“I remember hearing myself screaming into the phone, ‘I need help!’ ‘Please get me help!’ ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with her.’
Before this night, I had been able to manage my postpartum depression and anxiety relatively well. I had my moments without question. There were mornings where it took everything in me to get up and out of bed. And, the nights would last forever because my insomnia kept me awake for all but maybe 3-4 hours.
My daughter was born in late June and my father passed away on July 1st after a long battle with pancreatic and liver cancer. With his passing, and a newborn who was less than 3 weeks old, my husband and I decided we wouldn’t be able to travel from South Carolina to Michigan for the funeral. This caused a great deal of anxiety because I knew I would never be able to forgive myself for making the decision not to go, but I had to think of my recovery from the C-section I had just had, establishing breastfeeding, and of course our newborn. With her not being old enough to be vaccinated, flying to Michigan was quickly ruled out and the 14-hour drive seemed nearly impossible. So, my husband, our son and daughter said our goodbyes the best we could and gave our support to my sisters and extended family from South Carolina.
I began seeing a therapist and trying new antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to try and settle my nerves, mood swings, insomnia, binge eating, racing thoughts, irritability and the huge amount of mom guilt I was having. I hadn’t cried the day my daughter was born, the days that followed, the day my dad passed, the day of his funeral, or in months. I hadn’t screamed or found any release for the pool of emotions inside of me. I wasn’t able to nurse my daughter and decided to exclusively pump and bottle feed her. This took up so much time out of my day. For close to 6 months, I pumped every 4 hours. I was alone with my daughter and my thoughts for most of every day. My mother and step-father live about 4 hours away, friends are busy a lot of the time, and my sisters live in different states. My feelings of isolation were getting stronger in my mind. My daughter was just shy of 7 months when the bomb that I had been tip-toeing around finally irrupted.
The day started really busy. I mean, busy busy. I had a doctor’s appointment, my daughter had a doctor’s appointment, I had to drop my son off at school (my husband normally does this), I had started at a new gym and had committed to a class with a friend which was about 45 minutes. I was out of the house from 7:30 until 1:00. I hadn’t pumped yet because of having to take our son to school. When my daughter and I finally got home, I tried to lay her down for a nap since she had been awake since 7:00 and she usually would have taken a nap at 11:00. She refused to nap, so she sat with me on the floor and played while I pumped. Then around 2:00, we loaded ourselves back in the car to head and pick my son up from school. Thankfully my daughter took about a 30-minute nap in the car. Which was better than nothing, but she usually would nap for close to 3 hours. Once we were home from school pickup, we had about 30 minutes until getting back out the door to head to my son’s karate class. We finally got home for the last time around 5:30. I made dinner and my daughter stayed in a relatively good mood considering she was off her ‘routine.’ Before I can blink, it’s time for bath and bed for my daughter. After bath is when everything went wrong.
I think it’s important to know, my daughter is one of those babies who is happy unless she’s tired or hungry. Hardly cries but will fuss. Smiles at everyone. Laughs, babbles, EATS and likes food. When my son was a baby, he cried all the time and it took until almost his 1st birthday and a 10 day hospital stay complete with endless tests, blood draws, and a feeding tube to be diagnosed with an inability to absorb protein properly, and we learned his stomach empties at an extremely slow rate. This caused his stomach to not alert his brain to eat, which lead to slow growth, irritability, constipation, and a whole bunch of other issues. After leaving the hospital with the understanding of what was going on internally with him, things got so much better and he is (now) a healthy 6-year-old with a very picky diet but that’s okay.
We went through a lot that first year and it honestly stuck with me. We waited five years before considering having a second child. I knew I wanted another child, but the fear of having one with the same health issues and the chance of having to go through everything again caused us to really think about it. With that being said, we are so insanely happy and complete now with our daughter.
Our bedtime routine consists of a bath, then bottle and I rock our daughter to sleep. My son is usually playing a video game or watching a show in the living room and starting to calm down. Don’t worry, he takes a bath every other day and we live in a ranch style home, so he is literally 20 steps away and I can hear him the whole time I am in our daughter’s room with the door shut. Once our daughter is asleep, and depending on the time, I would then put our son to bed with a book, snuggles, etc. My husband works third shift, so it’s just me and our kids for bedtime, which usually goes perfectly fine with minimal chaos.
As I mentioned earlier, this day was busy, hectic and off from our normal routine. Our daughter was tired, I was tired, our son was even tired. But we made it to bedtime without any meltdowns. All was well until it was time to do bottle and rock. Our daughter started crying, then full on screaming. She was screaming as if something was hurting her. I tried her bottle and she refused it. She honestly knocked the bottle out of my hand and continued her screaming and crying. I thought, okay, maybe the milk is coming out of the bottle wrong. So, I went and switched the bottle. My son saw her upset and asked if she was ‘okay,’ and I told him that she was fine, just tired. When switching bottles, I spilled 5 ounces of breast milk. If you ask any mom who pumps or nurses, spilling milk feels like you’ve been punched in the gut. But my daughter is still screaming and crying, so no time to focus on what I just lost. I got more milk and started warming it up. I tried giving my daughter her pacifier to see if I could calm her down while waiting, but she also refused that. I then gave her gas drops, got the new bottle and went back in her room to try again. She is still screaming and crying and doesn’t want to drink, even with the new bottle. I am trying to rock then standing and dancing with her, trying the light on, trying the light off. Trying everything. Nothing I am doing is calming her down. Then, she throws up. Stops screaming but continues crying. At this point, my panic is starting. I have to change her because now she is covered in throw up. We get through that, and she is still crying.
I remember texting my husband and asking him to call me. I can tell that I am starting to really panic, and I know that if I am panicking, then she might be getting more upset from my mood. My husband can calm me down in a matter of seconds, but minutes go by and he hasn’t called. Second in line is my mom. I call her and she answers, and I start screaming with her on speaker phone, ‘I need help! I need help!’ ‘Please get me help!’ ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with her.’ My mom isn’t saying anything, and I hang up the phone because my daughter is back to screaming and crying now. I send a message to my friend who I know is nearby and ask if she can come over since I feel like I am having a panic attack. She doesn’t even hesitate when she says, ‘Yes.’ After hanging up with my mom, I hear our son in the living room ask our Amazon Alexa, ‘How can I calm my mom down?’ And I totally lost it. The mom guilt just crushes me.
I’m not sure how much time went by, but I remember everything getting quiet and realizing my daughter wasn’t crying or screaming any longer. And that the only sound was me crying. At this point, she is in my arms and up on my shoulder, but her face is somewhat nuzzled in my chest and I can’t see her. If I hadn’t lost it moments before, I completely lost it then. Every ounce of my body felt like it went limp and I almost threw up. In that very moment I thought I had smothered my daughter and that she had died in my arms. To say I was terrified, is an understatement. I pulled her back and she was sleeping. Peacefully. Mouth open, passed out, hard sleeping. I laid her down in her crib and walked out of her room.
At this point, my friend has now come over (with beer), I have about 7 messages from my mom, and 4 missed calls from my husband. I apologize to my son for getting upset and explain to him how, ‘Mommy was just really overwhelmed and needed to cry.’ He asked me if I had to spank Brynn and if that was why she was so upset. This question broke my heart. I can count on one hand the number of times I have spanked my son. But this shows you how little his sister cries or gets upset. This also shows how much he cares about me and his sister. But it absolutely broke me to pieces … again. I calmed him down and went to the bathroom to call my mom and husband back, and to blow my much-needed nose.
My poor mother and step-father were absolutely beside themselves from this. They said they heard pure terror in my voice. My mother started to cry when I explained the situation. And expressed how scared I was and how ashamed I felt for putting them through this but how grateful I am to have them. I told them how now I fear my husband will take my kids away since I’ve now ‘gone off the deep end.’ I explained how scared I am all the time of something going wrong. And I begged them to tell my husband I’m not ‘Crazy.’ With all my rambling, all they could say was, ‘Okay,’ and ‘Whatever you need.’
I hung up with them and blew my nose for the third time and thanked my good friend for coming and making sure we were all okay and said goodbye. I then called my husband. I was shaking with the fear of what he would say. He was almost home, so it was a short conversation. Once he came home, he just hugged me. Looked me in the eyes and told me he loved me and how strong of a person I am. I cried. Blew my nose, fourth time. And thanked him for loving me at my weakest. I told him how scared I am that I will be the cause and reason for something bad happening. We both agreed that I should call my doctor in the morning to see if my medication needed to be adjusted and to call my therapist and set up a session. More people to tell this too. More opinions and judgements. Wrong, more support. More love. And more understanding.
In my therapy session, I was able to realize that I had experienced a full-blown panic attack. This was triggered by months of regressed grief from the loss of my father and hindering fear of losing my children. My doctor changed my medication and we kept moving forward. I kept talking. I started expressing my feelings with more understanding. This event changed my life. It was by far one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had. It involved my children who are the most important part of my life. It opened my eyes. It helped me work through a lot of baggage I was carrying.
People need to support people. This is hard. Relying and trusting people is hard. But, if we love each other more, things will get easier. There won’t be a stigma around mental illness if more people share their hardships. Please don’t be scared to ask for help and then receive it. It’s going to get easier and you matter. You are not alone. Once you tell one person, you will feel better. Get these things off your chest. Release the weight off your shoulders. Keep moving forward and remember to love yourself.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Chelsea Kindred, 31, of South Carolina. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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