This post has been rolling around in my head for the better part of a month, and I just haven't known how to form it. I've been working a little here and there during my blogging hiatus to clean up some old posts that had good content and poor share-ability, so I've been conscious of the "correct" ways to write a post. And I just don't think what I need to say fits any of the ideal formats. So... let's just chat.
It's no secret around here that I have struggled with anxiety and depression to varying degrees for years. I've shared about it a few times, most notably in this post about Christians with anxiety and depression.
Before IVF, it was under pretty good control. My general practitioner and I decided to stop medication since my indices were coming back so positively and - while my maternal-fetal medicine specialists consider the risks of antidepressants during pregnancy to be less than the risks of a depressed mother - it's not ideal to be on those medications while pregnant. I felt great, very positive and relatively angst-free during pregnancy, but I knew that I was a prime candidate for postpartum depression.
Sure enough, by the time my two-week postpartum appointment rolled around, I had decided to ask my doctor to prescribe an antidepressant. It wasn't bad, but I am all too familiar with what my symptoms feel like, and I wanted to get ahead of them before they got crippling. She gave me a prescription for a drug that had worked well for me in the past, it kicked in quickly, and I started feeling like myself around week five or so, just in time for Ethan to go back to work :-)
We were cruising along, doing pretty well, until Abbie and Sam were about three and a half months old. My milk supply had been dwindling, and I suddenly needed an antibiotic that wasn't safe in breastmilk. We decided instead of "pumping and dumping," I would just be thankful for the three and a half months I was able to give our babies breastmilk and call it quits.
I was confident and comfortable with this decision. It made me a little sad, because I never got them to latch and I know I may never get another chance to breastfeed a baby, but overall, I was at peace about it. Until I wasn't. The PPD hit me like a ton of bricks, and it was rough. I cried constantly, barely slept (despite our babies being champion sleepers), ached, couldn't eat or couldn't stop eating, had no interest in people, blogging, anything... questioned every move I made and every thought I had. It was ugly. One of my friends told me that quitting nursing/pumping can cause PPD symptoms to spike because of the sharp drop in oxytocin. Made sense, so I was able to hang in there for the couple of weeks it was at its worst.
After a couple of weeks, things re-stabilized. I'm still blue, a little listless, and just flat-out exhausted - physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is really hard.
The hardest part is the guilt. I am so in love with these babies, and I have everything I've ever wanted since I was in kindergarten and we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. But I'm sad. And I feel guilty and confused about it. I KNOW, and BELIEVE, that depression doesn't mean I'm unsatisfied or ungrateful, but it's hard to fight those guilty feelings. Part of the reason I have had trouble deciding if/how/when to talk about it publicly is that I'm afraid of those negative perceptions, too.
There's enormous pressure to have it together, to be a Pinterest mom who just glows and radiates happy, especially for those of us parenting after infertility. We're supposed to be the happiest, most grateful parents in the world - and I think we probably truly are - but it's a cruel plot twist when brain chemistry complicates the joy and thankfulness we really do feel.
That's it... there's no happy wrap-up or neat "ending" to this story. It is what it is, and it is really hard. I'm hoping sharing this will help me cut through some of the almost mental block I've had about blogging. If you notice a tone of sadness or tiredness seeping through into my posts, please offer up a quick prayer for me. I'm going to be fine, but I'm going to need my "village" to make it so.