And I will fix you…

My daughter fell asleep in my arms tonight.  This may seem like an insignificant fact to most of you, but I wept as it happened.

When my son was born I never in a million years thought I’d be struck by a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD).  It made my life hell.  I had a lot of difficulty bonding with him and always struggled with the fact that he often seemed happier with other people than with me.  Family would meet him and gush about how in love they were with him and I felt stone cold.  It was a horrible feeling that I buried deep inside of me, ashamed and embarrassed.  I didn’t know how to connect with him and didn’t know how to instinctively respond to his needs which made me feel like a failure as a mother.  I started having anxiety attacks when he was about 4 months old.  The smallest thing would trigger it; but there were good days too.  After a few nights of good sleep I felt better and more in control, I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong and that I just wasn’t the mother I expected to be.  I never sought help.

Needless to say, with all of the anxiety, I was in no way prepared to think about having another child, so I was somewhat taken aback when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.  I went over my charts hundreds of times and couldn’t figure out where I had misinterpreted them, but I placed my worries in God’s hands.  A few weeks into my pregnancy I started spotting off and on.  Having miscarried before I was really scared I was going to lose this child as well.  After some tests the doctors discovered I had a subchorionic hemorrhage, a small pocket of blood trapped under the placenta, but that it wasn’t going to be an issue.  Ever the same, every time I spotted again I feared I would lose my baby.

A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant I went to visit my sister who was a nun at the time.  I had barely greeted her when she took me aside and asked if I was pregnant.  God had put it in her heart from the time I’d conceived that I was expecting another child.  Much to my surprise, another Sister approached me later that day and also asked if I was pregnant.  She had had a dream a few days before that I had come to the convent with a 4 month old baby girl.  When we did the math we realised the next time I would come for a visit, my expected child would be 4 months old.  I knew at that moment I was having a girl, and I knew that God would bring her to term and He had a very special plan for her.

As the pregnancy progressed, the PPMD worsened.  My sister-in-law had a baby, and I remember her holding him, snuggled up in a ball on her chest and her saying how much she loved him, how it didn’t matter that he kept her up at night, she was just so over the moon to have him.  I remember a combination of jealousy and shame go through me.  That feeling of love was still was so unfamiliar to me.

The day my daughter was born everything changed.  Actually, the exact moment.  The instant I pulled her up out of my body and into my arms I felt a love I had yet to experience with my son.  As the weeks wore on I understood that look in a new mother’s eyes when she talks about her newborn child.  While exhausted, I patiently got up with her, fed her, and comforted her.  She was obsessive about sleeping in my arms, it was the only place for awhile I could get her to sleep.  And she always had to sleep upright, head on my shoulder or chest.  My son has never done this.  Not with me anyway.  I remember longingly watching him fall asleep in my mom’s or sister’s arms, even a friend’s, curled up in a little ball, head snuggled in just under their chins.  Anytime I held him like that he screamed and pushed me away.

As the weeks wore on and the PPMD began to fade, I felt like I was coming out of some deep sleep I’d been in for the past year and a half.  I began to find myself again, but as the sun lit up the dark corners in my life it revealed the wreckage that my former self had left behind.  I saw how my family walked on eggshells around me, afraid to do the slightest thing lest I lose it on them, I saw how far I had pushed friends away, how much I had isolated myself, how I had put my faith on the backburner, but the most painful loss in all of it was my relationship with my baby boy.

I have no fond memories of his first few months, I remember challenges and fights.  My son rarely snuggled with me, rarely came to me for comfort.  I don’t know if I’ll ever know how much of his behaviour is his personality and how much of it is a result of my inability to respond to him.  I’ve worked really hard on fixing the mistakes I made.  He now does come to me when he hurts himself.  He asks specifically for me now over others, and while I’m not always thrilled with his sudden attachment to me, I hope he now understands that his mommy loves him.

Which brings me to today.  It’s been a rough day today.  Isaac is getting over a bad cold and Sofia seems to be picking it up.  They’ve both been hanging off me today and there’s been a lot of tears, so I was pretty relieved when they went to bed.  Usually Sofia goes to sleep with nary a whimper.  However she was crying and crying, so after my husband gave up on trying to soothe her I went in.  If this had been my son at 1 year old, I would have gone in, angrily told him to be quiet and shut the door behind me while feeling my heart pounding madly and the oxygen choke out of my lungs, desperate to leave the room before I felt like I wanted to pick him up and throw him into a wall.

My response was different this time.  I walked in quietly, rubbed her back and sang to her.  When she still kept crying I picked her up, checked her for a fever and gave her the milk she hadn’t finished at dinner.  She first refused it, but eventually gave in and drank.  She then snuggled herself into my arms and I rocked her until she fell asleep, upright as always, head on my shoulder, in my arms.

I didn’t want to move.  I didn’t want to leave the room or put her down.  I didn’t want that moment to end.  As I held my daughter, tears streamed down my face.  I always knew God had a special plan for her.  I never imagined it was to heal me.

“‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”
  — 1 Corinthians 2:9


Posted on July 18, 2012, in Catholic and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Thank you for such beautiful and honest sharing of such difficult experiences. I hope and pray that your story may bring comfort and hope to other women going through PPMD, and help friends and family of women suffering to understand and support them in what they are going through.

  2. Thank you Mama J for sharing.

    My wife also is beginning to get ot of PPMD and it has been a tough, trial and desert time for us all. God is glorified when we are satified with Him in everything was a thought that help us battle for His glory and our joy in this period.

    Our doctor recommended me to take Eloise, our one week shy 4 months daughter, for a 3 hours walk everyday, time we used to praying, and make sure that I pick her up every morning from 4-8 making sure, Lea, my wife get enough sleep. It is helping a lot and she is getting better and better each day.

    We Christian do go through depressions but we know we are victorious in Christ, and know everything works for good for those who loves Him.

    Thank you for sharing and pray that Christians mothers will read and be encouraged.

    In Christ,

    • I’m glad your wife is doing better, PPMD can be so hard on a marriage. You both took the first best step in seeing that she needed help, something I was always too embarrassed to do. A break in the day and some extra sleep can do a world of wonders! It takes a lot of humility I think to acknowledge that we can’t control our feelings, but His “grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will keep you and your family in my prayers!

  3. Hi Mama J, thank you for your very honest article. I had PPMD with my second daughter. It was horrible and I lashed out at my husband and family for not understanding or helping me when I felt so desperate. I think most people don’t understand how depressing and awful it is. I’m pregnant with my third (surprise baby), and was in hospital yesterday to get more fluid and stop my vomiting (morning sickness and a virus). I am fearful of how I’ll cope when this child is born, my children will be 5yrs old and a 22month old. I hope in my heart it won’t be the same as the last birth. My husband has become very supportive, and I feel bad at times for him, but love him for his support. My biggest craving is emotional support, and I feel if you can get that then it really helps. Having an understand ear, that is non judgmental and trusting.
    I crave for more writings like this because it makes you feel like you aren’t alone and helps you relate.I wish this was true in real life, rather than just in a blog. But that will do for now, I guess.

    God bless you and your beautiful family, and your beautiful honest heart that you expressed in your words above,

  4. Thank you for this article and for your honesty and courage and for sharing.

  5. Thank you for telling your story – it personalizes such a difficult condition.

    BTW, research has shown that postpartum depression as well as miscarriage can be treated and prevented with the use of the hormone progesterone. Many physicians are not familiar with the research, so do not offer it to women. It is definitely worth checking out! and

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I am truly sorry for your family and your struggles with PPMD. I have been battling PPMD for about 9 months now. I had a beautiful baby girl almost a year ago next Wednesday. I am thankful that I did not have the detachment issues with her but I have suffered from extreme paranoia, anxiety, and depression. I had a miscarriage four months ago, which has sent me in another tail spin, but I am better than I was 3 months post-partum with my daughter. I appreciate you sharing your story. It is hard to find Catholic resources on this issue, and while my priest is awesome, he has very liittle experience with PPMD. I am trying to educate him on it so that he will be able to help other women who are suffering. My mother had PPMD after my youngest sister was born, so I knew the signs. I did go to my doctor and I see a psychologist, as well as discuss it with my spiritual director, mom friends, and my husband. I found the more I bottled up how I was feeling the worse my symptoms would get. I still have moments throughout the day, but it is not all day anymore. I also saw someone post about using hormone treatments. You have to be very careful when using hormones. They come with an increased risk of breast cancer and other female specific cancers. That is why I have stayed clear of them. It is better for a woman with PPMD to see her doctor and if symptoms are severe enough, to look at mood stabilizers i.e. Zoloft, Prozac (not with nursing), Paxil, etc. and to see a counselor, as well as a spiritual director. God bless.

    • The hormone treatment protocol & research is from Pope Paul VI Institute with Dr. Hilgers in Omaha, NE. He is the author of the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning and the new science of NaProTechnology. Any treatment protocol he uses includes bio-identical hormones that are safe for you (especially with pregnancy and nursing). In addition, these medications are always prescribed by a physician and include follow-up for monitoring the patient. This treatment is based on science and he has published in major medical journals regarding its effectiveness. (Also, Dr. Hilgers is quite interesting to watch on EWTN.)


    I’m sorry you went through PPMD. I am also sorry that your son seems to be continuing to suffer your wrath. Your children depend on you for everything and you have a duty to care for them. The blatant inequity you expressed in your article between your son and daughter is disturbing and I pray you seek psychological help. If nothing else, for your son. He deserves your best too.

    • As someone who knows both MamaJ and her children in real life – I’d have to say, you would never know that she had suffered PPMD… and from looking at and interacting with her very well adjusted children – neither seems to be suffering from lack of attention. The “anger” MamaJ expressed wilst suffering from PPMD was never actually visited upon her son – nor is he continuing to “suffer her wrath”. You wouldn’t find two children who are more well cared for and doted on than MamaJ’s two dear ones.

  8. Elizabeth, I don’t know how her son is still “suffering her wrath,” but I think you are making a huge assumption based on very little evidence. Do you not undertand how PPMD works? If you’ve not suffered through it or known someone close to you who has, then you can’t possibly imagine the torment of it. I have. It is awful – probably the darkest time in my life (and I’ve endured some suffering, I can assure you). The reason more people don’t speak honestly about this issue (and why women suffering with it don’t say anything) is precisely because of the judgment expressed by you. Why not pray for this blog writer and others like her? They don’t want to be this way, but PPMD takes over. Also, her son and daughter may have completely different temperments. As much as we want to assume that all babies are cuddly and lovable with a sweet dispositon, some simply aren’t. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them and don’t do our best for them, but it is not always easy. Any honest mom who has had a more “difficult” child will tell you that.

  9. @ Elizabeth, what makes you think her son is continuing to suffer her “wrath”?
    People like you shouldn’t hide behind their computer screens passing awful judgement at other people’s lives…and publishing under your email address….odd! Are you inviting conflict?
    Please have a look at your self and your mean words and think twice before you hit the “post comment” button. Especially when you claim to know about PPMD, when it’s clear you don’t really know much of what what you are talking about.
    Don’t you realize that mothers with PPMD have taken their own lives in despair, pushed over the edge by judgmental ignorant people like you?!
    I’m pushing the “post comment” button now, and hope this comes as constructive criticism to you.

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