There are a handful of songs that still give me all the feels when I hear them because they bring me back to some of my deepest and most painful moments in my postpartum psychosis journey. No one could ever truly understand how dark that time was for me, unless perhaps they’ve gone through some sort of perinatal psychosis themselves. I still get a lump in my throat and my eyes feel heavy with tears that aren’t quite heavy enough to overflow and drop onto my cheeks just yet, but they swell up just enough to make everything way too blurry for me see while driving, so I have to blink a couple times to make the tears fall out.
One song in particular stands out to me though, not because it reminds me of how I was overcome with darkness, but actually how I overcame it, and allowed light to show me that the universe is unfolding, as it should.
I had always imagined myself having a house full of kids, 3-5 kids, at least, and all of them only being 2 years apart. Ha! My husband, on the other hand, was always putting out the “two and done” kind of vibe. Our daughter has brought us so much love and joy! We would love to give her a sibling, yet we both were still pretty scarred from our first postpartum experience and it was already way past our “2 years apart” plan.
It was 2 ½ years out and we kept prolonging the idea of adding to the family because I was still really struggling with major depression and PTSD. I felt so much shame and guilt for not feeling better yet, like this was all my fault that we weren’t ready and that somehow I had failed our family for getting sick in the first place. Of course now I know that none of that is true, but it took a long time for me to understand that. Seeing my other friends go on to have 2nd or 3rd babies while I was still healing emotionally from baby #1 hurt my heart and soul immensely and I felt I was never good enough.
My husband was so supportive the whole way through. We knew we wanted more, but the thought of going into psychosis was so frightening for so many reasons. We talked about our options..should we go for it? Try for another kid? Maybe we should try to adopt? I had always wanted a Deaf child, like myself. Or maybe we could get a surrogate? Or maybe we’d just be happy with one child? We loved our daughter so much, maybe we’re just done…So many questions came up!
Despite my efforts in researching so many options, nothing felt quite right for our family. We knew we both wanted to bring another child into this world, but we wanted to do so safely and try everything in our power to prevent this nightmare of postpartum psychosis from ever happening again. We decided to just trust our gut and try manifesting this baby # 2 that we so desperately wanted to add to our family.
Fast forward to when our daughter is about 3 ½ years old. All throughout my pregnancy with my son, I was obsessed with the song “Yellow” by Coldplay, but only I loved the Kina Grannis cover of it much more. I listened to it on repeat often – something about the lyrics really just spoke to me.
Every time I sang along with it, I felt so much pride, because – I’m not gonna sugarcoat it – I was scared shitless to be having another baby. But just like the song suggests, I made a hell of a sacrifice to decide to have another one. I hoped so much that I wasn’t making a mistake.
One night, I was walking my dog late at night. It was such a peaceful night out. The stars were glimmering, no one was out, and I started singing “Yellow” to myself. Not loud enough to be a weirdo where random neighbors could hear me, but loud enough that it made me feel heard.
I started singing, hoping our son could somehow hear me, despite how muffled it probably sounded —
Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah, they were all yellow
I came along
I wrote a song for you
And all the things you do
And it was called Yellow
So then I took my turn
Oh, what a thing to have done
And it was all yellow
Your skin, oh yeah, your skin and bones
Turn into something beautiful
And you know, you know I love you so
You know I love you so
I swam across
I jumped across for you
Oh, what a thing to do
'Cause you were all yellow
I drew a line
I drew a line for you
Oh, what a thing to do
And it was all yellow…
The song goes on, but all of the sudden, I stop in my tracks and I’m hit with the worst anxiety. I fill up with fear and spiral into a full-on panic. “What if I have another episode? What if I never come back out of it? What if they take me away from my daughter? What if I lose everything?” I was living in the house of “what ifs” and I just asked the universe to keep our family safe and healthy.
Just as I looked up at the sky, I saw the most beautiful and epic shooting star that I had ever seen. I swear to you, it felt like it was a message that my son had sent me from my belly. It was almost like he could sense that the darkness was starting to overwhelm me again and he wanted to send me a light.
As I saw that shooting star, I had this gut feeling that my son wanted me to know… “I hear you. It’s gonna be okay mama. We’ll be okay.” And my eyes welled up not with darkness anymore, it just gave me so much hope, and light and it gave me a message that I needed to hear that night.
Look at the stars Look how they shine for you And all the things that you do
As time went on, my belly grew bigger and bigger, but my fears came up less and less as we created a plan of action for baby number two’s arrival. We made sure I made self-care a priority this time around and had my husband on nightly feeding duty, so we could protect my sleep as much as possible. We worked with our doctor to adjust my medications in the later stages of pregnancy in hopes that it would work as a form of preventative.
I even put aside a hand-written letter to myself that I kept for me to open, in the event that I ever have to become a victim of this illness again. I knew how paranoid I was of my family last time, but I thought if I told myself what was going on and that I could trust that the people around me would take care of me, I would somehow believe it if it was in my own handwriting.
It may sound extreme, but we even switched out my old breast pump, because we knew how triggering the sounds were to me when I first had my daughter. We wanted to prevent me from getting triggered from it again at all costs.
During the Polar Vortex of 2019, just 2 months short of Lyla’s 4th birthday, my son decided to join the world. It was so very magical to welcome him and to actually be present during the experience. My son was absolutely right, “It’s okay mama. We’re gonna be okay.”
The second time around, I hugged my newborn just a little bit tighter, taking it all in, knowing that at any moment, I could lose control, but I knew this time (just as I wish I had realized last time) that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t to blame, and with help I would be well (if I needed it).
I thank my lucky stars that night and for my son, for telling me that there is still light through all of this darkness, and that the universe is unfolding, as it should.
My intention in sharing this story is not to tell every survivor out there that if they want more kids, they should just have them and everything is going to be great. I think a person with lived experience will just have to follow their own heart, and gut and do what they feel is right. The path I took certainly is not for everyone and it was a very scary time jumping into the unknown. I worked hard to create a safe plan, but in the grand scheme of things, I honestly got lucky. This illness does not discriminate. It sure as hell isn’t going to stop me from living.
Am I living the life that I imagined? No way. I never imagined this life in my wildest dreams.
Do I have 3-5 children, 2 years apart, as planned? Ha! No! And I’m certainly okay with that knowing what I know now!
Do I grieve the life I imagined? Sure, always.
I wouldn’t change what I have today, but I wish I could have that lost time with my daughter back. I grieve for that lost time so much. I am so grateful for all of the time that I get to spend with her now. Lyla’s so wise and compassionate. She’s an incredible listener, and she makes me so proud.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had the perfect name picked out for him, if he was a girl. I was going to name him Evelyn, coincidentally enough, after a song — “Evelyn” by Clean Cut Kids! My husband and I had heard it and fell in love with it when I was pregnant. Evelyn Louise was going to be the name we chose.
I am beyond thrilled that we have our son Griffin. He is a light in our lives and full of wonder. I had always held onto the name Evelyn Louise, just in case we ever decided to have a third, but recently the decision was finalized and we are done adding babies to the family.
I made myself a pact, though, that my final “baby” was actually going to be my advocacy work for perinatal psychosis awareness.
It’s been a whole lot of work, and it demands a lot of my attention, much like my human kids, but seeing it grow into something that is meaningful in a way that will make this world a better place hopefully by the time my kids decide to have my grandkids, is just as rewarding (to me) as having another human baby added to our family.
So this blog is dedicated to my husband Jim, Hobbes (my furry kid), my daughter Lyla, my son Griffin, and finally, to my last “baby,” Evelyn. I love you so much — thank you for making my life so beautiful and full.