(Photo by Angela Baron Photographer)
March 29th, 2015. The day I had my first anxiety attack while pregnant with my second child. It came on so strong and fast that I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t control my tears. I couldn’t control my breath. The only thing I could do was get close to the ground and try to catch my breath in between the cries. The floor was cold. It helped that my cheeks were against it. It seemed to have calmed me. But every time I got up from the floor, the wave of cries would hit me again. Bashing me back down to the ground as if it was pinning me to say, “just surrender.”
I remember it so clearly and can repeat it with little change to the story. And every time I’m in that bathroom, I see myself on the ground. First against the wall. Then curled on the ground. The problem is… I’ve never been able to say it to anyone. Not even my husband. He was on the other side of the door. Busy feeding our then 2-year-old. He knew I was upset. But he had no idea what was happening on the other side of that door. That his pregnant wife was on the ground… crying profusely and trying to understand what the hell was happening to her. Trying, really, to control herself. The more I tried, the more I would get worked up. What triggered this? Well, probably a million little things. And I wish I could recall the exact thing that pushed me over the edge… but I can’t. I just remember being very upset with a lot of little things and then it got to the point where I couldn’t turn back anymore. It was probably the last thing he said to me before I went A-wall. Maybe it wasn’t what he said but the way he said it. Maybe it was something he did. Actually, I’m sure it was something he did. Or maybe it was something he DIDN’T do. But this is just it. This back and forth of inconsistent thoughts of what HE did to me. I lost it.
Then the door opened. I thought I had locked the door but I guess I didn’t. Hoping so badly that it would be him to pick me up from off the floor… but it wasn’t. “Mama…” I hear. “Mama, what’s wrong?” and immediately I froze. I stopped crying and sat up as if nothing was wrong. How did she get in? And, oh my God she just saw me at my worst, on the floor, having an adult tantrum? I had to tell her nothing was wrong. I had to tell her mommy was just not feeling well and that she should go finish dinner. She started crying. She grabbed my hand and pulled it with all her might, “Mama… get up.” But I couldn’t. I just sat there and cried again. I cried in front of my two year old who was trying to help me up. And that was the moment I knew something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong with me.
A few weeks later I was diagnosed with prepartum depression. Something I never knew existed. I experienced similar symptoms with my first but never an emotional meltdown like that. This time it was different. This time it was so much stronger and I was actually aware of my condition. I worked really hard every day not to have an emotional breakdown and not react negatively to every thing my husband was saying to me. Why was I so on edge? Why did I feel like everything he said to me was an attack on my ability to be a mother? Clearly he’s not understanding how I’m feeling. I felt rage at times. Uncontrollable rage followed by uncontrollable sobs. This was not how I thought my second pregnancy would be like. I hated scrolling through Instagram and seeing beautiful mamas in their beautiful white lacey dresses with their beautiful pregnant bellies. I, on the other hand, was barely able to stand in one position for more than 2 minutes before my hips would collapse from the sharp pains in my back. I was miserable and couldn’t wait for the baby to come out.
38 weeks. It was time to induce. I was experiencing extreme PPD/PPA symptoms to the point that it was severely stressful on the baby. They wanted to wait until I was full term before they induce so that I could start on medication as soon as the baby was out. So 38 weeks our little guy was born. The perfect little 5 lb-er. He was little. Really little. But I knew this was my chance to do it over. To make this immediate bond and connection right. I wanted it to be right so badly this time. I wanted to feel like there was a connection right away – and there was. An instant one that I cannot even begin to describe. I got to hold him more than the 30 seconds I got to hold my first before she was whisked to the NICU. I got to nurse him right away. I got to feel that instant love I was missing with my first. And it was so, so good.
As the months passed and grew, I became more and more in love with him. Only, everything I did wrong the first time around I thought I could change this time around. I would be able to let go of the guilt of breastfeeding and really just nurse him on demand. If he didn’t take to the breast or not get enough, I wouldn’t blame myself anymore and be ok with formula. I would be more “relaxed” this time around. I owed that to myself. Little did I know, my mind had a mind of it’s own. For the next several months I became really distant with everyone else but him. Those ill feelings and anxiety I had about not having that connection with him… were all defeated. The connection I had (and still have) with him was so strong that sometimes it was painful. I engulfed him like he was my only child. He would cry and I would go to him – because I was finally able to breastfeed him with no issues. He actually wanted me. So I fed him on demand. Which meant I was up a lot at night. Which meant I barely slept. Which meant… I was not well. The sleep deprivation made me see things that weren’t there and hear things that weren’t said. I might as well have the word, “What?” written on my forehead because that was the only word that would come out of my mouth. The worst was when I could see my daughter playing but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I was tired all the time and emotional. I cried about everything. I mean, I already cry about everything… but this time it was about EVERYTHING. I cried because my son would cry. He had the most painful cries ever. I would be triggered by his cries and immediately felt my heart pounding, my palms sweating, and voice shaking because I would need to scream. I would start pacing back and forth screaming at him while he laid there because he wouldn’t stop crying. I would snap at my husband for not doing something or for doing something wrong. I would take his words and the tone of his voice and twist it so that it was always his fault. I was a peach to be around. The more my son cried, the more my husband and I argued. The more we argued, the more I clung onto my son and made excuses for my behaviour. It was a vicious cycle.
The thing people don’t talk about is how difficult this parenting gig is. Even more so, people don’t talk about how difficult it is on your marriage.
Fast forward to now. I still get feelings of rage at times but I’m able to diffuse faster. I realize that I’m not the victim and I cannot respond to my husband like I’m on the defense all the time. I need to carve time out for my daughter who really, I haven’t been a mother to – just a caretaker. And it pains me so much that I was ever that type of person. Someone who I thought I’d never be. Maybe it’s because I had to give up so much of my former self to become a mother. A sacrifice that you can’t quantify. But I know I need to do better and I need to be better. I need my children to know that I really tried. I need my husband to know that I really tried. Every day I tried. And even though it may seem like I dropped the ball on everything, I really did try. And maybe the hard part now is convincing myself that I did the best I could.