Today, as part of the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Blog Hop 2013, I am happy to host a guest post by colleague and friend, Laura DiVenti. Laura has an incredible story of postpartum recovery, one she shared many times at our Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition educational events. Let me just say that when Laura talked about what she’s experienced, the room went silent and each ear tuned in, every time. I am honored to get to share just a little of Laura with you here. You’ll see what I mean when you read her words….
Does time heal all wounds? What I can certainly say about time is that time heals some of the wounds, for sure. However, it is what one does with this time that is critical. This is what makes a difference in healing. It has been 7 years since I had postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter. What I have done with my time between my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter, my loss and my redemption, up to this very day, has shaped me and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Having a child didn’t come easy for me and I had a very difficult pregnancy. From my thirteenth week of pregnancy until the end, I was on strict bed rest. I had a body that was falling apart because of my pregnancy and a mind that was slowly joining it. The anxiety was constant. The fear was overwhelming. Bleeding, early contractions, my daughter dropping low in my pelvis early, medications, non-stress tests, ultrasounds, shots, threats of being put into the hospital, that I wouldn’t carry to term. It was so overwhelming. The icing on the cake, however, was having a non-supportive husband. He worked long hours, anywhere from 12-15 hour days. He was an emotional void. Instead of helping calming my fears, he exacerbated them. The loneliness I felt in my pregnancy, a time of usual celebration and anticipation, was crushing. I silently hoped that with the birth of my daughter, much of the guilt, fear and anxiety would disintegrate. Little did I know my struggle was just beginning.
My daughter was born on a warm and sunny April day. As soon as she was born, the anxiety crept in. I was so overwhelmed with panic that I had a hard time sleeping. My lonely pregnancy turned into an even lonelier postpartum experience. I tried breastfeeding my daughter thinking I was doing the best thing for her, but I failed at it. I gave up breastfeeding with the guilt that I couldn’t even feed my own daughter. I was terrified this would ruin her life. I became a task master in caring for my daughter. Feed, diapers, sleep, feed, diapers, sleep. While she could sleep, I ceased to. Days were filled with panic over whether everything I was doing was going to ruin her life. Days were filled with caring for an infant alone with very little support from anyone, especially my husband. My joy was depleted. My will to survive was dwindling. Basic life functioning up to 10 weeks postpartum was so painful that I didn’t understand what the point was in going on. My husband had pulled himself so far away from me that one day he said he would leave me and sue me for full custody. I was an emotional wreck, unable to do anything without fear or guilt. I felt like I had lost control of everything. My husband turned from me when I needed him the most. I felt like I had lost myself. I came to a place where I truly thought everyone would just be better without me. I acted on this feeling on a bright, sunny day in June; 10 weeks after I had my daughter. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital that was an hour and half from my home. The first day there I couldn’t stop crying. The rest of the days, I fluctuated between numbness and fear. Ten days after I got out of the hospital, my husband asked me for a divorce. It was at that very moment that I officially lost everything. I lost my daughter, I lost my husband, I lost my home and I nearly lost myself. In my time of sickness, my husband finagled my daughter from me. In my time of utter weakness, he used my postpartum depression to legally take my daughter from me and gain physical custody of her, even though I posed absolutely no harm to her. It was the ultimate act of betrayal.
In the 7 years since my daughter was taken from me, I have fought hard to get her back. I moved from Illinois to Arizona to heal and work on getting my life back. Time moved my life forward as it always does. My postpartum depression was thankfully temporary, as it always is. When the clouds of suffering and depression lifted, I fully realized the scope of my situation. This was when I started to fight. I have fought to get my daughter back into my life. I have fought to break the stigma of postpartum depression. I have fought the shame that surrounded me after what happened. I found my now husband, who is my champion and ultimate support, something that I realized is so critical for women to have that are suffering from postpartum depression. I have been to court numerous times trying to fight for time with my daughter. My daughter and I have a bond that no one could ever break. She is the light in my life, the truest part of who I am and I absolutely adore her to no end. However, my ex-husband, in his ruthlessness and anger, tries to fight me and take precious time away from us seeing each other. Time with my daughter is the best time in my life. Time has passed so quickly in the past 7 years. I have loved, I have lost and I have been on the road to healing and redemption. My ultimate happiness would be to have my daughter by my side every day. However, this has not happened and perhaps it never will.
What has helped me heal and cope with the pain has been focusing my time on helping and supporting other women suffering from postpartum depression. I give back to these mothers what was not given to me. My hope is that someday the stigma of postpartum depression will be no more and women can get the help and support they need without shame. My wound, the loss of my daughter, is my gift. I live by the mantra I created to help myself and other mothers survive and thrive through postpartum depression, “Knowledge and support is powerful. Shame and isolation can destroy.” This has kept me sane and strong and ready to fight another day. All I wanted when I was sick was to know someone in this world who had been through the muck and the dark and survived and thrived. That would have given me hope when I had none. This is the reason I speak up now. I am the voice to those women. The one’s we don’t hear about because they are too ashamed to talk and their stories do not have happy endings. The ones who have lost almost everything and they can’t see a silver lining. They are my reason for talking and sharing. I am giving a voice to those women.
Time has healed some of my wounds, and no doubt, time has made me stronger. I have used that time to find my voice and my cause in life and this has helped me heal. I am honored to have the chance to help other women and I always hold out hope that time will bring my daughter back in my life again, right by my side. Take the time to heal, find your support, arm yourself with knowledge and find your voice again in order to let go of the shame. These factors were critical to my healing and I want all mothers suffering with postpartum depression to always remember that you are not alone and that with time, you will heal. I am living proof of that.
~Written By: Laura DiVenti, RN, BSN. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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