Every Mountain is Worth the Climb
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
Don't send out that SOS - I am still here! I know it's been more than a hot-minute since my last post but I've got good reasons - Beth (my oldest) started Grade 1, family was visiting/moving home/getting married and I started back to work! Though it's only been about a month since my last entry it feels like SEVERAL months...something I'm learning is that with 3 kids if life is busy it is BUSY!!!! But my intention is to continue what I have started here. Even in sharing those first 5 posts I have experienced a shift in my perspective of my own story, and have been privileged to hear more about YOUR stories. Thank you for your love and honesty and willingness to share this space with m.
You know that scene in Spiderman 2 where Toby Maguire is walking around the city and the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" is playing? He's walking around without a care in the world because he doesn't have to worry about being Spiderman anymore? THAT is what I think of when I remember the time period between my first discharge from the Dube Centre to June 2013 (so approximately 3-4 months). I was feeling much more myself, was taking my medication consistently and was attending the Saskatoon Postpartum Support Group once a week - I even looked forward to those afternoons! It was hard to share my story with a group of strangers, but the beauty of groups like that is that those people aren't really strangers because they KNOW who you are and what you've been through. There is this common link between you that allows you to share parts of yourself that you don't usually share with other people. The women who lead the group and the women who attended alongside me were very different than me (came from different backgrounds, cultures, relationships, etc.) but they were also just like me. It was so refreshing to be there and to learn from each other and I would HIGHLY recommend any mother who is struggling with some form of Postpartum difficulty to find a group like this one. It seemed as though I was on the mend and I was going to be able to move on with life - certainly in a new way, because my experience had changed me, but I assumed that life would mostly go back to normal and stay that way.
Not so. And it would be the cutest, sweetest, fluffiest puppy that would undo me again. Seriously!!! In June 2013 I found out that a litter of GORGEOUS golden retrievers were in the animal shelter where my parents lived (Meadow Lake, SK). David and I already had a dog but we always talked about getting another one, especially a golden retriever. I loved the idea of getting a puppy when Beth was so young - they could grow up together and be inseparable (insert heart eyes here). It took a lot of convincing, but David finally agreed/gave in to my whining that we should adopt one of the puppies. That puppy was THE CUTEST little thing you ever did see. Classic golden retriever puppy with fluffy hair and curious eyes. I adored him and planned on calling him Digger (after the dog in Road to Avonlea...lame, I know!). After about 2 hours of having the puppy home (and a couple bathroom accidents later) it was time for Beth to go down for a nap. While I was rocking with her gently in the dark, a weird feeling came over me. It was like the dark seeped into me - I felt claustrophobic, really hot and jittery. My mind suddenly started spinning - "with a new puppy here, I won't have freedom during nap time to do what I want. I'll have to be watching the pup, taking him outside, cleaning up his accidents, etc. This puppy is going to change EVERYTHING." These thoughts in themselves were not problematic, but my ability to cope with them was. These simple problems suddenly became the rocky mountains of problems and I could not for the life of me see over them. After Beth was asleep I started to talk to David (on the phone at work) and my sister (who came over to hang out) about how I was feeling and things just spiraled from there. Those terribly familiar feelings of panic overwhelmed me and things felt like they were crashing down all around me. The cyclical crying, panic attacks and negative thinking took over and I couldn't get a grip on myself. It took a very long 2 days before I could see Dr. Aftab (my psychiatrist) and I once again convinced myself that this would never get better, that I messed everything up and I would never get back to feeling normal again. This time, however, I was already on medication! Which meant that I must be really screwed up, right?? If I was having panic attacks WHILE taking an anti-anxiety medication than what in the world was gong to help me?!
Thank God for Dr. Aftab. She recommended adding another medication into the mix, something that would be fast-acting and help me get sleep at night. I admit that I was terrified to add another drug into my life but she reassured me that this wasn't going to be forever. That my hormones just needed an extra push to get back to normal. So I gave it a shot and it worked. I took this medication at night and when I woke up in the morning I was able to see the light again. After just a couple of days I felt almost back to my normal self! The panic attacks were gone, I wasn't feeling overwhelmed and I could breathe. Down side to this medication though: it knocked me RIGHT OUT about 2 hours after I took it. Beth was mostly sleeping through the night at this point, but I felt absolutely awful that I couldn't even wake up to her crying in the morning. For me, it was another tick in the box of why I wasn't a good mother. Another layer of guilt brought me to my limit. I could not - WOULD NOT - stay home alone with Beth. I did not trust myself in the least and needed David to stay home with us too. Financially this was not an option for us, not to mention David had only been at his job for a few months and we didn't want to risk him losing that opportunity. Somehow we figured it out so that he could stay home with us for a couple extra hours in the mornings and than go into work for the afternoons. Money was very tight and we knew it meant I would have to go back to work earlier than I had planned, but it is what I needed to get better. When I think back on all of these memories, I am constantly left wondering HOW in the world we made it through. Where the money came from? Where did David's never ending patience came from? Where did the understanding of David's boss come from to let him work half-time? Well I can tell you where - from God. From the ceaseless pool of mercy and love that is our Creator. I can't explain it any other way. His grace is sufficient for anything that life throws our way. Those rocky mountains look like specks of sand to Him. We have been so blessed.
After I started to feel like myself again and I felt confident in our new arrangement at home, I started to force myself to see that what I was experiencing was deeper than just a hormone imbalance. Yes, that has always been a major factor in what causes the anxiety to become overwhelming, but it certainly wasn't what kept me there. I started to acknowledge the negative thinking that I had allowed to have free reign in my mind. I began to talk to myself differently, more nicely. I spoke with a counselor a little bit, but I found more effective support from the Postpartum Support Group. I started to actually heal from these traumatic events instead of just push past them and get on with life. Because life was different now and living the old way wasn't going to work anymore. I started to tell myself that it was OK to mother how I do - to formula feed, to miss being at work, to not have all the housework done before David got home, to need a little time without Beth, and to need medication for a while. Beth was thriving, she was healthy, she was happy, and we were learning to love each other a whole lot. Being a mother was a lot harder than I thought it would be but that was OK because usually good things are hard to do. I began to see myself as I was now: a real mother. Sure, I was still a wife and a sister and friend, but I was not *just* those things anymore! I was a mother-wife, a mother-sister and a mother-friend. I realized that part of the reason I was struggling so much was because I was trying to force Beth to simply fit into the mold that was my life before her. But that's not actually how this works! Life starts to mold around her. I changed because of her. David changed because of her. My parents and siblings changed because of her. EVERY THING changed because of her. And that is exactly the way it should be! Until this point in my motherhood journey I really thought we'd turn out to be a 1-kid family (instead of the 3-kid family we always talked about). But when these positive changes started to happen in me I realized that having another baby wasn't out of question anymore. Because if PPA happened again I would be ready. And because my heart knew what my mind didn't always know - that I'm a good mom for my kids.
On one of my last opportunities to attend the Postpartum Support Group there was a short activity where each of us had to choose a picture from a pile in front of us that best illustrated motherhood for us. I chose a picture of a mountain. Upon reflection there are SO many reasons why I must have subconsciously chosen that, but at the time it was because I reflected on some hikes into the mountains that we did before Beth arrived. Those hikes were hard. SUPER hard sometimes. And a lot of the time I would be complaining about how hard it was. But suddenly we would turn a bend and the most incredible sight would be there waiting for us. Untouched and perfectly pure beauty. And that's what becoming a mother had looked like for me: a lot of uphill, a lot of switchbacks and even a lot of complaining. But was it worth it? Yeah...it absolutely, without a measure of a doubt, was. Because Beth was (and is, along with her siblings) untouched and perfectly pure beauty.
I returned to work when Beth was 10 months old and by the time she was 2.5 years old we were ready to start trying for another baby. I had been able to taper off of the additional medication after about 6 months of being on it, and I had even started to slowly lower my dose of Venlafaxine. It hadn't taken us long to conceive Beth so I didn't think we would be in for that much of a challenge. But there were different plans in store for us - sad plans, unfortunately. My journey into motherhood had really only just started and I would soon learn that there are other things that can hurt a mothers heart just as much as (if not more than) experiencing PPA.
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