When they first laid that 7-pound baby girl on my chest, I didn’t immediately have all those butterflies and that rush of huge feelings that everyone told me would come. I was so out of it from all the Pitocin, pain meds and exhaustion that I really didn’t feel much at all. But let’s back up a bit and I’ll share the story of my first-born and my (first) battle with postpartum depression.
Ty and I knew when we first got married that we wanted to have babies right away. Our wedding day was everything be wanted it to be, even though there were snags and hiccups and the food sucked (read more about that HERE). But I knew I’d married my best friend. We honeymooned in Hawaii and it was a dream. On the island of Kauai we rented a convertible and had an absolute blast. Our Hawaiian honeymoon could be a post itself, so I’ll spare you the details for now and get back to the story at hand – the one who made me a mama, my sweet Nora Ann.
After we got back from our honeymoon, we moved into the house that we live in now. It was exhausting, so freaking hot but so rewarding. I adore our home and will share more about it (someday) in another blog! The fall after Ty and I were married, I had started my second year teaching high school biology at the local high school. I was the head high school volleyball coach, up to my eyeballs with lesson plans, trying to figure out how to navigate my second year of teaching. I also found out that fall that I was going to be the head track coach the following spring.
We pretty much started trying to get pregnant right away. Like I said before, we knew we wanted to have kids after we got married. Low and behold, November rolled around and after taking 109 pregnancy tests throughout the fall (that number is a partial exaggeration), we found out we were pregnant. It was a few weeks before Thanksgiving, which made things very interesting. Every year at Thanksgiving we go to my aunt’s in Salina, Kansas. We drink a lot of wine. I was trying to figure out how we were going to hide my pregnancy because I’ve always enjoyed quite a bit of wine at Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law Carrie knew I was pregnant, so at least one other person in the room knew.
Let’s just say Thanksgiving was hilarious that year because every single glass of wine I was poured, Ty quickly chugged it after I took a “pretend” sip. He drank so much wine I had to drive us home that night. I still giggle thinking about that day. Carrie was the only other one who knew what was going on, and there’d be times comments would be made that we made eye contact and hope no one figured it out.
We told our parents at the beginning of December in 2015. Our moms were elated and of course our dads we proud but didn’t hoop and holler like our moms did. We had our first doctor’s appointment on December 20, 2015 – exactly one year after we got engaged. I was SO relieved after our first appointment; we heard a strong heartbeat, I was feeling really good and I felt like we could finally share our pregnancy joy. I never understood the anxiety an expecting mother has with every single appointment until I was pregnant myself.
By the time our first appointment rolled around, I was having an incredibly hard time hiding my bump so I was relieved to be able to wear my “normal” clothes again, and not big, flowy tops that hid my baby bump. A few of my coworkers had begun to wonder if I was expecting but none had said anything. I was just so relieved to not hide it anymore. I fully embraced dresses during pregnancy too…who has time for pants?!
The spring semester of teaching progressed and track practice started. As the days got warmer, I was having a hard time keeping my swelling down. The swelling in my ankles first started with Nora around 27 weeks. It was the beginning of track practice in March and I had to literally sit in a lawn chair with my feet propped up. By the end of track season, I was miserable. Literally everything was swollen – my legs, arms, lips…you name it. I had gained almost 50 pounds by 30 weeks. I am 5’3” so the extra weight quickly started to wear on my joints. State track rolled around at the end of May in 2016, I was over 200 pounds, retaining water and incredibly miserable. (I hadn’t officially been diagnosed with preeclampsia, but I was showing signs that other symptoms would start to appear). I remember walking to go to the bathroom at the state track meet and I genuinely heard people groan for me as I hefted my tiny little frame with my ginormous belly and swollen limbs up the stairs of Cessna Stadium in Wichita. When I got home from state track, I remember lying in our adjustable bed with the feet propped up as high as I could. My feet literally looked like I had congestive heart failure.
I started going to weekly appointment at the beginning of June, not long after the state track meet was over. My blood pressure had started to elevate, but nothing super concerning, yet. I wasn’t much help that year during wheat harvest; I napped a lot and had my feet propped up almost the entire time. We finished wheat harvest that year a few days before the 4th of July. Ty, our dogs Vito and Zoe, and I decided not to go with the rest of our family to Garden City on July 4th. I had had a premonition that I was going to have her early, I just didn’t know how early and I didn’t want to be too far away in case I went into labor.
We spent the day on July 4th hanging out at home, rode our side by side to the few pastures we have near our house and checked cattle. It had rained a TON and there was water everywhere. Zoe and Vito ran beside us the entire time until we were almost back to the house. Zoe came back up to the porch with us, but Vito was lagging behind. We figured he would make it back eventually. About two hours after we got back into the house, Ty and I noticed Vito wasn’t back yet. We went out looking for him, yelling his name and nothing. We looked for 15 minutes before Ty found Vito lying in the lawn beside the corrals on our farm. He wasn’t moving, laying flat on his side. He had died. I don’t think that Ty or I thought he was going to die that hot, Monday on the 4th of July…but there we were, a week or so away from having our first baby, and our pup, our first “kid,” was dead. He was only 3 years old. Ty’s sister is a vet and she thought he probably had a heart attack. Apparently big barrel chested dogs, like Dobermans, are prone to early death because of heart issues.
We buried Vito the next day. I don’t know who cried harder that week – Ty or me. Vito went to work every day with Ty. He ran beside the ranger while Ty irrigated and now he was gone. We had a rough week that week, until Ty got home from irrigating on Friday night and I told him I hadn’t been feeling good. I had been watching the Olympic trials for gymnastics and every time one of the gymnasts would do a routine, I would start seeing little stars. I told him I was going to take a shower and see if I felt a little better. We had had an appointment earlier that day and my doctor had said he wanted to see me again the following Monday. I showered, and then decided to take my blood pressure because I kept seeing stars and just knew something wasn’t right. BP = 180/125. Oh wow, that wasn’t good, I remember thinking. Ty was taking a shower, so I waited until he got out and took it again. 192/130. I called the on-call nurse and she told me that we needed to get to labor and delivery.
I was 39 weeks at the time, so Nora was fully cooked, I just was a nervous, first time mother. We went to the hospital, and they checked my cervix. I wasn’t even dilated, but my blood pressure was skyrocketing. It was 11pm. They put me on both Pitocin and magnesium; the Piticon to induce labor, the magnesium to keep my BP down. It was awful. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, and after 4 hours on both medications, the nurse checked me. I was at a 1, and she said, “I was being generous.” A different nurse came in and told me we had the option of a c-section. I was too scared of that at the time and told her I would try a while longer.
Throughout the next few hours, I kept hoping that I would dilate. Nurses came and kept checking me; I never moved past a 1. At 8am or so, the doctor came in and asked if I wanted an epidural. I gladly accepted. He came back in around 11am. He gave Ty and me two options: I could stay on the magnesium and Pitocin for another 3 hours, or we could go ahead with a c-section. By this time I had been on so much medicine for so long, I was absolutely miserable. I’m not kidding you when I say that I wouldn’t wish magnesium on my worst enemy – that shit is THAT bad.
Ty and I decided it was best for our baby to go ahead with a c-section. I honestly do not remember much of it, other than getting a spinal block, Ty was gowned up in full surgical gear, and when the docs finally pulled her out, we noticed her big, beautiful lips. She has always had full, beautiful lips. They put her on my chest right after she was born while they were sewing me up. She was covered in gunk, but still cute. I remember wanting and hoping to get that wave and rush of feelings, and they didn’t come. I knew I loved this little piece of me that was laying on my chest…but the overwhelming, over the moon, exaggerated feelings I had been expecting were missing. They wheeled us out to the recovery room (we had to deliver in the hospital’s general OR because the OR in the delivery unit had a broken AC). I remember shaking so, SO bad from all of the medicine that I felt like I was in the polar ice caps.
Ty was busy snapping pictures of us and excitedly texting everyone in his phone, I think. Then next 24 hours were a blur. Nora didn’t take to nursing very well; they put me on Percocet, which I quickly found does not agree with me. I started hallucinating when my parents and in-laws came to visit. I remember being so frustrated that Nora wouldn’t nurse well. Honestly the hospital experience, the first time, was not great for me. I didn’t feel the connection to Nora like I wanted to, I was annoyed at visitors, and I just wanted to sleep. I loved that sweet baby girl but my heart was frustrated. The nurses did a fantastic job, but being a mama already proved to be hard work.
We finally left the hospital and headed home, after 5 long days in the hospital. We actually spent our first anniversary in the hospital. We had to stay in longer than expected because I had a c-section. I was sore, but one silver lining was that I had lost quite a bit of water weight in the process; 30 pounds to be exact. I finally felt somewhat comfortable for the first time since I had started swelling at 27 weeks.
The first few days of Nora’s life my attitude and feelings actually improved some. I loved snuggling with her and she seemed to be a fairly easy baby. My mom spent a solid 8 days with us, and I never realized how much help I was going to need around the house until I got sliced in half during my-section. What I thought was the beginning of “baby blues” started to hit me when my mom was getting close to going home. Ty was incredibly busy irrigating that summer and my mom was pretty much my lifeline. I got tearful for the first time the night before my mom was supposed to go home. I remember her telling me that she was surprised I hadn’t gotten emotional before then. She didn’t mean it in a negative way, she was just glad that I hadn’t struggled from the get go. Looking back now I think I was so worn out from the delivery experience that I didn’t really have time to be anxious or depressed because my mom was there helping me.
The day my mom left, I remember standing at the front door with my little seven-pound baby and bawling like a baby myself. I was new to breastfeeding and didn’t realize when you cry, your milk lets down. I’m a milk cow the way it is, so when I was bawling because my mom left, it made it even worse.
The next couple weeks I started to struggle. I was incredibly short with my husband and my mother in law…actually I was short with pretty much anyone who was around me. I was terrified to go anywhere because I didn’t want to nurse in public or have anyone touch her. I remember going to the county fair that summer and being so protective over Nora. I didn’t want anyone to come near her or me. I walked all the way back to our pick up to nurse her because I didn’t know how to comfortably nurse in public (thank God that has changed!). Nursing was actually so stressful for me that there was actually a time when I thought about quitting because I couldn’t handle it. Thinking back to it now, the crazy emotions I was feeling were normal, but the constant crabbiness and straight up bitchiness was definitely the beginning of my battle with postpartum depression.
Nursing actually did get a little easier as the months went on but i knew my mind still wasn’t in the right place. The rest of 2016 was hard for me and my normal postpartum emotions started to take a turn for the worse – I was beginning to have thoughts of harming myself and, it pains me to even type this, sometimes I even thought harming Nora. I NEVER actually thought of HOW to hurt her, but the fact that I even THOUGHT about it makes me sick to my stomach. Keep in mind while reading this; I sought counseling throughout the entire postpartum ordeal, and it takes guts to share what I’m sharing with you all.
I knew in my heart I never actually hurt Nora or myself; I truly believe that my faith in God got me through. Sometimes I just longed to put her to bed and drive away from it all. I couldn’t handle the stress of having this little human depend on me all the time. I wanted my selfish old ways back. Instead of facing my demons and trying to get myself out of this negative thought cycle, I started to online shop. Thankfully Nora was an amazing sleeper and was only up 1-2 times a night from the get-go (unlike my other two, who didn’t sleep great). Whenever I would get up to feed Nora, I would take my phone and absentmindedly online shop. I’m not talking once or twice that this happened, I’m talking every single time I got up to nurse her. Every single night I was buying something different online, whether it be from Amazon or Lularoe or Target.
It became a very bad habit. I literally had my credit card number memorized. I didn’t even have to get my card out because I knew all the information from it and I used it, at least twice a night and once during the day, every day. I tried to hide that fact from Ty, another reason I knew this was part of my postpartum depression, because I was shutting him out and not being open and honest with him. We finally had a very frank discussion about our credit card bill and I had no excuse for all the money I had spent while taking nursing Nora at night. More on that in a future blog.
One saving grace that I had happened to me one afternoon in November after I took Nora to her four-month appointment. We went to her check up in Hays and afterward, I grabbed a coffee drink, loaded Nora up in the cart and started to stroll the aisles of Hobby Lobby. I happened to walk by the jewelry-making aisle and saw the supplies to make jewelry. I’ve always loved to accessorize, but I’m not one to spend an absorbent amount of money on any jewelry, because chances are styles will change, or I will lose the jewelry itself. I decided to buy some supplies that day to start making jewelry at my kitchen table.
Little did I know, when I started to advertise on my personal social media that my little business, Little Mama Jewels, would take off and I would soon be swimming in orders. I sold jewelry to people all over the United States and had a pretty awesome following. Thankfully, most have stuck with me in my Facebook group and still partake in the world of Kayla Josefiak and this blog that I love so much.
I absolutely loved making jewelry. After I’d put Nora down in the evenings, I would sit at our kitchen table and make jewelry for hours. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings…it was such a release for me. I could just absentmindedly make necklaces and not worry about anything. It was great…until it wasn’t. I’m not going to dive into details but there were some people who weren’t happy that I decided to start my own little business. I never did it to “push anyone out of business” or start drama. I couldn’t care less about making money off the deal – it was my therapy. It saved my life, and my sanity. Little Mama Jewels stopped me from hurting my young daughter or myself. It gave me purpose at a time when I didn’t know what was happening in my mind.
Life slowly got back to “normal” when Nora was about six months old. I continued therapy, was on medication, was swamped with LMJ orders and my attitude toward my husband was so much better. There were times I was such a bitch to him in the beginning of Nora’s life, I don’t know why he kept me around. It goes to show how important a steady partner is in marriage. Even when he didn’t understand my anxieties, stressors or feelings, he was ALWAYS there…loving both Nora and me. I always tell myself that God gave me the cross of depression and anxiety at a very young age to help me deal with my postpartum depression. Had I not gone through what I did in high school, I hate to think what I would have done after having Nora.
I chuckled earlier as I typed “Life slowly got back to normal” because when Nora turned 7 months old, I found out I was pregnant with Mila Joy. I remember wondering how in the hell I was going to love two babies, when Nora was only 7 months old…and I remember wondering how in the hell I got pregnant while breastfeeding. (Both turned out ok, I’d say).
So this is where I will leave you…a small glimpse into my first bouts with postpartum depression. There will be more to share as the months go by, but for now…I’m so glad for a strong support system, the steady rock that is my husband, and three healthy and beautiful babies who I love so much. Stay tuned, I’ll share more adventures of motherhood soon.
If you, or someone you love, is experiencing issues with general or postpartum anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide, please do not hesitate to reach out to a medical professional; text 741741 when in crisis, available 24/7 in the United States; or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255.