Under the Waterfall - Postpartum Drowning

by - September 07, 2010

Husum Falls, Joe is front left, I am middle left.
This is our raft, and I am fully submerged at this point.

In the summer of 2006, Joe and I took a rafting trip down the White Salmon River in Washington. Two-thirds of the way down the river, we took a dive off a 14 ft waterfall,  Husum Falls, a class 4+ rapid. The raft stood on edge and was close to flipping just before I rolled over the side into the 38 deg F water. I was trapped at the bottom of the falls several moments before I pulled my legs into my chest and balled up with my eyes closed waiting to be spit out. They say it cycled me through three times before releasing me, during which I had the thought, "If I don't get some air soon, I am going to pass out and not be able to grab the rescue rope." Soon, I heard "Rope! Rope!" and opened my eyes to see the rope in arms length from me. Nothing felt as good as being draped over the cold wet rocks as I was pulled in to safety.
This postpartum season has not been too unlike that time I spent under Husum Falls. It seems that as I try to fight it with arms and legs flailing, I'm only met with more resistance. If I just ball up and take the ride, there's a chance I might wash through to the other side in one piece. What is balling up for me? Letting Wookie sleep in bed with me so I don't have to get up as much or worry about not being able to hear him. Balling up is letting the house go, relying on frozen pizza, and never ever wearing a bra unless I have to leave the house. Balling up is taking my medication for postpartum depression, even though it makes me uncomfortable or feel needy.

A friend recently sought help for anxiety and I encouraged her that sometimes God uses medicine to get us physically to a place where we can begin to deal with the spiritual and emotional problems that got us to where we are. So what got me here?

Most days, I don't think about postpartum depression. I feel fine. However, there is the daily reminder of popping that little pill that reminds me something is askew. While I am grateful that it seems to be helping me cope with less than ideal sleep, there are fears brewing inside. What if this isn't just PPD and I really am and always will be a funny but tired, cranky, short-tempered, person with hermit-like tendencies who will always feel a little undesired as a friend and a tad bit lonely? Oh, that just sounds entirely too depressing! However, I have always felt like a misfit... even in preschool. I didn't play the normal games that the other girls played. I didn't let the boys chase me. I tended to watch and assess long before I would join in. Pills don't fix peculiar.

Before there was postpartum depression, there was another PPD - postpartum denial. The day I got home from the hospital, I put Wookie on the couch with Joe and headed out the back door to work in the garden. I was on hands and knees pulling weeds, watering, etc. That first week, we took several trips to Target as a family. I even ventured out with just me and the boys when Joe went back to work the following week. The fourth and fifth week I logged twenty-nine hours of work from home. It is no wonder I rapidly went from "tough as nails" to "dead as a doornail". I didn't slow down enough, and so I was forced to slow down later.

Before there was postpartum depression, there was also postpartum disappointment. I was disappointed that we'd had to use savings because I didn't work for a month. I was disappointed that I got an epidural. I was disappointed that Scooby was watching so much television. I was disappointed that I had to miss my brother's wedding. I was disappointed that my garden was failing miserably. I was disappointed that I'd eased up so much on potty training. I was disappointed that Scooby went for a whole week with an infected blister before I had a doctor look at it. I was disappointed that I'd taken in my postpartum jeans after I lost the weight from my last pregnancy. I was disappointed that we couldn't go play at the pool. Yeah, it sounds incredibly whiny as I type it.

But here I am now - working when I can, doing chores when I can, but mainly trying to focus on just enjoying this time of life. I was struck at the beach at how quickly Scooby is growing up. I am doing my darndest to get in all the kisses and snuggles and laughter that I can. I don't even think I am still balled up under that waterfall anymore. I'm probably holding onto the rescue rope and maybe even grabbing hold of those rocks trying to find my footing.

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  1. Paige you are a phenomenal women. I love that you aren't "like all the other girls". I also love that you are such a thinker and processor. I SO relate to that and know that it's so easy to take on way more than we are actually responsible for. Ball up as long as you need to.

  2. This is a great post. I am inspired by the way you handle and process this time in life. You are a great writer and I think your words will help many women through PPD.

    Also, Jude and I can come over to play and Daniel is welcome to come hang out with us any time.

  3. I love this post. I am always reading your blog and following your life silently. I think you write so well and you said so many things with so few words. I love your description of PPD, both disappointment and depression. After I had Malachi I know I had a little, sometimes a lot, of both. It is encouraging to read life with you :)



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