Six years ago, as we moved from South Carolina back to Georgia with our five-month-old daughter in tow, I was in the midst of an epic battle with darkness.
There was a specific, glowing image in my mind of how the hours following my son’s birth would go. He would be placed tenderly on my stomach and the midwife and nurses would leave the room while my husband and I bonded with our new baby. The baby would begin to nurse and we would look on in total awe and wonderment at the beautiful creature we created.
The birth of my first child, Charlotte, was picture-perfect, and I was an anomaly of postpartum recovery. Less than a week after she was born, I was cleaning house, getting up early to see her, and walking every day while pushing her in the stroller. Things couldn’t have gone any better, which is why I was so caught off guard by the challenges I faced the second time around.
It took two severe postpartum depressions to get me to where I am today, which is a very good place. In both cases I thought I would never recover and feared things would end badly. I thought I was lost for good. Each episode lasted over a year and I was hospitalized both times.
The week my son was born, I knew that something was wrong. My husband had to return to work the next morning and I was up every hour trying to breastfeed. I was so exhausted, and when my son slept or napped I couldn’t rest. My mind raced and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t turn it off. I lay in bed thinking my son would never be satisfied and I would never to be able to sleep again. I was up for almost forty-eight hours before I called my OB to see if he could prescribe any medication to help me sleep.
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.