XO Jane – Post Partum PTSD

It Happened To Me: I Had Post-Partum PTSD. My twin boys were born by C-section at 27 weeks. I was desperately hoping for a third trimester, but failed.

Apologies for a post that is a bit of a downer on Father’s Day. But the goal of this blog (and all the other articles I write about parenting) is to celebrate our adorable muppets – and all we have gone through to get this far.

Today xoJane, an online women’s magazine, published my story.

xoJane.com is where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded. This is not the place to find out how to please your husband, mom, kids or boss. This is the place to indulge in what makes you feel good.

We are not snarky, but inclusive and uplifting, while remaining nothing but honest at all times. Like Sassy and Jane before it, xoJane.com is written by a group of women (and some token males) with strong voices, identities and opinions, many in direct opposition to each other, who are living what they are writing about.

I’ve shared with you (and the greater worldwide news viewing population) that I’ve suffered from depression for years.

I knew I was at risk for postpartum depression. I could feel the anxiety and panic attacks creeping up on me from the moment the REI (reproductive, endocrinology and infertility) nurse called me with the positive pregnancy test news.

“I really need this to go well,” I repeated to my family that Christmas of ’09. I hadn’t even had my first doctor appointment yet. Yeah. You all know where this is going…

I made the decision with my psychiatrist that staying on my anti-depressants was the best course of action for me and my child. Err…children. Especially after we said goodbye to Baby C.

By what can only be described as a miracle, none of the hospital nurses offed me in my sleep (I was not what you’d call a “calm and compliant” patient – please don’t mistake this as playing loose with my boys’ health, I was just determined to be an advocate for the three of us on bedrest lockdown).

And once the muppets arrived, my focus on their survival intensified.

I could not be bothered with four more days in the hospital for maternal “recovery.” I had no interest in IV drips, wheelchairs or bandage changes on my person. I was a mother now. The focus was on those tiny muppets fighting for life down the hall.

(This turned out to be a poor life decision as I quickly received an intimate lesson in uneven ratios of blood flow to the head after six weeks of horizontal living and the power of gravity.)

At no point would I allow myself time to grieve or acknowledge depression.

“Smile. It will make you happy,” is complete bullshit. As it turns out, so is, “I don’t have time for this.”

Postpartum PTSD most often affects preemie mothers whose children began their lives in critical condition. A study from Stanford University School of Medicine found that over half the parents whose babies were in the NICU for an extended period of time either had PTSD, or were at high risk for developing it.

Symptoms include:

  • Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event 
Surgery.
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places and details of the event
  • Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response)
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment

xoJane allowed me to share my story. One commenter noted,

The Aztecs compared childbirth to military combat, and pregnant women were considered the female counterparts of male warriors. Successfully giving birth was like taking a captive in battle—dying in childbirth was like dying in combat. I do not see the difference between being injured in labor and injured in combat. PTSD makes total sense.

PTSD wasn’t even on my radar — I wasn’t a soldier, I’d never been to war. But my entire being was focused on fighting for my babies’ lives. This was my own personal warzone.

2 Comments

Filed under Hospital, Prematurity

2 Responses to XO Jane – Post Partum PTSD

  1. megan

    Every time I read this post, I am chilled, and then awed. Your strength and courage is admirable. I feel lucky to call you a friend. Thank you for sharing something so intimate and heart wrenching.

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