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.
The difficulty in dealing with postpartum depression, in my experience, was that my husband and I were blindsided. We had no knowledge of how to deal with the symptoms. The obsessive thoughts were scary, and without a second thought by the doctor I was put on medication that only numbed the surface. We hadn’t dealt with the trauma I experienced while I was pregnant.
In May of 2000 I had my daughter and the first month and a half was all right. Then I started noticing that things were going wrong. I was anxious, unable to sleep—unable to do much of anything—and I worried about everything. I feared harming my baby. I could not handle having her near me, crying all the time. I new I had postpartum depression based on what I had heard and read.
From a young age, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. As a child, I merely dealt with them, not really knowing what they were, and went on with my life. As an adult, despite being able to finally affix a label to what I had been experiencing, I found myself with more questions than answers.