I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, and a friend of mine, Nicole, posted that because May is Post-Partum Depression Awareness month (which I did not know), she wanted to share her experience loudly, and spread that awareness as far as she could. I have happily lent her a space here, hoping that the reach I have gives her words an audience. What follows is not written by me. I have no children, and zero experience with this, but if Nicole’s words are something you needed to hear, I hope they find their way to you.
First off, I want to give a slight introduction as to who I am and how I landed a spot on Laura’s blog (to which, I’m honored by the way!) My name is Nicole Turcotte (formally Fletcher) I’m newly 24, married to a wonderful man and together we have a two year old son who keeps us on our toes – to say the least. Laura and I go a-ways back. I posted on facebook about May being PPD (Postpartum depression) awareness month and how I was desperate for ways of reaching out and sharing my story in hopes of helping others. Laura out of kindness, offered this vice and I am super grateful!
Growing up, sitting over coffee with your friends planning out your future, talking about meeting your prince charming, getting married, having children… it’s all just conversation, you think at the time you truly know what you want and you’re dead set on getting there – but in reality some of life’s punches can take you for a spin – I speak from first hand experience in this. There is quite some miracle to the creation of life; Kyle, my husband (who was a boyfriend at the time) – was medically pronounced unable to have children, one in a million chance. This took me back a bit, as it caused a ripple in the plans I had spent years forming together in my head. When he broke this to me, I remember thinking in that exact moment that things were about to become brutally unfair. I wanted him yet I wanted desperately to be a mother – it didn’t look like my “happily ever after” was going to work out in my favor. I was 21 (most of you are probably cringing as I’m still a baby myself to some of you and here I am complaining like I know somethin’ about anythin’…) when God nudged my world a little bit. Truthfully, at the time I found out I was pregnant things weren’t forming together well in my life. I had dropped out of school, working a full-time retail position and definitely didn’t think my desire to be a mother would have been heard as quickly as it did, but God certainly had another plan, and I didn’t see it in that second but we were to be deeply blessed by this little life. As terrified and unsure as I felt in that moment staring at that positive pregnancy test – I knew for certain one thing, that this child was going to be absolutely adored. It took Kyle sometime to come to terms with the fact he was actually capable of creating life. He spent a lot of his teen years carrying the weight of the fact he was probably never going to have a family. Now after finding out I was pregnant, my 6w ultrasound placed my due date as March 21, 2015. We really couldn’t believe it as Kyle’s birthday is February 21, and mine is April 21…He aligned us. Let me tell you though – that doctor who misdiagnosed Kyle looked pretty silly to me as months passed and our little Zachary formed, so fearfully, so wonderfully made – that boy is.
My water broke at 12am on March 21st (as if he could have been more “meant to be here”), the night spent at the hospital was a story in itself. I knew something was wrong right after the epidural, not that anyone listened until I was stuck at 5cm dilated, with contractions 30 seconds apart (which were not doing their job!) a son who was trying to come through a cervix that wasn’t ready for him – which caused him to panic as his head was swelling from smashing it off my uncooperative body. His heart rate raced from 130-190 and at this point I’m screaming for a C-section… Literally 10 minutes later, they had him out, crying and in Kyle’s arms… Safe. Safe became my favorite word after that eventful day, I almost lost my baby. No nurse, no doctor said it out loud but the panic that flew around the already tension filled room are said enough for me. It was that night, when he and I were tucked in alone – I out loud vowed to be the one who protects him as I honestly, was the one who almost lost him. As a mother, there was a real guilt to that; a guilt that stuck around for a long time actually.
Weeks passed and I told myself I was just tired and let the darkness fall thicker and thicker around me. I truthfully thought I was handling everything fine, I thought I still had my pre-baby calm demeanor, my sensitive heart, my kind soul… But when the clouds cleared and I saw the mess I had made for myself, I had absolutely no clue what to do or where to even begin. My life became round the clock tending to Zac. In my head, I was the only person he needed to take care of him and if I didn’t step up to the plate – or even if I asked for someone’s help I was drowned in guilt because he was MY baby and MY responsibility 24/7. I took on the role of SuperMom in the unhealthiest way possible; Zac was a terrible sleeper – still kind of is 2 years later… So Kyle would come in and try to take over in the middle of the night and I would lose my mind at him for even thinking he could replace me when my son clearly needed me. (Mind you, I did not breast feed. I physically was unable to produce and guilt followed that as well.) So it made it easier when I did actually accept the help I was offered, I wasn’t needed for him to feed. Looking back now, on top of all that – I had developed a severe fear of germs on top of this crippling anxiety when it came to Zac that when taking him out in public I was the only one who held him, no one was welcomed to “awh’ing” too close to his face… I constantly felt in a state of panic. Something was going to happen… somehow – and harm my baby. I was in mama bear mode 24/7 and that alone took everything out of me. Having people want to come see him… was something I used to dread in fear they’d get him sick… We had bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere and no one could touch him without using it first or I didn’t sleep well that night. Well when he did get sick, which he did a lot – I blamed myself each and every time (not to mention would have him to the doctor the second his cough scared me in the slightest…) I would think, “I took him to the place where he picked it up, I let whoever around him and now he’s suffering and its all because of me…” I constantly kicked my own mom-ego down but let me tell you and I can say this with full confidence – I absolutely rocked the mother thing; Zachary is the most well-loved on child you will ever meet. He is a mama’s boy to the extreme and even though I let myself get worse, let my relationships get worse… at least I had him, growing bigger, smarter and stronger everyday. His love for me kept my heart beating some days, I swear. My main goal was to wake up and be all I could for him and I poured all the good things I could into him during the day, that by the time night time came around I was empty, drained and a shell of a woman who at this time was a very sorry excuse of a wife.
I’ll begin by saying this, I was only getting 3 hours of sleep a night when he was an infant, he was up and always needed to be soothed; always wanting me, each and every time – no matter how much it hurt me physically or mentally – I got up. I rocked him; I loved him back to sleep. Sleep deprivation is a demon all in its own. You wanna watch someone go crazy? Pull their sleep away completely and throw in a demanding, constantly screaming infant that relies only on you to take care of its every need… good luck! Some people are cut out for it and handle it flawlessly, some are not. I was one who fell in the “not” category and I’m still paying for it today. I wish I would have taken the help when it was offered, that’s for sure!
Now hear me people, not for ONE second am I complaining about motherhood and what it entails, I take pride in the mother I am and the way I raise my son. I recognize and sympathize deeply with the couples who so desperately want a child and are unable to have one or have lost one… What I am here to say though is that I REALLY wish someone would have warned me about this side of motherhood – the dark side that can follow it and linger around for months past its welcome, especially if not tended to. Whilst pregnant, I understand no one wants to dump anything bad on you, no one wants to scare you more than you probably already are… I get that. However, not ONE person mentioned postpartum depression to me – not ONE person warned me until after the fact. So as the months passed, I really had no idea what was wrong with me – the last thing I felt was myself. As each day passed and I lost sight of the person I was, it got more and more sad.
I was angry, often so angry I couldn’t bring it back down. I noticed it way more in the night time, (Never once in Zachary’s presence. I could always recognize the line when he was involved) I would cry so hard, which would result in both of us staying up all night not understanding what was going on, I couldn’t grasp why my relationship with Kyle was crumbling. By the end of it, I was as empty as I could have possibly been. When I would try to justify my behavior, it made 0 sense to me that I had just birthed this beautiful, healthy, happy baby boy – I’m in a relationship with a man who always put loving me and our son first before anything, the support system of a literal queen when it came to family/friendships – all so more than willing to help out… once everyone left, once the baby was in bed, once I pulled my fakest of fake masks off.. The smallest of things would get to me – it led to an outburst of angry tears that often times wouldn’t stop. I’d be shaking, screaming, out of energy; collapsed on the floor… you know who always picked me up? My husband. I married him this past October for so many reasons, but one of the biggest being he’s seen the absolute ugliest sides of me and he’s stayed… Trust me, there were nights he shouldn’t have, there still are days today he should realize his worth and take off on me – but that’s not my man. He is “for better or for worse”, he is “in sickness and in health”. I often compare his love for me during this time as he was clinging for dear life to a rose full with stem… the thorns stabbing, probably scarring his bloody hands but he still to this day, won’t let go. No matter how hard he has to hold on, he just DOES. He somehow is always capable of catching me and half the time he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Kyle has always modelled a strength and confidence that has never not been attractive to me, and as I’m falling apart which I never expected to but now that I need him, I know he’s got my back. We grew so much during this time, we became each other’s anchors – I grow more and more thankful for his existence each and every day.
It was right after Zachary’s first birthday that he and I were at the doctors and I noticed a flyer on the wall advertising postpartum depression, the symptoms, the steps to recovering… I almost cried sitting there. Suddenly, every single thing made sense – I finally had an answer. However, it wasn’t exactly the answer I was hoping for – in fact I was pretty ashamed of it. I remember my brain’s vicious cycle even in that moment – I didn’t want to tell people I was suffering from this out of fear that they’d judge me, my mothering abilities, god forbid they’d do something like take my son away, what if they saw me as an unfit parent?… I felt sick to my stomach over that realization more than I felt relief. I made myself tell my doctor that day, sobbing to him over not only how I’ve felt over the past year – how I had treated people, the fears I had of this disease, how I tried to fight it alone, I tried to get past it – I tried to even ignore it and truthfully, it kept getting worse. I expected the reaction to be severely negative, a lecture? Maybe even anger for not mentioning it sooner… what did he do? He embraced me. My doctor dropped everything and offered his friendship outside of his profession – he still to this day cares way too much and expects way too little. The relationship I have with my doctor is a blessing; I always tell him he deserves the nicest bottle of tequila on me for all the stress I’ve caused him, his reply? “Nicole, it’s my job.” No, No it is not… for him to go out of his way for me, he’s fought fights that I don’t even know about for me – all to get me better no matter what the cost. Now this is where my best advice comes into play – FIND THAT. Find that support system in your life, find the people who love you for YOU, because PPD – that’s not you and you’re going to need to be reminded of that often; it’s a chapter of you, a chapter that will end and new will begin, you just have to want it. You desperately need that desire to want to get better – they say it takes as much time as it did for you to get help, to be healed. I waited a year! A full year! Was every single day a terrible one? No. Did I freak out every single day? Nope. Did I feel all these terrible things about myself everyday? No. That’s what made it so confusing for me, I just felt all these sad things with no explanation and since it’s a joyous rollercoaster of emotions, you never can predict what you’re up against.
Especially since this isn’t a topic a lot of people like talking about.
Why are we ashamed? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we hide away from help?
I believe truly we base ourselves so much on how other people are doing – social media is KILLER for this, you focus on how well others appear to be doing, or you see their life flourishing and wonder why you’re so stuck… meanwhile they could be battling a demon 100x bigger than anything we could ever have imagined – we’re all so quick to post our accomplishments and our smiles – but what about when we’re actually deeply suffering? When we type out that “cry for help” status and erase it, because who knows what someone might say or do, we mirror ourselves against each other but we can’t live like that, we can’t PARENT like that – We live in a society that is so judgmental, opinionated and all together just MEAN; if we embraced every single hurting person out there – even just sat down and LISTENED, instead of casting them out like they’re some new kind of crazy – we’d see more people reach out for help, we’d see more people coming together recognizing the fact we are all human beings with real feelings and real problems instead of a “number on the scale” or number of “likes on a picture”- if we all let our flaws show, I don’t think this world would know what hit it.
See, this whole time I was suffocating under PPD- I never realized how unfortunately common it is, to not only have PPD but how common it is for those to suffer in silence. Did you know that 600,000 women get diagnosed with PPD EACH YEAR in the states alone?! And only 15% seek help? Now, that’s not including women who miscarried or whose babies were stillborn (YES they are just as susceptible) Since the CDC only estimates the live births- if you consider the 15% of the 6 million people who have verified pregnancies in the states each year, you’re looking at 900,000 women diagnosed each year. Not only that, but since its stated that only 15% of women with PPD actually seek/receive professional treatment- that means 850,000 women each year are not getting the help they need…hello?! Do you see that number? WAKE UP!
You know how many of those people could be suffering silently due to lack of awareness?! I’m so thankful to have this WHOLE month to roar loudly on this topic, to help new moms, old moms and moms who aren’t even moms yet.
This disease is REAL, this disease HURTS, and this disease can DESTROY.
So that being said, let’s prevent it, shall we? Let’s partner together as women to lift each other up in our lowest times instead of making one another feel ashamed or weak for what they’re going through. Help exists now let’s enlighten those suffering that it’s perfectly OKAY to have to rely on pills for a while to get yourself back on track, it’s OKAY to recognize you may need to spend sometime away, it’s OKAY to feel how you’re feeling and no it won’t last forever. I was on an anti depressant almost the second I opened up to my doctor and at first I was terrified about it. I was super hesitant- I remember spending hours reading labels, side effects, reviews, other people’s opinions… I felt silly that it had gotten so “bad” I was to the point of needing medication to help me function; but once I took the chance at it, within a couple weeks I had control again! Regaining that control was such a big step in my healing process, once that I accepted there wasn’t much more fighting I could do on my own and that I wasn’t weak because I needed that little orange pill and instead, I chose to recognize that it gave me a good chunk of my life back. I was able to let Zachy go for weekend excursions to his grandparents, I was able to take him into public environments and not concentrate on the germs that could be reaching him, I was able to FEEL something again that wasn’t doubt, sadness or anger. Something I didn’t do that I wish I did, was reach out to support groups or get legitimate treatment that involved counselling and was in an environment where other women were stuck where I was at, because I felt that I was casting enough negative judgment on myself that I didn’t need other people looking at me like I was nuts either- that feeling ALONE stopped me from pursuing them… however little did I know it probably would have sped up my recovery and I’d be in a different spot even today with a lot of new friends too. I will admit first hand I did not do everything perfectly within my recovery- I’m only human. However, the help I did receive worked for me, some people may need more and some people may need less- you can’t base your walk against someone else’s. We all have our skeletons and our stories are ALL different so doing that, is nothing but unfair to yourself.
To kind of wrap this up here, I get lost in the thought of God looking at Kyle and I, as he was creating this being of perfection and saying HERE, you two; broken, sin filled people- I chose you to be this boy’s parents… To raise him up as the man he’s most capable of being. Always keeping in mind he will one day become some one’s friend, some one’s husband, some one’s father… The phenomenon that is parenting is a whole new WORLD than what I expected but I find myself praying every single day that Kyle and I are able to light a path for him where he naturally radiates kindness, compassion and care for others as he grows and experiences life. That being said, I don’t know what we did right in life to have him be ours, like it really doesn’t make sense. However, being able to start every day with that beautiful smile and, “Hi mum mum, hug!” – saves me. It saves me every single day, because each morning I wake up and take that first breath, it’s for him. Everything I do now, each choice I make is for that little guy. I get up, I live my life, I conquer how I’m feeling; whatever it may be- and be the mother that little man deserves. PPD doesn’t define you, you are STILL an amazing mom, you are STILL an amazing woman, you are STILL loved, appreciated and valued as the incredible human being you are. I don’t care if someone has to write those words out and stick it to their mirror to remind them of those facts every single day- you are just as important, you are just as worth it and you are just as human as everyone around you. You are allowed to have terrible days, you’re allowed to cry, and you’re allowed to be imperfect… But I’m sure you have a child staring up at you the exact same way mine does- That love is unconditional and that love is REAL for their mama; and if nothing else is going to get you through the day, that will. Those little ones don’t know how much we owe them eh? You can always rely on their love; they’re so naive and it’s beautiful.
Still to this day, I can certainly say I’m still not back on two feet. I struggle with an ugly form of anxiety more now than ever before, but it’s just another bump in my path… I’ve had a couple life-rugs pulled out from underneath me when I’ve least expected it and I’ve wound up here…Now, where “Here” is, happens to be a long story that may just end up as another blog post one day. ;)
BUT I fought PPD and I won, so I will keep fighting and winning my battles because I have darn good reason to do so.
His name is Zachary Paul.