Postpartum Voice of the Week: @zrecsmoms’ Missing a Friend Today


A year ago this past Saturday, on October 1st, 2010, the world lost a wonderful person. A mother. A wife. A friend. A daughter. A passionate person dedicated to fighting for inmates on death row in Texas. How did we lose her?

To Postpartum Depression.

Her best friend, Jennifer, writes:

“A year ago today, Kristi died after nearly five months of torturous depression. She was seeking treatment and had a strong support system, but depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. It’s often a long experiment to see which drugs have an effect on your body while trying to be convinced that the thoughts coming from your mind are not your own.”

Depression is not always cured by popping a Prozac. Kristi had a support system too. Depression can kill. It’s not a term to be used lightly as Jennifer points out later in her deeply emotional post. It’s not something we get when it’s raining. Or when our favorite team loses. Or a candidate we’ve been pulling for loses the election. It’s not when a sports season is over. It’s not when Starbucks isn’t carrying Pumpkin Spice Lattes anymore. Depression isn’t some term to be bandied about in jovial conversation. We aren’t depressed because our grocery store was all out of our favourite kind of chocolate. That’s not depression. That’s disappointment. It may feel intense and you may be upset but it’s not depression.

Depression lingers. For weeks. For months. For some, for years. It hangs over you like a cruel fog, blocking everything and everyone from you. You reach out but all you see is the mist. You don’t see the family and friends desperately reaching toward you. You don’t see the doctors. You don’t see the world beyond what’s inside your head. You feel trapped. Hopeless. Lost. You panic. The fog gets darker and thicker. Eventually you break down. Can’t function like you used to – it’s like trying to walk through a pool of molasses. You know you can do it but the energy to push forward just isn’t there.

Some of us are fortunate to survive. Others are not. Those who don’t survive leave behind friends and loved ones filled with guilt, confusion, struggling to wonder if they could have done more. Thing is, we can only do as much as those who are suffering will let us. We can do everything right – get them to the doctor, help with therapy appointments, chores, childcare, medication, we can cross every T, dot every i, mind our p’s and our q’s, and some will still slip away from our fingers regardless of how tightly onto them we hold. Guilt, confusion, and wondering if we could have done more is a natural reaction to losing someone to suicide. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means you’re grieving a loss you don’t understand. A loss you blame yourself for… know this though, the blame is not yours to hold. It’s okay to let go of the blame too. Letting go of the blame doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the person. It means you’re not blaming yourself for their disappearance. They will always live on in your heart and through your actions.

This is where I really love Jennifer’s  post. She’s walking in an Out of the Darkness walk for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She wants to help increase awareness. To make it okay to talk about suicide. So, in her own words:

I’ve found somewhere to start that works for me: Raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I’m going to walk one of their Out of the Darkness walks, because I’m committed to making suicide an acceptable topic of conversation. I’m going to help them raise money for education and awareness. And slowly, as I put the pieces back together, I’ll see what I can do to raise awareness for postpartum depression. Because no one should feel that desperate. No one should see suicide as their only way out. And because babies deserve mothers and mothers deserve help.

To read her post in it’s entirety, go here. Once you’re there, I hope you’ll consider donating to her walking team for AFSP. They’re a terrific organization dedicated to raising awareness and increasing research and education regarding suicide. They support people struggling with suicide as well as educate their loved ones on how to help and how to cope after a loss. I hope you’ll support Jennifer as she strives to continue to make a difference in the world. Show her some love while you’re over there too. She could use it. I remember supporting Jennifer last year right after she lost Kristi. I remember the pain she felt – the pain she could barely express at the time. Over the past year, she’s struggled. She still mourns for Kristi. But Jennifer? You’ve come so very far. You’re doing something I know Kristi would be so very proud of you for doing. I know she’ll be there with you, walking with you. I know we’ve never met but I’m proud of you. Keep moving forward. Through the easy and through the hard. You’re not alone. You’ve got us right there with you and I know you’ve got Kristi too. You are loved. You, my dear, are awesome.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Nuclear Winter


Meet Selena. She blogs over at Because Motherhood Sucks. Selena submitted this story a few weeks ago and I have been dying to share it with you. I’ve been busy with sick kids among other things. I’m thrilled to finally share her words with you here as the Postpartum Voice of the Week. I hope you’ll find her words and story as powerful as I do.

 

I was no stranger to depression. I had my first experience with being hospitalized when I was 13 and was treated and released only to succumb again and again and again  throughout my teens and into adulthood.

I was on Prozac when I found out I was pregnant and for some reason this didn’t interest my obstetrician in the least. She basically told me to taper down if I wanted, but that she was completely comfortable with Prozac during pregnancy. I stayed on a low dosage and had a relatively uneventful pregnancy. I say “relatively” because although my health and the development of the baby were totally fine, I was exhausted, nauseous and miserable throughout. So much so that I remember having other mothers ask me if people were always touching my belly and I realized that NO ONE had EVER approached me to touch my belly. Of course, I suppose I wasn’t completely approachable.

I just ASSUMED I would experience Post-Partum Depression. I read up on it. I knew the symptoms. I decided that I didn’t care about the type of birth I had or whether or not I breastfed. The goal was always a natural birth and breastfeeding, but if it didn’t work out that way, I was not going to be disappointed or hard on myself because I didn’t want any added stressors to get depressed over. My mother would be there to help me for 5 weeks and could stay longer if I needed the help.

As far as I was concerned, I was perfectly okay with depression. It was an old friend who overstayed her welcome. It was annoying, but familiar. I would deal with it and move on. No problem.

Until it happened.

I woke up to the sound of the baby crying and was overwhelmed with a sense of utter terror and panic. I was alone in the house with her. Her father had gone back to work and my mother had left the day before. In the 5 weeks that my mother had been there, I had experienced a mild case of “baby blues” and gotten over it. I had no idea how I was going to handle this gigantic task that was ahead of me. I had to get her up and feed her and change her and dress her and find time to eat something myself and keep her calm and happy and get her to nap and on and on and on. And I would have to do this every day for the rest of my life.

My kid had severe colic. She screamed non-stop for about 12 hours a day. And the doctors just told me she’d grow out of it. I knew I couldn’t do it. I had made a terrible mistake. This was all my fault. What was I thinking when I assumed that I knew the first thing about being a mother? And what kind of a failure was I? My ONLY job in the whole world is to keep her comfortable and alive and she hates me. She never stops crying and she hardly sleeps. How could I do this?

I called her father. “Please come home.”

He told me he couldn’t come immediately but he would be home when he could. And when he came home he found a sleeping baby and a complete mess of a mommy. I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to leave. I had made a terrible mistake. I hated this baby. She didn’t even like me.

He took over and I tried to sleep.

He stayed home for the next few days. I tried to sleep when I could but I heard her crying all the time. I got earplugs and ran a fan and I heard her screaming all day long. I got mad and wondered if he hadn’t left her alone, and I stomped out into the living room only to find a sleeping baby and daddy on the couch. I was hearing things.

I was terrified. I didn’t want to touch her. I decided that I was going crazy and would have to leave her for her own good so she should get used to her father taking care of her. I didn’t want to hold her. And yet, I wanted nothing more than to nuzzle her and love her and have her little head on my shoulder and hear her breathing in my ear. In the middle of the night, I would go get her to hold her and I would cry because I didn’t understand why I wanted to leave her so badly. But I did. I wanted to run.

I had an older friend come over to let me shower one day and the baby didn’t cry for her at all. For her, it was fun to hold the baby. It was easy and enjoyable. I marveled at the way she handled the baby and how she seemed to entertain her by doing nothing. I cried because it was so hard for me. I didn’t know what to do with a baby. I didn’t want to hold her and I didn’t know where to put her down and when I did, she just screamed anyway so I got a sling and she hated that. She hated her bassinet and she hated the floor and she hated the couch. I hated this kid.

Again, I called her father at work. “I think you can take a baby to the fire department and leave them, no questions asked. I am going to take her there, okay?” He told me that was crazy talk. He said the words, Post Partum Depression.

THIS was not depression. This was something else. I knew depression. I could handle depression. This was horror. This was terror. This was pure guilt and anger and infinite regret. This was like depression’s more evil, less apathetic twin. Depression was like a cold, heavy, wet blanket of fog. This was a nuclear winter.

My mother came back out to help. She took charge. She sent Ben back to work and got me an appointment with a doctor. She kept the baby busy and let me take a shower. She forced me to eat. My mother, not for the first time I am sure, saved my life.

After a few weeks of medication and 4 or 5 sessions of therapy, I was feeling a bit more steady. One morning, I was finished feeding the baby and talking to her on the bed and she looked up at me and smiled. I loved her right then. I knew without a doubt that I loved her and I never wanted to leave her. I told my mom it was safe for her to go home. I made some plans to go to a Post Partum group and began to reach out to my friends.

I would be lying if I said that I was okay right away. Being a stay at home mom requires a lot of planning your days and staying busy and it took me a really long time to find places to go to break up the day. I decided to work part time so that I had a life outside of the baby and that helped. I joined a Mommy Meet-Up group and that helped too. Mostly, I went easy on myself and realized that babies can cry and it is not an indication of my skills as a parent.

Three years later, the colic has stopped and the depression is under control but if I said I was completely thrilled with motherhood I would be lying. It has been a really difficult road for me and as a bit of a control freak, motherhood is a HUGE adjustment.

The thing that has helped me the most though, is being okay with the idea that I am simply NOT one of those women who believes motherhood is the most wonderful and thrilling experience that anyone can have. I started to blog about it and learned (mostly by anonymous comments) that there are many mothers out there who feel the same way. Motherhood is work. It is a job!

But I continue to work on it and try to find the happy moments among all the day to day drudgery. And when my three year old turns into a total monster and I have that moment of thinking how I wish I could run away, I remember how it was when I REALLY wanted to run away and that helps me to know that it’s going to be okay.

It will be okay.

……………………..

BIO:

Selena is a reader, a book person, and a self-affirmed pessimist. She lives in Upstate NY, has her hands full with her diva-esque preschooler and hopes to one day be able to write full time.

Find out more about her love of motherhood at Becausemotherhoodsucks.blogspot.com.

Saturday Sundries 03.05.11: Husbands and Baby Blues


Welcome, y’all!

This morning I jumped out of bed, thinking I only had 20 minutes to get dressed and travel to my church for a Women’s Brunch. Turns out I had 50 minutes. I took the time to do dishes before I left. Once I arrived, I felt so blessed and loved. Women of all ages sat together at tables and shared their inspirations for daily faith and Christ-like living. One of the older women at my table cried as she shared her story. I left filled with a sense of camaraderie and connection with several new women in my Church. I am so grateful for the ability to meet in the open with people of the same faith – to be able to speak freely of my beliefs and of Christ’s power within my own life. There are so many places in the world where if you even mention Christ, you will be put to death. But not here.

I spoke of my Postpartum Depression and how God has used that to change my life and allow me to reach out to several women on a daily basis. You know what y’all? Not ONE woman at that table judged me for my hospitalization. Not one woman at that table loved me any less or told me I failed as a mother because I had Postpartum Depression. I know I speak about Postpartum Depression all the time online but I don’t get the opportunity to talk about it in person very often. To sit in sisterhood at a table with other mothers and not be judged for my experiences – WOW. So very grateful and blessed.

Today, I don’t have specific questions to answer. The questions I’ll be addressing are based on search terms which led people to my blog within the past seven days. If people are looking for these topics, I want to provide information to answer their unasked questions.

I wish every one of you a wonderful Saturday – one filled with insight, peace, and happiness.

And as always, take care of YOU first.

*The answers given here are written by me, a non-health care professional. I’m a mom who has been through hell with Postpartum twice, ante-natal depression once and has dedicated her life to learning all there is to know about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Please check with your healthcare provider prior to implementing any of the information you may find below. It is NOT meant to be and/or replace professional advice or orders.

 

1) Should baby blues last for more than 4 weeks?

No. The blues should not last for more than 4 weeks. It may take up to 4 weeks for the blues to dissipate completely but if you are consistently experiencing what you feel are the blues for a solid 4 weeks, you really should talk with your doctor. Postpartum Depression also does not just manifest as “the blues.” There are other issues which are also included in the Postpartum spectrum. Anxiety, irritability, anger, intrusive thoughts, and obsessive-compulsive behavior are all symptoms that may manifest in an episode of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Up to 80% of all new moms experience the blues. As many as 20% of those who experience the blues go on to develop a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Just because your symptoms of the blues are continuing past 4 wks does not mean you are developing a serious case of Postpartum Depression. But you should absolutely go see a health professional to explore what’s going on with you. Be sure to ask for a thyroid panel, an iron level check, and a Vitamin D level check to rule out any health issues for your continued struggles. It’s beyond important to get the Thyroid panel as Anti-depressants will NOT help with a thyroid issue – and may actually make things worse for someone with a severe thyroid issue, therefore delaying successful treatment and recovery. It’s also very important (and hard) not to blame yourself for Postpartum Depression. You have not done anything to deserve this or to cause this to happy. There is help, there is hope – and you are absolutely not alone as your journey toward recovery.

2) How does husband cope with postpartum?

There are several ways in which a husband copes with postpartum. The answer to this question really lies in what the person asking meant.

Does she mean if HE has postpartum? Or does she mean if SHE has postpartum? And then – does she mean What’s the best way for him to cope? Or how do most husbands in general cope with postpartum? I want to address all of those below in as succinct  a manner as possible.

If HE has postpartum: Men & women exhibit different symptoms when it comes to depression. Men keep quiet. They will stay at work longer, avoid home, self-medicate, get angry and irritable, shift blame, shirk responsibilities, blame themselves for the failure. If your husband is suddenly not at home as much, angry, frustrated, and not smiling or as easy going as usual – it might be time to try to get him to a healthcare professional. A great website to learn more can be found at Postpartum Men. It’s run by Dr. Will Courtenay, who is an expert in Male Depression. Dr. Courtenay is amazing and truly knows the male psyche. If you suspect your husband is struggling with depression, visit Dr. Courtenay’s site and then sit down to talk with your partner. Let him know you won’t judge him and encourage him to get help for himself and for his family.

If SHE has postpartum: He needs to avoid telling her to snap out of her depression first and foremost. Dive in with the chores, housework, and baby duty. Take older kids out to play. Change diapers before mom nurses at night or if she’s sleeping (those precious extra moments of sleep are heavenly). Also, he should read this cheat sheet for a fabulous list of things to say to his wife. Support her going to doctor’s appointments but don’t force her UNLESS she’s clearly expressed intent to harm herself or others. Never every sneak attack a psychiatric appointment on your wife. Bad juju.Very Bad juju. Ask how you can help. And then do it. Don’t wait for her to ask – because she won’t. Bottom line, love her, support her, and help with the work around the house. Give her time to heal and recover. It’ll be a thankless job but one day, she’ll tell you thank you. Trust me. I’m eternally grateful for the support I received from my husband during Postpartum. (This also covers the BEST way for him to cope)

How most husbands cope: The most common gut reaction is to deny there’s anything wrong. Some husbands even believe their wives are faking symptoms in order to get out of parenting responsibilities. Still others tell their wives to snap out of it. Or they believe that medication and doctors can’t do anything to help so they don’t support their wives seeking help, instead telling them that they need to suck it up and just tough it out. Husbands are just as shattered as we are when Postpartum strikes. They are lost – the woman they love with all their heart has faded away. She’s gone. In her place is a new woman, a shadow of the woman she once was – the woman she was maybe even hours before… they don’t know how to fix us. So they get angry, scared, and frustrated. They snap at us, not knowing how else to react. I would highly recommend getting a husband reacting in any of the aforementioned ways to attend a doctor’s appointment with you. A doctor will legitimize your experience for your husband. Many husbands have what we call “White Coat Syndrome,” ie, until he hears it from a doctor, it’s not real. It helps to get him to the Doctor because it involves him in the solution, thereby allowing him to “fix” the situation at hand in some way, which is what men excel at – solving problems. It’s not an easy ride with a husband who is not supportive. You’re also not alone in this – but when you have Postpartum, it is so very important to have support at home – get BOTH of you to the doctor as soon as possible. There is hope, even in this.

I’ll be here


(Husbands… need a cheat sheet on what to say to your wife? PRINT & MEMORIZE THIS POST.)

When you feel as if you have nowhere to turn…. I’ll be here.

When you’re all alone and lost…. I’ll be here.

When you can’t breathe because anxiety has stolen your breath… I’ll be here.

When scary thoughts dive into your head…. I’ll be here.

When you don’t want to sleep because you’re afraid of what might come… I’ll be here.

When you sleep all day because you can’t bear to get out of bed… I’ll be here.

When you’re filled with fear and can’t move… I’ll be here.

When you need to wail and scream and punch… I’ll be here.

When you need to be held close forever because nowhere else feels safe… I’ll be here.

When you need someone to just listen… I’ll be here.

When you need a break from your screaming child… I’ll be here.

When you need to feel love… I’ll be here.

When you need to just be… I’ll be here.

I love you.

I know, somewhere, deep within, you still love me too.

This is me. Here. Waiting for you.

To come back.

Waiting. For as long as it takes.

I’ll be here.

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An Unsung Hero: Dads


When a mother is pregnant, everyone showers attention on her.

“When are you due?”

“You must be tired. Have a seat.”

“Eating for two now! Have some more!”

Pregnant moms even get their very own parking spots at most stores.

But we often forget about Dad.

It is easy to do given that Dad is not the one undergoing a huge physical transformation in just nine short months. But he is still undergoing a psychological change. He is father. There is a new person growing inside his partner for whom he is jointly responsible.

Father.

A two-syllable word yet so powerful.

Any man can create a baby. It takes a real man to hang around and be involved.

Once a woman gives birth, the attention shifts to baby. Then back to her. In fact, one of the first things we hear even when celeb moms give birth is that “Mom and baby” are doing just fine. What about Dad? How is he doing? Did he faint at the sight of the needles? How IS he doing emotionally? Oh oops..wait. It’s not okay to talk about a Dad’s emotions. He’s a man. Manly men are brawny. They grunt, growl, pound each other’s chests, howl, and all that caveman stuff. Right? Right?

Wrong.

Dads today are involved more than ever.

I can’t tell you how many Stay At Home Dads I know on Twitter. Or how many Dads who do work and are actively involved in their children’s lives.

And let’s not forget our current Commander in Chief who is father of two young girls.

In 1994, a National Fatherhood Initiative began work to decrease Fatherhood absence in the lives of young children.

President Obama has been very supportive of this Initiative since taking office.

And this month, the National Fatherhood Initiative is challenging Dads to take a 30 day pledge to be a better Father.

You can also find Dad to Dad support at Twitter.com by simply utilizing the hashtag #DadsTalking. These Dads offer a large base of support, weekly chats, and a website. You can also follow them @DadsTalking.

There’s also a project called Strong Fathers over at Twitter.com. Their main goal is working with Dads and Kids in schools. Visit their website for more information.

Involved Dads deserve recognition. They deserve to be encouraged without being torn down, nagged, or attacked. Sure, he may not do things as perfectly as you think they should be done, or even the way you would do them at all, but at he is doing his best in his own way. Just as another mom does things in her house her own way, so does your husband/partner. Give him kudos when he helps out. Let him know how much you appreciate everything he does for you, for your children, for your family. It’s particularly important because according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children are living without fathers.

It’s hard to provide recognition when struck down by a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Dads, know that if your wife is struggling with a Mood Disorder after a birth, she is grateful for any help you are providing. One day she will thank you for everything you did to help her recovery. She needs someone to listen, to help with daily household tasks, to let her know that she is not alone. She may need to sit in silence. She may need to rest. She may need you to watch the baby if she goes to therapy. Staying positive and listening with an open mind is one of the best things you can do for her.

Fathers of the world, thank you. Thank you for being man enough to hang around for the tough part. We, your partners and children, are eternally grateful.

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