Connie

I actually just experienced postpartum depression with my second child; with my first child I had the baby blues for two to four weeks. With Nikos, considerably different.

I never cried but I started getting these very bizarre thoughts in my head, very early on after his birth like three days after he was born.

I was aware of PPD, ironically, in the sense that I used to work for Maternal Child Health Consortium. I'd set up conferences on PPD. I didn’t know anyone personally who had gone through it, but I knew what I was going through, but it was such a shock that I was experiencing it that I didn’t tell anyone about it.

Both my pregnancies were planned. Three months before we wanted to try to start getting pregnant, I went into preconceptual care. I got prenatal vitamins, I got tested for everything, making sure that I was healthy enough to take a pregnancy to term. I have to admit nothing was very different, on the second time around. I knew kind of what to expect, even though every pregnancy is different. I was relaxed, just as excited but a little more tired because I had a toddler around and I was nauseous in the beginning, I felt a little more relaxed because I had already gone through it.

It's weird because you see me and my younger sister are two years apart so we’re very close, and Michael and his sister are close but not so much, but of course you're nine months pregnant and you have a 2-year-old. They play together, they’re not as high-maintenance as they were when they were both very young.

When Katarina was born it was so traumatizing. I mean, they tell you it hurts, but they don’t tell you how much it hurts. Also I didn’t take any medication so it was completely medication-free and that’s painful. And also it was 25 hours from the beginning to the end. The minute she was born I was like, there’s no way that just happened to me.

And then I really do wonder why I didn’t go through it with Katarina because right after I gave birth to her I actually hemorrhaged. I was bleeding a lot that the midwife had to put her hands into my uterus and take out blood clots. And I’m just lying there and I couldn’t believe this was happening and even though I was thinking that 50 years ago this is how women died, I mean they bled to death after a birth. So that happened and just giving birth to me was very traumatizing, as well as I didn’t have any family around, even though Michael stayed home for the first week. He went back to work and left me there like, OK what do I do now? But it was only the baby blues.

But definitely with Nikos, he was 24 hours, so I gained an hour of no pain but he was a big baby. Katarina weighed 6.13, he weighed 9 pounds. So pushing him out was actually quite stressful because I couldn’t. He was a big baby and the nurse actually had to push on my uterus. I remember looking at Michael thinking, I can’t push him out, and eventually I did, and again without the use of medication, which, I don’t recommend that. But I still remember though the minute I pushed him out I’m thanking the midwives for helping me, which I didn’t do for Katarina.

So I felt that the experience of labor was different from one baby to the next, and then afterward I literally just stayed in the birthing center for four hours, partly because they made me feel like I couldn’t stay longer. So I was kind of upset leaving as quickly as I did. But at the same time I realized at home I could be in my own bed and relax so I was fine with that, even though I really did feel like they wanted us to leave sooner than later, which I didn’t think was right.

But it was great, he fell asleep the whole night at 4 weeks, where Katarina didn’t sleep for two years for the whole night, so it was great. ...

I’d have to say a couple of days afterward, he was the best baby ever, which is weird to say. He breastfed very quickly, he was such a loving baby, you name it he was great, She was actually difficult to breastfeed, did not sleep through the night, even when she got older, she did not want to sleep at night, definitely a night person, so she was definitely different from him. She stressed us out when he didn’t.

When he was 2 weeks old he almost died of RSV, which is some type of lung infection which actually kills a lot of preemies, and he wasn’t a preemie. And when we went to the emergency room they said that if he was a preemie, he would’ve died of it. But he was a big baby, but that was just horrific.

But what’s interesting is that I had literally been experiencing his death every day since he was about 3 days old. And it was just very bizarre because he was a planned pregnancy. I always wanted these children, I love my children, so the thought that I was seeing my son die every single day was just horrific. It was very difficult, the fear of what people would think. I really did feel though that there was a chemical imbalance, because that was so not me.

I’m not saying I never experienced depression before, but I always saw it as environmental factors that caused my depression, where this I was happy.

Michael actually after the first week of being home with me he decided that you know what, I’d like to say home full time with our son and my daughter. And I just thought that was awesome. And he quit his job on Wall Street to stay home full time with our children for about nine months until I had to go back to work because we needed money.

It was amazing. He’s such a great father so it was interesting that certain things were coming into place that I just thought were phenomenal. So I didn’t see any environmental factors that would lead to depression, yet so quickly on the most bizarre thoughts were coming into my mind that were literally giving me physical symptoms of disgust.

I can’t explain to you how it really felt when I went into the kitchen and at the time we lived in Jersey City in a really small apartment and it was a really small apartment, and I’d walk in even if I wasn’t carrying Nikos, and I would envision him in the oven burning. And I could see him, even though I knew he wasn’t there, I could see him in the oven as a newborn burning. And I could smell his flesh burning, how could I possibly smell something of my own child burning, when it had never happened before? But I knew that’s what I was smelling even though that made no sense to me.

Then I’d get these physical symptoms. I felt my heart was in my throat, my stomach was churning, my knees were buckling, and I was having a panic attack, and I knew he wasn’t there so how could this be happening to me? And this was happening on a daily basis, so I would never go into the kitchen, and my saving grace, luckily, was that I never cooked. I mean I can make a joke of it now, but Michael had no idea, it’s one thing if he said, how come you don’t go into the kitchen? But he’s the cook in our family. I don’t need to go into the kitchen to be honest for anything pretty much, and I rarely did then unless I really had to because I always saw my son in the oven.

And I always wondered, is it me doing it? There was always such a fear, and I think that’s also why I never told anyone, because I thought one, I would never do that to my children, and two, there’s a line I would never cross about my hitting my children. And I always thought that so long as I kept it to myself I'd be the only one who was suffering, and I’d be OK with that because a true aspect to me of suffering is if my children were taken away, and even if I was having these horrific thoughts, I'd still have my children, and they just don’t have to know about it, and I could just hide what’s going on within me. And I truly thought that if I told Michael about it he’d take the children away, because to be honest I put myself in his shoes, I’d take the children away. So I’m thinking if he told me this and I wouldn’t want him close to my children why would I expect anything different from him?

So I thought so long as I’m not hurting them physically I’m fine. Hindsight is 20/20. They didn’t suffer, but we all suffered in some way, because I never wanted to carry him. I never wanted to be home. It went from the oven to him drowning in the bathtub, him falling out the window and we lived on the 19th floor. I mean you name it.

So I thought so long as I’m not hurting them physically I’m fine. Hindsight is 20/20. They didn’t suffer, but we all suffered in some way, because I never wanted to carry him. I never wanted to be home. It went from the oven to him drowning in the bathtub, him falling out the window and we lived on the 19th floor. I mean you name it.

And also I was going to school for my doctorate degree, so me not being home wasn’t an issue, even though it was my excuse, to be at school, to be in the library, because I couldn’t deal what was going on with my children and with my son.

The most horrific was the oven, but I guess because it was my first initial thought, but I think maybe both of those together, the seeing and the hearing of him burning, as well as smelling burning flesh, whereas not that it’s not horrific to see him drowning in the bathtub, but there wasn’t any sound or smell connected to it. Then when he was falling out the window, I could even see his brain splatter. I can’t even believe these thoughts were coming from me. There was even a point when I was walking through my apartment thinking there must be aliens up there doing this. I was seriously contemplating that because I’m thinking, how could this possibly happen one to anyone but two I really did feel like my life, my environmental factors in a sense didn’t in any way come together to say this is going to happen to you. In hindsight I still couldn’t see why it happened, never why me, but thinking, where’s the cause of it all? And part me did think it was aliens, but I was serious at the time, there must be aliens up there in space doing this to me, because I could not in any way believe that I personally in any way put these thoughts in my head.

I didn’t have the baby blues, they just quickly went into postpartum depression, at least as they’re defined as the thoughts leading to depression. But I never had the baby blues with Nikos, with Katarina definitely. I would cry over a commercial, and it had nothing to do with anything sentimental, but never with Nikos. So very early on there was such a shift in everything that I knew. It was more extreme and definitely serious.

After I gave birth to my son, the midwife called me every day for a week, which was interesting. So maybe they thought something, but I never told anyway, feeling guilt, shame or fear, as well as thinking this will go away, sooner or later, it’s not going to last. But it didn’t, it didn’t go away.

I crossed the line I didn’t want to cross, I hit my daughter. My husband had gone back to work, Nikos was around 15 months old crying, my daughter was crying. I had had it and all of a sudden I smacked her, I hit my daughter in the face. And I couldn’t believe I did that and right there all of a sudden I had to take a step back thinking, oh my gosh, I just did something I thought I’d never do, and I had to get away.

And, interestingly, right at that moment Michael had just gotten back from work, and he was late. He went back to work and he was working 12- to 14-hour days, so when I was off from work I'd be with the kids, and that was very difficult for me, because here I am trying not to have these thoughts and be a parent, and literally I was thinking about my son dying every day. I would see a casket, I’d be in a cemetery burying my son every day. I didn’t understand why I was doing that. So as much as I loved my son, I found it so tough to bond with him, because it was so tough to watch him die every day, and I felt so bad.

He was such a loving child, he still is, but I cannot tell you, such a loving child. From the beginning, he loved to be hugged, he loved to be taken care of, oh my goodness, and now I can’t give that back to him. And I just think about that, what I lost. I have to tell you that’s why it’s so difficult to tell my story sometimes, because it’s so painful, but women and families need to understand one, for most women, after 15 months, it didn’t go away, and two, I had lost so much time and energy of trying to be in the moment, trying to keep these thoughts and feelings of death and not enjoying what I had right in front of me.

It is so sad that I do not have a lot of memories of my son's first 15 months of his life. I don’t want women to regret that, because I could never get those back, I mean now I have great memories of him as he grows up, but now he’s 8 years old, he’ll never be 6 months again, never be a year old again, I’ll never have that. I don’t want women to experience that, they don’t have to, I didn’t have to. I mean I think we live in a great state that we have such amazing resources that weren’t around when I was experiencing PPD, and there’s just so many avenues that women can take to get so much help, not for the shame, not for the guilt, and realize they are so not alone and so many other women have experienced it and feel their pain, their shame, their guilt, but their hope, because I had hope, because I finally got help, and they changed my life.

I went to the emergency room right after I hit my daughter. (When Michael came home) I literally put my hands up and said, I’m done, and he thought I went to the mall, which I laugh about now, until it got late and he thought I guess she didn’t go. I went downstairs, and thank goodness we had a doorman, I had completely fallen apart.

I had kept myself together with Scotch Tape. I felt myself in pieces, and I remember looking at the doorperson and I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m going to drive myself, and I said, can you call me a cab to take me to the emergency room? I didn’t want to get anyone involved in my business, but I had to, I had to ask for her help even though he didn’t know what was going on. And I completely fell apart in the hallway, just sitting down bawling, until the cab came and I just said take me to the nearest ER, and I remember seeing the cab person's face and he felt so bad for me, he didn’t know what was going on with me. I remember getting out of the cab and he said, do you want me to wait for you? which I thought was amazing and I thought I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, and I said no, I’ll find a way home. And I remember him saying, I hope you feel better.

There was a moment I remember thinking, do I enter the ER or do I throw myself in the river? It was interesting the thought process in my mind, because I thought my children are better off without their biological mother. I thought it was better to kill myself because I thought I was such a horrible mother. I don’t know what kept me from actually doing it. I don’t swim and part of the fear was, how long does it take to drown? And I can see the humor in it now, but I thought to myself, how long does it take for someone to drown? Is it going to hurt? And I seriously think I contemplated that, and I thought, it won’t be that quick. I was thinking, I’ve been through enough I don’t want to suffer when I die, and I went in and I put my name down and I waited for six hours in the corner of the hospital, crying the whole time, no staff member ever stopped to see how I was doing.

Finally I was seen by the staff and put on medication and my boss helped me find a therapist, which was just phenomenal. And everything just began to come together and I started healing and recovering after what had happened. It wasn’t just medication, I needed to learn to cope what was going on with me, but I needed to forgive myself, not that I have, but I needed someone to help me figure out why this happened, which we really don’t know, other than the hormones, probably a predisposition. I asked my mother, which I knew she did because she was crying all the time, which was part environmental because her husband was abusive, but I knew she had, but she said no, I’ve never been depressed, even though I could count the times I could see my mother just crying and crying and crying. So I don’t know if people define it differently, or just deny it, but I know, I will never deny it, not only to myself but I do believe unfortunately my daughter may be at risk for clinical or PPD, so I’m very wary of it, so I can help her for the future.

Even after I came out, I told very little people about it, my therapist, my husband, the hospital, the Division of Youth and Family Services, but when I went in to the hospital because I had hit my daughter they opened a case, so a case worker had to come to my house and got involved. I believed things had changed considerably, but it was no help at all for me, because I begged for a therapist and she never gave me a name, never referred me, that I had to go to someone who wasn’t even family, she was my boss, and asked her. And she was the one who found someone for me.

Even the psychiatrist I saw at the hospital wasn’t very willing or supportive to see me as a regular patient or even refer a therapist for me, and I couldn’t believe that. And even now I think there are people who have received training about PPD, because even my therapist at the time had no training about it, and she had to read along as I read about it just so she could help me.

But one thing that really led me to telling my story was that I realized I wasn’t alone, but I was listening on the radio that Mary Jo Codey had gone through postpartum depression. I just started crying in the car, I felt such relief, I felt now I know I’m not alone, and there’s no reason to have shame and really I felt, if this happened to me I have to help other women not experience what I went through because they don’t have to. To see the courage it took Mary Jo, I thought I have to do it too. If I had experienced it now, it would be so different.

After I experienced it, I had told our pediatrician, and when I’d go back asking about me before my kids, which was phenomenal. And when I went to my private doctor he said to me, you bring Michael in next time you come in, we’re going to talk about it, and I want us all to be on the same page. He was so proactive about being supporting, to know that what I was going through isn’t normal, but that I’m not the only one, that I’m not this horrible person that I personally felt for so long, it was amazing the people who were truly there for me.

I think one he was concerned for the children, as well as not knowing how to help me, what do you do with someone who has kept something from you? I mean we’re best friends, how can we be best friends and how can I hide something so personal and so tragic from someone who's my best friend? They put me on loads of medications -- antipsychotic, anti-obsessive compulsive, a sleeping pill, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, I mean, can you put me on anymore?

Oh my gosh, I think he found it hard to try and understand. We found another therapist, and we went for six months, and it so helped our relationship. He needed to express certain ... . I can only imagine what he felt when I told him everything, and the need to build up that trust again that I would never hold something like that back again. And there’s always this fear that I might experience PPD again, even though we only wanted two children, there’s always this thought, there is no way I could have another child again, and other women do, even when they’ve had PPD, and there are some great gynecologists/obstetricians, who will see women who’ve experienced PPD and want children again.

I have no interest in making sure I don’t experience PPD again. I know for sure.

The minute I started getting into therapy the relief was just unbelievable. The thoughts were still coming from day to day and the meds were starting to kick in, but it was like loads of bricks were being taken off my shoulder. It was like I could breathe again, like I could take this mask off and I could show people who I am and realize I don’t need to apologize. I didn’t make this happen, I’d have to say maybe two to three months afterwards I really started feeling so much better but I also changed a couple of things.

I took off time from grad school, I needed to re-evaluate my life. I had to take time to focus on myself, I thought I was focusing on myself, I wanted to get my doctorate I wanted to work full time, but I needed to take off some time. I still worked full time, but I made sure I took some time off, made time for therapy, it started off two times a week. I always took my medication, I took off almost a year from grad school.

I needed to take time for me, but really seeing how my children were and letting them really get to know who their mom was. There were other things that could wait, they really could, and they did. I mean, I have my doctorate now, I’m a college professor, I have my dream job. It just happened a little later, but that’s OK. In the long run everything worked out better, even though I regret waiting as long as I did.

I really did think throughout the 15 months everything would go away by itself. Oh my gosh, after a few weeks I should’ve realized, OK it’s not going away I have to do something, it’s just denial.

It’s interesting that I breastfed my son the whole time and that was the only thing I felt I could give my son truly, which was interesting because I felt I knew at that time if I go on medication I will have to stop breastfeeding which I did. So I felt given that I can’t give anything to my son, at least I could give him breast milk.

And Michael stayed home. Nikos could’ve cared less who I was. He was with a parent, he was with someone who loved him, and even though I would carry him, he would look around the room for his father. His head would be back looking at his father the whole time, that’s how bonded they were, which was phenomenal. He just wanted me for milk, that’s all he wanted from me, but that’s all I could give him, so I was OK with that because I couldn’t give him more. He was such a loving baby, and I really lucked out that I had such a loving partner who was a father who loved his son so much to quit his job and take care of him full time. It was just amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better circumstances given what I went through, I can’t imagine.

Well one, hearing someone’s story makes it more real, makes me realize that other people went through and to realize most people don’t just go through it and it ends. There has to be some intervention, therapy or medication or both, it doesn’t get better, it really doesn’t. The lies are just packed with more lies and more deception, you’re keeping so much inside. It takes so much energy that you don’t have enough for a newborn, for anything else. I really do believe that if women are experiencing this believing that it will just go away because they can handle it, and I did handle it, but horribly and it was so unhealthy not just for me but for my family. And I’m not trying to put on any guilt in the sense that you want to be there for your family, but you also need to do it for yourself, for your health, you have to realize this is a mental illness and I’m OK with that. I’m OK that it happened, no one’s at fault, but I think I am at fault in the sense that I could’ve gotten help sooner, if not for my family but for myself, because it helps everyone in the end.

But to realize you can only deny so much and sooner or later it’s going to catch up to us, and the regrets that will happen when you don’t get help.

I’m sure people were thinking that. I don’t blame them, it was a terrible thing for me to have done, I truly do believe that. And I’m not trying to make excuses because there is no excuse, but the shame, the fear, the guilt, they were so overwhelming and also part of me truly thinking I can handle this, like I can handle anything else, I can handle it on my own. And it didn’t work out the way everything was supposed to happen, and I’m sure people think that, and they always will, but to realize, I have regrets of what I do.

As hurtful as it is, and as painful as it is to tell people my experience, I really don’t care if people judge me, and I’m sure people do, but for me it has more to do with, I don’t want women to experience what I did and wait such a long time to get help. So judge me all you want, you  know what, it doesn’t faze me, so long as I can reach women and they don’t have to go through what I went through.

One thing that I was always unsure where I should go, I’d have to call someone but then I’d have to give my name, I don’t have to give my name now if I don’t want to, there’s a phone number, I can go on the website, I can actually look things up, so there are certain things available that are not available to me. And also I think it’s phenomenal that all women in New Jersey after they give birth, receive information. That was another fear I had, if I ask for information on PPD, they know I’m going through it, so I’m not asking for it. So giving it to everyone and you read it when they gave it to me, along with everything else in the welcome packet I think that’s just fantastic because there’s going to be women like me who don’t want other people to know their business. But if you give it to everyone, everyone’s going to have the same thing.

So I just think that’s just one of the greatest thing they could’ve done, so many resources available now that weren’t available when I gave birth to my son.

Connie's Video | Connie's Story | La Historia de Consuelo