Perfectly imperfect: a story of postpartum depression and recovery
My story... Perfectly Imperfect:
As I write this, dishes fill my sink, laundry piles up, toys cover the floors of more than two rooms in my house, lipstick stains my bathroom tile, and princess stickers attach to hardwood floors. Only four years ago, this would've sent me in a tailspin of panic and I wouldn't have been able to go to sleep without straightening up my home. Then, motherhood happened. For a self-proclaimed perfectionist and proud do-it-yourselfer, I wasn't one to ask for help. I prided myself on doing things myself and being the "superwoman." I attached my value to external praise and admiration for all of my pseudo- achievements. Well, leave it to motherhood to give a swift dropkick to all Type A tendencies.
My first pregnancy was both planned and unexpected, as are many pregnancies I'm realizing. I anticipated pregnancy to be much like everything else in my life: something I could excel at. What I quickly learned is how little control you have over outcomes of pregnancy and motherhood, in general. My daughter was breech and I was doomed to a C-section (dramatization mine). I can laugh about it now, but I felt like a failure at the time for not having a "normal" birth. A C-section coupled with difficulties sustaining breastfeeding exacerbated an already stressful time in my life when I was working 80+ hour work weeks as a new medical intern (think Grey's anatomy, but not as glamorous and less sex) Not to mention, I was across country from my closest friends and family. My perfect storm peaked into a textbook postpartum depression. The more I fought myself, the more myself fought back... and the worse it got. Thankfully, my mother and my husband supported me in getting the help I so needed and I made it through stronger than ever.
A couple years later, we started trying for baby number 2... it wasn't so easy this time around. After several months, I was finally pregnant. It was so exciting! I told my family, my friends, my boss, my husband's boss, etc... we just about announced it on facebook, but let's not get too carried away. Then, on January 31, 2015, I woke up to the worst pain I've ever experienced. My sheets were covered in blood. I ran to the restroom only to fall to my knees in pain and see more blood. I'm a doctor. I knew what was happening. I didn't want to believe it. I awoke my husband in a panic. "I think I'm having a miscarriage." I could barely get the words out before tears streamed down my face and my husband was now crying and holding me close. The only other time I had seen my husband cry was when he left for Iraq. My mind quickly flashed to this memory. Once again, a war was coming between us. A war with my body, a war with motherhood... it doesn't end.
Several months later, we were ready to try for a baby again. We quickly got pregnant with our second baby-- a BOY! We were so thrilled. Everything was going on well. Beyond the dreaded first trimester, I was feeling good. Healthy, energetic, glowing... until my 27 week check up. My OB noted that I was not gaining weight and the baby was measuring very small. He was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). Just like that, another curveball. I was consumed with self-blame. Did I cause this? Did I hurt my baby? Why is this happening? By the grace of God, some lifestyle interventions (hello 3000 calories and more naps!), a supportive husband and an amazing maternal-fetal medicine specialist, my son was born healthy and well and has grown into the healthiest, happiest baby boy.
I am now 7 months postpartum and can say that while I have my ups and downs like any mama, I have not been plagued by postpartum depression this time around. As a working mama, I endlessly feel the pull between work and family, but I have found a better balance. My mother remarked recently that I've "never been the same" since having my daughter. I wanted to reply: Yes mom, I'm not the same. I'm not the same crazy control clean freak. I'm not the same obsessive perfectionist. I'm not the same uptight rigid woman. And yes, that means my house is sometimes messy. I don't make dinner every night. I'm not the perfect doctor or perfect mother or perfect wife. Instead, I smiled inside and said, "You're right mom. I'm not the same."