Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mother's Day Reflections and Postpartum Depression

The response I got from my last post (Peace, Love, & War) was overwhelming. I had so many kind messages from friends, family, and strangers. I had several people message me privately to tell me about their own struggles dealing with a loved one that was struggling with TBI, PTSD, as well as physical ailments. That post did everything I wanted it to and more. I am so proud of Nick for being so brave, and allowing me to share his story with my little corner of the internet.

Mother's day was this past Sunday, and I always do a lot of reflecting on that day. Honestly, I didn't want to be a mother.

I was a Marine, and I had big aspirations of staying in the Marine Corps, and eventually retiring. I felt like children would get in the way of that. When I met Nick, I distinctly remember telling him, "if you want kids one day, then I'm not your girl!" Because I'm so charming and irresistible (kidding), he was ok with that. Except, after we got married, we weren't exactly trying to prevent pregnancy. I even blurted out (after drinking) that I changed my mind and wanted kids. So we did what people do to get pregnant. Then I got pregnant, and I was devastated. I was on recruiting duty at the time, and that duty had no room for motherhood. I was working insane hours, and under a ton of stress. But, Dannika made her appearance in July of 2009.
photography: Melissa Lyn Photography in Temecula, CA
I'd like to tell you a happy baby story of how overwhelmingly joyous our home was with this new baby, but it wasn't. I put up a facade on social media about how "blessed" we were, and how we were so over the moon with our new bundle of joy. In fact, when I go back and read the earlier blog posts from 2009 from when Dannika was born, I feel like such a fraud.

As a Marine, I got 6 weeks of maternity leave, and Nick got a whopping 10 whole days of paternal leave (leave time for both parents is a lot longer now). That first day Nick went back to work, I had a panic attack. Being responsible for taking care of this baby all by myself with no help terrified me. I felt unqualified to be a mom, and was completely overwhelmed. I would impatiently watch the hours go by until Nick would be home. Around 3 in the afternoon, I was flooding Nick's phone with a barrage of texts asking him what time he was leaving work. I know I stressed him out. We were both stressed out, but for very different reasons.
I wasn't cut out for this, and I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. When my 6 weeks of maternity leave came to an end, I experienced another turmoil of emotions. I was happy to be getting back to work, but I was feeling an immense amount of guilt about dropping my 6 week old infant off at daycare. "I'm a terrible mom. What kind of mom drops an infant off with practically a stranger for 10 hours a day?!" While feeling the guilt of dropping my baby off, I was also feeling guilt from feeling happy to get some reprieve from "mommy duties". I felt guilty about being excited to get back to work. It's a lose/lose situation, ladies.

Nick deployed to Afghanistan when Dannika was just 6 months old, and that was just another disaster of a deployment for me.
Dropping Nick off at 2AM at the armory for deployment. I got no good pics. I was a hot sobbing mess.

I managed to survive the 7 months he was gone, but survive is all I did. I was "the worst deployment wife" ever. On the rare occasions that Nick would get to call me, I would just sit on the phone and cry. I'd cry to him about how awful recruiting duty was. I'd cry to him about mom guilt. I'd cry about Dannika. I'd cry about the sleepless nights...the lonely nights. I'd cry to him about everything. This is not what a deployed husband wants to hear from his wife. My eating disorder got out of hand during that deployment. I felt like my life was falling apart, so I decided to control my eating. I counted everything I ate. I was taking laxatives. I was taking diet pills. My OCD was out of control. In fact, when Nick saw me for the first time at his homecoming, he was shocked (not in the best way) at how thin I was.
I was so thin. My hair was actually falling out.
When I look back at that deployment, I feel a lot of guilt for the way I treated Nick.

As any military wife knows, the reintegration after a long separation is almost harder than the actual deployment/separation itself. Having Nick back home just put a band aid on my own issues. After the "honeymoon phase" was over, life kept moving on. My struggles with being a mom was rearing its' ugly head into our marriage. I was also being sexually harassed at work, and trying to navigate the legal aspects of that. The stress of that exacerbated everything else that seemed to be crumbling in my life. I started going to therapy to deal with my panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
I wish I would have seen a therapist sooner, because I could have gotten the help I needed with PPD sooner. It would have made coping with Nick's deployment and my job so much more manageable. At the time, I blamed everything on recruiting duty and the stresses that came with it. Looking back, my postpartum depression made the stresses of new motherhood, deployment, and work even worse than they already were.

I feel guilty sometimes, because I didn't enjoy motherhood to the fullest extent for the first year and a half of my daughter's life (by no fault of her own). When I look at her today, I am so overwhelmed at how amazing she is. I can't help but thank God for not allowing me to "royally screw her up" (lol...sorta). To know her is to love her. As cliché as that sounds, it's the truth.
Reunited with daddy after 7 long months! She was 6 months old when he left, and 13 months when he came home!
Dannika today.
When it came time for my son to be born, I knew the signs of PPD that I needed to watch out for. My doctor actually recommended that I take antidepressants before his birth since I had a history of PPD. I didn't take them, because I was paranoid about taking medications while pregnant. I should have listened to my doctor though, and taken them. I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps, and was dealing with "transition stress". Adding pregnancy hormones and postpartum hormone fluctuations to that was a disaster. Nick and I had some really big struggles during that time in our marriage. It was a combination of a lot of things, but having a history of anxiety, depression, and PPD, I should have been on medication.

It took a lot of therapy and a whole lot of Jesus to get to where I am today in my life as a wife and a mother. Those times were not good times, and I wanted to give up a lot. Nick and I almost separated during that time.
My mom (God bless her) wouldn't let me, and basically forced me to stay and work it out. That experience (as awful as it was) really strengthened my faith. When you hit rock bottom, and have nothing else to cling to, Jesus is always there. I'm a better mom today because of it. I post all the good stuff on my social media of my kids and my family. I like to document the happy times. Someone told me that social media is like scrapbooking. You don't put the ugly photos in a scrapbook. I hope people see through my blog that our happiness has not come without a lot of struggles, a lot of rock bottoms, and a lot of redemption. We have our days still, but they haven't been quite as bad as in the past. I'm sure rough days are ahead, but for now, I choose joy. I choose to live in the moment, and enjoy all that motherhood brings me.

Mother's Day 2019

And just for good measure, here's a newborn photo of my second baby...Mattis Mark Vincent

photography: Rebecca Deaton Photography of Natick, MA

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