This week, Kelly Thoele, a thirty-year-old mother to one-year-old Marley, shares the story of her postpartum adventures.
Long before she got pregnant, Kelly had a bad experience with depression when she was in high school and college. She started taking Lexapro when she was sixteen and weaned off it after about six years.
Looking back, Kelly’s problems started during pregnancy. She had some difficulty getting pregnant and then hated pregnancy when it finally happened. She had so much morning sickness, she puked forty times in one day! (Holy. Crap.) She felt guilty for hating pregnancy – wasn’t this what she wanted? – and was also exhausted because her job keeps her on her feet most of the day. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and Kelly can now see that she experienced pregnancy depression.
Kelly did not get the labor and delivery experience that she imagined. She assumed she would labor at home for as long as possible and daydreamed about having a magical experience. Instead, at the 20 week ultrasound, her daughter was underweight. At 39 weeks, her water broke but only a pinhole of a break. The doctors gave her Pitocin and broke her water.
Then things got worse.
Kelly felt horrible labor pains and needed an epidural. The baby crowned but after three pushes, alarms were going off. The doctors could not find the baby’s heartbeat. Ninety seconds and one emergency c-section later, Kelly’s daughter was born and thank goodness, she was a perfectly healthy baby.
It was difficult for Kelly to process her experiences. She was not prepared to have an emergency c-section and felt like she was in a fog. She had not researched the recovery process. Also, skin-to-skin contact with her newborn was delayed for several hours because of a few complications from the c-section. After that, Kelly was able to try breastfeeding but Marley would not latch. Kelly did not get any sleep in the hospital and basically, her experience was absolutely miserable.
Her mom came to visit which was a tremendous help; but then Kelly’s mom left and her husband went back to work at the same time.
Kelly was alone with the baby. Even diaper changes felt like a burden. She was not bonding with her baby. For example, Kelly kept saying “the baby” but would not refer to her daughter by name. Add this to your list of red flag behavior with postpartum mamas!
Kelly felt guilty. She compared herself to another sister who already had children and had bounced back from each of her pregnancies. Kelly, though, could not even go to the toilet by herself. This was a huge infringement on her sense of self and independence.
For the first six weeks of Marley’s life, Kelly hung out at home. She realized something was amiss. At her six week checkup, she met with the midwife in her doctor’s practice. The midwife screened Kelly for postpartum depression and anxiety but then sent Kelly home empty-handed. She said Kelly’s hormones were out of whack and needed some time to settle.
[Insert here an image of me striking my head against the wall.]
From six to twelve weeks postpartum, things went from bad to horrific. Kelly stopped responding to texts. She did not want to deal with people. She obsessed over the dishes and insisted the sink be kept in immaculate condition but did not care about the rest of the house being a mess.
Kelly had bad nightmares. She committed suicide in a dream and woke up crying because she was still alive. She knew that wasn’t a good thought but also didn’t want to be alive.
Kelly had terrible premonitions and got transported into terrible intrusive thoughts like seeing herself getting hit by a semi while driving her car. She also thought about not going home.
She slept horribly and would wake up feeling more drained than ever.
In the shower, she sobbed, trying to figure out what was wrong with her.
Then, in her Facebook feed, she saw something about the documentary When the Bough Breaks. Kelly watched the movie while nursing. Her jaw dropped. She identified with all the women. The husband of Kelly Martinez, a mom who committed suicide, shared his wife’s story. Hearing this man talk about “his wife Kelly” jolted Kelly to life. She did not want her husband to have to give that sort of interview about her someday. She wanted her baby to have a mom.
Kelly’s husband got home shortly after she finished watching When the Bough Breaks. Kelly was sobbing. She told her husband that she was worried that she was going to go from sad to inconsolable and actually do something to herself.
When the Bough Breaks lists the number for the Postpartum Support International warm line. And in case you need it, that number is:
At the end of the movie, Kelly called. Then she called her obstetrician for an appointment and told the nurse she did not want to kill herself. The nurse gave her an appointment for the next morning.
The obstetrician was awesome. She sat with Kelly for forty-five minutes and gave her a hug. At this point in her story, Kelly was 12 weeks and 4 days postparutm. The doctor put her back on Lexapro and this was the game changer. Days later, she felt better. Kelly became a person again.
Kelly’s work gave her four months maternity leave. Going back to work gave her a lot of anxiety but as soon as she got there, she felt welcomed and even rejuvenated. For the first time in four months, Kelly was needed for her brain. She was happy to have an identity outside of being Marley’s mom.
Breastfeeding was the hardest thing Kelly has ever done, but it worked, and she is still doing it. She even breastfed Marley during our interview! A lactation consultant helped Kelly solve a bunch of problems and once Kelly was on Lexapro, breastfeeding became easy.
At the beginning of her postpartum journey, Kelly did not see a therapist but she is seeing one now. She needed to get her chemicals organized and get her headspace back before therapy could be productive.
Before she got pregnant, Kelly was nervous that she might get postpartum depression. Her knowledge about postpartum depression was, however, limited to the sensational stories that make it to the news. She did not know about the spectrum of symptoms that exists between the baby blues and killing your baby. For example, she had no idea that rage can be part of maternal mood disorders.
Kelly wrote about her story for When the Bough Break’s Facebook page and you can read that piece right HERE.
This year, Kelly is leading Team Orlando for the Climb Out of the Darkness on June 23, 2018. Head over HERE to donate to her personal Climb or HERE to sign up for Team Orlando. You can learn more about the Climb Out of the Darkness right HERE.
Also, at the beginning of the episode, I read an excerpt from Graeme Seabrook’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up at The Postpartum Mama for Graeme’s weekly wisdom.