Friday, April 28, 2006

Down Came the Rain

I have been giving a lot of thought to some of the things that my ob/gyn said during my appointment on Monday. Writing my entry that afternoon was very therapeutic as well. I assumed that once my panic attacks went away without taking Paxil that my post-partum depression was over. Still, I haven’t felt myself since the moment Allison was born. It’s as if the strong, happy, confident Jennifer left my body in much the same way as Allison did. Clearly 18 months later, as Dr. M said, I’m still in the middle of it.

On Wednesday I checked Down Came the Rain out of the library. It is Brooke Sheilds’ book about her journey through post-partum depression. I wished that I had bought that book when it first came out. It would have comforted me and it might have led me to take action and have a more pleasant experience last year. There is a quotation on the back of the book that could not more accurately sum up the way that I felt throughout the first five to six months of Allison’s life:

“At first I thought what I was feeling was just exhaustion, but with it came an overriding sense of panic that I had never felt before. Rowan kept crying, and I began to dread the moment when Chris would bring her back to me. I started to experience a sick sensation in my stomach; it was as if a vise were tightening around my chest. Instead of the nervous anxiety that often accompanies panic, a feeling of devastation overcame me.”

I am not quite finished with the book yet, but aside from changing names, locations and relationships, Sheilds could have been writing this book about my experience. Reading that book would be like reading my diary. It amazes me that people with entirely different life experiences could have so much in common:

We both overcame infertility issues to become pregnant. We couldn’t understand why we weren’t ecstatic over our daughters because we were “lucky” to have been pregnant in the first place. Because we weren’t feeling “grateful” or “blessed” or “appreciative” we felt guilty.

We had wonderful pregnancies with few complications. We never felt better or more confident about ourselves. We didn’t think about the possibility of having post-partum depression because it just wouldn’t affect us.

We each experienced a family tragedy/emergency three weeks prior to our deliveries.

We both planned on natural childbirth and ended up with c-sections.

We didn’t think that we loved our babies.

We both have loved ones who committed suicide. Our experiences post-partum made us feel incredibly close to those loved ones.

Escape is a common theme. We wanted to be anywhere other than where our daughters were.

We felt that we could not ask for help if we were good mothers. Good mothers did not pawn off their responsibilities on other people.

We both had been exercising regularly before our deliveries and then stopped altogether.

Reading this book really feels like rubbing a soothing salve over my heart. I am not alone. It was not willfully being selfish, resentful and scared. There is a problem with the way my body has adjusted to delivering Allison. I don’t always have to feel this way. The Jennifer that I want to be can come back. I cannot control whatever it is that caused this, but I can control how I respond to it. I’m beginning to form a plan of action to get Jennifer back. Dr. M. wrote me a prescription for an antidepressant. I’ve filled that and will not stop taking it without her advice and guidance. The “Gee, I’m feeling better so don’t need this anymore” approach hasn’t worked the past three times I’ve gone cold turkey. She referred me to a counselor whom she feels has an excellent track record with long term post-partum depression and some of the related issues I need to address. My first appointment is Wednesday afternoon. I am also making a commitment to getting regular exercise. Last week I took walked six out of seven days. On Sunday, while pushing fifty pounds of baby up and down the hills in my neighborhood, I caught a glimpse the old me. The sights, sounds and sensations I experienced on that walk felt like déjà vu. It was absolutely wonderful.

As I walked past Allison’s crib on my way to bed last night, I peaked in and had a wave of wonder wash over me. I wanted so badly to pick her up and never let her go. That felt absolutely wonderful, too.

1 comment:

Melissa O. Markham said...

That is awesome, Jennifer! I am so glad you found this resource and it is helpful to you. God bless!