Written by Tiffany Johnston, WTF Contributor
It’s not far fetched to imagine that when living and breathing infertility you become obsessed about the possibilities and failures. There is little time or energy in your day to focus on what happens after you have the baby. My heart fluctuated between believing that there would be a baby and not wanting to jinx a potential future pregnancy. After our first infertility blessing was born our world was turned upside down. Our birth went nothing like we had planned, our hospital experience was a complete nightmare, and when I finally got to go home my life long desire to breastfeed was blown into a million tiny pieces just weeks after our journey had started.
Every two hours our little one woke wailing, screaming, and crying of hunger as I battled to successfully breastfeed our miracle. In return, he spit up on every non-washable surface, became a cuddle monster that would only be soothed by my mother, and cried every time something didn’t happen right when he wanted. There were moments that I felt as though I had the world’s worst case of buyer’s remorse but I couldn’t tell anyone about it because we had done just about everything possible to (literally) buy this bundle of joy. And yet I pushed, fought, and struggled to breastfeed and for weeks it felt as though I was slowly killing myself. It was my own fault really. I had this standard set for myself. My mother was a lactation consultant and so I grew up believing that breastfeeding was the only true way. It turns out that while my mother and husband hoped that we would be successful at breastfeeding, in the end no one else really cared when everything started unraveling beneath me. In truth, they just wanted the baby and I to be happy and healthy, and at the three week mark that was far from the truth.
It wasn’t long before I had a complete meltdown from a severe lack of sleep. It was inevitable when we fed every two hours and I pumped after every feed not to mention the compounding stress from our son’s lack of weight gain. There were moments that I looked at him with no emotion whatsoever. By the end of week three, my Fibromyalgia was flaring, our son hadn’t gained enough weight to satisfy the doctors and breastfeeding had become painfully unbearable, not to mention the overwhelming emotions that were spinning in my head. Every time he would cry to be fed I broke down into a sopping tear stained mess, just dreading the pain of breastfeeding and the oncoming exhaustion that would directly follow.
It never occurred to me at the time that I had postpartum depression (PPD). If I even began to think about having PPD, I quickly concluded that I wasn’t allowed to have it after infertility. Yes, I wasn’t allowed because I had begged to be a mother. This little miracle wasn’t an “oops” or even a timely planned addition to our family. He was way overdue by the time he did arrive, so much so that we were convinced that he may never show up at all. So how on earth could I then have the feelings that I was having?
After having an epic breakdown and my mother finally telling the first person in 20 years that they were not to continue breastfeeding, we stopped cold turkey and switched to formula. Putting a cold stop to the 2 hour cycle of feedings, completely sleepless nights, and the inability to let someone else feed him. It wasn’t long before the fog slowly began to lift, emotions began to settle, and I eventually began to recognize that I wasn’t in fact ungrateful. I was your average first time mom, that simply had postpartum depression. Even at the darkest times of our infertility struggle it was hard to imagine that being pregnant wouldn’t just solve all our problems, wants and desires. But truth be told I am not convinced that our infertility struggles ever really go away. Our hearts become tender and bruised from one failed round after another and it can put a sour and long lasting taste in your mouth for years whether you ever conceive or not.
So, if and when, you reach the other side of infertility, please remember that if things don’t go your way and the world is slowly becoming a dark and dreary place, please don’t try and cover up your emotions and fears. Know that just because you fought and paid the price many times over to expand your family, PDD doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t pick and choose based on our experiences and it doesn’t care that you fought and suffered time after time. So if you find yourself overwhelmed with PPD after you finally get your miracle, just breathe. It will be okay and just like with infertility, work on one struggle at a time and know that the overwhelming emotions won’t last forever. In fact one of the hardest parts may in fact be simply admitting to yourself that PPD might just be knocking at your door.