Bryn Sierra (38), Elin Juniper Marie (3), and Olivia Wren (3 weeks)
Bryn shares -
“Elin was conceived after a few years of infertility, meds, IUIs and eventually a successful round of IVF. Olivia was the first time we ever got pregnant "naturally." We hadn't used protection since before Elin because what was the point?! Now I'm one of those urban myth stories I hated so much during infertility - surprise "natural" pregnancy after IVF.
I loved my pregnant body. I had one of those basketball in the front, can't tell from behind pregnant bodies. When I wasn't puking I felt curvy and sexy and life-giving. I rapidly lost all my baby weight because I didn't eat much. I remember zipping up my pre-pregnancy jeans while inpatient and thinking Wow, that was quick. I had zero awareness that the weight loss was because of being very, very mentally ill. Once I started antidepressants (and drinking) the weight came back and then some.
I definitely didn't like the way my body felt. My clothes were tight and I was lethargic and blah. I don't remember caring all that much, though. This time around I lost quite a bit of weight during my first few months of pregnancy because I was puking all the time and had zero appetite. I worried baby girl wasn't getting what she needed, but of course babies get first dibs! Also this time around I've had three years of living in this mom body and talking to my daughter about her body and trying to show her how much I love my body. I *think* I love my body. I *know* I want to for her sake.
I do love how my body made two gorgeous healthy baby girls. My body knows exactly how to carry them and spits them out with a quickness that mercifully spared me hours/days of labor. My body also knows how to have great colostrum and probably great milk, but my mind knows that I just can't with the every two hour feedings interrupting my sleep and throwing me into panic attacks. Instead I get to learn what works best for our family and how to advocate for myself and my choices.
My postpartum journey with Elin has forever changed me. The dark abyss of postpartum anxiety and depression is a horrible enough nightmare from hell all on its own, let alone struggling through while trying to keep alive a tiny human. What the fuck was nature thinking with allowing that combo?
The day Elin turned one week old, I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital. I'd slept a handful of hours in seven days and was living in a state of constant anxiety and dread. My husband and his mom took care of the baby while my folks waited with me, on furniture that was bolted to the ground, by the way. I had intake and consult after intake and consult. There were a handful of other folks in the other rooms waiting, just like me, for a bed to open up. Knowing what I know now about the process, they had mercy on me and definitely pushed me ahead of other folks. I was pacing and freaking out and trying to lie down and then pumping and changing my diaper/pad. All of that. Just on repeat. For hours. I was so beyond exhausted, my dad paced behind me so I wouldn’t fall over.
I pleaded with the staff to get me in so I could just go to sleep. I remember telling anyone who would listen I was "this close" to just banging my head against the wall to knock myself out. That was my big plan. I was VERY aware of feeling this “line” just right there in front of me. I very easily could go ahead and bang my head against the wall. But I knew if I crossed that line, I wasn’t coming back, not for a long time or without a lot of repercussions. That willpower to not beat my head against the wall or go flailing out of control, letting loose all the fucked-up crazy that was pent up inside me, that was the strongest I have ever been. Ever. I will never be stronger than that in my life. I am in awe of myself for not letting go. I guess I come by my control issues and anxiety honestly.
I had a very positive experience inpatient and, later, outpatient. In there, I was safe, taken care of, provided with structure, and I was understood. If I could just pause Life, and if they could just fix me, then I could go be a mom and a wife and Life would be doable again. The first time I checked myself in, I spent about four days in there. Including my first Mother’s Day. And baby girl was only a week old, too new to be around a lot of hospital germs. So, I didn’t get to see my baby on my first Mother’s Day. That sucked. After a few days, I felt ready to go home. I felt good. But, long story short, good didn’t last and I checked myself back in about a week later. This time I was inpatient about 10 days, and continued in the outpatient program another 10 days. Baby girl was 6 weeks old by the time I was totally done. She was about 6 months old by the time I could finally see a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Going back to work was ROUGH. Finally feeling love for this child I avoided for six weeks and then leaving her at home with Grandma was ROUGH. I weaned off some meds, stayed on some meds. I continued my Psych follow-ups. I tried different counselors. Unfortunately, what helped me most, I think, was giving myself permission to be bad at everything except surviving; I was subpar at my job, a crappy wife, I let go of chores and cleaning, and gave up and went to bed around 8pm most nights. I survived.
I remember feeling incredibly raw and vulnerable during those first several crisis weeks. And that actually felt good. To just be so real and open and honest and bare with those around me. Everyone knew what was what and I just didn’t care what people thought of me. I was in crisis. I was a fucking mess. I was fighting for my life. And I REACHED OUT. I RAN to help. Maybe it’s because of growing up with a therapist for a mother, but I had zero shame in seeking help. I had shame about failing my baby daughter and my husband, burdening my in-laws, scaring the hell out of my poor parents. But I didn’t have shame about sharing the hell I was going through and hoping someone could reach down and help pull me out. I am not someone who has previously lived with depression and anxiety, so this was a wholly new experience for me. I had to learn my new normal. Living with a mental illness, for me, means living with and accepting a very different sense of self than I’m used to.
We found out we were pregnant with Olivia on Halloween. Scary indeed. I've stayed on meds and stayed in therapy wondering if we could get to a place to have more kids since we still had two frozen embryos from our IVF round. It took a while to feel like we were capable of this and worked our butts off to prepare and put a solid action plan in place. Mercifully, this time has been... well, "different" doesn't even begin to describe it. I've had a handful of sundown anxiety evenings. Husband and I had a powerfully emotional evening as we decided to just go straight to formula. And of course going through this huge life transition with a three year old is its own adventure. But other than that, y'all, I feel great. I feel clear and present. I'm in my body this time. It keeps blowing my mind that I got a second chance. I get to enjoy this and have a little bit of baby bliss. May we all be so fortunate to have second chances.
My truth is it's okay to be not okay. Beyond that, I have no idea what to say to others going through their own hell. I don’t know that anyone could have said anything to me. I babbled and raged and folks listened and I started meds and I kind of feel like I just waited it out. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I made sure I felt safe with the folks around me in case I fell, and then just gritted my teeth and kept going. It REALLY sucked. But it doesn’t now. That’s probably not very inspiring or life-affirming, but maybe that will resonate with someone.
t's kind of like voting. I feel a responsibility to speak up and encourage others to share their voices. If we don't we're left with a mainstream message that often shames and judges and tells parents (especially mothers) they're doing it wrong. That's not my reality. Why not be a part of letting someone out there know it doesn't have to be theirs either?”