Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Rage & Postpartum Psychosis: A Conversation – Week 6
First, a note from our sponsors (me): These Beautiful Boho Minis are happening THIS week and I have several spots left on Thursday and Friday that I would very much like to fill! Get in touch! I would love to photograph you! xo
Sign up for a Mini HERE!
Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming!
For the remainder of the year, each Monday, I’ll be sharing the stories and photos (new) and old of normal, regular mothers in our community who have struggled with a range of postpartum issues, symptoms and severity & have come out on the other side!
If you are a Survivor & would like to contribute your story (we have a few available spots left!) – I shoot portraits (my gift to you) every Friday from 5:30-6:00pm in Downtown Asheville (& your written story would be due by Sunday night for publication on Mondays!) You can sign up here: Contribute
Throughout the series, I’ll also feature Guest Blog Posts from Mental Health Professionals in our little mountain town & the state of North Carolina! At the end of each post, I’ll include contact information for local resources where you can get help right away should you need it!
If you would like to contribute a Guest Blog as a Mental Health Professional, Postpartum Doula or other Pregnancy/Postpartum expert , please email me directly at: Brittany@AshevilleFamilyPhotography.com
My name is Katy Clevenger, I’m a 33 year old Speech Language Pathologist working with elementary aged children. This story has actually been more difficult for me to write than I thought it would. It’s hard to put in words what I went through, and while it may not seem all that significant, it’s important to remember that what a new mother feels is 1million times deeper than what is presented on her exterior. Here is my truth:
I walked into Black Cat Burrito in Boone NC on election day 2008, sat down at the bar next to a cute fella, and married him 3 and a half years later. We had a fun, adventurous, and mostly undramatic courtship. We enjoyed each others company. We loved traveling, hiking, going to shows, etc (and we still do). However, our one major disagreement was a pretty serious one. He never wanted to have kids, and I did. At times, it seemed that neither of us were going to budge on our stance of what we wanted for our future life together. But, after A LOT of conversing (along with some fighting, crying, and persuading) I finally convinced him…We agreed that a trip to Thailand would be our last “hoorah” before crossing the barrier from being a carefree and independent couple into the depths of parenthood.
In 2016, on our first try, we became pregnant. I clearly remember looking at the positive home pregnancy test thinking “Oh shit….It actually worked…This is for real”.
We had a pretty uneventful pregnancy, other than partial placenta previa (which self corrected) and a possibility of our baby being breach, everything went very smoothly. We took the Birth with Courage class at HomeGrown Babies, wrote out our birth plan, and shared a strong vision of how we wanted / hoped our labor and delivery would go. And, when the day arrived (6 days past our due date) everything did go exactly as we planned. I had a 14 hour unmedicated labor and our son was born April 1st at 06:32am. I am so fortunate that our labor and delivery played out exactly how I wanted it to…But, it was the most traumatizing experience of my entire life. When they put my son in my arms for the first time, I was too tired to really enjoy it. In all honesty, all I wanted to do was sleep.
The feeling of bringing a new born baby home was not as cozy and fairy tale like as I thought it was going to be. It is almost unexplainable. The “constant-ness” of having a baby needing you 24/7 took a while to get used to and the exhaustion was nearly unbearable. I had this cyclic feeling of waiting for this baby’s parents to come pick him up so we could get back to our regular life….And then realizing that WE are this baby’s parents and he is not going anywhere.
I can’t remember when my anxiety set in, but I think it was pretty immediate. Even having family visit in the hospital made my blood pressure rise (and high blood pressure is very uncommon for me). I felt like my adrenaline was constantly running on full speed for at least the first 3 months. I was always sweaty, stinky, and felt like I was running around without my head on straight. I consider myself an active person. So, after I had my baby I thought I would soon be able to jump back into my old routines. I didn’t realize then that I was pushing myself a little too hard. I should have listened to my body and rested more, it takes a long time to heal. Everything about my son was so painful for me for the first few weeks that I didn’t want much to do with him. I pulled a muscle in my back during labor which made it painful to hold him. I also knew that if I held him, he would want to nurse. Which was the most painful thing of all. When my son was about 2 weeks old, I got a HUGE crack in my nipple and became very sick, probably the most sick I have ever been in my life. So, I went to my OB, but she was busy so they had me see a nurse practitioner. I tried to explain to her everything I was feeling, and I starting crying. I can remember her looking at me and saying “Are you sure you want to breastfeed?…It’s OK to give it up” UGH! That made me so mad! I was obviously very sick and I’m sure symptoms of postpartum depression were apparent. But she never mentioned anything about that, she never dug any deeper to try to assess my mental well being. I practically had to beg her to at least prescribe me antibiotics for whatever infection I had (I would proudly like to add that, after 3 months, my cracked nipple finally healed and I nursed my son until he was 15 months old.)
The thought of causing harm to my baby never really occurred to me. But, it did pop in and out of my head at times. Not because I wanted to or thought I would, but I think because babies are so vulnerable and so reliant on us, and that is a lot of power when you really think about it. I communicated everything I was feeling with my husband and he talked me through things, reassured me, and made me feel safe. More than anything, I had thoughts of just wanting to escape, to run away. Maybe not forever, but I wanted to run from the endless responsibility that is motherhood. I wanted to sleep. Every day when I was about to leave work, I would think to myself, OK now what I am going to do with this baby when I get home. In hindsight, I should have just been content with not doing anything at all. Just holding him, feeding him, playing with him, and that would have been enough.
On top of all of that I had an underlying feeling of guilt. That I forced my husband to forgo the lifestyle he always wanted for himself and brought him into this seemingly downward spiral of figuring out how to do life as parents, which was definitely a lot harder than I had anticipated it being. I love my husband, but the transition to parenthood was not an easy one for either of us, and it was hard on our relationship. All of a sudden I felt I no longer knew how to be a partner, a friend, a mother, or basically a person. I had to learn how to take care of a baby and relearn how to take care of myself, and how to complete basic everyday tasks. There were days when I couldn’t get my teeth brushed until at least 1 in the afternoon and I was terrified about taking my baby to the grocery store, I didn’t know how to do it or how it would work. But, I thought to myself, if he starts getting upset, I can just leave everything right there in the store and walk out. And, after a couple of visits it started becoming easier and was soon part of our little routine.
My saving grace was that I had such wonderful support from my family and friends. I called my sister every day asking a million questions about how to manage a new born. She talked me through things without judgement or making me feel like I was crazy for having such a hard time. I formed deep friendships with a group of other new mamas whom I met during our child birth classes at Homegrown which helped me feel connected to other women who were going through some of the same things I was. We met weekly at a smoothie shop and shared stories of transitions and struggles as our babies squirmed on the floor next to us. Just getting out of the house to meet this group every week was so helpful. I am still in close contact with these women and it has been so amazing watching all of our babies grow into the toddlers they are today. Most importantly, I had my husband. When I was so sick after our son was born, he stepped up. Not only taking care of a new born baby, but also nursing his sick wife who never stopped crying about her cracked nipple or complaining about how much pain she was in. I have watched him transform from a guy who never wanted to have kids to the most amazing dad in the world. He loves our son with his whole being and has removed all strands of guilt I ever felt for dragging him on this journey.
Thinking back on everything to write out this story has been more emotional for me than I thought it would and it resurfaced a lot of feelings and memories that surround the newborn phase. In a way, I do not want to share it. It is personal and intimate. On the other hand, it has been somewhat healing for me. It forced me to dive back into myself and to come to terms with everything that I went through. I still feel ashamed for not absolutely loving having a newborn baby and I still feel unnecessarily and unreasonably anxious at times.
My son just turned 2 years old and even though our beginning was a tumultuous one, I can’t imagine living this life without him in it. Considering everything we went through, and continue to go through, I would choose to do it over again every time.
If you’re a new mama reading this story and it resonates with you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you are having a difficult time transitioning to your new life as “mama”, I urge you to find someone to confide in and share your feelings with. If you need a nonjudgmental ear to talk to, my contact information is listed below and I’d be happy to be that person for you. Hang in there! It is the longest, shortest time. And it will pass.
Katy: 828 773 4556
If you, or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Rage or even Psychosis, there are local, community resources that are available to you!
A Link for: Postpartum Support International
*I personally know Joy Molina (info below) — she is PHENOMENAL, you’ll Love her, give her a call!
828-357-7425 TEXT OR CALL
Elisabeth “Lis” Mitchell
Northwest NC: Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, Surry and Alleghany Counties
828-610-8431 TEXT OR CALL
Gloria Maria Llanser
Southwestern North Carolina
Speaks Spanish and Some Portuguese
828-708 7993 TEXT OR CALL
248-238-0804 TEXT OR CALL