thoughts I was having, not wanting to be a mom and just wanting to run away from it all. Now I had to live in my own painful and dark world for even longer! Luckily, I was referred to an amazing therapist who started seeing me right away and whose focus was PPD and women’s issues. This helped pass the time until I received that call and was able to start the intensive program where I spent my days for almost two weeks with my daughter.
It was intense, emotional, tiring, and uplifting all at the same time. Upon discharge, I had been given new medication and vitamins along with many skills and resources to start my climb out of the darkness.
PPD is real.
Thankfully, PPD ends.
My daughter is now 2.5 and I am so greatful for the community that helped me become a Mom full of love.
Postpartum Progress was one of the first websites I found, the information there is invaluable. It gave me the resources I needed. I was able to see that it does get better; I did not have to live in the darkness.
I am forever grateful to so many, including those family and friends that were around during those times and also for Kathy McGuigan and my mom’s group through RI New Mom’s Connection, Women and Infants Day Hospital, Michelle Chaudhry, and Bellani Maternity. Without these programs and staff, I would not have the strength and support to get myself into treatment.
On Saturday, June 21, I will be leading a “climb” on the John Chafee Nature Preserve (Rome Point) as a part of the Postpartum Progress Climb Out of the Darkness Campaign. This event is to raise awareness and to help Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit that supports pregnant and new moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and pregnancy depression.
There is no registration fee and you do not have to fundraise, but you are welcome to if you would like.
We will be walking the John Chafee Nature Preserve’s (Rome Point) main trail, which is a 1.25 mile flat walk through the woods, ending at the beach with a beautiful view of the Jamestown Bridge. At the beach, we can enjoy a picnic and some fun for the children. Symbolically, for someone who has dealt with, or is dealing with any form depression, this is huge!
About 15-20% of women experience postpartum depression or a related illness, so there is a very good chance that someone you know is suffering right now or has in the past… and there is also a good chance that she suffered in silence.
We need to change that! I sincerely hope that you can help in whatever capacity you are able. There are multiple ways you can support the Climb Out Of the Darkness 2014:
For more information, please feel free to visit this event’s Facebook Page, or click here to walk, donate, or pledge to the cause.
Thank you for posting Courtenay's story, Mary. Courtenay, thank you for sharing your story. I'm so glad you found us at RI New Moms Connection–it has been an honor and pleasure to share in your journey. You are an inspiration! Thank you also for coordinating the "Climb out of Darkness Walk" here in RI. As a fellow survivor of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, I (and my family) will be there walking with you…thank you for all you are doing to promote awareness and support.