My Postpartum Story – by Denise Macleod Ling

My Postpartum Story – by Denise Macleod Ling


Depression. It’s just a word. A medical term describing an illness. A mental illness. Why are we so afraid to talk about it? My journey started almost 13 years ago. Infertility. Another ” bad ” word. After years of temperature taking, biopsies, charting, standing on my head and many other tedious tasks we were told we probably wouldn’t have children. Blow one to the gut.

Well a few months later we moved back to PEI and a month after that I was pregnant. I was terrified. I did everything perfect. I didn’t risk anything. I didn’t eat peanut butter, or Chinese food . I read every book . I had a horrible pregnancy. Morning sickness was all day sickness and then my blood pressure sky rocketed. I was put on bed rest but that wasn’t working so I was put in the hospital the last week I was pregnant. I wasn’t allowed visitors, or to read or watch tv in case I was to get excited and my pressure go higher yet I was rooming with a woman who just had a hysterectomy and who started to bleed out right beside me. I of course panicked. Long story short, they need to do something about unit four. Maternity and gyno need separate units.

During labour my son’s heart beat started to falter. I wasn’t breathing ( for some reason I was holding my breath ) , they paged respiratory to be on hand which I heard but didn’t know it was for me. Over 100 stitches later I had my perfect baby boy. Finally. I should be over the moon. I was exhausted. My pressure was still high. I wasn’t sleeping as I breastfed 24 hours a day it seemed. My boy weighed 8lbs 8 oz yet public health had me waking him every two hours. So you feed then put the baby to sleep then wake them 2 hours from when they had started feeding not when they finished.  When do YOU sleep?

Public health came over and I asked about supplementing with formula. I didn’t think I was producing enough milk. The nurse told me not to as it could increase the risk of SIDS she said. I took no chances so maintained my crazy schedule for almost a year. Public health came back one more time in that span of a year and my husband had to ask them to leave.

I felt like nothing I did was right yet I wasn’t allowed to bottle feed … If only I had been stronger. At this point I was beginning to lose it. Exhausted, crying, pulling away from my husband, back at a job I hated, up all night with a baby… This was my miracle child. Why was this happening and why didn’t someone care?

I suffered a long time. I pushed away everyone I loved. I stopped eating and when it got to the point that I needed help, my doctor said I needed to lose weight and looked great. I was down to about 110 lbs. I started acting out. I tried medication but came off it without telling anyone and then came the crash.

After pushing my husband away instead of confiding in him, we separated. Rock bottom. How did I get here? I had asked for help from doctors and public health. I pushed away all family . I ruined many relationships during those few years. As my mom helped me the best way she could, I started to come around . My son was now four.

I found an old friend and he helped me to laugh again and realize that there was light at the end of the tunnel. We started dating, he moved home from out west and I found myself pregnant immediately. How do you go from being infertile for years to getting pregnant in an instant. I was terrified. I wasn’t ready for this. I was just getting back to myself again. I have such guilt for those feelings I had. Did my baby know I didn’t want her? That I was scared? This pregnancy ended up being worse then my first.

I was on bed rest for three months. My son who was now 5 was very sick and needed his tonsils out. He would lie in bed with me for days. I cherished that time as I had been mentally turned off for the couple of years before that. I had a C-section because I was too scared to have another natural birth. I got to see my daughter (but not hold her) for a minute, then they brought me to recovery.

Hours went by. I was convulsing as my body was in shock as I lay there alone. I had no idea where my daughter or her dad were. He had no idea where I was. There was no communication. My daughter was hungry and missed out on those first few crucial hours of bonding time. I still have the guilt for that even though I know it wasn’t my fault. I felt detached from her. I felt numb. As I finally was reunited with my new family I had to try and nurse.

Nothing was working. I felt like I had to nurse because I nursed my son. I felt so guilty for my initial feelings that I needed to be perfect for her. Thank God my mom knew to watch me this time. She tried to keep me upbeat and did everything she could to keep me out of the darkness. As my daughter grew and needed to start food I panicked. The mess. What if I didn’t do it right? There were times I was so tired and anxious I actually scratched the skin on my own face. I started tearing my hair out. Doctors didn’t care, public health did nothing.

Eventually we got referred to Peggy Bethune because my daughter wasn’t where she should be. She helped get me to a nutritionist for Cassie and get a schedule and start her eating solid foods. Dr Bethune referred me to Dr Amanullah and he told me I had PPD and OCD. As I dealt with the OCD the PPD also came along.

It took almost three years before I would take medication. I fought it so hard. I was ashamed. I felt guilty. I was a failure. Why couldn’t I just be happy? I was now with a wonderful man, had two healthy , perfect children, a great job, everything I wanted. Yet I couldn’t get out. The dark was too dark.

It was actually on a Mother’s Day that I completely snapped. The anxiety was so bad I was hyperventilating. My heart was racing. My mom came pretty much in the middle of the night and helped calm me down. I started medication that day. I needed to be healthy for these kids. I didn’t do anything wrong. I have an illness. I need medication.

Today my daughter is six and my son is almost thirteen. The dark is still there but the light has come through. I have a wonderful support system. My mom knows when I need a little extra help. My doctor now knows to let me be in charge of my meds.

Imagine if after giving birth the mom was treated as a patient. Imagine being asked ” how are YOU doing” ? Every single appt with public health for immunizations and checks not once was I asked how ” I ” was doing…. No questionnaire, nothing. No one would listen , except Dr Bethune. I continue to fight but I win most days… Now I want to fight for others so no other woman gets ignored the way I was. I am not ashamed. I will not feel guilty. I am a good mom, I just need help now and then.


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