But what is a PPAH?
I used to call myself the pre-parent type of a-hole (bonus points if you count how many times I use that phrase in this piece) aka the PPAH (pre-parent-a**-hole). Let’s paint a picture of who this person was, seven years ago. I had an opinion on everything parenting. Vaccines? Circumcision? Organic foods? Yep. But it wasn’t these things that led me to self diagnose myself as an PPAH..it was the fact that I did the following that really pushed me over the edge…
A month passed after our last discharge and we remained at home with the weekly appointments ongoing for Poppy. Our team had determined my strong little babe had a left ureter leak (which allowed bacteria to grow and cause the sepsis) and that she had also developed MSPI, which is a milk/soy allergy. By this point I was no longer nursing; the stress of the first hospital stay paired with the inconsistent meals had led to my milk drying up. I began to eat better, drink more water and was feeling better. Again, not great but better. And then it happened a third time. Poppy was admitted for another sepsis infection (by this point the staff knew us and whisked us right up to peds) and we spent another 5 days there, largely isolated as we couldn’t afford to have my husband miss anymore work. I returned home relieved to be out and with a healthier babe, but the stays had taken their toll. I was terrified of her getting sick, I kept my older one home and cancelled visits. I didn’t go out often and if I did it was only to get the essentials. I planned my routes around the hours of the store. Either first thing or late at night. I never went to anything where there was a crowd and if I did find myself out, I panicked as soon as I got home. The panic attacks were awful. Hours upon hours of fear and worry. I stopped sleeping. I stopped getting help. I had a new counsellor by then and we didn’t mesh well, she kept telling me to breath and I was at the point where breathing did nothing but make me realize I was still alive, which I didn’t want to be.
Fast forward to the summer when two major life changes happened. We were told the apartment was up for sale (we didn’t mind, the neighbourhood had changed and drug deals happened there often) and I quickly became pregnant with our second. Knowing my history I went with a midwife for this second baby. We bought a home in a new town and I thought things couldn’t be better. It was around week 12 of my pregnancy (which had been tough from the start) that I felt the familiar creep of anxiety. For anyone that’s ever dealt with it, I think the best way to describe it for me, is like this little tiny dark cloud that grows, and grows. It feels almost as if this black sheet creeps towards you until your mind matches the colour of it and you can’t see anything positive. It wasn’t always that dramatic, but more often than not, it was. Thankfully after hiding it for another month or two, my midwife noticed what I had been trying to hide. I was isolated again, unable to do anything I used to do. I was sad all of the time and struggled to get out of bed or interact with my eldest. I worried about this baby. We had found out she was a girl and were ecstatic (I had prayed hard for a sister for my Grace as I never had one) but I couldn’t stop the fear from overtaking the joy. What if she was colicky like her sister, what if I can’t nurse her, what if, what if, what if. I began to drown in these thoughts. Often crying whenever I thought about what I had “done” to our family. How I had ruined our trio by wanting a second child. These thoughts overtook me and my midwife quickly referred me to our local mental health unit for prenatal counselling. In this I met the sweetest, most sincere counsellor. She knew exactly what to say, how to empower me and lift me up. She understood my medication fears and tried to work around that angle, using breathing and mantras to try and ease my burden. Did it work? Not often. I think I was too far gone and probably needed an IV of whatever medication they wanted me to take but it did take some of the guilt off. She told me I was a good mom, therefore it couldn’t be all a lie could it?
Seeing this unfold, my husband strongly encouraged me to try again. To find a doctor that seemed to understand me better and so I tried. I saw another doctor, and sobbing, I explained what was happening. How I no longer knew who I was, how I couldn’t be happy anymore, never left my house and had completely given up on being anything of who I was before. She was kind and listened sympathetically but again, encouraged medication. I explained my fears and she said she could start me off low, and generally increase and I made a commitment to her and myself that I would try. Again, I filled the prescription and made my best effort to take it. But googling this new medication won over and I couldn’t do it. You may be asking yourself, seriously why didn’t you just take it? And I did too. Trust me. There was so much guilt within me. Guilt at what my life had become, what my husband had to silently endure and the opportunities my Grace was missing. I went back to the doctor, again sobbing, almost begging forgiveness at not being able to take them. She had ideas. One was that he could hide the medication in my food. That didn’t sit well with me. That wasn’t the path to betterness. Our marriage was a trustful one and this seemed to break that trust. Sure I would have been telling him to do it, but it allowed a new kind of sneakiness in. One that I didn’t want. This doctor had granted me permission to take stress leave, so thankfully I hadn’t had to be around my students during this time (I was an EA, which meant I worked with special needs students within the district) but in doing this, I had to complete several tasks as requested by my employer in order to be paid an EI type of wage while I was off.
It was probably around 3 am. I was sitting on a rocking chair that squeaked, desperately trying to nurse a baby that was using whatever small amount of food I had managed to swipe one handily and eat from the cupboard that day. I stared at my husband, fast asleep silently wishing he would wake up and take her from me, that he could feed this infant who did little else than scream, feed or poop during the day. But that didn’t happen. Snoring, he only shifted himself to a more comfortable position, probably in my spot.