My name is Pamela Alcala, and I had Postpartum Depression.

My name is Pam Alcala, and I had Postpartum Depression.

The name of this blog wouldn’t be accurate if I didn’t dig deep into my personal discomfort once in a while, so here we are.

In February of 2012, and after four different pregnancy tests, I found out I was pregnant with our first. I would love to say that I panicked, but I don’t think that’s a strong enough word to describe my state of mind at the time. We had been trying to get pregnant, so it wasn’t a surprise, but seeing that positive pregnancy made things all too real. Like many women, I experienced some bleeding in the beginning of my pregnancy, but other than that, the pregnancy was fairly uneventful. We had one point during our twenty-week ultrasound where they discovered that Ethan had some calcium deposits in his heart, but after some follow ups, it was determined that there was nothing to be worried about. We moved to a bigger apartment, I gained the weight, we created our nursery, and my parents and sisters booked all their plane tickets to come for his bris. Overall, a pretty easy pregnancy.

It wasn’t until about two to three weeks before my due date that something started feeling “off”. I had always been an anxious person, but this felt completely different. I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t stop eating, and I was taking “pregnancy brain” to a whole new level because I could barely retain information. At first, my doctor and I just assumed this was basic pre-delivery jitters, but when I started having trouble doing basic daily activities, I knew it was more. I went to my thirty-nine-week appointment and told the doctor that I just could not do this anymore; my body and mind were just giving up, and I needed help. We agreed that since my due date was later that week we would go ahead and deliver, and because Ethan was very high up, and I was already struggling, we would schedule a c-section so I wouldn’t have to be induced and have to endure labor for too long. And on October 18, 2012, Ethan Marc Alcala made his grand debut. They put this 8.5oz little bundle on my chest, and my heart burst open. The love that I experienced for this tiny human in that moment was indescribable, and I just didn’t want to ever let him go.

And then, about 48hrs later, I was ready to let him go. We went home and that first night was a nightmare; he would not sleep no matter what we did. I had dealt with pushy lactation consultants and nurses at the hospital, so I believed that breastfeeding was a must no matter how I felt. Obviously, that meant no anxiety medication, and that just triggered a snowball of pain for me. My mom was staying with us at that point, and I remember hearing her wake up at 6am, me grabbing Ethan, and just handing him over to her while my eyes filled with tears. No words, just handed him over. The days passed, and the sadness just kept getting worse. People kept telling me how beautiful my son was and how lucky I was, but inside me, this mountain of tears and unrelenting pain kept building up. I was lucky that my mom would take him during the night and just bring him in so I could feed him, but on the 8th day, for his Bris, hurricane Sandy came, and my mom instinct kicked in so I brought him to sleep in our room. I was so blessed that all of our family was there and that we were surrounded with love for such a joyous day, but again, inside I didn’t feel it. I remember the day my mom left to go back home like it was yesterday. As she walked out the door, I dropped on the floor and started crying, while my husband looked at me and couldn’t understand why I was having such a strong reaction. I didn’t want to be alone with this baby; I just couldn’t do it on my own.

The days went on, and I just kept feeling more and more disconnected. I reached out to my OB, who said this was just “baby blues” and that it would pass. Months went by, and instead of passing, it kept getting worse. He would cry and I would look at him and resent him. How does one resent their own beautiful, blameless child? After Ethan turned one, I decided I was done breastfeeding (I honestly was done the second he was born, but I felt pressured to do it). I called my primary care physician, who prescribed a new medication for me. Without going into too much detail, the medication did not work, and it made it worse.

I didn’t want to be his mom anymore. I couldn’t do it. I needed out.

I resented everyone and everything around me. The idea that I couldn’t leave my house without having someone attached to me was exhausting. My marriage started to crumble because I was a shell of a person. I didn’t want to live like this. I started feeling how much easier it would be for everyone if I would just leave the picture, so everyone could live a healthy, drama-free life without having to deal with my burden. However, I knew that wasn’t an option. I used whatever rational thought was left in my brain, and whatever tools I had left in my Social Worker toolbox and looked for a way to manage my thoughts and struggles by looking for a creative outlet. During one of my mom’s trips to visit, she bought me four skeins of yarn, a crochet hook and knitting needles, and taught me how to make a hat and a sweater. All of a sudden, I was creating things that allowed for “correction”; If I made a mistake on a stitch, I could go back and fix it, rather than feeling that entrapment that I had felt for the last two years. I started creating things for Ethan and for my friends, and before I knew it, that feeling that I had first felt when they placed Ethan on my chest after he was born started coming back.

I would be lying if I sat here and told you that I don’t struggle anymore. However, I did manage to find new ways to cope. When we got pregnant with Lily, I knew that I had to reach out and handle this before It got out of control. Lily’s pregnancy was significantly more complicated; I was diagnosed with ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy) on week 14, when people are usually not diagnosed till the end of their pregnancy. I had all these extra appointments, was deemed a high-risk pregnancy, and all of this while caring for a five-year-old. I immediately reached out to my OB and high-risk doctors, who put me on antidepressants and helped me develop a plan so I could manage any symptoms of PPD that could potentially appear. When Lily was born, I was in a much different place. My anxiety is still a struggle, and I still sometimes feel like I’m drowning, but not like I did when I had Ethan. I don’t have to tell you that motherhood is hard. What I do feel the need to tell you is that it’s not as easy as we expect it to be. Yes, we are aware of the challenges that come with taking care of a tiny, helpless little human. But who takes care of us? 

It's no secret that I am a big supporter of self-care. We have all been sad, and that’s normal. It’s when that sadness starts taking over that we need to speak up. I hid my postpartum depression for fear of judgement, fear that I would be considered a “bad mom” because I wasn’t “enjoying” motherhood like I should have. Looking back, I realize how I fell victim of the judgement that I placed on myself, which only made my struggle more unbearable. And this doesn’t only apply to post-partum depression, but to mental health as a whole. As a society, we need to stop seeing depression and anxiety (and any other mental illness) as a weakness, but as something that we can work through to make us stronger. I am by no means saying we should ignore it, or that it is easily fixed, but that we should look at is as another challenge that we can build from, rather than something that is meant to break us. I loved my son; the person that I didn’t love at the time was myself. I still struggle, only now I have the tools to work through it.

I didn’t suffer from postpartum depression. I lived with it. And I am glad I did.

If you or anyone you know is struggling, please visit Postpartum Support International to find a support network near you. You are not alone.


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