‘P’ is for PPD

I’ve never had a good memory, but once in a while I hear a song, or a smell crosses my path and it triggers vivid memories. Hearing ‘California love’ can actually put me in the passenger seat next to my big sister Chana, driving with the windows down and the music blaring. The smell of roses instantly reminds me of my grandmother Dorothy, it was her signature in my mind. When the wind is so strong that it whistles, it takes me back in time to when I’d lay in bed as a child letting the Santa Ana winds lull me to sleep with the view of my little sister Nechama by my side. That said, there are some memories that I’d rather forget, some that I could never imagine happening to me in my privileged life. But they did. If it wasn’t for the amazing community of Pardes Hanna, and my loving family… I don’t know if I would have survived.

I’ve avoided writing this part because truthfully it’s very hard for me to rehash. I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I recognize the many lessons learned; positive things that have come from my experiences in the last year. Even so, I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy. I guess what I’m saying is – if I can help even one woman, so she knows that she is not alone, that she can recover, and that she will find herself again, well then; my purpose will be fulfilled in this regard.

So I continue.

‘P’ is for PPD

I sat on the curb out of breath and dizzy. My kids sat next to me calmly holding Ally and Mateo. Thoughts raced through my brain…”the babies are due to eat…I can’t go to the hospital, who’s gonna stay with the kids??..Ally doesn’t take a bottle, she’ll starve…what if I pass out in front of them?…omg…where is the ambulance??”. A motorcycle approached our building and pulled over, the kind man removed his helmet and explained he was a volunteer paramedic and that he heard the call. He wanted to take my vitals while we waited for the ambulance, and I welcomed the help. I felt so weak, but the hardest part was wondering what my kids would do alone while I was rushed to the hospital. As if God heard my fear, my dear friend Devra happened to be driving by as the ambulance pulled up. ‘Ruth, what’s going on??!’. Before I could actually explain what was going on she parked her car, jumped out and demanded I go to the hospital and not to worry. ‘I got this, they’ll be fine, don’t worry babe’. She scurried my babies into the building and I knew they’d be okay. I knew she’d step in and comfort them.

I knew I was sick, I knew I needed help but I had no clue how hard this wave was about to hit me. I was back at the same hospital where the twins were born. The nurses and doctors buzzed around me, taking blood, EKG, urine samples – the works. Every time someone would come, they would repeat the same questions. ‘How old are you? What are your symptoms? When did they start? Do you have children? How many? Major surgeries in the past?’. All very standard questions, and with every answer I gave I received very standard responses. That is until I told them I have six children, of which the last are twins and they are about four months old. ‘Hahaha! No wonder she is in the hospital!! She needs a break! Hahaha! She came to get a vacation!’. Aaaaahhhhhh, no. Not my style vacation but it seemed to be the running joke so I just smiled and shrugged.

After endless tests, and my family and community pitching in to care for my kids the doctors notified me that it was an unexplained virus. It would seem that between the sleep deprivation, nursing the twins, and caring for the kids and home, this wicked samurai of a virus knocked me out. I’d finally pushed myself enough that my body was like ‘you need a time out’ and the hospital was my naughty chair. The three days I spent in the hospital I had fever, chills, loss of appetite, weakness, extreme dizziness and more. By the third day I realized that the hospital could do nothing for me. I was better off at home, with my husband, mother and children by my side. So I signed out against docs orders and went home.

I walked into my house feeling completely defeated but my loving family embraced me and I knew it was the right decision. The first thing my mom said was ‘Ruti, get in the shower – get all your clothes from the hospital and throw then in the hamper’. So I listened – my mother had taken over my role and was managing everything. Thank God. The only thing I could do was follow her instructions. I was five again and I had to listen to my ‘Mommy’. And that was exactly what I needed. As I walked in the shower I caught a glimpse of myself… I had lost such an absurd amount of weight, it made me wonder when the last time I had eaten properly. I stood in the shower and washed off the hospital cooties. I felt so sad that the strong, young body I trusted had failed me. I wondered how long it would take for me to regain my strength. On the ninth day of the virus I finally woke up feeling a little bit better and my fever was tapering off. By day ten I was finally fever free. Ian had taken off so many days of work while I was in the hospital that it was time for him to get back. Considering he was the sole provider at the time it was super important that he get back to not put his job in jeopardy. So after a restful, fever free weekend he headed back to work early Sunday morning. I was very scared to be alone but I sent him off with a hug and swore I’d take it easy. The morning was hectic as usual, we got the kids off to school and then there was silence. I tried to distract myself by putting on a show but I couldn’t concentrate. I tried tidying a bit but I was still too weak. No matter what I did I felt a sense of doom that was so intense that I found myself with both babies sitting on the couch, terrified. I could barely move, in fact I was almost frozen. I stayed there robotically taking care of them as if the couch was a safe zone after a tornado. At 1:40 pm the girls came home from school and I prayed that them being home would put me at ease as it has in the past. But this time, when they spoke to me, I actually couldn’t understand what they were saying. They may as well have been speaking Klingon. I couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to feed them lunch, something I’ve done everyday for 12 years. I was paralyzed with fear. I called Ian at some point during the afternoon and told him he had to come home. That I wasn’t able to care for the kids, that I felt confused and scared. He told me that he was on his way and I waited for him to rescue me.

When Ian arrived home, he sat beside me on the couch while the usual chaos happened around us, I put my head on his shoulder and cried. I needed help. I went outside with him and told him to call my father who happens to be a psychiatrist, ‘Dad, I need help, I don’t feel well… I can’t think clearly, somethings wrong.. Im panicking’. He told me to take a half a Valium and get some rest. We’d be seeing him in a couple of days for Rosh Hashanah. The Valium calmed me enough to fall asleep.

The next morning when I walked into the bathroom and stared in the mirror, there was this woman staring back at me. She looked tired, realllllyy tired. Her expression was so sad and empty. She must have been suffering… I can’t imagine why she looked so broken. Something terrible must have happened. I knew deep down that the woman was me but I wasn’t sure how I became her. I was okay and whole, this person couldn’t actually be me, could it? I washed my face and hands instinctively and crawled back into bed. My skin crawled. All I could do was curl up in a ball. ‘Close your ears, close your mind, sleep, just sleep, it’s not real, just sleep’. I drifted back to sleep.

To be continued –

Q’ is for Quiet…

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25 thoughts on “‘P’ is for PPD

  1. As I’m reading , I’m crying. It’s ok when the one in pain is you but to see your children in pain it’s a different matter .
    My mother use to say : you’ll see when you have your children how it feels ! But OMG! Her words never reached my gray matter until I became a mother .
    Your children become a little piece of your hart and when something or someone hurts them your pain intensely multiplies.

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  2. As I read your eloquent words, I shed tears. I had a cesarean with Chanel and natural birth with Carlos. I remember the cesarean most vividly and it was 8 yrs before my second birth. Everything you described was exactly how I felt. Not being able to hold your precious gift, not being able to witness their birth, going into a trance like state. I made her dad swear by God that he would do “skin on skin” contact with Chanel and to this day I quiz him on it! They also gave me Tylenol! Something having to do with breastfeeding or whatnot. ….Love you prima. I’m so glad and proud to get to know you through your writing.

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  3. Being in the states I felt useless For the first time I wasn’t there for you or Ian or the birth of my grandkids. You are a trooper. No matter how bad it was a times you pulled yourself up by the boot straps I’m just so sorry you had to go through the blues

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  4. This is so brilliantly written. I love the stories even though I l know them. I think you really know how to connect with different people on different levels with your writing. I’m also sitting here thinking I had no idea you could write so well and feeling a bit incompetent. 🤣

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  5. Ruti, you continue to amaze me with your superb writing and gut level straightforwardness. Your blog is just wonderful. Can’t wait for the next post. I relate with your Mama as I stood by my daughter when she had her C-section – Dinah’s so right – it’s easier to suffer yourself than watch your children suffer. G-d bless you and your precious family.

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  6. I agree with everyone saying that you write really well. But I am not enjoying this story despite how well it is written. It is so real that I feel like I am living through it. (And I just want it to stop.) So sorry you had to go through all of this. Wishing you lots of physical and mental strength and health. Looking forward to reading your stories about better/easier times soon.

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  7. I don’t even know what to say. I remember the phone and talking to Ian again and again. It was overwhelming to be Wonder Woman for a while but you truly are a Wonder Woman. You grow stronger everyday. Get the word out there so others realize they aren’t alone. We are so proud of how you fought to come back. Love you

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    1. Love you Ma, I know we are typically supposed to have a MIL /DIL relationship but you are truly more than that. I knew I could come to you as I was your own child. I did, and you came through as you always do. Love you.

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  8. As I read this I felt tears running down my face, you are one of the most level headed and emotionally intelligent people that I know and the last person I would imagine this happening to but it did. It was scary and heartbreaking to see you go through this but just as inspiring to see you deal and get back on your feet again. I love you babe.

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  9. Dearest Ruth’s,
    I was so sad to learn about this ordeal that you whent through. When I was reading about it, I felt like I wanted to fly and be there to help you. But of course, now all that is in the past. Hopefully, all that will be just a distant memory that will remain with you to share and bond with so many other women who might have gone through the same or similar experience. And yes, keep writing about it. Hopefully this act will prove to be cathartic for you. I know that writing about my sad experiences always helped me sort things out. But what is different about you and me, is that I always thought I was to keep my writing and suffering to myself.
    I am proud of you that you are not afraid to show your vulnerability and humanity by sharing. May Jah Bless you and keep you and all of yours safe! May the sun shine on you and all of yours endlessly!
    With much love,
    Tia Raquel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read. Thank Gd I’m doing well, took one day at a time. Can’t imagine anyone who had to go through this without the family and friends that I have. I’m writing these blogs to let women know that they aren’t alone. Thank Gd I’m not. Much love Tia.

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  10. Ruth,
    When you were little we used to call you “Intrepid” because you tackled each challenge until you accomplished your goal whether it was climbing up the stairs or to the top of the refrigerator. This is you always moving forward, nothing stops you. I love the way you exress yourself and show how you confront the pain of motherhood. The mountains become mole hills and the agony becomes mildly distressive as you discover the richness of life and the love that surrounds you. Yasher koach, Dad

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  11. This is the thing. I haven’t been truly alive since my almost 6 year old was born. I don’t believ in meds and have really stopped caring about myself while robotically caring for my three kids. The thing is help is not that easy because I don’t want mess and also I take this mothering thing so hard that I don’t find interest and enjoyment in the process. Glad you have a mom and dad that help. My mom died when my oldest was almost two. I still haven’t been the same since then too. So poor me yes, but do I care not really…. I’m robotic and I guess this is just what life is… although I know it’s not and want the easy route of meds but won’t make the effort to get the help. Like someone has to lead me.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you have been alone through this hard time, I can’t imagine how difficult this must be. Please reach out to someone, anyone with a kind heart and maybe they can help lead the way. Meds are not the easy way out, it takes courage to accept there are things not in your power. You are not alone, and deserve to be happy and not to be tormented by ppd. I plead, get help. Find your happiness again, I wish you heal quickly and find peace with your family. You must take the first step.

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  12. Thank you for writing this for the 1 in 5 women and their families who will have a similar experience. Each time someone opens up about it another person becomes comfortable getting help and not being ashamed of their experience. Your bravery can literally be life saving. So proud to have you as my cousin. I am glad things are better now. I can’t wait for part two!

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  13. After I left my previous comments, I remembered the account that my mother told me about her grandmother, Guadalupe. She said that when grandma Josefa was born, our great-grandma Guadalupe runned away and disappeared for who knows how long. And that she (Guadalupe) didn’t come bach to her sences until she was in a very precarious (life and death) situation. That’s when she remembered who she was and where she was from. Then, as soon as she was able, she whent back home to her family. This is the most extreme case of PPD that I have ever heard! Let be glad that didn’t happen to you 🤗

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    1. I’m so grateful that it didn’t happen to me but sadly there are cases much more severe than that. There are cases in which the mother has actually harmed their children or worse. One of the main reasons I’ve been posting these blogs is for awareness bc it isn’t easy to openly put my issues on the table for everyone to see. That said, I’m praying that someone out there alone can know that there is help available and that it’s more common than anyone can imagine.

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