Postpartum depression, not something I expected

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was over-the-moon happy about it. Throughout my 41 week pregnancy, my excitement only grew as we prepped for the arrival of our girl. On January 28th, 2018, Ella entered the world via emergency c-section and the wait was over! Our tiny wonder had arrived and at the same time, my mind was departing. My case of postpartum depression settled in instantly, and we began a dark journey.

Aly and her husband James shortly after the birth of their daughter, Ella.

I want to share a specific instance that occurred in my time with postpartum depression, but I want to preface it with a couple of things. Each and every mom that experiences PPD will have a different experience. It’s like going to a paint store and picking out a sample of green paint – the samples are all green, but there are many different shades of that green. Everyone’s story will look different.  A complete list of perinatal mood disorders, along with their symptoms can be found here. My case of PPD was extreme and it took me to new depths that I didn’t know existed.

Wanting to take my own life

I woke up on a perfectly sunny Tuesday in March of 2018. And I instantly regretted it. My tired and sleep deprived soul whispered, “Why Lord? Why did you not take me in the night like I asked you to?” Nonetheless, I willed myself to get out of bed because my 8-week-old baby was downstairs with my mom. As I crept down the stairs, dread filling me with every step, I finally saw my baby and mother asleep on the couch in the living room.

I froze.

Sat down.

I lost it.

My soul screams, “Lord, if you didn’t take me, couldn’t you have at least taken my baby?! I can’t look at her, Lord. I can’t stand her!”

Guilt enters.

UGH!! I suck as a mother. Who in the heck would ever think that towards their child? I mean, I’m supposed to be the one protecting her, right? And here I am wishing she would die. And not even just wishing, but desperately begging for God to take her. What’s wrong with me?

I’m disgusted.

I move to the kitchen.

My mom walks in.

I begin to make tea, because I need the sweet caffeine to wake my body up. Trying to get a grip on reality I think, “Okay, okay. If I can just wake up, maybe all of these horrible thoughts will go away. Surely I was just sleepy and my mind wouldn’t betray me the way that it was. I love my child. I think…I hope… Oh, good grief – I feel like I hate her.”

Mom asks, “How did you sleep?”

I sit with my teacup in the floor, and begin to sob. I explain to her that I didn’t sleep because my mind was racing about how much I wished I could die. Oh no, oh no, oh no……. here it comes.

Everything becomes a weapon. The kitchen knives, the medicine in my cabinet just 3 feet away, the cars driving by the front of the house, the drill in the shed, the hammer in the pantry. If I could just get my hands on one of those things……

Hyperventilating, I excuse my self to the back porch, hoping that the warm sunshine would enable me to feel something other than hate. Other than guilt. Other than deep, deep sadness.

“God please take me. Please. Please, I’m begging you. Take me.”

I can’t live like this any more. It’s not that I didn’t want to live anymore…It’s that I did not want to live like this anymore. I did not want to live feeling anything but love towards my daughter, I didn’t want to live dreading each passing day, I didn’t want to live in my little townhome scared out of my mind of what I might do to my baby.

I needed to remove the threat. I needed to remove myself – I was a burden. A burden that I needed to take into my own hands. A burden that the world, my world, would be better off without.

I can’t live like this anymore.

I went on to get more medical help. My mother – who was scared out of her mind – called my husband to come home from work. When he got home, they loaded me up in the car and took me to the ER. I went reluctantly – begging them to take me back home.

I didn’t want to be thought of as “crazy”.

I didn’t want everyone to know that the joyful, outgoing, Jesus-loving, bubbly girl that they knew had gone bat-crap-crazy.

There, they “tranquilized” me and put me to sleep. After that, they recommended that I spend a few days in a mental health facility.

Up until that day, I had never contemplated suicide in my life. I had never so desperately wished I could die. But after they stabilized me at the hospital, we went home with a different safety plan in place to try and pull me out of this debilitating case of postpartum depression.

To wrap up my personal story, I’ll leave you with this: through various avenues, healing came about. Though I do have to have to give credit to my precious Jesus for reaching in and ultimately healing my postpartum depression. If you’re interested in hearing that story, you can check it out here.

Moms of babies with CHD

Postpartum depression is hard and scary, and it is even more prevalent in mothers whose babies are in the NICU. It is speculated that a staggering 70% of NICU moms experience PPD to some degree, and I can definitely see why. They face stressors that are unfathomable.

Erica with 2 day old baby Calvin in the NICU awaiting surgery for his CHDs.

I have the honor of being the aunt to a precious boy named Calvin. Calvin was born with complex congenital heart defects that caused him to be in the hospital for 74 days and nights directly after being born. His amazing parents, Tyler and Erica, rallied around him and only left his side to shower or get a bite to eat. Other than that, they were there 24/7. Thankfully, despite all of the new pressures of being a heart mom, Erica did not experience postpartum depression, but as we have learned, that is not the case for many.

NICU babies are so sick or premature that naturally everyone involved is concerned about how to keep baby alive and well. The physical demands of caring for a NICU baby are numerous – feeding schedules, caloric intake, incision care, the barrage of wires and monitors – it’s a lot! And now add in the worry that the parents go through – “Is my baby going to make it through the night?” “Is my baby gaining enough weight?” “Is my baby breathing ok?” – and you have a perfect recipe for postpartum depression.

PPD often presents itself in the guise of overwhelm. NICU moms have the weight of the world on their shoulders, yet everyone is focused on baby. And that right there is how PPD gets missed in NICU moms. We must do better. The total wellness of the family unit is how a child is going to thrive, so we need to be taking care of our mommas.

  • If you are a support person of a NICU mom, check out this list of ways to specifically support them.
  • If you are the spouse of a NICU mom who is experiencing postpartum depression, check out this video of a dad giving advice on how to persevere.
  • If you are a mom who is finding herself facing postpartum depression, check out PPDJourney. PPDJourney provides helpful tools to moms navigating PPD, as well as real stories from real women who have walked the same, hard journey. You can also find PPDJourney on social media (@ppdjourney).

Aly Thayer is a first time mom and author of the social enterprise, PPD Journey. She uses her emotional story to connect with other moms struggling with PPD and offer hope. She now lives every day treasuring the joys her daughter brings and is a truly inspiring and compassionate mom.

Also read: “Not a Mother-Woman”