Written by Nicole Johnson
Editor at The Life of the Baseball Wife
Wife to Elliot Johnson
I'm going to take a moment to step away from baseball issues today and focus on mom problems.
For me, they are somewhat intertwined, anyway.
I may have had postpartum depression whether Elliot was in baseball or not... I will probably never know. However, baseball and the demanding schedule that comes along with it was a huge part of not only the delivery of our twins, but also my diagnosis of postpartum depression several months later.
You may have read my story about postpartum depression here before, and this week, you may have read about the family of recently deceased postpartum depression sufferer Allison Goldstein speaking out.
I don't often write about current event topics on this blog. Much of what is shared is here for the support of baseball families. However, I feel very strongly about supporting new moms, as I myself suffered from postpartum depression, and I feel that this is an important topic that I cover.
Baseball and having babies don't always go hand in hand. Players are given a max of three days off when their wife has a baby, and sometimes (many times) they don't make it home in time to be there for the birth of their children. Sure, there are the cases you hear about where the doctor scheduled an induction for a wife on the team off-day, but that doesn't really happen with everyone.
It certainly didn't happen with me.
I went into labor at only 32 weeks pregnant with our twins. I had come home after Elliot had been traded to the Braves from the Royals and was caring for our 3 year old on my own. I was nesting, and I was doing too much. I was high risk to begin with, and I had a lot of energy somehow at the end of my pregnancy.
The day I went into labor, I took our son Blake on a play date and to lunch. I took him shopping, and then to his little league game. During the game, the contractions started coming. I sat in my foldable chair and started timing my contractions because they seemed to be coming regularly, and noticed I was having 4 per hour (the amount my doctor warned me to call about). I waited until the end of the game, and got him home and laid down. I figured I just needed to rest since I was having contractions pretty regularly anyway and resting had worked in the past.
Only it didn't.
I started to get worried and I called the doctor. She said I could stay home and wait it out, but I decided I needed to go in. I called my sister over to watch Blake, and I called Elliot crying and nervous.
I drove myself to the hospital. I figured (hoped) I would be spending the night and they would release me the next morning. I barely even called my parents to tell them I was going in.
When I got to the hospital it all kind of went downhill.
They hooked me up to monitors that actually showed I was having contractions every 4 minutes at this point and they started to take me to a room to get me magnesium. I was signing all kinds of forms, and was being asked how quickly I could get someone to be by my side.
My doctor had to discuss with me the chances of one or both of the babies not making it.
Through the next 4 days, I was hooked up to magnesium, given several shots, and I was asking for prayers from anyone and everyone. All these things helped, especially the prayers. We were able to hold off labor for an additional 4 days.
Elliot had made the playoff team with the Braves and felt that he was under a lot of scrutiny for the choice the team had made. They took another player that had been there all year off the roster and put him on. He was uncomfortable with how this was going and felt nervous about the time he was missing in the wake of this. When given the decision of whether he should travel with the team and be in Los Angeles for the team workout on the day off or be with me, he ultimately decided to travel with the team.
It was the wrong choice.
The meds stopped holding off the labor the next day, and I had our twins with my mom at my side and Elliot on face time.
I was hurt, traumatized by the entire experience.
I still hurt today.
I don't think it will ever stop. The pain will never go away.
Skylar had a harder time than Hazel. She had to be put on oxygen and I didn't get to have her by me at first. They rushed her off right after I saw her. I fell asleep, and the next time I would see my daughters was with my mom in the NICU.
The next few days are a blur. Medication and shock pushed me through.
As the months went by, I wasn't myself. Elliot could see it, everyone could see it. I'm sure he blamed himself, and I'm sure I blamed him, too. He tried to take me on a trip to get rid of the blues, but he didn't realize that wasn't all it was. He thought he could cheer me up, but he just couldn't.
The days, nights, and weeks wore on. What should have been the happiest time of my life was robbed from me by a traumatic birth experience, and by baseball.
When we went to Arizona for spring training the following February, the twins were 4 months old. We had Elliot's cousin Carlee join us as our nanny, which I thought would help. I also thought maybe the sunshine would help... and maybe working out regularly... maybe hiking squaw peak like I did in college... maybe seeing old college friends.
Nothing helped. I was suffering, and I felt all alone.
I went to a wives' luncheon that the Indians hosted for all of us, and sat at a table with three other moms. One of the moms was very open about her experience dealing with postpartum depression during the spring training after she had her babies. As she was telling me what it was like, it planted a little seed.
She didn't know it, but as she was describing her experience that spring, she was describing mine at the present time, too.
In time, her little seed started to grow. I was constantly struggling to survive, and was being overwhelmed by the many obligations Elliot had.
I felt like I was so sad inside, and I was tired, so tired.
One day, I wanted to get out of the house, and in a rage decided to just leave once Elliot was home. I went shopping, and went to get my nails done. I wanted to be alone, and I didn't feel like I missed anyone. I didn't enjoy my time on my own, either. Nothing was making me happy, and I was just plain miserable.
I don't know how to explain the hurt. It's a deep down sadness. You feel it in your heart. It makes you physically ache. You feel that you could cry all the tears anyone has ever cried and you will still come out feeling just as shitty. It's an unfading, deep-inside pain. Only you're supposed to be happy- you just had a baby and you're supposed to be the happiest person you've ever been, and you're not.
I had a friend text me that night and ask how I was doing, and just kind of opened up. I told her that I thought I might have postpartum depression. Her response? "Maybe you do, maybe you should call your doctor."
I cried to Elliot that night and decided to call the doctor the next day. With that, I finally opened up to my own family, my friends, and eventually felt comfortable enough writing about it on this blog.
I wish I could tell you that after the medication kicked in that I was back to normal. But I wasn't. I faced ups and downs and increases and decreases in my meds. I finally went off my medication last fall. I still take anxiety medication at times, but not regularly.
I still don't think I'm the person I was before I had the twins. I don't think I'll ever be. I would say that the thing that has changed is that I can now recognize why and when I'm sad. I know when my anxieties are getting the best of me, and I understand my triggers. When I cry, I know what's making me cry. I tend to avoid some of the factors that were part of our twins birthing experiences, including some people involved, unfortunately.
I think that opening up and being honest about my feelings has helped me significantly. I have honestly tried to write about this so many times in the past, and haven't been able to. It took a lot of time to get to this point.
If you think you may have postpartum depression, you probably do.
You don't need to have gotten to the point of what you read about in the media. I never thought of hurting myself, my children, or anyone else. I was just sad, so sad. Beyond down for a couple days sad. If the thought has come to your mind, your hunch is honestly probably right.
If you think that someone close to you may have postpartum depression, they probably do. The best thing you can do is be supportive. The best support I got was from those that had suffered it themselves. They removed the stigma, they helped me to feel that I didn't need to be embarrassed and that seeking help was what was best.
Happy moms make happy children and happy families. Everyone deserves to be happy, especially moms. Please seek help if you need it, and if someone close to you needs to seek help, please show them your support.