It snuck up on me. Again. We were supposed to head home with our precious bundle, our first baby girl, instead we were staring at the bright glow in the corner of the room. She needed at least 24 hours under the lights and the last thing I expected was to feel it. You know, that feeling, the beginnings of the darkness.
My husband had brought our two boys to the hospital so we could all spend the day together. There were five of us in that tiny recovery room and I began to feel incredibly claustrophobic. Breastfeeding was a struggle, people were constantly in and out, and my sweet baby was stuck in a blue tanning bed. I began to feel hungry and thought it would be nice to get out of the room for a bit so I decided to take the boys down to the cafeteria.
Not even ten minutes into our little journey did I begin to panic. In the elevator the boys argued about who would push the button. In the cafeteria they ran around like maniacs. In the parking lot as we quickly ran to the car, my three-year-old refused to obey. My heart raced and my body hurt. Hurt from the quick delivery and hurt from the deepest part of me. That aching center that knows what comes next.
I began to cry. Right there in the hallway. Big, sad, crocodile tears. Here I was just days post-partum, walking was a challenge let alone keeping my emotions in check. I cried all the way back to our room and when my sweet husband saw us walk in, he quickly began to encourage me – asking what was wrong, though I imagine he knew.
You see, we’ve been here before. 2008 brought the birth of our second child. Along with that precious boy came one of the hardest times in my life. I would soon learn that not only did PPD plague me, but severe anxiety as well. Days went by in a blur, and though I knew I should be feeling far better than I did, blissful even (like I did after my first baby) the fact was I just plain didn’t. I would sit there on the couch in a daze, brand new life in front of me. A life I longed for and prayed about, yet I felt just incredibly awful – inside and out. Ridden with a crippling anxiety and feeling of utter bleakness, I had so much guilt I could barely stand it.
Blessed with an incredible (and I mean incredible) husband, a house, two cars, healthy boys and an amazing family – I couldn’t see past what was right in front of me. And what was right in front of me was dark and bleak and painful and heavy.
I would finally get the courage to seek help – not only through my doctor and medication but a truly wonderful community of friends. The process was slow, of healing. The journey is slow. The depression subsided some but the anxiety held on. I struggled to see past the day. I struggled to feel normal. My therapist encouraged me that anxiety comes along with PPD quite often, yet I felt odd and out of sorts. A feeling that would become a norm for me.
As the few years would pass, medication was a part of my daily routine. If I skipped it, I felt it. Immediately. We began to talk about having a third baby, but I was nervous. Scared, apprehensive, and yes, anxious. When we had decided to wait a year and prepare for a huge life change (husband quitting his well grounded, safe job and joining me in the photography business) we were surprised with that baby #3. Yes, on his last day of work I saw those two pink lines.
Fear overtook me. When I say overtook me I mean absolutely smothered me. We were now uninsured, and though we had a handful of sessions, weddings, and mentoring booked, we felt felt a bit unemployed. Not only that but pregnancy is not easy on me – horrible morning sickness, pre-term labor, and bed rest were in my history.
As expected I was sick. Sicker than sick. I began to really worry about how I could work (as the main shooter, hubbie was going to be doing all the admin work) being as sick as I was. I lay in bed day after day, struggling to eat and struggling to live. A new aching came over me. It was familiar and scary at the same time. Those are some of the darkest moments of my life. Moments and days and weeks and months I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I saw life through blurred eyes. There was a healthy, growing baby within me and it took everything in me not to wish it away. I would soon learn that there is such a thing as perinatal PPD and I had it, oh did I have it.
Our worries would come true and the business took a plunge. I couldn’t book another session to save my life. Our wonderful plan, our perfect leap of faith teetered on the brink of failure and so soon after we’d made it! I was humiliated. I was worried. I was so incredibly disappointed. We were now facing big, bad decisions. Scary ones. We had our own business in an economy that wouldn’t support it. The photography industry was changing and we couldn’t keep up with all of the others out there offering what we were offering for half the price. We realized the business wouldn’t flourish, with as sick as I was and an impending bout of bed rest. My husband tried to get his job back to no avail. My depression deepend and on a warm day in July we solemnly packed our belongings and moved an hour east to live with my inlaws.
The course of my pregnancy would find us having lost our home, our family vehicle, our insurance, our business and our peace of mind. I hid away. I was embarrassed and struggling daily.
So as the birth of our wee girl approached I prepared. I knew PPD (and anxiety) could be around the corner, especially after such a stressful pregnancy. I hoped beyond hope that I’d avoid it, and thought that having dealt with it before I’d be able to ‘handle it better’.
This wouldn’t be the case however. That day in early January in the hospital cafeteria proved so. As my husband took the boys home that evening and I stared bleakly at the glow of the blue lights covering my sweet girl, my heart just plain sank. I felt what little energy I had slip away and the next morning would ask for an Rx of my precious Prozac again.
Eight weeks have passed and I’d like to say I’m on the mend. Each day is a new struggle, though some are definitely better than others. The events of 2011 changed me, they changed us. This PPD is different than what I experienced in 2008, but it still hurts, and it is still hard.
I find one of the most difficult things is feeling so isolated in this. Though of course I know I’m not, I know so many friends struggling with it right along side me, it is still difficult. Feeling as though I carry this giant sign that says “I have PPD and anxiety” and the weight of that is so heavy. Certain things will trigger me and I have to really work hard at overcoming it.
The birth of spring, just around the corner gives me hope. As weather warms and flowers bloom, I feel the anticipation of good things ahead. I have such wonderful amazing friends and family, a husband that though he doesn’t understand this, does his very best to encourage and uplift me – and for them I am eternally grateful.
Each day is a new gift, and I’m doing my best to see it as that. Walks in the sun with my baby girl, getting out for coffee with a friend, shooting for myself, even taking a long hot shower in the evenings knowing the pitter patter of little feet won’t interrupt. These are helping, healing me. Slowly, but surely.
PPD (and anxiety for me) has become a part of me and a piece of this puzzle that makes me the woman I am today. I hope that someday in the future I can use the difficulties I’ve faced to help another. If I do, if I can encourage someone else that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it will all be worth it.
Angie Warren is a writer & photographer living in northern California with her husband, two sons, and brand new baby girl. She shares her heart & images on her own personal blog . a lover of film & digital, Angie shoots with varying mediums and aims to document the big & little moments in her life.