This post contains triggers. If you are someone who is experiencing intrusive thoughts or someone who is triggered by them, please practice self-care when deciding whether or not to read this post. If you or someone you know needs support, please call the Postpartum Support International warm line at 18009444773 or the National Suicide Prevention Life Line at 18002738255.
The conversations about mental health began around mid-way through my pregnancy. Anxiety and depression have been struggles of mine off and on since I was about 13, but it had been well managed in the year or two prior to becoming pregnant. Still, I knew that my history increased my chances of facing postpartum depression, and truthfully, I was not managing my anxiety very well during pregnancy anyway. I knew the signs, and Derek knew the signs. But still, it snuck up on us.
One night, when D had gone to bed and I was up with H for what felt like the thousandth night in a row, I suddenly had this vivid scene in my head of throwing him against a wall. When I say vivid, I mean in excruciating detail. I immediately started crying. I grabbed H and held him close. How could I ever even THINK something so awful? Only monsters think those sorts of things and I am not a monster. Right? Maybe I am. Maybe I am that horrible of a mother.
It’s hard for me to say if it was the initial thought or the harsh reaction I had to it, but things really started to get dicey around this time. I had that same thought many times each day. Or I would think about leaving him on the street or in a dumpster somewhere. This would have been early to mid January. H was fed and taken care of. I on the other hand was effectively unable to function in any way that did not meet a basic need of my child. H had also decided that sleep was not a thing that he was in to anymore, so I was completely wiped out. And the intrusive thoughts really escalated to a terrifying point.
One day we were driving and I imagined in vivid detail what a relief it would be to just wrap the car around a light pole. Or drive it in to a river or oncoming traffic. This same intrusive thought crept in to my mind many times over the course of my journey. It eventually just became a normal thing that I felt decreasingly bad about. I also had fantasies (for lack of a better term) about leaving town.
“I will never be a good mom. I will get on a plane, and go to Albuquerque where I don’t know a single soul and I can start over. D can get remarried to someone who can be the mom that H deserves.”
“I can go to the airport and leave right now and both D and H will be so much better off without me. H is young enough that he won’t even know the difference. His new mom will be much better for him.”
“D can find a new wife who isn’t a nutcase and a terrible mother to his son. They will both be better that way.”
“I want a new life…one where I cannot fuck this kid up any more than I have.”
Again, these were things I never shared with anyone. I wanted this baby, was so excited to have him, so this was part of that, right? I was just tired. I was just hormonal. I was just being too hard on myself about breast feeding. I was just not cut out to be a mom. This is just how it is when you have a new baby.
Except it wasn’t, and the smallest piece of me knew that. I had had conversations during the early part of my pregnancy with someone who had also experience PPD that manifested itself in this exact way: a fantasy of leaving and starting over. I knew that this wasn’t part of the deal.
During this time I was existing in the echo chamber of my mind. I was a bad mom. He deserved better. D deserved better. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I want a different life. This was all a mistake. That was my mind all day, every day.
Then, one night, it was almost an epiphany: I didn’t have to do this.
I could get the gun and kill myself.
I imagined doing it in each room of my house. The living room? No. too messy. Our bedroom? No. How could D continue to sleep there? Our bathroom? No. D would need to use that too. I couldn’t do it in H’s room or in his bathroom where he took his baths that he loved so much.
So I decided that I would get the gun and I would kill myself in the laundry room.
And I clung to this for a week or so. This was my light at the end of the miserable fucking tunnel. H would get a new mom and D would not have to put up with his pathetic wife and they would all be better off. D was a great and attentive father and he would know how to take care of H, and probably do it better than I could, seeing as I was fucking awful at it. It was oddly relieving and surreal.
I didn’t get the gun. One night I called my parents at two in the morning and sobbed hysterically on the phone for 45 minutes. No one said anything. I just cried and cried and cried to the point where I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even have any tears left.
The next day I called my OB’s office and asked them I if I could get in ASAP because things were just not going well. She was able to get me in the same day. I remember being in the waiting room and messaging a friend that I knew she was going to have me committed and have my baby taken away and that I should leave. “No, stay. They won’t take your baby away.” And before I could even make a decision about what I was going to do, they called me back.
“I hate this. I hate all of it and I can’t do it anymore. I have been thinking about hurting myself and I can’t stop and now I am absolutely terrified that you are going to have me committed and have H placed in foster care.” Because PPD is a liar, among other things, killing myself was certainly a preferable alternative to inpatient mental health treatment.
Obviously, she didn’t have me committed. In fact, it might have been one of the most candid and productive discussions I’ve had regarding my feelings at that time. I told her that I was really struggling and thinking of hurting myself.
“Have you just been thinking about suicide, or do you actually have a plan?”
“Oh, no, I don’t have a plan, I just think about it a lot. And about hurting myself.”
I lied. I felt that I had to, but I’ll address that more later.
We talked a bit more. We devised a plan that would allow me to get some sleep: I would go to bed after dinner and sleep for at least four hours and then get up and handle the overnights. She also gave me a pamphlet for a local organization that helps pregnant and postpartum moms. I don’t remember a lot of the other details but I remember her telling me that I would get through it and to call if I needed anything.
I went home. I wasn’t feeling a lot better, but I wasn’t feeling a lot worse. We went ahead with the plan that allowed me to get some more sleep and being assured of those four hours a day was immensely helpful. I also started attending weekly meetings facilitated by Baby Blues Connection. Those two things, in addition to meds and occasional therapy, were absolutely critical to my recovery. Attending the groups was great time for me to get out alone but also to connect with other moms who completely understood where I was coming from in a way that was profoundly meaningful. My OB’s office called me once or twice a week to check in on me and make sure things weren’t getting worse.
I refer to the time after this as “the fog.” I no longer wanted to hurt myself or the baby, but I wasn’t really enjoying myself either. I was going through the motions but really felt like I was living in a haze, but haze is much more manageable than the oppressive weight of the darkness. Every week that passed, things got better. I started to make plans with friends and leaving the house with H. 2015 was a really intense year: Derek was in an accident that totaled our car, I had a stomach virus and food poisoning a few weeks apart, we moved in May, I went back to work, D got a new job, we moved again in September to accommodate that.
One night in early November, with H’s first birthday quickly approaching, I was laying in bed reflecting on the past year, and that moment that I was certain I would never feel was upon me: I was so overwhelmed with love for my son and wonderment at our crazy journey since he had come earth side that I cried. Almost a year later, I was in love with my son and with being his mom.
And almost as quickly as it had arrived, the darkness was gone.