A Journey through Darkness into Moments of Bliss

Warning, very personal post.

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Over the past 4 years, I’ve gone through some very difficult struggles. Pregnancy doesn’t agree with me, and makes me horribly ill for the entire duration of the 270 days. So ill, that commercials with food made me cry and vomit. So ill that hearing the word “hotdog” sent me into a tailspin of vomiting. So ill that just moving an inch could make me vomit. So ill, I had to be medicated with Zofran, and I still felt like death. So ill that I cried at the very thought of riding in a car. So ill, I dreaded every single day. So ill, that in my darkest moments, I wished away the very pregnancies I prayed desperately for. When you are lying on the bathroom floor, heaving your guts out, just praying for a moment without feeling ill, for 270 days straight, you think dark things. I did this twice, within 22 months.

On top of that, my first child had colic. Terrible, unabating, screeching non-stop, for 6 months. I was reeling. I didn’t know what to do. I had suffered so deeply to bring her here, and she hated me. I withdrew from everyone except my daughter, who I held, bounced, swung, walked, rocked, pleaded with, and cried with, night and day. I somehow bonded deeply to her, even through what was later diagnosed as postpartum depression. I tried to see the beauty in motherhood. I LOVED her with my very soul. But, it was so hard. It seemed harder than it should have been, and I didn’t know why. I thought the problem was me. I wasn’t cut out for this motherhood business.

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I lashed out at everyone. I felt everyone had failed me. I needed support, why couldn’t they tell? My husband and I struggled so deeply, I truly feared our marriage wouldn’t survive.

Our daughter ended up unable to nurse well. She hit, flailed, arched, screamed, and bit me, every. single. time. I nursed her. I thought it was my fault. I felt deeper failure. I just couldn’t do any of this right. One day, when she was 5 months old, she refused to nurse at all. I was terrified–my baby was starving and wouldn’t accept nourishment. I began to research, and came across information about tongue tie. I cried and cried. I knew this was what was going on. I told my family–they told me I was crazy. What didn’t help is that they didn’t know I already felt crazy.

It turns out, I was right. We got my daughter diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie and an upper lip tie, took her to have it surgically fixed, and things calmed way down. I started to feel better. She was happy; we began to be happy again. Then, when our first daughter was 13 months old, I got pregnant again.

I was so hopeful I’d feel better this time, that the sickness would skip me. Surely it wouldn’t be fair to have to go through that twice. My mental state had just begun to come out of the fog, and I was so excited we were going to add to our family. The day I hit 6 weeks pregnant, the vomiting returned.

This time, it was worse. I had no idea how it could even possibly be worse than the first time, but it was. I had to get an IV because I was so dehydrated. I couldn’t stop vomiting and my husband was terrified. I was on Zofran again. I still felt horrible, and this time I couldn’t sleep to escape it, I had a 1 year old to take care of. If I had thought the times the first time around were dark, they were nothing compared to the second pregnancy.

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I managed to gain 18 pounds my entire second pregnancy, and began to lose again at the end. I begged my OB for an induction. She obliged. I ended up having pre-eclampsia in labor, hemorrhaging, and clotting. It was a terrifying ordeal, and my mother, who was in the room during delivery, still cries if I bring it up. She was afraid she was going to lose me.

Postpartum the second time, I was determined to get it right. I knew what to watch for with PPD, I knew the misery of pregnancy was behind me. I thought I could set my mind to skipping the darkness this time. I was wrong.

The second baby was calm at first. I thought “YES! This is how it’s supposed to be!” Then, she started screaming 3-4 hours straight every single night. No matter what I did. No matter how I rocked, bounced, swayed. The things that had worked with our first daughter did nothing. This went on for most of her first year of life.

I also struggled to bond with her. I tried, but I just didn’t have that same cosmic pull that I had had to my first daughter. There were times I wanted to leave. She would scream, my oldest would join in, and I wanted to walk out of the front door, and into a truck. I truly felt like I couldn’t handle my life. I knew how lucky I was to have a supportive and present husband, 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, a beautiful home, security, comfort. I knew all of these things, but it didn’t change how I felt. It also didn’t help when well-meaning people reminded me of these things.

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The depression took ahold of me this time. It was so profound I thought I wouldn’t survive it. Waking up in the morning, I felt such a heaviness. Such a despair. It was a monumental feat to get out of bed. Brushing my teeth felt exhausting. Many days,  I barely brought myself to do so. The pressure of caring for 2 high-needs babies was just too much for me. I had many terrifying suicidal thoughts. Some days, I couldn’t walk into the kitchen and be near knives. I told this to no one, besides my husband, who was grasping at straws trying to protect my confidence, and hold our family together. He is a rock.

Making matters worse, I was angry. Sometimes depression does that. And when you lash out at people you love, they rarely are able to have the empathy for you that you deeply need. I felt so alone, but also guilty because I had done it to myself. I felt unworthy of love. Unable to love. Why go on?

The most confusing part in all this, is some days wouldn’t be so bad. Occasionally, I’d wake up and feel pretty good. I’d have energy, I’d feel some dulled happiness. I’d take the girls and go do something fun. I’d do my hair and makeup and feel pretty. I had plenty of honest moments of love and happiness with my babies, even during the darkness. I’d think, “I’m beating this! It’s going to get better!” I even sold my beloved business that I had built myself, to try and protect my sleep, knowing that sleep hugely affects mood. I put myself in therapy. I tried so hard to see the good in my life. To bring myself all the way out of it. But, I just couldn’t fix myself. There was nothing wrong with my life, yet many days, I didn’t want it.

Finally, I knew I had to get real help. I started a temporary medication. I continued with therapy. It’s incredibly humiliating to admit that, but it shouldn’t be. Postpartum depression is chemical. It’s a brain thing. Those who suffer, suffer more, because they feel they can’t admit that pregnancy has not only ravaged their bodies, but their minds as well.

I began to take photos of my kids. It allowed me to see them, and my life, through an outsider’s perspective. To see the beauty in my life with them. It allowed me to be creative and feel a renewed sense of my purpose. It allowed me to learn something new, and practice a new art. Photography has helped save me.

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I began to fall deeply, and madly in love with my second baby. Just all at once it hit me that I had an entire new heart, just for her. My girls began to bond. They giggled together, and I found myself giggling along with them. I started to feel a lightness I didn’t know was possible. I could get up in the morning without wishing the day was over. I started to feel hope. My husband and I connected.

It’s been such a long road, and none of this was immediate, rather it happened in small bursts over the past year. I have felt great for a while now, but lately I’ve noticed these moments of the deepest bliss I’ve ever felt. They’ve taken me by complete surprise, and taken my breath away. I truly had no idea how badly I had gotten, until I got better, and then even better. I had no idea so much true happiness was in store, and someday I wouldn’t have to fake it anymore.

I have no idea why I’m sharing this. Maybe just pure catharsis. Maybe to remember to have empathy for when my loved ones may face the same, so they’ll know I’m a safe place. I am well-aware that many may see this as a repugnant overshare. However, if I can reach one mom, who is struggling as I did, and help her know that there is happiness on the other side, it’s worth it to lay my own soul bare.

In the end, isn’t that what we’re here for? To hold each other up?

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