My story of loss begins and ends with postpartum depression. I suffered through devastating PPD that literally left me with nothing. I was in an unhappy marriage. My husband was not supportive of me, especially during my pregnancy when I was put on strict bed rest from the 13th week until the end. The time I spent on bed rest was the loneliest I have ever been. My husband went from working first to second shift at his job and also increased his hours from 8 hours per day to 10-15 hours per day. I never saw him, and when I did, he was distant and cold. He never took time to talk to me or comfort me. He didn’t empathize with me about the struggles I was having in the pregnancy. He focused solely on himself and his job. 

When I finally had my daughter, he stayed much the same. I began struggling with PPD right away. I was having a hard time breastfeeding my daughter. I became robotic in my actions-as I call it, a taskmaster; diapering, feeding, rocking, cleaning…diapering, feeding, rocking, cleaning…over and over all day. I took care of my daughter almost 24 hours per day with minimal help or support from anyone. Everyone stepped out of my life and I was utterly alone. Even as I began to waste away emotionally, he didn’t intervene to help. It was almost like he stood back to watch me die. Every day I struggled to keep it together. I just did what I could to keep her safe, healthy and alive. I felt so guilty-what kind of a mother am I? What is wrong with me? The shame and anger I felt about myself was overwhelming. I was scared that if anyone knew how I felt, that I would lose my daughter. I would have her taken away from me and I would never see her again. I began to hate myself; a deep loathing repulsion for who I was and what I was thinking. My life was running away from me. My body, my sleep, my dreams, my goals were escaping me. There was nothing left for me but to be a taskmaster. My lifelong dream of becoming a nurse was slowly drifting away. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life and I was so angry at the thought that it would never happen for me. 

On a bright sunny day, I decided to see if there was a chance, a small chance that maybe I could be a nurse. I went to my local community college to talk to an academic advisor to see what my options was to become a nurse. I was starting to feel pressure from my husband to go back to work and I was so panicked. I didn’t want to work; I wanted to be a nurse. The academic advisor told me the only way for me to be a nurse was to go to school full time for 2 years. There was something about this news that sent me into a tailspin. I couldn’t go to school full time. I knew my husband wouldn’t allow it. I felt so out of control at that moment that I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. Autopilot went on and I found myself driving to my husband’s work. 

When I got there, he came out to my car and saw me crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. He told me if I wouldn’t straighten up, he was going to take my daughter and call the police. I just couldn’t bring myself to talk; all I could do was cry. He went around to the backseat, opened the door and took my daughter out. He looked at me with disgust and all I could think is I don’t want to live anymore. She was gone; there was nothing else left for me to live for. I drove back to my house, went up the stairs and starting to gather all the pills in the house. I went into my room, sat on the bed, surrounded myself with my daughters clothes and I began to write my suicide note as I took the pills. That is the last thing I remember until I woke up in a hospital 60 miles from my home. 

I had no idea how I got there. All I knew was I was alive and I was so scared. I was also angry that I was still alive. I was also panicking because I wanted to know where my daughter was. I was the only person to ever care for her and I was absolutely ill with the thought that someone else was taking care of her-strange, as that may seem. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days with barely anyone talking to me. I knew I had postpartum depression and I knew I needed a lot of help. I thought that when I got home, I would have the love and support of my husband and family. This was not the case. After barely holding on for about a week, I went to stay with my brother (at the insistence of my brother and husband). Ten days after getting out of the hospital, I experienced the worst day of my life. My husband told me he wanted a divorce. I had officially lost everything. I lost my daughter, I lost my husband, I lost my home and I lost my soul. I had nothing, nothing to live for, nothing to wake up for. Every day after that was a hurdle. Every day I struggled to see through the pain, to make it through the heartache. I was barely holding on. 

My mom, who lives in Arizona, suggested to me that maybe I should go out there to live with her to clear my head. I thought long and hard about the fact that if I leave, I will be leaving my daughter behind. My ex-husband was not allowing me to see her very much anyways, and I thought that if I could just start to heal, just take one small step towards healing, that my life could get back on track again. 
The healing that I have been able to do has been tremendous. When I moved, my life began to slowly change. The biggest help in my healing has come from the love and support of my now husband. He, through his faith and love, was able to guide me through the darkest days of my life, never faltering. I cannot stress enough the importance of having someone to unconditionally love and support you during the hardest times of your life. My husband stayed by my side through what has become the biggest fight of my life-getting visitation with my daughter. 

My ex-husband went into attack mode almost immediately and has fought with all his might to keep my daughter away from me. Although I have never posed any harm to her, he has painted a picture of me being severely mentally ill. His lack of understanding of postpartum depression was spread to his lawyer who then spread it to the courts. He continues to see me as the person I was when he asked me for a divorce instead of the person that I am today. 

In the years since I left, I have jumped through every hoop the courts have asked me to just to see my daughter. I was at first granted 3-5 days twice a year in her hometown. After a few successful visits, I asked for more time. This was met with resistance, of course, from my ex-husband who still thought of me as mentally unstable, even though I was 2 years out of my PPD. My now husband and I went back to my hometown and testified that I was not still suffering from PPD, and that I was living a normal and stable life. I was then granted 2 weeks of time with her, which was the most time I had spent with her since she was an infant. Oh my goodness, it was wonderful. It was unbelievable. She and I have a bond that no one can break. The time or distance has done very little to the bond that she and I have. 
After that successful trip, I petitioned for more time. I asked for 8 weeks every summer and every other Christmas. I was granted by my ex-husband to have her every other Christmas, but of course, he has to fight me on something. He fought for 6 months in the courts to bar me from having her over the summers. He thought 2-4 weeks would be enough. He again tried to paint of a picture of me as unstable, going back to many years before of me struggling through PPD. I fought so hard and was beyond disappointed when the courts only allowed me to have her for 6 weeks over the summers. In 2012, I went back to court to get the 8 weeks I asked for in the first place. My ex-husband was prepared to fight again, but a last minute deal I made with him ensured that I would have that time with her. However, he wouldn’t allow it without me having to give something up, and that was Christmas. 

I am now seeing her only twice a year for 9 total weeks and it breaks my heart. I have such a hole in my heart. My soul is so gutted. I miss her so deep that I have no words for it. Do not get me wrong. My daughter and I have an amazing time when we are together. We spend a lot of time bonding, laughing and talking. I value every minute I have with her. I know many people think, ”Why don’t you just move back? Wouldn’t that be easier?” My answer to you is the easiest answer is not always the right answer. I still have deep emotional pain from what happened to me and the fact that I have rebuilt my life away from my hometown is a testament to me that going back could do more harm than good. My daughter has the best of me and I am able to give her everything that she wants and deserves. I would LOVE to have full custody of her, I would love to even have more time with her-the time I deserve to have with her-but I am told this will not happen. I have a hard time accepting this fact, but right now it is my reality. I speak to her often via video and I am always reminding her “Even though I am far away, I still love you.” Distance cannot keep us from loving each other. She encompasses my whole heart. I think about her every second of the day. She is my reason for doing everything I do. She is my whole life inspiration. I hold on to her drawings, I smile at pictures of her that surround my house, I laugh (along with my husband) at all the inside jokes and memories we have made, my thoughts are on her all the time. She is an amazing, smart, funny and beautiful little girl and I just adore her. But, please understand, there are no easy answers or tidy endings to this story. 
In the 7 years since I left, I have been able to rebuild my life completely. My husband allowed me to go back to nursing school while he supported me 100%. I am now an RN working in my dream job of public health nursing. I was able to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I have given back in the way of volunteering. I was a part of the Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition where I would volunteer twice a month to take calls from women and families who were struggling with PPD. I now am a co-coordinator for Postpartum Support International. I have found my calling in life and I have promised to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others who are in the same shoes I was in 7 years ago. I share my story as much as I can to get the awareness of PPD out there. I find there is so much misunderstanding and so much shame surrounding PPD. In telling my story to whoever will listen. I hope I am demystifying PPD and I can make it so more women and families are comfortable with the fact that PPD does exist, and it can indeed happen to any woman. In all the times of sharing my story, I am amazed at the number of women who tell me they thought, or they indeed did, have postpartum depression. A few times I have been told that I am the first person they have ever told. This makes me sad that there are so many women suffering in shame and silence. This needs to stop! 

Postpartum depression does not last forever. With the love and support of my loved ones, especially my husband, and the wonderful gift of time and faith, I have been able to persevere. My story does not have a happy ending. Whose does? My life is a work in progress. I have been so greatly affected by postpartum depression. It has touched not only my life, but also everyone’s life around me. But for me, my story is just beginning. 

There is a lot of my life left that has yet to be seen and I have so much more to give. My husband has told me often, “The place of the wound is the place of the gift.” I live by this saying. My wound was so big that I thought I shouldn’t be alive, I thought that I didn’t deserve anything but pain and suffering in my life. I have found over the past 7 years that my pain is my gift. I have persevered and become a better person because of what has happened to me. I have not suffered for naught. I live every day with a hole in my heart. I know that nothing can change what has happened. I have missed so much of my daughter’s life; first words, first steps, first day of school…but I can’t focus on these thoughts. That would be my downfall. I choose to live for the now, live for the future. I work every day on becoming a stronger and better person, not only for myself, but also for my daughter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are silver linings. I live every day by the motto I created: “Knowledge and support is powerful. Shame and isolation can destroy.” I am proof that there is hope. Even when I was living through the darkest of my days, I had hope of better things to come. I couldn’t give up hope on my daughter. She needs her mom. Even when we are apart, she is always close to my heart. I am so grateful to be alive. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my story with so many people. I know that someday my daughter will understand how much I fought for her and how much I love her. I hope that through sharing my story, not only will my heart be a little lighter, but also I will open the hearts of many people to the illness of PPD. I hope that by sharing my story, I will change the lives of many people so if they are faced with a loved one suffering with PPD, they will not take the path of least resistance. Stand by your loved ones. Support them in tough times. Give them hope. Hold their hand. The greatest gift that was given to me was love and support and I hope that others will do the same after hearing my story.