Lisa Madden has been through a pretty traumatic pregnancy and is now the mom of multiples – triplets. In part 2 of her story, she shares how her postpartum depression and anxiety unfolded. Here’s part 1 if you missed it.
The next five weeks were a blur of traveling to and from the NICU. I never produced breast milk so breastfeeding was not an option. Elizabeth and Daniel came home after five weeks weighing in at four pounds each and Alec came home one week later. It was me and them, all alone, all the time.
My mom — sit down — had to help my sister with her newborn. She is nine years younger than me and her baby was full term, but she was really tired. My mom said I seemed so happy and on top of things that she had no idea I needed help. Just so you know, my mom and I are very close. I adore her and she does me. That’s how good I was at hiding what I was feeling and thinking.
Within one week of all three babies being home I was so tired I was literally hallucinating. The babies had to be fed every three hours around the clock. It took around two hours to feed them, and then you had to change their diapers, and if they spit up change their outfits … blah, blah, you get the picture. Sleep, if it happened at all, was for about 20 minutes every three or six hours. My husband — now my ex — told me I was now a stay-at-home mom and this was my job. He had to be rested to go to work and he would try to help me on Friday and Saturday nights but that was it.
My anxiety started with the “Are they breathing?” checks. Then it was the “Wash your hands. They could get sick,” thing. Let’s add in taking their temperatures to see if they were too hot or cold. And soon it was just like an avalanche of worries and checking and thoughts. The thoughts were mostly focused around death. I couldn’t watch the news because suddenly every single story hit too close to home and I just couldn’t handle it.
Because I would put makeup on and brush my hair when anyone would come by no one could see that I was feeling kooky. The racing thoughts in my head prevented me from sleeping even when my dad, God bless him, would come and rock three bassinets for hours so I could get some sleep. The thoughts were constant and random and racing. I knew they were not normal. I finally got up the nerve to mention my symptoms to my OB, who happened to be a friend of mine, at my eight week checkup. He told me it was just hormones and that I should find some time to go shoe shopping. Shoe shopping! With that, I never told anyone again what was going on inside of me.
Over the next few months the thoughts became increasingly hard to handle. Driving the babies to the only place I wanted to be, my mom’s house, meant crossing a bridge, and the recurring thought of my Suburban going over the bridge and into the icy water was so vivid that I would only drive in the middle lane and hold on with both hands and tell myself repeatedly, ” I can do this. I can do this.” Eventually, I just stopped going to her house. I didn’t trust myself.
By now the babies were around three months old (they were born 10 weeks early so they were technically only 2 weeks old). Colic was setting in with one of my sons. Now the tears started. I was not only exhausted, having crazy thoughts and filled with anxiety over their daily care, but now I had to wear a baby for 4-6 hours every afternoon and evening just to help him the little I could and still take care of the others. My then-husband was little to no help. My family was no help, except for my 72-year-old father who would drive up most days and just hold someone or rock someone or bring me food.
The isolation started then and that is the worst memory of the whole thing to me. I was alone. I was so alone. I have never before or since felt so alone. Each day was exactly the same, I could handle the babies really well during the day when the sun was out, but as soon as it became dusk the heaviness would start. The dread of another 12 hours in the dark, alone, feeding, changing, burping, crying infants – over and over again. And always feeling like a failure. Like I was not looking in their eyes when I fed them, not touching their hands when I fed them, not blowing bubbles on their tummies when I changed them because there were two more waiting all the time. It was a very heavy load and I was alone. I had no marriage to speak of. All my friends were at work. My family lived over that damn bridge and it rarely occurred to them to come to me. If you came to see me, I couldn’t finish a sentence or a thought, both from fatigue and the PPD fog I was in.
Finally, my mother-in-law noticed something. She started coming every Wednesday night and staying with me on her one day off. I waited all week for that wonderful woman to come. She was the only ray of hope I had. One Wednesday nights I had a person with me, and it meant so much to me. When the babies were six months old we sold our house and had to move into my mother-in-law’s house while our new one was being finished. I was so happy there, I felt like the real me. I had people. I had someone around me. It was great.
In February we moved into our new house and I only knew two people in the new town. One is still one of my best friends. She “gave” me her group of friends. We all had kids the same age so I started going to parks, play dates, libraries with my trio. Even so, I felt a new symptom taking over – rage. This one was ugly and often public. I had three 15-month-old children, running in different directions at parks, wanting three different things at play dates, never letting me sit at story time. Gymboree couldn’t even handle these multiples. Rage was my new nemesis. I was ashamed. I yelled at my precious children for, well, acting like 15-month-olds. I cursed at them. I hurried them along roughly. These are very hard things to write, very hard things to say and even sadder things to remember. Then at night, when they lay so sweetly in their cribs, I would stand over them and sob silently, apologizing for my disgusting behavior. For my words, for my harsh touch. For being the adult and not being better. This went on day after day, night after night.
Stay tuned for part 3 of Lisa’s story tomorrow, with one big surprise in store …
Photo credit: © Kathleen Perdue – Fotolia.com