the winding road to postpartum depression

You never really pay attention to the signs, even when they’re staring you in the face. Carlos kept asking me what was wrong. I could feel my mom tiptoeing around me, always around the corner making sure I was never left alone with the girls for too long. My dad made sure to make himself scarce to avoid my wrath. And my poor baby girls got a shadow of my normal self.

Postpartum depression hit me hard. I didn’t notice it right after Catalina was born, it could be because my sister came from Holland and I was distracted, or maybe it was something that developed later on. All I know is that in the beginning of May I started secluding myself. I hid in the bedroom under the guise that I was breastfeeding the baby but really I just wanted to be alone. I couldn’t handle leaving the house unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then every outing was full of anxiety and self doubt.

I couldn’t bring myself to take a shower because the water on my skin felt like knives. I wanted to eat any and every thing I could get my hands on. No amount of sleep was enough and so I just wanted to be in bed all day hiding, trying to sleep while Catalina slept. I couldn’t be bothered to cook or clean, let alone keep up with my own personal hygiene.

I kept apologizing to Carlos. I kept telling him I would get better eventually. I kept telling him how much I loved him and our girls but I just wasn’t myself…and I didn’t know how to get back there. And my husband lovingly replied that there was no need to apologize and reminded me that adjusting to a new person in our family was going to take it’s time.

Finally, my mom sat me down and told me I needed help. Not just help around the house but professional medical help. I broke down crying because I knew it was true. I knew that this wasn’t going to go away on it’s own. A few days later I was seeing a psychiatrist who sat down with me and after listening to me cry, rant, and rave for what felt like forever prescribed me an SSRI and told me to come back to her in ten days.

Here I am, about six weeks later and I finally feel back to normal. Taking ¬†a shower isn’t torture, I’m working out and eating right, and most importantly, I’m able to be present when interacting with my family. I feel free.

To all my fellow mothers out there, please do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not be ashamed or bound by the stigma society has placed on depression/mental health. Finding help makes you strong and honestly will give your children just another reason to look up to you.

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Our new adventure with Autism.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but PJ has a speech delay. She’s always been hesitant to speak or communicate in ways other than grunting/screeching and pointing.

I started noticing the delay when she was about 18 months old and still hadn’t said,”Mama” on more than one occasion. Whenever I tried to share my concerns everyone brushed them off and said things like, “Kids develop at different speeds/So and so didn’t start talking until they were 5/You’re just being paranoid she’s fine.” But deep in the pit of my stomach I knew that things weren’t fine.

When PJ started school last year I always asked the teachers how she was doing and I was constantly being told that she didn’t really interact with the other kids or that she would immerse herself in her own activities and not participate. They thought she might have an ear problem so we started taking her to appointments. We had a few meetings with the school’s psychologist but she never suggested¬†anything more than what we were already doing.

After months of appointments of hearing tests and figuring out that her hearing was in fact fine we were directed to see a pediatric neurologist. She prescribed an EEG which took us MONTHS to finally get because PJ kept getting sick whenever we had it scheduled–after 5 months we finally got it done and everything was normal. The neurologist also suggested we start seeing a speech therapist to see what we can do. And so, PJ started seeing a speech therapist twice a week for 50 minute sessions.

After only two months of therapy PJ was able to say more than one syllable words. She started asking us for things as opposed to grabbing us by the hand and taking us to whatever she wanted. She was able to put tiny phrases together like “Momma come!” or my favorite at the time “Shake, rattle, roll!”

Don’t get me wrong, PJ knew things. She knew her alphabet. She knew her numbers. She knew the difference between her vowels and her consonants. PJ knew her animals and what noises they made. Everyone, including the doctors and teachers, said PJ was brilliant and knew more than most two and a half year olds but she just didn’t know what to DO with that information.

When we took PJ to Miami, coincidentally right after she turned three, she had an intense mental growth spurt. She was able to answer “yes” or “no” to our questions and she was able to more or less communicate with her cousins. She would talk to us about things she saw or specifically ask us for things like “Mom, we go to cousin house?” I must’ve cried so much on our trip just seeing this new light in her eyes, the excitement of being able to communicate. But she still had her little quirks of isolating herself, not answering to her name whenever she was too immersed in something, or even organizing toys by size or color.

Fast forward to last week when we had a meeting with a new pediatric neurologist. This time we were (unknowingly) meeting with the head of the department at our hospital. She spent almost two hours with us interviewing us and observing PJ play in the corner of the office. For the first time someone asked us, “Have you ever thought that your daughter could be on the spectrum?” I wanted to break down crying because finally someone wasn’t ignoring it. I had spent months trying to get someone to acknowledge that it was a possibility but every therapist and doctor said we hadn’t crossed that bridge yet.

To sum up the meeting she recommended we start taking PJ to meet with an occupational therapist as well as her speech therapy. She was calm and patient, she explained that PJ obviously isn’t on the more extreme side of the spectrum (whatever that means) but that she just had things she needed help with. She assured us that PJ would lead a normal life; which kinda made me roll my eyes because obviously this isn’t a death sentence but I guess not every parent sees it that way.

However I will say that this couldn’t have come at a more stressful time. Trying to set up an appointment with a therapist in the middle of Uruguayan summer is next to impossible since everyone is on vacation. We still don’t know PJs school schedule for the upcoming year so we can’t really schedule a set therapy schedule until the end of February. And then of course we have the new baby coming. We’re going to do everything in our power to get PJ the help she needs but it’s not going to be, for lack of a better word, easy.

Right now I just ask for positive thoughts and prayers as we navigate through this new parenting journey. That God place us where he wants us, with therapists that will help her, with teachers that will be understanding, and as always continue to bless us with people that love and care for our family.