My name is Collette Welch and I am a survivor of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. I suffered from severe pregnancy depression as well as postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis. I had three stays in a psychiatric hospital, twice for attempting suicide and once for an attempt on my daughters life, and countless other traumas during my ordeal. My family and I lived through almost 20 months of hell and it is solely an act of God that my daughter and I are still alive and my husband and I are still married.
Andrew and I were married on July 3, 2009, I was 25 and he was 38. Since Andrew is 13 years older then me and I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 17, we decided to start trying to get pregnant immediately. We assumed it would take a couple of years if I was even able to get pregnant on my own but it took just two months.
I took the test on October 7, 2009 and it read positive about fifteen seconds later. That was a Wednesday evening and that Friday my family doctor told me that it was a false positive, don’t worry, keep trying and if it doesn’t happen within two years then Andrew should get checked out because he is old. I was so upset, I went home and that weekend took five more tests and they all said positive within 15 to 30 seconds. I met my OB later that month and she said I was pregnant and due on June 13, 2010.
I had a difficult pregnancy; it was not the normal wonderful experience that everyone talks about. I got the flu and ended up at the hospital where I was told I was having a spontaneous abortion but later told by my OB that I was fine just not as far along as they had thought, my date was moved back to June 21. I had morning sickness for ten weeks and during that time I was not thinking about my baby and how it would all be worth it in the end, I was thinking how much I disliked my husband and baby and how angry I was that she had already taken over my life and she wasn’t even here yet. During the remainder of my pregnancy I fell three times, had to be on bed rest 3 separate times, had a lot of cramping and bleeding so they knew me very well in triage. We tested high for down syndrome but she is perfect, we had to do stress tests every week for the remaining three weeks, I started having contractions at 18 weeks and was allergic to the medicine to stop them so they were hoping and praying I made it full term. I started showing at seven weeks so by four months I couldn’t see my feet, couldn’t wear my wedding ring, and looked like I had a road map on my stomach due to all the stretch marks.
Depression set in around week 12 and other then my husband I finally told Tiffany, the NP at my OB office, around week 14 what I was feeling and she told me that I had pregnancy depression and that it was common but unfortunately no one talked about it. She did say to talk to her about it and that unfortunately I was at high risk for PPD because of it. She didn’t prescribe any medicine for me because I wasn’t having thoughts of harming my baby or myself. I cried a lot and many times told my husband that I wish we weren’t having a baby and I even prayed for a miscarriage each time I fell. I even begged Andrew once to let me get an abortion, the fact that I made that statement let alone had that thought still makes me sad to this day and my daughter is almost 3½ years old.
Elizabeth Gail, we call her Libby arrived at 6:47pm via c-section on June 1, 2010. I did really well in the hospital and talked my doctor into letting me go home on the 3rd. Depression immediately set in that evening; I cried non-stop, slept all the time, got very overwhelmed, I couldn’t stand to look at Libby and even begged Andrew on many occasions if we could give her up for adoption. Due to the c-section my milk didn’t come in for five days so I had to use formula and because of that I had convinced myself that she hated me and I was the worse mother in the whole world. I was only able to nurse for five days due to the fact that I was so depressed and wasn’t eating; I lost 56lbs in 5 weeks.
Andrew immediately realized that there was something terribly wrong and that Monday when Libby was six days old I saw my OB and she explained that I had postpartum depression and was so thankful that Andrew made me come in. She put me on Paxil and said she would have her nurse find me a counselor and psychiatrist who specialize in PPD immediately. She also gave me a flyer about a postpartum support group at the hospital where I delivered, it met every Tuesday and my attendance wasn’t optional.
I started attending the support group when Libby was two weeks old and attending every Tuesday for 25 months until we moved to Indiana in August of 2012. I started seeing Maria Ward when Libby was three weeks old, she is a counselor who specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and I saw her for 19 months sometimes seeing her twice a week during the really rough times. I started seeing Dr. Sharma when Libby was 2 months old, he is a psychiatrist who specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety disorder as well as many other things and he also was an OB for over 20 years. I also became very close to a lady in our church, Charlotte Beakley, Charlotte and her husband are Libby’s second parents and I am praying that Libby marries their middle son. We had a tremendous support system but my therapist, psychiatrist, my Tuesday support group, and the Beakleys played the biggest roles and we would not be here today without their help!
Six weeks postpartum my nurse practitioner put me on birth control. I started on a Thursday and I remember taking my pills at 10:30 pm and waking up in the ER at 1:30 am and having no idea how I got there or why we were there. According to Andrew, I took my pills and fifteen minutes later starting acting crazy. I was lucid one moment, next complaining of losing feeling in my arms and legs, then wanting to go to church, afraid someone had taken Libby, paranoid, emotional, wanting to go to church again, accusing my mother-in-law of stealing Libby, I wanted to make pancakes so we needed to grocery shop. That is how Andrew lured me out of the house and to the hospital, he told me we were going to the grocery store. He called my OB after hours and was told to get me to the ER immediately and he called his mom to come get Libby, she lived five minutes away. The psychologist in the hospital called it disassociating, when I am coherent and functional but in an altered reality. She had never heard about birth control and Paxil interacting like that so she felt it was okay to continue taking them. The next night I lost about forty-five minutes to an hour and this time I ran a scalding hot bath and wanted to bathe Libby. I got very angry when Andrew would not give her to me and even threatened to call the cops. Andrew said I went in to take a nap and when I got up he was holding a sleeping Libby and showed me the bathtub. I was so upset and that was the last time I took the birth control and the episodes seemed to stop.
When I first started seeing Dr. Sharma he took me off Paxil and put my on seroquel because he felt that it was making me flat. We tried a couple of different doses of the seroquel over a two-month period and it would work for a week or so then stop working. My mom came to visit for a week when Libby was two months old and when she left I went immediately downhill, I cried all the time and had some more dissociative episodes. One night I asked Andrew for a divorce and told him I wouldn’t fight him for custody that he could have Libby and another night Andrew found me in the kitchen in the middle of the night with a butcher knife. On another night I got upset about something, can’t even remember what it was, and went for a drive and it took everything I have not to drive my car off a bridge, apparently I came home and told Andrew that.
I met with Maria Ward the next day after the car incident and she felt I needed to be hospitalized but I didn’t want to go. I met with Dr. Sharma the next day and he added ablify to my seroquel and that evening I dissociated and I attempted to smother Libby with a pillow.
Andrew wouldn’t allow me to be alone with Libby the first three months of her life and when I was around her I was never more then an arms length away from anyone else. When I came out of my dissociative episode and Andrew told me what I tried to do I fell apart. What type of monster was I!
After my attempt on Libby, Andrew immediately called his mom to come get Libby and then he called Maria Ward and Dr. Sharma and they ordered that Andrew take my to the psychiatric hospital to have my medicine monitored in a safe and controlled environment. I was there for four days and felt better when I got home but a week later I went to an IOP group and had a terrible experience and came home and tried to take all my pills. Maria and Dr. Sharma ordered that I enter the hospital again; I was there for a period of six days. I hadn’t been allowed to be alone with Libby at that point but after my second stay in the hospital when Libby was just over three months old I stayed with her for the first time all by myself and we did great!!!
After much discussion with Dr. Sharma and my OB, Andrew and I decided to move forward with permanent birth control because we felt that it wasn’t safe to have any more children. I got the essure procedure in November 2010 and ended up having a hysterectomy in September 2011.
I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder in November 2010 and by that time we had finally found some medicine that was working but unfortunately I did gain 76lbs in 9 months.
After visiting my mom over Christmas of 2011 we came home and OCD set in really bad and lasted for close to three months. I started having horrible thoughts that would not go away, they played like a slide show in my head and I could not make them stop! I had thoughts that someone might steal Libby so I cannot leave the house with her. I thought that if she did not wake up then I would be okay with it, I thought about suffocating her in her sleep. I was afraid to bath her without my husband being home because I either saw myself drowning her or putting her in the tub and walking away. I could not go out on my patio (we lived on the second floor) because I either saw myself throwing her over or tripping and then she falls over the side. I was afraid I would fall down the stairs with her but at the same time not caring if I did. I saw myself selling her into prostitution and at times I saw myself leaving her in a cart in the Wal-Mart parking lot so someone would take her. I was afraid someone would come into her room and steal her when we were sleeping but also not caring at the same time. Knives were a big trigger for me, I would see them and imagine stabbing Libby or myself, Maria had Andrew put all the knifes away where I couldn’t get to them. I saw myself overdosing and leaving my family.
Libby and I spent a lot of time with Charlotte during this period because Andrew had long days at school.
Dr. Sharma increased my anxiety medicine and I got to the point where I was able to rationalize when I was having the thoughts.
Andrew and I were asked to speak on a survivors panel for a perinatal mood disorder conference March 31-April 1, 2011. We showed up for the conference that Thursday and we learned some pretty rough hard to hear facts about postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. We spoke on the panel, we were two of five, and it was refreshing to get my story out there because I do want to help people! I had a really rough evening, I started seeing images of me cooking and eating Libby, stabbing her, biting her till she bleeds. We did not go back the second day; I could not handle another day of that. It was too much too soon! Friday night I had a breakdown and tried to take a bunch of pills but Andrew stopped me. That Saturday morning Andrew was out running an errand, I sent him a text that said take care of Libby I love you. I then proceeded to take some pills. Andrew rushed home, called 911, and they rushed me to the hospital. I was sent home due to a mix up. Andrew wouldn’t allow me to be alone and that Tuesday I went to my support group and Suzanne, she is a nurse who co-facilitates the group, called Andrew to express her concern over my mood and my interaction with Libby during group. She felt I was very agitated and spoke rather harshly with her, which she said was very out of character for me. That Wednesday, April 6, 2011 I entered the psychiatric hospital for the third and final time. About a month later intense sadness set in along with a lot of guilt and shame over all that had taken place. My dear Charlotte moved the end of May 2011 and I got terribly depressed, I felt so lost without her. Andrew got very concerned and he met with Maria and they came up with a system to keep me busy and focused so I wouldn’t wallow in the depression. I will say that when Libby was about 14 months old I finally started feeling better. August 5, 2011 was the first time that I can honestly say that I truly felt love for my daughter and it was glorious!!
I still have moments of sadness and I still carry around some guilt and shame but I love my daughter and I honestly never thought I would be able to.
I will be forever grateful for my husband who stood beside me every step of the way, my dear Charlotte who is Libby’s second mommy, Maria Ward and Dr. Sharma for not seeing me as just another patient, my OB and the entire staff for not brushing me off, and for Suzanne and Denise who lead that fabulous support group in Mesa Arizona.