My name is Nancy I live in North Bergen, New Jersey, and I am a Registered Nurse.
I was aware of PPD, never knew anybody who experienced it. I knew some of the symptoms, what women may go through, what they experience.
No one in my family has any history of depression, neither did my mom when she had the three of us, never a history of depression. I never thought I would come anywhere close to any kind of depression.
My pregnancy wasn’t easy, I pretty much went through my pregnancy alone, of course with the help of my family and friends, my support people, but it was a little bit complicated of a pregnancy. I went into pre-term labor, so I was home early from work, so I was home before, actually two months prior to my due date.
So I was pretty much home alone. I often did bring a lot of work home to do to keep caught up with work, but I was a little bit lonely, a little bit down. I never attributed it to any kind of depression, I just thought that was a normal process of being home and bedridden.
I was on a couple of meds to prevent pre-term labor, but other than that I was excited. It actually let me catch up on her room, painting and stenciling, so I took that time for me to get ready for her, because I knew once she came I wouldn’t have the free time to myself.
Every once in awhile, I did cry because I was home and didn’t have the contact with my friends from work, and everybody was working in the day and I was home. It was beautiful out, but I couldn’t go out. I’d sit on the balcony and read a magazine, but I couldn’t do shopping, because any time I did a lot of activity I'd have contractions and stuff so I was pretty much on bedrest during the latter end of the pregnancy.
I was hospitalized a couple times because of the complications, not so much because of the nausea and vomiting, but I did have a lot of reflux so I was on a lot of medications for that, so it wasn’t the smoothest transition into motherhood.
I went into the hospital because I was having contractions, and it was exciting. I was nervous, I was a "Nervous Nellie" throughout the pregnancy. Being a nurse, I knew the complications that could go along with a pregnancy. My specialty is neonatal intensive care nursing, so I always knew the worst. I guess ignorance is bliss in this case.
So I went in and they hooked me up to the monitor and I knew what the strips were reading and I knew what was going on, so I was a little bit nervous, and I knew they were going to call for a C-section, and called my family to come in. My best friend was there, I had great support from work, everybody was there, and it was just wonderful, the first 24 hours were wonderful.
I was on a high, I was very excited to see her, and she had a lot of hair, she was beautiful, she was my world. So I was very excited, and my dad, I’m his oldest daughter, so he was excited to see his granddaughter, so it was just perfect, it was beautiful.
I didn’t even think, postpartum depression was the farthest thing from my mind, I didn’t have any thought that it was going to affect me at all.
I was there about three or four days. I took the extra day, I said, let me get my rest, let me get the extra support while I’m at work (in the hospital).
I brought her home and my mom stayed with me for a week, and it was just wonderful. The first few days were great, I was breastfeeding, everything was going well. I think I took the turn, at work (in the hospital) the day before I came home. I was breastfeeding, sleeping, getting some rest, and I remember sitting there at the end of the bed ... it was a Sunday night, and I was sobbing and I couldn’t understand why, so I was reaching out for anybody I could call, just to talk to, and I didn’t understand why, the breastfeeding was going so well.
I was just looking to speak to somebody, and at that point I knew it was just hormones, and I thought I would get over it. And I did leave messages for people to call me back, and they were in a panic because they didn’t want to call back because it was so late and I was calling. So the next day I did see those people I was reaching out to, and it was fine. I told them I was just having a moment, I’m fine, I was just having the baby blues.
It was two or three days later, and I knew at that point with my experience that I would be fine, I’d be home, I’d be in my own house, in my own bed, and I’ll be able to do what I need to do and not have any interruptions with what I’m doing, and I’ll have my time with my daughter and my mom.
And then when I came home it was fine, it was bliss. She was home, I showed her her beautiful room. I was excited and I was able to dress her in her cute little clothes. I was just bonding really well and breastfeeding really well, and once that week ended I had my mom go home. I just needed time for myself, I was just feeling very overwhelmed at that point. And I think that’s when everything just turned.
I had another moment when I really needed to speak to somebody, and I was just crying frantically calling people, just crying all the time, and I still believed that this was just the hormones raging. And the breastfeeding started to fold, it didn’t go very well. She became very colicky, and I got very upset with that.
I’m a maternity nurse, this has to work, this is the way it’s going to go, I’m going to breastfeed her for 6 months to a year until I get back to work, and I just started to feel that everything was falling apart. The breastfeeding didn’t go well at all, and it just made me feel so bad, because I think she sensed it when I tried to breastfeed her.
And I lived with it for so many months, with the colic. We put her on formula, and I was disappointed for that because I couldn’t breastfeed her. To me it was almost embarrassing when people would ask me, oh are you breastfeeding her? No, and it was almost like, I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding and I couldn’t do it because of the colic, and things that were going on with me personally, and I couldn’t do it so I was just embarrassed and ashamed.
So for me, that was a failure and the colic, and I put a lot of blame on me with the colic. And I always felt there was something wrong with me, I’m a nurse, and my mind was racing all the time, and I reached the point where I was like, I want to breastfeed her, and it was four months later, and I just broke down crying, and my mom was here and I told her to go home again. I told her, I will manage.
I’m the type of person who likes to manage things on my own. So for awhile I told no one what I was going through. I thought it was just my nature of being so regimented, things done a certain way and this was out of my norm now, and I didn’t know what to do. So I kept it very quiet for a very long time.
My mom really didn’t understand. She knows how I am as a person, and she knows I have a Type A personality, and she took it to that. And she knows when I need my space, she would give me my space. But she didn’t see anything that she would consider depression to be concerned about. She thought it was just my way of coping, so she really never questioned me. She would call me a couple times a day, but she would never think twice about me not picking up, she just thought I had things to do, and I respect her for that. And I got through it, but there were times where I never had any doubts about having my daughter or regrets, but it was just getting to the point where my focus was, is she OK?
I was always thinking the worst. I was always crying like, I had visions of her with IV lines and being sick and attached to monitors all the time. It just got to the point where I would have to wake myself up from sleeping and get up and walk around and make sure she was OK. And I would wake up five to 10 times a day to make sure she was still breathing. And then I started to have visions of me burying my daughter, and I got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping.
And I never admitted it to anybody but it was just horrible. I’m supposed to be excited, she’s starting to be six months old and starting to smile, and I would have visions of her being sick or me with my family burying her in a little casket. And it just got to the point where I said, you know what? I’m going to deal with it, I’m going to shake it.
And I never admitted this to anybody and it took me awhile until one day I was listening to the news, and there was a news report about something that happened in the city, about a toddler found in the city in his stroller who was murdered alongside with his mother. And I was cooking and I saw the knives, and I had to throw all the knives in the drawer.
And I said, this is it. I can’t do this anymore, there’s something wrong, I shouldn’t be having these visions. I never had visions of hurting my daughter, but I don’t want to get to that point. So I said, you know what, I m a strong person, I can do this. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. And I called my mom and I said come over, I need to go somewhere.
I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, and he told me I had the postpartum depression, and from then on it was almost like, it was like bricks were lifted off. To me, it was like immediate therapy. I was able to speak to him, and I started my medications the same day, and within 24 hours I knew I got the help I needed to get, that she was going to be OK, we were going to be OK.
I knew I wasn’t going to hurt her, not that I was going to hurt her, but just the dreams and visions of her being hurt, the anxiety, the dreams of me burying her. To this day, I think about those dreams. I go back to that time of me having those and it’s just hurtful and I love her with all my heart, and I thank God every day that I came to that point, that I had the courage to do that.
I didn’t think about it. I want to say no. In the beginning, I was just trying to cope and adjust because I was set in my ways and here’s a new little human being coming in and I have to do other things and I have to put her first and I just needed to cope and change my life. And I thought it was going to happen step-by-step, day-by-day, and I didn’t work for the first six months so I thought it was going to be easier for me to transition to that. And then I went back to work and it was OK but I had to change my hours at work and I had to change, and I don’t do well with change.
And I got to the point where I thought I would get through that, coping and being a mother, and a life-altering event, and I was going to be fine. And when the visions started coming of her getting buried or being in an incubator, hooked up to IV tubing, and intubated and always thinking the worst. And then Brooke Shields' book came out and I think with the media focus on that, I think I started to think, do I have PPD? Am I going through that? And that’s when I started to think about it and I thought you know what, she’s going to be a year, and it’s usually within the first year, and I tried to ride it out, and tried to let myself get adjusted, get my me time back and change my focus a little bit and it didn’t, it just got worse.
Work for me personally changed but I don’t think anyone caught on to it. I wasn’t as focused at work. I knew how to manage my time prior and I wasn’t doing that anymore, and it was affecting me personally, so no members of my staff thought anything differently of me, but myself personally I knew because I was falling behind on a lot of projects that needed to be done, a lot of work, a lot of statistics that I needed to do, that was falling behind. So I knew there was something. I wasn’t focused. I took part of my daydaydreaming, and just thinking about things, life, my daughter what am I going through, how am I feeling, and I was there in body but not in mind.
I would’ve probably from the day I went into the hospital and I was crying hysterically, I think at that point I should’ve talked to my OBGYN, who has been very supportive, who actually referred me to my psychiatrist. I would’ve told them sooner, I think a lot of it was, I’m embarrassed. Here I am as a maternity nurse. I should know the signs and symptoms and I should know that it was more than baby blues. And I had a lot of guilt with that, and I just hope and pray that it didn’t affect the bonding with my daughter, and that’s the timeframe that bonding is very important.
And I still have regrets that I didn’t breastfeed, and to this day I still have regrets, and to this day having visions of her not being here, to think that if I didn’t get the help would she still be here? Would I be talking to you now? I don’t know what, and I didn’t want to get to that point, and I said, I cannot do that.
I’m more attuned to it. If I have a patient that is stating XYZ, I’ll go in there speak to them one-on-one, not as a nurse, but as mother to mother. I do that a lot more, it’s taken me this long to get comfortable with sharing my story, because of the embarrassment. I didn’t want people to think, but people still have a lot to learn about it, people often tend to stereotype, and I didn’t want that, especially with my line of work. I’m in charge of the department, and I didn’t want people to think I lost my composure, and I knew it wasn’t like that, but people still have that belief, and there might be stragglers who still think that.
But I think now, with all the education out there, with the media, people are really starting to become more focused and aware about PPD and it affects everybody. So I talk about it more and more now. A lot of my friends are really surprised that I kept it for three-and-a-half years to myself. And I think if I could help just one person realize, don’t be scared, don’t be worried, just get the help that you need, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s taken me this long not to be ashamed, and I still have a lot to work on with it, because I only tell a select few, but it’s getting better.
With the experience of postpartum depression, it takes a lot of the time away that you’re supposed to be sharing with your children, at that high of your life, and you don’t get that back. So if you can do whatever you can do, with your family, your support, to help you get through it as quickly as you can and not lose that valuable time, it’s worth everything, because you don’t get that back, that quality time, that loving time that you’re supposed to be so excited about, the emotions are supposed to be there for your child. You may not identify as quickly as most, there’s risk factors. The PPD scale is a wonderful tool, don’t shy away from taking it. If you’re taking it in the hospital, use it. Use it as a guide to get the help that you need as early as you can, because that’s key, that’s a tremendous key.
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