Today’s blog post is a little different than NK Creative Studios’ normal posts. While it still features photos by Nicole, the words are from a beautiful Mama of 2 telling her story about dealing with Postpartum Depression.
This is Angelika’s story.
I think like other mental illnesses, postpartum depression is filled with shame and embarrassment. Opening up and talking to people around me is what helped me get through it. It wasnʼt necessarily that they had also gone through it, but it was what helped me accept that I was going through it.
I am obviously not a doctor or a psychologist but I do believe that some of my postpartum depression was due to some PTSD from Audreyʼs traumatic birth. So I will share my birth story.
Audrey’s Traumatic Birth.
Audrey Elle Gillissie was born on December 15, 2018 at 1:40am. At birth, she was 8lbs 15oz and 21 inches long. She is healthy and we survived, but her birth was definitely not what I expected.
The birth of my first baby, Henry, had a couple normal complications (meconium, brief heart rate drop, 2 hours of pushing, antibiotics from potential infection, etc). So as the months approached to deliver Audrey, I was genuinely excited – not nervous at all. I even chose to deliver in Winchester because I love our family doctor and thatʼs where he delivers all his babies.
I thought I would have Audrey early … but I was 41 weeks when I went in for my fifth stretch and sweep at 4pm. I was 4cm dilated but baby girl was still quite high. We set an induction date for 48 hours later, but my doctor told me labor could start naturally anytime.
Within a couple of hours, I was incredibly uncomfortable and had Jordan start timing these contractions. We spent the evening playing with Henry, packing up our bags, and enjoying our last moments with Henry as an only child (all while having contracts about 5 minutes apart). After putting Henry to bed, my mother in law came and we headed for the hospital.
When we got checked in, I was still only 4cm dilated so the nurses werenʼt even sure they were going to keep me there, so they waited on calling my doctor. At 11pm, I walked the halls of the hospital for an hour and contractions were becoming extremely intense.
When we got back to labor and delivery (shortly after midnight) I had a few more intense contractions while bouncing on a yoga ball and then decided to go to the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet, I had another contraction, so I pushed (because thatʼs what my body felt like it should do) and my water burst! Jordan came in, called out to the nurses, they checked me again and I was 6cm. I asked for my epidural, and the nurse said sheʼd go call the anesthesiologist and my doctor.
By the time she came back in, I was writhing in pain! She checked me, and I was 8cm. She setup my IV for my “epidural”… 2 minutes later, I was 10cm dilated and it was go time. No epidural. I remember looking back at Jordan crying “I canʼt do this”. No pain management was not ever something I wanted.
So no epidural and no doctor… just me, Jordan and the 2 nurses, this was happening. I started pushing and I legitimately felt like I was on fire. Within a few seconds I knew something was wrong. I could hear it in their voices.
Within a few seconds, I knew something was wrong. I could hear it in their voices.
They started doing all of these maneuvers – flipping my legs over my head, pushing their whole weight down on the top of my belly, reaching their hand inside trying to grab her tiny shoulder that was stuck on my pubic bone… All while my body is still pushing.
After a few minutes, Audrey finally came out but I couldnʼt see her. I looked up at Jordan when the nurse urgently said “just cut the cord, cut the cord” to the other nurse as her voice was literally trembling. I just remember staring at him for what felt like forever waiting for Audrey to cry.
She finally let out a cry and I felt so relieved.
She was beautiful and perfect and more than I could have ever imagined. A few minutes later, my doctor walks in, with shock in his face over the commotion he had just missed. Nurses are quite capable to deliver babies on their own, clearly, but having Audrey get stuck and no doctor present was terrifying for everyone.
Just when things were starting to fall into place (nursing Audrey, relaxing etc), the look on the nurses faces changed again. They called back my doctor because I was bleeding an uncontrollable amount. The nurses and my doctor were “massaging” my uterus while I was passing plum-sized blood clots and screaming. Screaming as they pushed on my stomach and blood kept coming out. It was a different kind of pain. Possibly more painful than the labor.
Over the next few hours they gave me 3 different drugs to try and help contract my uterus to stop the bleeding. It was about 7am when I crawled back into the bed and the nurses came to push some more clots out and only then was I able to sleep for a couple hours.
My stomach/uterus was so bruised from having to push out all the blood and clots.
It hurt to sit.
It hurt to hold my baby.
It was awful.
I cried on and off pretty much all day.
I spent the night alone with Audrey in the hospital while Jordan went home to be with Henry. It was the best thing I could have done after such a traumatic birth/after birth of hemorrhaging. We cuddled all night.
For the weeks after Jordan and I continued to have “flashbacks”, moments we couldnʼt believe how scared we were. Our baby girl is healthy and thatʼs all we could ever ask for.
I remember right after giving birth to my daughter, Audrey, and feeling so lonely. I would try to talk to other moms about how I felt so overwhelmed and shameful, and hardly anyone told me they felt the same… which of course made it feel worse. I started questioning “why me?”… because of course all I wanted was to be happy.
I had a perfect little girl and my sweet boy. I should have felt over the flipping moon with happiness … but I couldnʼt stop crying. I couldn’t stop feeling anxious, alone, and sad for no reason.
I am so grateful that my fiancé, Jordan, was so compassionate and kept telling me that weʼd get through this time. He was my rock during all of this.
When I had Henry (almost 3 years ago), I had the “baby blues”. I would cry and cry for about a week, but it was literally for no reason, so it was easy for me to know it was hormones so I was able to move past it quickly.
I had separation anxiety after having both babies. With Henry it was pretty easy to deal with because I got to hold him ALL THE TIME. With Audrey, the separation anxiety was worse because I had a bigger baby (Henry) who needed me still, so I couldnʼt just hold her all day long. This made me very anxious.
**admitting this next part is the hardest part of writing this post**
Part of me began to feel a little resentment towards Henry for not allowing me to just hold my new baby. Which added more guilt to what I was already feeling. It was so hard. For the first time since bringing Henry into the world, there was someone else I loved just as much as him … and my heart didnʼt know how to handle it at first. It was as if I was grieving the relationship we had when he was an only child. I felt almost disconnected from him which literally broke my heart.
It was as if I was grieving the relationship we had when he was an only child. I felt almost disconnected from him which literally broke my heart.
Fast forward to Audrey being one month old … I hardly cried anymore and things got easier with Henry. I made sure to take a few moments everyday where it was just him and I, and this helped immensely. I was getting used to not carrying Audrey every minute.
At about 6 weeks postpartum, I didnʼt feel depressed anymore. I had hard, overwhelming days, but everyone does. I consider myself incredibly lucky my PPD only lasted 6 weeks. I remember being terrified that the feelings I had would last forever. I remember asking Jordan:
How am I supposed to be the mom I want to be if I feel like this forever?
There would be random moments where Iʼd feel light, literal light, as if I weighed less and the world was brighter. It would be so relieving. And then the darker, heavier feelings would come back. I still have bad days, but the good outweigh the bad.
This whole experience gave me so much empathy for women/men who face depression on a regular basis.
I will still claim that two kids is totally rocking my world. Moms are literally superheroes. Some days can be so damn hard. Being a Mom is hard, but so incredibly worth it. I love my babies so much.
I may have given them life but they really gave me a life I always dreamed of.
First off, I’d like to thank Angelika for taking the time to share her story with us. It was a very brave thing to do. I know how hard it is to share something like this (I shared my own personal story on the blog before).
We hope you enjoyed reading Angelika’s story.
If sharing our own stories about mental illness can help end the stigma and possibly help out someone who is going through something similar, then we should continue to share.
If you’d like to share your story on our blog, please reach out. I would love to feature your story!
PS, just know this …