This particular blog post has been rolling around in my head for almost a month now. I have contemplated what to write, how much to write, stories to tell, etc. I am honest on my blog and what you read is truly me. I don't fudge my running times, race recaps, or personal stories.
I started Happy Mother Runner to find others just like me; people who love to run, but have also found running through personal struggle. Everyone has a story, and I have talked about mine briefly, but I feel like this particular post deserves the whole story. How I started running one year ago this week completely uncensored and honest.
Here is My Story
A year ago this week, March 2011, is when I decided to turn my life around. I had hit, the metaphorical, rock bottom and I needed to make some drastic changes for my well being. I was suffering from Postpartum depression and I had let my physical health spiral out of control.
To understand the place I was mentally, I need to go back to the birth of my son (April 2010). My pregnancy with Michael was fairly easy. There were no complications, except the fact that I had gained 80 lbs (way too much for a pregnancy). Everything was fine until the night my water broke. My labor and delivery was extremely difficult. Right away the nurses and Doctor knew that things weren't right. There was Meconium in my fluid and my contractions were inconsistent. It was eight hours into my labor that the unthinkable happened. Michael's heart rate dropped to almost nothing. Nurses rushed into the room and started shifting my body from side to side trying to get Michael to move. I remember the rush of events, it was so quick I didn't even get the words "what's happening" out of my mouth before a nurse yelled "her heart rate is dropping too!" and then placed an oxygen mask on me. I was in a panic and just wanted it all to end. So I closed my eyes and started saying "this is all a dream" when I opened them and realized it wasn't I grabbed the hand of the nurse who was standing beside me, and then I closed my eyes again but this time I began to pray. After approximately 15 minutes, the nurses stepped back and smiled, "he's back" I remember one saying to another. The response back was "we don't have much time".
Within an hour I was rushed into an operating room where my doctor assured me we were going to have a healthy happy baby. I closed my eyes again and told my husband to let me know when Michael arrived. Tommy didn't need to say a single word, the moment Michael was born there was an emotion in the room. I felt his presence, even before Michael cried. I knew I was a mom and after everything he survived. Once I was stitched up and Michael was off to the nursery, the Doctor informed us that Michael had a short umbilical cord and that the contractions were squeezing him to death because he couldn't descend into the vaginal canal. I was beyond happy, we had given birth to a healthy baby boy. In my mind, that point on, everything was going to be ok. I wish that were the case.
The Doctor informed me that my hospital stay would be three days. By the end of my time, I knew something wasn't right. The nurse came in to give me the Postpartum screening test. As she asked me questions like "do you feel sad?" I felt my extended family members staring at me. I knew the stigma of depression and I didn't want people to view me as someone who couldn't take care of my son. So I lied. On the way home I cried. My husband asked me what was wrong and I lied telling him that it was the pain from the surgery. My recovery after my C-section was slow and painful. I have had women tell me that after their C-sections they forced themselves to feel better to be there for their child. I wanted nothing more than to be able to walk over to my sons crib and pick him up and breastfeed him with no help. But the pain was unbearable and my husband had to do the night feedings. It killed me to not be able to take care of Michael fully.
After a few weeks I was feeling better, but the sadness was still there. I would quietly cry myself to sleep or go and take a shower just to cry. As time went on the sadness got worse and it was amplified when I would have family tell me I was taking care of my son wrong. It seemed that everything I did: change him, feed him, play with him was wrong. A few months into his life I felt unfit to be his mother. I started having horrible thoughts of how everyone, including my son, would be better without me. The most important time of my life had turned into my darkest moments. I deeply regret not reaching out for help. But in the moment, I thought my family would see me as weak.
I began to eat to make myself feel better. Food was my happy place. At 5 months after birth, my breast milk stopped coming in. I am pretty sure it was due to the depression and poor eating habits. When I stopped breast feeding I started to put on a lot of weight. But it didn't matter, food made me feel good. This went on for months.
Then it happened. One day while laying in bed with Michael something clicked. I think it was the moment he pulled my head close to his to snuggle. We laid there starring into each others eyes. It was the first time I cried happy tears. It was in that moment I knew that no matter what, I was his mom and nobody could replace me. I knew I had to make a change. I needed to feel better for my child. The next day after my shower I stood starring in the mirror. I hated what I had become. I gained a lot of weight and I felt physically and mentally bogged down.
Later that day, I sat eating lunch with my husband. I remember the exact meal, a double hamburger with everything (including cheese) and some chili fries. It was half way through my meal that I put my food down. I told my husband that I needed to go somewhere and I got up from the table and left the house. I walked down to the local gym and signed up. I reached my breaking point. No more of this lifestyle, no more feeling this way. I was going to be the healthiest & happiest mother to my son. The next day I ran my first mile. That was a year ago this week.
A lot has happened in the last year and I am very proud of how far I have come. If you were to tell me a year and a half ago that I would be where I am today I would have rolled my eyes. It is always great to reflect on your accomplishments and to truly see how much you have grown, so my next post will be a "Year in Review" a part 2 to my anniversary post. I have to say that I am pretty proud to be showing you my before and now picture (I don't like the word "after", because I am a constant work in progress).
**It is important to realize that Postpartum depression is an illness and that if you or someone you know is suffering from it, you are not alone. The best advice I can give you is see a doctor (something I wish I would have done from the beginning). If you need someone to talk to, you can call Postpartum Support International Phone: 800-944-4PPD, 800-944-4773. You can also find out more information on Postpartum Depression here (http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.cfm).