The post today is written from Dave’s point of view. Believe it or not, after Postpartum we never allowed it to be the focus of our lives and we never really talked about it. We do not live in fear. We both believe that if you live in fear, you are doubting God. Reading Dave’s words are the first time I have ever heard his true perspective.
Dave: While the birth of your first child is typically in the top two most memorable days of someone’s life, to me it is just a blur due to the horrors of Postpartum Depression. I look back on February 15, 2005, the day Camryn was born, with fondness. We were finally able to meet her after Kristi’s long day of labor and eventual c-section with her strawberry blond hair (where did that come from!).
I can recall proudly showing her off to our parents in the waiting room. But what I remember the most is Kristi’s almost instant change from exited expectant mother to uninterested and agitated patient. It seemed odd to me that everyone else was jumping for joy over our new angel but Kristi was basically emotionless. I chalked it up to exhaustion from the labor and surgery. It will all be better with some pain meds and rest, right? Wrong. For the next few days at Bryn Mawr hospital we had the usual flow of excited visitors to see us and meet Camryn. Kristi put on her smile and let everyone hold our new baby, but as soon as visitors left she was calling for the nurse to take Camryn back to the nursery. Again, I just figured it was exhaustion and she needed as much sleep as possible before we were sent home on our own.
Once we returned home it became evident that Kristi was struggling with something. In all the movies the new mom is home with the baby and they are rocking and feeding and playing and everyone is happy. We had a different experience. Kristi spent most of the first few days home hiding in our room wanting nothing to do with our new baby girl. I would force her to rock her or feed her once in a while, but the primary caregivers were either Kristi’s Mom or me. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had no idea what Postpartum Depression was and honestly thought it was a cop-out for mothers who weren’t ready for the challenge. We found out the hard way that it is very real and it wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.
We were living about 30 minutes from our families at that time so Kristi’s parents and I decided it was best that we move in with them so Kristi’s mom could help care for the baby until Kristi could get better. I was working close by, but had recently changed jobs so I didn’t have many days to take off. Most days I would leave for work and Kristi would be in bed. Most days I would get home from work and she was still in bed. I would try to force her to get up and spend some time with Camryn and us but she would just sob and pull the covers over her head.
We were eventually sent to the Postpartum Stress Center to meet with Dr. Karen Kleinman. Karen could see from the moment she laid eyes on Kristi that she needed medication and time to get the chemicals in her brain back into balance. Unfortunately by that point I had grown extremely impatient and I did not want to hear that this could take months to correct. I wanted my wife back now and my patience level was at zero. There were weeks that passed with different medications that seemed useless.
Then came the call. I was sitting at my desk at work when Kristi’s mom called me crying and said ‘you need to come home, I think we need to admit her to the hospital. Kristi was a basket case. She was not caring for Camryn at all by that point and was barely caring for herself. We had no choice but to take her to Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Emergency Room where she was eventually admitted to the Psychiatric Ward. Neither of us understood exactly what this meant. I thought this would be a hospital room where she could get some rest and have her medications straightened out more quickly in an inpatient setting.
The next thing I knew we were being walked to a different wing of the hospital and through a pair of large double doors that literally slammed shut and locked behind us like some sort of horror movie. There were psychiatric patients of all sorts, but we both knew this was not the place for Kristi. This place scared me and it terrified Kristi. They took all of her belongings. They even took her shoelaces. I did not know how I was going to get her out of this place but I couldn’t leave her here. She was so fragile and looked at me in despair and begged me not to leave her here.
I asked that they call the psychiatrist that was treating Kristi and he was able to come meet with us. After a long discussion with him he agreed that she was not a harm to herself and allowed me to take her home. I think that was the wake up call that Kristi needed. From that point on she really wanted to get better. Before that she was lost and didn’t seem to care about her treatment because she had been suffering for so long. Now she saw the need to get better. After months of trying, they found the correct medications and Kristi rapidly improved. She always says it was like a light switch went off one day and she felt better. After four very long months, thank God our journey through Postpartum Depression was ending, for now.