(Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some very personal stories. There will be ignorance, learning, and hard choices addressed along the way. If you have different views from mine– on either end of the spectrum– I am totally comfortable with that. I do ask that we show one another kindness and always remember that each woman’s journey is different…)
It was a bit shocking to realize I had gotten pregnant again so soon, but, as my husband pointed out, wasn’t it wonderful that we didn’t have to go through so much worry/struggle that time?
It was not an easy pregnancy. My husband was unemployed. My father-in-law died. My mother-in-law needed us a lot. I was very sick. I had an infant to care for. Still, the new life that kicked in my belly was a spot of joy in what were sometimes long, dark days.
Sadly, that pregnancy was over far too soon when I gave birth at barely 24 weeks gestation. But, despite grave odds, that sweet baby girl lived. Pure elation! We felt so very fortunate and blessed when her cry rang out.
But it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. It’s not as if she survived the birth and then everything was hunky-dory. No, indeed. I went through a massive, messy c-section to bring her safely into this world and that meant struggles for me. Much more significant than that was the road ahead for C. She was so tiny and frail and her odds were still slim.
I struggled to parent a ten-month-old while attempting to spend enough time with my newborn stuck in an isolette in the NICU. I was a whirlwind, rushing here, there, and everywhere even as the doctors cautioned me that my recovery would take time. I moved at a frantic, frenetic pace and rarely got enough sleep. Though I didn’t have my newborn with me, I still got up every 2-3 hours to pump breast milk for her. I would pray the whir of the pump wouldn’t wake my older baby who slept in a pack and play in the single room in which we all stayed.
My mother-in-law came to stay and tried to help. She was still fighting her own struggles, however, in the wake of her husband’s death. She was medicated and would sometimes fall asleep mid-day. This meant I really couldn’t leave my not-yet one-year-old in her care. My sleep became more and more sporadic since I was unused to sleeping in a room with someone who snored. I grew ever more lost and overwhelmed…
I lost twenty pounds in those first few weeks after our daughter was born… which is a lot if you consider that I had only gained four during the pregnancy and didn’t start out overweight. I was frail, pale, and hanging on by a thread.
As I left the hospital one evening, I had to cross a busy, multi-lane road during rush hour. I waited for a break in traffic and the thought rushed through my mind, unbidden: I could just step in front of them. And I would have peace. I could rest.
It terrified me. Even as it barely brushed my consciousness, the thought terrified me. And, still, I had to admit that a few nights earlier, my gaze had, perhaps, lingered a little too long on the chef’s knife I used to chop chicken. I was hovering on the brink and I knew I needed help.
The next day I left my baby boy with my mother-in-law and said fervent prayers that it would work out. I marched myself over to the hospital and confessed how I was feeling to a trusted NICU nurse. She got me into the women’s center immediately.
They asked me questions and the words, and tears, poured out of me. I took some “survey” and was labelled borderline suicidal. Everyone was encouraged by the fact that I had recognized it so soon and sought help on my own. But, still, my mental health was not in a good place…
I left with three prescriptions that day: an antidepressant, a sleeping pill (which, as it turns out, I would never take), and the mini Pill.
I hated being on antidepressants. Really, truly hated them. That fact did not make them less necessary. They made me gain weight and lose my libido and overall feel kind of “dull”… but they also kept me level and grounded and permanently banished scary thoughts from my mind. If given the choice in that situation again, I would take them in a heartbeat. They served a very needed purpose.
I noticed no side effects from the progesterone-only birth control pill, and I didn’t fight taking them. Though I had vehemently opposed going on the Pill after the birth of my son, I knew I couldn’t get pregnant again so soon. I was mentally and emotionally far too fragile. I also didn’t trust my body to safely carry a pregnancy full-term after what all it had been through.
I was on both medications for just over a year. I went off with no issues and was, once again, my sunny, stable self.
It would be almost two more years before a doctor tried to put me on the Pill again…
to be cont.