Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wow, it's been a minute huh?

I've struggled since the beginning of this blog with how personal I would make it. How much is safe to share, to put out there, to reveal of yourself? I have wanted to share so much of my struggle into motherhood, but society, friends, even family can be critical of your choices or path and it has made me wary. I knew going into parenthood that there would be challenges, difficult moments, tough decisions, and struggles along the way. The picture painted by our society of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood is one surrounded by a warm glow, with a fully bonded mother and child, beautiful, natural, and sometimes even easy. The reality of pregnancy and birth for me was something completely different. Motherhood has been even more of a challenge. Don't get me wrong, Julian is the light of my life, the best thing I have done since I have been on this earth, and I don't regret our choice to start a family one bit. In fact I can't wait to do it again. But, and this is a big but, it has not been easy, and in fact has been quite difficult for me personally.

Pregnancy wasn't even the beginning. After a year of trying on our own we sought help from a Reproductive Endocrinologist. It was discovered that I have PCOS, a condition that has many varied symptoms and problems associated with it. The biggest factor for me was that I rarely had a period or ovulated. In fact the cycle that I got pregnant with Julian was nearly 60 days long. Infertility was a tough journey. I hated my body for doing it all wrong, I worried that we would never conceive, and people kept telling me not to worry, to relax and it would just happen. But it doesn't always work like that. Luckily after some kick starting to my hormonal balance I was able to ovulate and get pregnant, I didn't even believe them when they told me I was indeed pregnant. It was one of the days of my life I will never forget. Finally we were going to have a baby, a family of our own and I couldn't wait.

Pregnancy was not exactly what I expected. I threw up nearly every day throughout my entire pregnancy, right until the day he was born. That alone, 10 months of it, was enough to demoralize me by the end. There was no glowing mother, enjoying every moment of growing her child. Instead I was spending most of my days hovering over the toilet thinking I was going to die if I didn't feel better soon. Add in a bout of the stomach flu, several trips to the ER for IV fluids from all of the puking/dehydration, a uterus growing faster than it should, too much amniotic fluid, and a failed induction (lasting nearly 3 days) followed by an emergency C-section because I had a raging fever and a baby who refused to descend into the birth canal, who was also experiencing tachycardia. Not exactly the picture perfect start.

My recovery was difficult. Laboring so much before the C-Section meant that it took longer to heal. It was hard to do everyday tasks, I couldn't even roll over in bed by myself, or sit up on my own to nurse Julian. I could barely stand up for weeks afterward, I ended up with a uterine infection that caused severe stabbing pains and more bleeding. Luckily breastfeeding started off with a bang, and I was able to spend many hours sitting in my comfy chair surrounded by water, snacks, blankets, the tv, and the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Before long I was healed, Jules was growing beautifully, and I began to try and find my feet underneath me on this new journey.

The beginning is hard for all parents. There is little sleep, not much to eat, worry over every choice you make for your child, worry that you may break them, that they are not eating enough or pooping enough. There is so much going on 24/7 that it all begins to become a blur, the beginning fading as your child grows, and you forget how hard those first few months are because you are having so much fun with your fast growing baby. And for some it continues in this vein, but that wasn't to be the case for me.

It wasn't until Julian was 8 or 9 months old that I realized that I was really struggling. I have suffered with depression on and off throughout my life, and was definitely in a dark place during the year and a half that we were trying to get pregnant, but I figured once I Julian was here in my arms things would be better and I would be happy again. Boy was I wrong. We live far from any family and had few friends since we'd only been here in Norfolk a short time. There was no support system in place, no visitors at the hospital, and we brought Jules home to an empty house. There were no food deliveries, no baby holding so I could shower or sleep, and Pete went back to work 10 days after we got home from the hospital, leaving me to fend for myself. It was incredibly hard, I could barely leave the house because I was in so much pain, and I wasn't allowed to drive so I couldn't even escape. I tried to focus on the positive and put all of my energy into my son. Soon I noticed I was getting cabin fever, I had no one to talk to, share advice with, no one to lean on so I decided to take things into my own hands, and I started a neighborhood moms group. I would NOT be the mother I am today without these women. They are the ones that have picked up the slack in our support system. They are our trusted babysitters, their children are Julian's best friends, they are the people I go to when I am having a tough day. They are always there to lift me up when I feel like everything is going wrong, and I am so thankful for them.

Even with some new support, I began to realize by that 8th and 9th month that I was becoming increasingly depressed, struggling unknowingly with PPD. Pete worried about the possibility while I was pregnant, knowing about my history with depression, but I always figured I would be fine since this was all I ever wanted. I had my baby, and I was a mama, and isn't that supposed to make you so happy you could burst all day, every day? Nope, definitely not. My depression was worsening by the day, and it was beginning to affect our marriage. I love Pete more than anything in this world, he is my rock, my soft place to fall, my strongest supporter, but I began to lose faith in us, and it terrified me. Pete stood by me, and tried to hold me up the best he could, and with his firm encouragement I forced myself to seek help.

After some trial and error I finally started therapy with a recommended psychotherapist who then teamed up with a psychiatrist to treat me. This was the best choice I have made thus far in my journey of motherhood. I lost myself, and I lost hope, and now I'm working on getting back to a better place. The hardest part was choosing to go back on antidepressants. There is so much controversy surrounding pregnancy and nursing and medication, and I struggled between making the best choice for me and possibly harming my child with something I would be putting in my body every day. But I trust my doctors, and the Zoloft helps. My specific problems are major depressive disorder with a little OCD of the obsessive thinking variety. Basically my brain never turns off, and I struggle constantly with a high level of anxiety that is paired up with my depression. I have been working hard to come to terms with the fact that my childhood, family of origin, and bare bones support system have brought me to this place, a place that I will probably need help with for the rest of my life. Luckily, therapy is a godsend, and I've been able to work on so many things. I've made many changes, looked for more support to surround myself with, am learning how to ask for help, and am trying to take more time for myself. I had begun to lose too much of myself in motherhood, and as much as I love being Julian's mother, I still have to BE me.

It's hard to admit that I couldn't do it on my own. Isn't that what I'm supposed to be able to do? Aren't I capable enough? Aren't mothers supposed to be able to do it all, be it all, and take on the world at the same time? It's not the reality for many women, and I refuse to be ashamed of asking for help, or for needing help in the first place. I tell my story to any other mothers who are interested because it is still such a shame filled issue, and I want to help normalize it. To let people know that it happens to the best of people with the best intentions. I'm not perfect, and I need to stop striving to be. I am a good mother, and I love my son with every inch of my being, but I am who I am, human, flawed, and imperfect. And you know what, I like being me, the good and the bad make me who I am, and I know that Julian and Pete don't judge me for my hard days, they love me for who I am, and so should I.

So with ALL of that being said, for those of you who have read this novel!, I've taken some time away from the blog to deal with another rough patch. I hope that my honesty will help someone else, as blogs like Dooce with their own raw honesty have helped me get the help I needed. I still don't know where my line between blogging about Julian and blogging honestly about my journey through motherhood is, but I hope to challenge it more and share more.

And a sincere thank you to each of my NMOG friends, I wouldn't be able to do any of this without your help and support.


Lola Goetz said...

I appreciate how hard it was for you to write this. I don't know why we feel such pressure to be perfect moms. Life is a struggle, it's messy and crazy. Motherhood is no different. We need to take it back, let moms know it's okay to be who you are, and get support from others. Posts like this will help other moms know it's okay not to be able to do it on your own. It's okay to ask for help. I'm glad you did, and glad your husband encouraged you to do so.

Mandie said...

I admire you for writing this. The fact that you can and did admit to having some issues, makes you a strong and wonderful woman and mother. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. It sounds like your birth experience played a major role in your postpartum period. Thank you so much for sharing this. Such an inspiration. :)

Love, M

Suzi said...

Rachel, you are an amazing woman, and Jules is sooo lucky to have you for his mama!


Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,
I just wanted you to know that I am praying for you. I don't know what I would have done without my family support system close by after my c-section. No one ever told me how hard it would be to balance family and yourself. It's not easy but it is totally worth it. Hang in there. Courtney McMurray

lindsay said...

It's hard to admit that I couldn't do it on my own. Isn't that what I'm supposed to be able to do? Aren't I capable enough? Aren't mothers supposed to be able to do it all, be it all, and take on the world at the same time?


I tell the moms with PPD this all the time: This super mom thing is a myth. We're supposed to raise our kids in a pack; with the support of the village. You're doing the best you can with the little village you've cobbled together. This mothering after infertility thing is a rough road.