It’s common for women to suffer from postpartum depression following unplanned pregnancies, leaving them to think that they were not ready to be mothers…
But what about the women who try everything in their power to become mothers?
Women suffering from infertility spend an enormous amount of time and effort (and money) in order to have a baby. Being hit with postpartum depression and anxiety following infertility can be dream crushing and leave a woman wondering if she is being punished by Mother Nature. Infertility in itself, can take a toll on a woman’s mental and emotional state, and if not dealt with, will affect the postpartum period as well.
Here, Courtney shares her personal story for the first time, of struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety following infertility.
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* This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. Due to the nature of the topic, this post may contain graphic details that some may find disturbing.
My husband and I struggled with infertility for 6 years.
We tried countless clomid cycles, a laparoscopy to diagnose and remove endometriosis, hysteroscopies, 4 failed IUIs, two miscarriages with one D&C and countless other surgeries and procedures. I can’t tell you the emotional toll it takes on you month after month and year after year.
We spent the majority of our marriage trying to get pregnant. I had a spit microscope. I took 20 ovulation tests each month. Woke up early to take my basal body temperature. I was a crazy woman trying to get pregnant. I watched all my younger siblings start their families. Friends have baby after baby. I pushed away a lot of people that were getting pregnant and having babies because they were getting what I wished for all the time.
We finally got to the point where we were ready to start the IVF process.
Let me tell you, it’s overwhelming. In the beginning you’re given a check list of testing you and your partner have to do. The phone number to talk about financials, information on the procedures you need to have done to make sure your body is in egg-making and baby-carrying shape. The pharmacies call you with a confirmation of your medications and then for payment(take a deep breath, it’s a doozy.)
It took a couple months to do the testing and start the stimulating medications, but we got it all started in February 2016, and transferred a frozen day 5 embryo on May 25, 2016. IVF worked for us on the first try, which we are very lucky for because that doesn’t happen for everyone.
We were so happy to be pregnant but also cautious because of our previous miscarriages. I had a smooth pregnancy symptom-wise, but had a couple scares with bleeding and some pain so we had a couple hospital visits, and one overnight stay two weeks before our son was born. I was convinced he was going to come when I was 33 weeks pregnant, but we had a couple steroid shots at the overnight stay, so when he came two weeks later, at 35 weeks exactly, he was healthy and didn’t require any NICU time.
After he was born, I felt kind of disappointed because we had no visitors.
My mom and one of my sisters came for my labor and a couple hours after he was born, but after that we had no one. We live a couple hours from our hometown so I guess it was understandable, but sitting in a hospital room with no family there to see your new baby was kind of tough on my already emotional mindset.
Our son was prayed and wished for for years and now that he was finally here, I didn’t feel that everyone shared in our excitement. No “welcome baby!” balloons or flowers that women usually get from excited family members.
My husband had to leave the hospital a few times each day to shower, eat and take care of our dogs at home, so I was completely alone for hours. Our son had some feeding problems (he just wouldn’t eat as much as they wanted, from a bottle or breast) so the nurses came and took him for blood sugar testing a few times a day. I had hoped that other family would make the drive to visit us because that was what we had done for them, so I took that kind of hard when no one showed. I think that was the start of my mental and emotional issues.
When we were literally about to leave the hospital, as the nurse was going over how to get help for any problems we may have, I saw out of the corner of my eye that our son was almost flailing in his little hospital bassinet. I started to scoop him up and the nurse grabbed him just before I did and flipped him over and patting his back and sucking his mouth and nose. He was completely red but seemed to be fine.
The nurse took him to have his oxygen and everything checked to make sure he was okay, but as soon as she left the room I started crying. I was about to take home this little 5 lb baby, and minutes before we packed him up to go home he starts choking.
After some time, the nurse brought him back and said he was just fine and they had sucked out lots of amniotic fluid from his stomach, and he was just trying to get it out when this happened. The thought of going home with this tiny baby, and with no family to call for help, since they were two hours away, was terrifying. Looking back, I think my fear-turned-anxiety started here.
In the weeks and months after we came home from the hospital with our son, we tried to settle into a routine.
My husband went back to work within the week, so I tried to set a schedule for myself for my days. I put so much pressure on myself to be able to do everything on my own that I slowly started to feel like I couldn’t do anything.
How was I going to take a shower when the baby was just going to cry? How was I supposed to eat when the baby constantly needed a diaper change and fed and cuddled? I’m a stay at home mom, so my days were filled with dread when I woke up. I didn’t drop the baby at the sitters and spend 8 hours of my day doing something that didn’t have to do with him.
I can remember sitting on the couch nursing the baby, looking out the window and just crying. I don’t even know why, and didn’t even bother to ask myself why.
I spent many days sitting on the couch nursing or while he was sleeping and just looking out the window and feeling so sad.
My husband and I started getting in arguments more often.
I had such a short fuse and any little thing would set me off with him.
I felt like I needed to clean every inch of our house.
I was just mad and angry for no reason.
When our son was about 8 months old, my husband told me he thought I should see a therapist because I just wasn’t my usual self. He did the research for therapists in our area and even called and made the appointment. This was the start of my mental and emotional repair.
My first appointment with my therapist was really emotional.
I felt okay going into it, and after we started I was crying. She asked me things I felt and thought about myself, my family, my baby.
I said things like:
I didn’t feel like any of my family cared about me.
That my husband might get tired of me being mean and argumentative and leave.
That I wasn’t a good enough mother.
I was sitting on her couch and telling her all the things I thought about myself and my skills and abilities as a wife and mother, my doubts about my life, everything. (I could see her face change after some of the things I said about myself, and I could see that she felt sad.)
I told her that I felt I wasn’t good at managing my time, and how I suddenly have these anxious feelings that I have to have a completely clean house from top to bottom so my baby doesn’t have to live in a dirty house or have a single dog hair on him.
I told her that since we tried for so long to have a baby and we had to use IVF to get pregnant, I’m not handling motherhood well because I wasn’t meant to be a mother in the first place. I thought that obviously God was punishing me for going around what was meant.
It was some really sad and heartbreaking stuff, but it was how I felt. I really truly felt I wasn’t meant to be a mother and this is what I get for finding a way around it. When these things would go through my mind, I’d make myself feel even worse by telling myself that this is what I wanted, so why am I so sad?
I’d tell myself that I have no right to be anything other than happy all the time because we wanted this baby. That I wasn’t allowed to be bothered by crying or being so tired I just cried. What did I think it was going to be like? Well, I never had a baby so I had no clue. I was so sad and tired and told myself this is just what it is, suck it up. I had to be happy because I was finally a mother.
My therapist told me that just isn’t realistic.
Or fair. Absolutely no one is completely happy-go-lucky every single second of every single day. I was being too hard on myself. Putting too much pressure on myself to take over everything flawlessly. And she was right. I told her about our infertility, and the emotions and thoughts I had for years. That I feel like I carried over all my anxiety and feelings from out infertility, into my postpartum and got my mind and emotions in a tangle.
Maybe a small part of me did think that if I was meant to have kids, I wouldn’t have had to go through so much. But maybe I had to go through so much because that’s just the journey I was meant to be on. I spent months seeing my therapist weekly, working through how to catch negative thoughts before they can wreak havoc, and retraining my brain to be more gentle. I was able to ease into biweekly visits, every 3 weeks, and once a month until we both agreed I was doing much better and could handle the postpartum anxiety and depression on my own.
Before I started therapy, it felt like I was in a black hole.
That’s the only way I can describe it. I don’t remember much more than feeling despair and dread every day. Sure, I had happy moments when our son did something cute or hit milestones, but overall I just felt so sad.
I was feeling much happier, and just felt good after my pause in therapy. I don’t want to say that I completed or finished therapy, because the door is always open to go back if I feel like I need it. I was doing better for a few months after leaving therapy, but even now, I still have times where I just feel sad.
I try to sift through thoughts in the back of my mind to figure out why I’m feeling that way, but sometimes I just cant find one. Sometimes it’s after I haven’t spoken to anyone in a couple weeks, and sometimes I can say that it’s because of my hormones with my cycles. I’ve noticed feeling sad more often lately and have times that I cry for no reason. I’ve been more open with my husband lately with how I’m feeling, and a therapy appointment may be necessary soon.
In my research to learn more about postpartum anxiety and depression, I learned that women who went through assisted reproduction were 5 times more likely to have postpartum anxiety and depression than women who had no help conceiving and birthing a child.
It’s often a case of the feelings and anxieties from infertility and treatment not being addressed and dealt with before the birth of the child. Now that I know that and went through therapy to figure out what was going on with me, I can see how it can happen. It happened to me.
I never dealt with the six entire years of helplessness, hopelessness, negative thoughts and feelings about myself. I didn’t think about what motherhood would really be like, and how hard it would be with no family around. I put a ton of pressure on myself to be this amazing wife and mother because I finally got what I wanted. I still have the feeling that I have to clean my house all the time, still feel anxious about keeping our son’s schedule and still feel sad sometimes (and our son is 19 months old now), but I’m able to catch it before it spirals me into that dark hole.
I don’t blame my husband for his job being far from our families.
I don’t blame my family for not being involved enough to see that I needed help.
I don’t blame myself (as much or as often) for not being perfect.
I accept now (mostly) that I do the best I can and my son is so happy and funny, is extremely well-fed and most importantly, so loved by his mommy and daddy. I never had those feelings that I wanted to hurt him. I often felt like he deserved a better mother than me, but who could love him more than I could? I went through so much to bring him into the world, so he has the best mother he could ever have.
Most of my family and a couple mom friends I made where I live don’t know about any of this unless they made it this far in reading this note.
I never reached out for help. I honestly didn’t even realize that I needed and could get help for how I was feeling. That is obviously a result of that black hole I was talking about, but there is help out there. Just because you suffered through infertility to become a mother, doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to your feelings of sadness and you certainly aren’t required to feel happy every single day.