Giving birth was like being peeled apart from myself. The pregnancy was far from what I had imagined. High blood pressure made the last weeks a constant trip to the doctor’s office, and my body retained so much fluid that I couldn’t fit into my husband’s shoes, let alone my own.
It’s been nine years since I first had postpartum depression. Today life is great and feels real again, but it was a struggle to get there. I had to fight for it. Now I can appreciate the good and the bad, the elation and the devastation, and everything else that comes with the journey. But it wasn’t always that way.
My son was born on a Friday morning. On Saturday morning, my husband went home to feed our dogs and shower, and I decided to take my first postpartum shower. As I got in the shower, I began to sob. It came out of nowhere, like someone had turned on a switch. I have no idea why. I sobbed as hard as I have ever sobbed in my life, and I couldn’t stop. My sob session lasted at least fifteen minutes.
The events leading up to the birth of my second child set the stage for the perfect storm that occurred after he arrived. Around the time I found out I was pregnant, I was offered a rare opportunity to buy the physical therapy practice where I had been working for the past five years. The owner was terminally ill and could no longer maintain an ownership stake. The sale occurred when I was seven-months pregnant.
When I found out I was pregnant with my only child, I was twenty-four and single. I lived in a cute beach cottage in San Diego and worked hard every day at a job where I felt important. In fact, I scheduled everything around my job. My job was my life.
In 2008, Carla O’Reilly, Tania Bird, and I wrote and released The Smiling Mask: Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood (www.thesmilingmask.com).
The book encourages women and men to open up, share their experience, and ask for help. Each of the authors tells a story. Peggy Collins, our publisher, wrote our husbands’ perspectives, and Marlene Harper, PhD, wrote the medically-based preface.