I never really stopped to think about mamas out there who experience PPD after miscarriage, until I heard Christine’s story. But PPD after Miscarriage is real and should be talked about. Please read and share her story, as understanding what she went through could help another woman going through a similar situation. Thank you, Christine, for sharing. Lily will always be remembered.
This fourth pregnancy was to be different. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) with my living child, so the severity of the disease in this pregnancy had to be a good sign. But there I was, cold jelly smeared across my abdomen, the doctor adjusting the ultrasound wand looking for a heart beat.
“I can’t find the baby.”
“There it is,” I said, gesturing toward the monitor.
“I can’t find the heart beat.”
Stunned silence. My mind raced through the ER visits for IV hydration, the Unisom and B6 that didn’t help, the never ending nausea, incessant vomiting, neurological symptoms. I couldn’t parent my son at all. I couldn’t do anything. Even shifting position on the bed would trigger the vomit and gagging. How could it turn to this again?
“The baby measures exactly right, so it died in the last 24 hours. I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry. The words that echo in the mind of every mother who has lived that same ultrasound appointment.
The grief was intense, raw, life-changing. It was hard to breathe most of the time. She was born at home, tiny and perfect. That I was under 20 weeks, near the end of 1st trimester, had only miscarried didn’t shield me from grief. Despondent and unable to function, my battle with HG–one I gave up many times, even asking my doctor to terminate the pregnancy—transitioned to my third battle with Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and a lifetime battle with loss.
With my living child, Postpartum Depression had transitioned into psychotic symptoms—hearing voices, illogical thinking. This time, the physical symptoms of PPD were clear, and equally clear was my refusal to journey into psychosis again. I sought treatment. More than one physician said I hadn’t been “pregnant enough” to have a PMAD.
I argued to be labeled postpartum in order to receive proper treatment. Complicated grief was not sufficient, and bipolar was not accurate. I knew the mental disconnects, the hormonal ups and downs, the way my body experienced PMADs. It had taken two years of medication, therapy, and hard work to heal before. I knew.
Finally, a major research university in my area diagnosed PPD and began tracking me as part of a study. I dutifully showed up at the University to be questioned, surveyed, evaluated, and medicated. And I continued to correct the interns and residents, that I did, indeed, have PPD. My doctor and the nurses understood that the chest tightening ache of child loss is not the same as the brain fog of PPD. PPD is internal darkness. Child loss is that bright white exploding pain flying across a woman’s entire life.
Unfortunately, I am not the only mother who has fought for treatment. Proper maternal mental healthcare is an old and ongoing battle; many before and since have fought for the same. But I fought for more. In so many ways, I fought for my child. She would be documented in the statistics as medically legitimate. I had, indeed, been pregnant enough.
I should not have had to fight for diagnosis and treatment. All of us who suffer(ed) deserve to be heard and to receive compassion for our losses and correct treatment for maternal mental health disorders.
In May, I will walk in the HER Foundation’s 2nd Annual 5k at National Harbor, Washington D.C. I will join with hundreds of mothers and supporters from around the country. I will also eat a lot of cake. Because I can eat. Because the women gathered will eat it with me. And we will share quiet looks, and they will know that I am remembering Lily.
We should not have to fight. We deserve to be heard and to receive compassion for our losses and correct treatment maternal mental health disorders.
Christine St. John is a mother, teacher, and writer. She volunteers at her son’s school, HER Foundation, and church, and she shares about maternal mental health care whenever possible.