Managing Expectations: Third Time Is (Not) A Charm, Part III

My last post in this series, I promise 😉 This one is about the ‘4th Trimester’ and touches on a sensitive matter so, as a possible trigger warning, I’m going to talk about anxiety and depression and there will be mention of thoughts that accompany those. I reflect not only to help myself work through things but to maybe, possibly, hopefully help one person out there somewhere who may feel stuck or that nobody else gets them. I don’t know who will stumble across this or maybe a friend will see it and pass it on to someone who may benefit and that makes being so transparent worth it.

I learned after having Caitlin that “baby blues” were a thing – add it to the list of things that literally nobody spoke about before having my baby. It makes sense: the influx of insane hormones, the lack of sleep, the frustration of getting to know a baby blob who only sleeps, poops, and cries. It’s the perfect storm for your mind to be sad. The problem was that mine went far beyond the ‘blues’ and I had no clue that’s what was happening. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, PPD, after Dave found me hiding and sobbing in a closet. Once we figured it out, I went on Zoloft and went on my merry way of navigating that journey. I successfully weaned off and not much time passed before we found out I was pregnant with Alex. Almost immediately, I started experiencing anxiety over the changes happening and went back on Zoloft as a precautionary measure to help beat the PPD before it could rear it’s ugly head. I felt so good after awhile that I weaned off and was very cognizant of my feelings postpartum. I avoided PPD the second time around.

Third time’s a charm?? Hahaha. Nope. Aside from feeling like a whale during pregnancy, I felt great. I was worried about adding a third, sure, but wasn’t having out of control anxious thoughts. I was hyper aware of how I felt after birth, especially after how rough the process was, and recognized how absurd it was that they gave me the depression screening only 7 hours after giving birth. I was exhausted and unsure of how this would represent any sort of accuracy given the timing of it. I felt fine and documented as such.

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James was born at 7:30am. This was given to me to fill out at 2:14pm. What?!

My next visit to my OB wasn’t scheduled until 12 weeks out which, after going through the mental health issues before, seemed like a long time to go without being seen. I felt strong enough in my ability to advocate for myself if something came up (and knew Dave would as well) but worry that lots of first time moms or moms that haven’t dealt with this before wouldn’t. 12 weeks is already a long time but extra long when you’re running on exhaustion and anxiousness or depressing thoughts.

It hit like a ton of bricks and totally differently than it did with Caitlin. I wasn’t sad. I was honestly SO happy. I was obsessed with and in love with James and amazed that I had my big family I had always dreamed of.

But then Dave went to hang up Christmas lights and needed to use the ladder. My hands got so sweaty I couldn’t keep them dry and my stomach was in knots while I held James and watched him. I wanted to throw up.
      “He’s going to die.”
      “He’s going to fall and crack his head open and we’re all going to see it and I won’t                know what to do.”
      “He’s going to hurt himself and never recover.”
      “How would I ever do anything without him?”

I chalked it up to new hormones and told myself I’d keep an eye on it. Then, Dave wanted to go out and leave the kids with his parents. Understand that his parents are the most involved grandparents and I have no reason to doubt their ability to care of my kids.
    “James is going to die without me.”
      “How will we explain to Caitlin and Alex what happened to their baby brother?”
      “We’re going to get a call that one of the kids drowned in the pool”
      “Nobody else can take care of James.”

There were plenty of other examples. My older kids playing in the loft upstairs…that opens to the first floor. Checking on breathing at night, repeatedly. I have never imagined more morbid scenarios than in these moments. The scenes I construed in my mind scared me. I have never been the most rainbows and sunshine person but I certainly don’t see bad situations like these playing out in my head normally. But outside of these flashes of imaginary scenes, I was happy. And then in between the happiness, the rage hit. I’d go from 0-60 in about 2 seconds over the dumbest things. Spilled water, toys left out, a blanket left in the wrong spot. I got so mad I felt like I could “see red” and wanted to break everything around me. And then it’d go away, sometimes as quick as it came, and the happiness was back. What the hell?! I was a mess and called my OB. They gave me the same qustionaire pictured above and it turns out the answers were significantly different this time around. I was diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety and back on Zoloft I went. I’m at 9 months postpartum and have weaned off the meds and am working on controlling things on my own, which aren’t always easy. Please please please mommas, listen to your body if you’re struggling. Talk to someone you trust and call your OB. Email me if you need to – you’re never alone!

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And, after all of that…a positive to end this Third Time isn’t a Charm series!

I spent my “4th Trimester” giving myself a lot more grace than I previously had. I didn’t worry about how I looked or how quickly I “bounced back.” I embraced the leggings and nursing tanks because in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a short period of time. I didn’t stress over everything I ate. I only wish I had been as nice to myself after having Caitlin and Alex instead of constantly tearing myself down and wishing time away by thinking things like “I can’t wait when…” I’m soft and full of curves and bumps and stretch marks that didn’t used to be there and so.far.from.perfect. but that’s not the point. I certainly don’t post these because I think I’m Insta model worthy. Being realistic is the point. Some women don’t have to deal with this awkward phase of still looking pregnant a week out from birth but I’m not one and I think of a lot of other women are’t either. It’s nice to see something that usually gets swept under the rug because it’s not “pretty.”

(Also, notice I didn’t say they’re “lucky enough” to not deal with it? It’s not luck. It’s about loving yourself in all the phases you go through. A skinny mom is no more deserving than one who weighs more.)

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8 hours, 48 hours, and 1 week postpartum

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12 weeks postpartum – I love how much bigger his little body is compared to the 1 week photo!

I grew these babies and I’m treating myself with patience and kindness. It takes time. I’ll be working on that for a long time. I’m never going to be the exact same anyway because my body grew another freaking human. Growing 3 babies is pretty damn amazing!

 

xoxo

Courtney

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