This got to be too long of a post so I have broken it up into two parts.
Four years ago on a quiet Sunday night at home with three week old and toddler while my husband worked was the unknown beginning of my postpartum depression. The past three anniversaries of this day, I have wallowed in the blame I place on myself for not stopping it from happening. As women with similar stories have shared them with me, I saw that they were not to blame for the events that increased their risk of PPD. I have worked to forgive myself for the mistakes I made and accept that some things simply are not in my control. Having or not having PPD isn’t in anybody’s control… it is a terrible thing that happens. I share my story in hopes that it unlocks another woman from the prison of shame she feels about her PPD, as Candice did for me.
That peaceful Sunday night I began hemorrhaging. When it started, I figured it was just a sign of having over done it. The industrial hospital pads seemed to do the trick, plus I needed to get both kids to bed figuring then I could put my feet up. In the course of a couple of hours the heavy duty napkins were burned through and my netties were soaked with blood. I pulled out the next best thing, but the bleeding intensified with the passing of baseball sized clots.
The same thing had happened the week before and a trip to the emergency room had resulted in a chiding and diagnosis of it being nothing extraordinary. With that piece of knowledge, but the phone nurse urging me to return, I broke down to call my husband home from work. Then it was a call to a friend, who looked at me in horror as she quietly snuck in the back door of our house so we could make a second trip to the emergency room without our children. By then I was on my last pair of pants that fit and I was bleeding through them with a towel wrapped around my waist.
The only thing I remember from the car ride was checking my e-mail to find out that Zappos.com systems had been breached and it was urgent that I change my password. After completing the timely task, I began to fall in and out of consciousness. My husband tried to have a conversation to keep me with him. I don’t remember if it worked. The hospital staff pulled me out of the car and when I came back to reality, my clothes were being cut off with an IV placed in my arm.
An OB was paged out to evaluate me after the ER doctor got my lab results indicating I had lost five pints of blood. She examined me and left to read through my medical record. When she stomped back in demanding to know why I hadn’t brought up in all of my interactions in the ER and with my own doctor the potential risk that existed for retained product of conception. As she read back to me the notes about how my placenta had broken apart during Little’s delivery, I was overwhelmed with guilt. How could I not have remembered any of that? Why was I so stupid?
It was quickly determined that emergency surgery was required to end my late postpartum hemorrhage.
As the nurses wheeled me out of the ER to the operating room, my husband’s gaze met mine and he wordlessly said, “Please come back.” Seeing his panic, I assured him that everything would be fine and he would see me soon. As I waited with the anesthesiologist, the only member of the surgical team to have scrubbed in, the gravity of the situation set in and I sobbed. Tears trickled down my face for not having done something sooner, for having put my beautiful children at risk, shame coursed through my veins.
24 hours later, I was back home with a fresh two pints of blood from a generous person who had no idea their gift would get me to feeling normal again, as per the nursing staff who urged me to accept the blood transfusion. The days ticked by at home and I didn’t start feeling like myself again. Exhaustion was a constant and worsened by the hour. My ability to concentrate had disappeared. The desire to do things I loved evaporated. Even the most simple tasks of everyday life like getting dressed appeared before me like mountainous challenges. Days turned to weeks in spite of my doctor’s declaration that I should be feeling like myself again. It was shortly after my six week postpartum check-up that the voices entered my head. Terrible liars who redefined my self worth and obfuscated my reality.
I battled the threats and taunts in my head silently, not recognizing that the voices went beyond negative self talk I had successfully combatted most of my life through affirmations, goal setting, and redirection. For the first time in my life, nothing I did changed the dialogues in my head. Only sleeping made the voices stop. My breaking point was finding out that my boss wanted to do my year-end review. I bravely said to my friend and boss’s assistant that I didn’t think it was a good idea, because of the negative thoughts I was already having. We agreed that I would call my doctor to talk about these thoughts and she would tell my boss that a review wouldn’t happen.