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White Poppy

Bipolar disorder destabilized for 5 years following pregnancy/birth

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This is really long, sorry. I just really need to share my story. Even if no one reads it...

I have bipolar disorder, which was more or less under control before I got pregnant. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and I was devastated. When I got pregnant again, I couldn't feel joyful about it like I had with my first pregnancy. I was constantly worrying about miscarriage or other ways things could go wrong. I had pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. In the third trimester, I went off Effexor so the baby wouldn't go into withdrawal after being born, but it was really hard. I felt messed up all the time, and got increasingly depressed. 

My birth experience was traumatic. I was induced because of my blood pressure, and it was a good thing, because I got pre-eclampsia. I was in labour for about 38 hours - Thursday evening to Saturday morning. The pain of labour made me feel helpless and depressed, and although I had specified in my birth plan that I have bipolar disorder and that my mood had to be watched, the nurses and doctors were dismissive. They kept saying that the baby was ok, and that I shouldn't worry. I got an epidural, but it didn't work. So I was in pain, but I also couldn't move. It was awful. When it finally came time to push, it took forever, several hours. My pre-eclampsia had gotten so severe that they wouldn't let me suck on ice chips because they were worried I would drown in my own fluids. My eyes were so sensitive to the bright morning sunlight that I had to have a facecloth over my eyes the entire time. I felt powerless, like I just didn't have it in me to get this baby out. I kept begging for help, but of course, there was nothing anyone could do. When it was finally over, I had no rush of joy, no feelings of accomplishment, just the pain of getting out the placenta and having my uterus massaged. 

After the birth, my pre-eclampsia mysteriously did not go away. I spent a week in the hospital, during which I rarely saw my son. It was too dangerous for me to go to the nursery because I was at risk of a stroke, and he was under observation, so couldn't leave the nursery except for an hour here and there.

Before I left the hospital, I started having severe pain in my abdomen, which continued after I went home. I went back to the hospital when it got too bad. it turns out I needed my gallbladder out, but it was so infected, they couldn't operate. Back in the hospital for a week of i.v. antibiotics. I went home, but the pain kept getting worse. After going to another hospital and determining that I needed surgery ASAP, the hospital where I gave birth agreed to take out my gallbladder. Another three days in the hospital. When I got home, I suffered a rare complication - my bile duct ruptured and flooded my abdomen with bile - basically, the acid the digestive system uses to break down food. It was excruciating. Back to the hospital for more surgery to clean out my abdomen and stitch up my bile duct. But I was still in pain. More tests, another surgery, and a stone was taken out of my duct. I finally, after a month, was out of pain.

When I got home, I went into a mixed state. I did not like taking care of a newborn, which made me feel depressed. But I was also agitated, irritable, had insomnia. The mixed state turned into a deep depression, which lasted about a year and a half. Then a long manic phase, followed by another depression. I basically bounced around the mood spectrum for five years.

My son is now six, and while it has definitely gotten better, I have had a very hard time bonding with him, and I often regret becoming a parent. He is a great kid, I am lucky to have him, but I'm not able to enjoy him much, I believe because I am so traumatized by everything that happened. I feel like I have been robbed of the joys that are supposed to go with parenting.

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God, Poppy, that sounds horrible. I’m so sorry. Are you seeing a therapist and a pdoc? Who is helping you?

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Hugs. I have a 4 year old who was born preterm via a long labor and c-section, oxygen deprived with multiple medical problems, and now has a diagnosis of autism. I was depressed and mildly psychotic during my pregnancy and went into deep depression after his birth, also struggled greatly to bond. It definitely destabilized me since then. And I love my son very much but often feel like an inadequate mother.

I went to a birth trauma support group and saw a therapist briefly who specialized in that area (in addition to my regular tdoc). It didn't fix everything but it was helpful for me.

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I have a pdoc, no therapist, though I know I need to change that. It has gotten better, but it's still really hard. I also feel like he is getting short changed by having me as a mother. I wish I could love him the way I see others love their kids, and it causes me so much pain that he doesn't get to experience that. But I am trying to be more patient with myself, and just let the attachment build on its own. He makes me way happier now than he did a few years ago, and I need to have faith that the same will be true a few years from now. My marriage is also not very good. I don't get much support from my husband. It's hard. If it weren't for my son, I would have left years ago. It really adds to the feeling that having a child has trapped me into an unhappy life. I feel terrible saying these things. Mothers aren't supposed to say things like this. But they're true for me.

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Screw what mothers aren’t supposed to say. Mothers are first and foremost people. They don’t exist solely for the sake of their children, as our society would have us believe. You are entitled to feel any way you feel. 

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I know I have a right to my feelings. But it feels like I'm missing out, and so is my son. He deserves a mother who loves him more than anything else, and I deserve to feel happy I have such a great son. I know "deserve" is probably not the right way to think about it - we all get what we get. But I have a lot of trauma from my childhood because my father left us, and I worry that my son will have similar trauma because I don't love him enough, don't pay him enough attention.

People always tell me that the fact that I worry like this means I do love him enough, but it just doesn't feel like I want it to feel. I know that all mothers struggle, but I also know that many mothers experience great joy being with their kids. As I said, it's gotten better, and I am able to enjoy time with him now, but I'm so ambivalent. I have one foot in and one foot out. I think a lot about how much happier I'd be if he weren't around. This is the first year he'll be home for the summer (because he finished daycare and started school) and I'm kind of freaking out about him being home every day for 2 months. We're taking a few trips, so it should be fine, but the idea of having to deal with him all day every day is frightening.

Anyway, I'm kind of rambling, but thank you for posting back. It really helped to get my story down in writing and have supportive comments from others come in. Thank you.

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I get it. I grew up with a mom with bipolar disorder and PTSD and it was hard. I feel like, what right do I have to have a child and continue that cycle? On the other hand, I love my mom and have a good relationship with her now. It’s complicated. There are no easy answers. We gave our children the gift and challenge of a very imperfect life and now we just have to do the best we can. Even when we’re not feeling it. Even if our best isn’t the ideal.

And oh goodness, summer. Summer vacation is HARD. I was doing really well for the first time in a long time and then having my son home all day has destabilized me again. You are not alone in feeling this way.

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That is so comforting. I sometimes feel like the only mom in the world who has complicated feelings about her child. I know I shouldn't compare myself to people on social media because no one posts the bad stuff, but I just keep seeing pictures of these joyful mothers whose difficulties are solved with a relaxing glass of wine after bedtime, and come morning they're ready to go out and make great memories with their kids. I let mine watch too much tv and eat too much junk food. We don't often take family excursions, we never go to the park. I just feel like I am not providing him with a good childhood, and that he's going to end up a drug addict or something because of the trauma of not being loved enough by his mother. I have a tendency to catastrophize and to be very, very hard on myself, and I know I'm doing that now. But I can't seem to shake these feelings. 

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My son watches way too much TV and basically subsists on snacks. That's partly the autism as he has texture sensitivities. But Inalways feel I should be doing more to improve his diet. He had weekly feeding therapy for like 2 years and I wasn't able to keep up with all the stuff I was supposed to be doing at home because my depression would get in the way.

I am pretty good at getting him out places but my therapist had to really encourage me in the beginning. Now I do it because he's such a handful at home, it's a relief to go out. A relative bought us a zoo membership so it's free when we go. Maybe during the summer months you could pick one day a week to go to the park or some other place that you enjoy. Once it becomes a habit it gets easier. But if that's not realistic for you then don't worry about it. My mom didn't take me places a lot so I spent a lot of time making up my own play and stories.

I catastrophize, too. Last weekend I spent worrying that CPS was going to take my child for neglect, and wondering if maybe he would be better off if that happened. My tdoc told me that's extremely unlikely to happen. But that's where my mind goes.

Sorry if I'm rambling!

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Don't be sorry! It helps me to read this. I have also noticed that it's often easier to deal with my son if we're out doing something than at home, and I definitely do it more than I used to. We're taking a couple of trips this summer, one to see my in-laws for a month, and they love taking care of him. So I won't have the whole summer to fill. But it's daunting, the idea of him being here all day every day. He's got one week left of school. We'll see what happens.

I've never worried about him being taken away, but I do worry that his teacher thinks we're not good parents. He's covered in bruises, he has crazy hair that needed to be cut 6 moths ago (although he likes it and doesn't want it cut). They send home these little challenges for the moth sheets with things we're supposed to teach him to do at home, and we really don't put enough effort into doing them.It's only kindergarten, and I know he will learn the stuff eventually. I feel especially bad about this because I am a college teacher. If anyone's going to help their kid through school, it should be a teacher.

Anyway, now it's me that's rambling. Thank you again for responding. It's very comforting to know I'm not the only one who struggles with these things. 

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