What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Jennifer.
I want you to know that I take anti-depressants so I can function as a mother. My name is Jennifer and I have four daughters. My oldest just turned 5 and my youngest are three year old triplets. I had four children in 21 months and am now deal with the daily stresses of motherhood as I try to juggle my job, my kids, and my marriage.
First I need to provide a little background. When my oldest daughter was 15 months old I got pregnant again. I was in the third year of my doctoral program and knew that having two kids would make life challenging, but I really wanted my kids to be close in age. At 18 weeks I went in for an ultrasound and I learned that I was pregnant with triplets. Shocked does not even begin to describe how my husband and I felt. Terrified, stunned, and confused were also some emotions that were running pretty high. It was an extremely difficult pregnancy as I spent weeks on bed rest and was hospitalized three weeks prior to the girls’ birth. Each day I was consumed with worry first about the girls’ health, I knew all too well the risks of prematurity and secondly about how on earth we would manage four children.
The girls were born at 32 weeks and one day. Thankfully they all came out breathing on their own. They had some trouble eating at first and were so small, but were able to come home from the hospital after 30 days. The first months of the girls’ lives are mostly a blur. Not only was I exhausted and physically beat up from the pregnancy, but my emotions were all over the place. I attributed it at first to the hormones. The smallest thing could make me a cry, a sad song on the radio, my husband forgetting something from the store. The worst were the evenings. I did the 8-midnight shift with the girls which coincided with the two to three hours all three girls would cry non-stop. There was no way to comfort them and the crying became something I dreaded each day. I spent most of those evenings trying to hold all three in my lap with tears streaming down my face.
I don’t think anyone else other than my mom or my husband new just how bad I was doing. I smiled happily when visitors oohed and ahhed over the girls and smiled graciously when strangers would stop me at the store and tell my how I blessed I must be. I knew how to say all of the right things, “we are just so lucky they are healthy,” and “everything happens for a reason,” but inside I could not come to grips with the fact that this was now my life. I wanted to finish school, I wanted to work outside the home, and I felt like I was now going to be trapped in my house for the rest of my life because of this random twist of fate. At night I would sometimes imagine getting in my car and driving as far away as possible and never coming back. It is hard to admit now, but I mostly wanted to turn back the clock to a time when we had just one baby and things were so much easier.
Eventually it was mom who convinced me that I needed to go see my OB as she was very worried about my having post partum depression. I resisted at first. First I was afraid that I would go and the doctor wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with me. Secondly, I explained that no medication was going to change the fact that we now had four children. Her persistence won me over and the after filling out a short assessment the doctor quickly diagnosed me with PPD and put me on low dose antidepressant. It took awhile to adjust to the medication, but to this day I am still amazed at how well it worked. Life was not all of the sudden sunshine and rainbows, but I was at least able to cope with the daily stresses and challenges without bursting into tears or lashing out at my husband or older daughter. I felt like I was little more on an even keel and once the girls were six months old I began to see that even though my life was drastically different than I had ever imagined, I would be able to still pursue some of my dreams and goals.
Three years later I am still on my antidepressants. When the girls were about a year old I figured that enough time had passed that the PPD should be gone. I tried to go off of the medication, but my mood changes became so radical that those around me quickly detected that something was off. I have since determined that I just function better on the medication. It is funny how there still seems to be some stigma to medication for emotional/psychological issues so even as I write this I feel a little bit ashamed, even though I know I shouldn’t. Over and over I have heard how lucky we are and how grateful we must be that our story had a happy ending. Somehow when hearing this makes me feel as if I have no business being upset with our situation. I know things could be so much worse and that we are fortunate that we are financially stable, are healthy, and have a great support network. I feel like being thankful does not leave room for being overwhelmed with a situation. I wonder why I still need medication to be able to cope with our reality.
I hate when people say, I don’t know how you do it because it makes me a feel like I am cheating at the whole parenthood thing. The truth is, without my medication, I would not be able it do it, or at least I would not be able to do it very well. It makes me feel like a fraud, even though I know if probably shouldn’t. I have tried being more open about my depression and anxiety, but at the same time I not sure that every person who makes a passing comments really wants to hear the prolonged story.
The truth is that there are most likely many moms like me. Moms who desperately love their children, but due to some messed up chemicals in their brains and incredibly stressful situations, need some help from medication in order to be the best moms they can be. I want other moms who are having trouble with whatever parenting situation they are in to know that you are not alone and struggling does not make you less of a mother and getting help for your struggles does not mean you are weak, but in fact often means you are strong enough to recognize your need.