Postpartum Depression in Moms of Multiples: What It’s Like, Part 1

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multiplesI recently had a mom reach out to me asking for more stories about postpartum depression and anxiety from the viewpoint of moms of multiples. Lisa Bicknell Madden, a mother of multiples and an advocate for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, sat down and wrote out her story in full for the very first time. We’ve decided to share all of it in a 3-part series this week, starting today. 

In June of 1998, after six LOOOOONG years of infertility and one very successful round of IVF, I found out I was pregnant with twins. One week later, there were three tiny embryos, and another week after that the ultrasound showed four. I’m a Maternal/Child Health nurse, so with each added embryo I knew how hard this pregnancy would be on my body and the risks these babies would face being “high order multiple.”  I became a mom at that moment, and told these small children of mine I would fight for them every day to keep them on the inside as long as I could so they could grow healthy and strong.

Soon after that thought I began vomiting. I vomited nonstop, like it was a job I was getting paid for. I found myself in the hospital off and on for the next three months, unable to eat at all. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. That was my first experience with depression. I stopped talking, which is a problem, because I really like talking. And people. And laughing. Yet there was none of that. I actually didn’t open my eyes once for a really long time, and that’s when the psychiatrist showed up. The psychiatrist decided I was acting “appropriately” so we moved on. I had an IV that went straight to my heart, that kept me “fed” and the babies were growing. I felt like a pod person, I was so detached.

During a routine ultrasound in August it was discovered that baby D — that’s what we do in maternity nursing, we name babies by their position in the uterus — had no heartbeat. I truly felt nothing. If you know me, you know I cry over McDonald commercials, and yet this alarmed no one.

A miracle doctor found a drug that finally stopped the vomiting in September. I still wish I had hugged that man. By that time I was 103 pounds and 16 weeks pregnant with triplets.  Still, I did not let anyone take picture of me pregnant. I told them I wanted to wait until the babies were viable at 24 weeks.

Thankfully, 24 weeks came quickly and I allowed a picture to be taken and went off to the high-risk doctor on the very same day. It turns out even a nurse can have contractions and not know it, so back in the hospital I went, put on horrible drugs to stop the contractions. The contractions stopped, but were replaced by unbelievable pain. I then had to have exploratory surgery at 24 weeks pregnant, wide awake with an epidural, with the nearby NICU thinking they were about to get three very premature babies. We all made it thru the surgery intact.

Pancreatitis sent me back to the hospital until I delivered on Christmas Day. Alec was 3lbs 14oz., born at 10:01am. Elizabeth  was 2lb 5oz, born at 10:02am. Daniel was 2lb 11oz born at 10:04 am. Merry Christmas!!  We lived!

I listened for each baby’s cry to see if they were breathing.  Alec didn’t cry. All three were taken to NICU, with Alec placed on a vent and Elizabeth and Daniel just in the incubators, while I headed to ICU for five days myself. You know, as I read what I have written I had so many signs that we know now can lead to PPD — infertility, hyperemesis, mom of multiples, cesarean section, NICU. If only we had known then.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of Lisa’s story

Photo credit: © Kathleen Perdue – Fotolia.com

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  1. Wow. Lisa’s story is just riveting and captivating. Even the most creative Hollywood types could not invent a scenario so unimaginable but Lisa lived it…and survived to share it. And there are countless women with their own tales who probably feel utterly alone and isolated. I’m looking forward to the next installment. Good for you, Lisa, thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Pingback: Postpartum Depression in Moms of Multiples: What It's Like, Part 2