Postpartum Depression (PPD) is no joke. I went into the third trimester of pregnancy knowing that I would be at a significant risk of having PPD, based on my previous history of depression. I had open conversations with my physician and was taking a low and safe dose of an antidepressant in order to start to build up the amount in my system. (If you don’t know, it often takes 4-6 weeks for antidepressants to start to work.) So I was feeling pretty confident that I had done all that I could to prepare for PPD. What I wasn’t prepared for at all was life in the NICU. Now, I want to be perfectly clear and state that I am not complaining in any way about the care that my family received surrounding the birth of our children. We are blessed to live in a 1st world country, with fantastic health care available. Of course it could be cheaper, but that’s a whole different rant and post. Because of the modern medicine available to our family, both of our girls are nearly perfect and show no signs of prematurity when you look at them today. My ‘Soap Box’ is more about spreading awareness to draw attention to an area where there could be more support.
The first time I really met my babies, they were already in isolettes, connected to monitors by wires. They both had been intubated and had feeding tubes. I stared at my babies, so tiny, and cried. We were not able to hold them often or even open the isolettes to touch them due to trying to maintain their body temperature. There was constant beeping either of their monitors or another child’s. A constant feeling of being on the edge. I became obsessed with researching the effects of NICU stays and parent/child bonding. I read all about how some parents, especially fathers can experience PTSD from the NICU experience. I researched and asked our nurses questions to find out more. The doctors said that they would probably be in the hospital until their original due date. I think that’s when things really set in. I may not get to take my babies home for another 6 weeks. Even though I was to be discharged after 3 days. We gave the girls their official names, I filled out a basic depression evaluation, and I was free to go. Just a once pregnant lady going home without her babies. (This is the time that I acknowledge once again that I know things could have been a lot worse and we are very blessed to have the healthy children that we do, but that does not take away from my feelings/experience.)
Commence the 37 day NICU stay for Blondie and Brownie.
The next 37 days were a fog. Not a blur because things went fast, but a fog. The fog of depression set in rather quickly. I sat with my babies in their hospital room, listening to the beeps of the monitors. I did my best not to open their isolettes and touch them because my understanding was that if I wanted to get them home ASAP I shouldn’t do anything to slow down their progress (like mess with their body temperature). I grew two beautiful girls inside of me as long as possible, and now in some ways it felt as if I was being punished for their early birth. All I could do was sit in the room, looking at my babies, and pumping every 3 hours.
I asked my mom when she visited a couple of times if I seemed as out of it as I felt and she said yes. As a mental health professional, if I had been a little more with it, I could have advocated for myself. Although, I’m not sure that the resources were available. What I do know is that I did not realize how depressed I was until I finally was out of that fog (which was actually years later). Being able to look back on my experience from six years away, I can see instances that some intervention may have been beneficial. Join me tomorrow, as I enter into Part 3 to share my minimal experience with resources and my current day thoughts of how things could have maybe went differently.