Question From A Reader: “Will I Ever Feel Like This Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me?”


A reader emailed me earlier this morning to thank me for my “fabulous blog.” But she also had a question about her current experience with her journey through Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

Below is her question and my response:

Her Question:

“I’m over three months into recovery – having therapy and taking anti-depressants. Although I have much improved – I’m more bonded with my son, my sleep and appetite is better, my anxiety attacks are reduced etc – I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever feel that true elation, true joy that despite everything becoming a mum is the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Should I still be hopeful that this will come as part of full recovery or should I be finding a way to accept that although, I now know I love my son, life is always now going to be a little more miserable?”

My reply:

“Sending hugs, first and foremost.

Second, I’m glad to read that your symptoms have lessened just three months into your recovery and you’re feeling more bonded with your son and your appetite and sleep have improved as well. Those are HUGE things.

Think of recovery this way – first, we have to take care of the essentials – the basic things which keep us going – like eating, sleeping, etc. After those things have sorted themselves out, we can then focus on secondary things, such as mood, etc. Mood can absolutely disrupt the primary but as we heal from mood issues, we must heal the primary first.

It took me a long time to get back to being able to truly feel elation and joy, but that journey and the length of it is different for every person, just as physical recovery is different for every person.

Just as with a broken bone or a severe injury, there will always be a “scar” or “phantom pain” but eventually you regain full use of the complete spectrum of emotions, even if it takes some time.”

Add your thoughts, experiences, or support below. Time to rally!

The Scorpion Tale of Perinatal Mood Disorders


Last night, I had a rather in-depth discussion with Addye over at Butterfly Confessions. We’ve discussed the same topic before and we’re finally doing something about it because we both think there’s not enough out there about this subject. Her blog post went up last night, discussing the role her antenatal depression, postpartum mood disorders, and other mental health struggles have played in her son’s recent diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. While our children’s diagnoses are different, our story is the same, and it begins with a long hard look at the stinging guilt with which we now carry along our paths of Motherhood.

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It’s taboo, really, more so than admitting you struggled with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It’s a secret locked in a trunk hidden in a house deep in the woods where no one will find it. It’s the poison-tipped tail of a scorpion, the thing that gets you after the initial reaction of having a scorpion land in front of you. It’s the nagging feeling you get in your throat every damn time you look at your kid and think, even for a brief second, that you did that to them. It’s YOUR fault.

I’ve been there. I still am, sometimes. Not as much as before, but it’s something that I will always carry with me. A small part of my heart will always be tinged with guilt and a depth of sadness I’ll never shake. I’ve learned to accept it instead of fight it, to give it space to just breathe, knowing I’ll never get rid of it as long as I live. Right next to it though, now, is a space that is filled with a peace I’ve worked very hard to achieve – a peace that cancels out that guilt and sadness…as long as the see-saw is working that day, that is.

I struggled with Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first daughter. I’ve made no secret of that. I sought help but was shot down by my OB, an integral part of this story. I had to fight on my own to heal. Looking back, I didn’t do a great job at healing. What I excelled at was shoving all of the darkness down and faking it until I felt like I made it. Only by the time I got there, I was pregnant again and my hormones became the scorpion.

They flowed into my pregnancy, along with severe morning sickness. There were days I had to choose between eating or my prenatal vitamin. I often chose eating because I knew the vitamin would make me vomit whereas I might be able to keep the food down. One day, I lived on just one powdered donut. Other days, less. I couldn’t tolerate food for almost four months, if memory serves correctly.

I remember thinking I didn’t need the prenatal vitamin. I’d be okay, baby would be fine. Or so my hormone rattled brain said so. I didn’t want to get up, I would lay on the couch as our oldest, just a little under a year and a half, begged me to play with her. I couldn’t move or I’d vomit. So she learned to play by herself.

The pregnancy progressed, everything seemed fine, I didn’t have Gestational Diabetes again, the baby measured fine, all was good.

Until my baby shower. I went into labor that evening. I was 35wks and 6 days pregnant. (Women with untreated antenatal depression are more likely to go into labor early….or so says the research). At the time, I didn’t relate the two. I just knew I wasn’t full term and contracting. I labored at home until the next morning when we finally saw the doctor. I was dilated enough for them to send me to the hospital. Baby was on her way. Instead of happy, I was nervous. What was wrong? Why was she coming early? We were close enough to full term, really, less than a week away. But still, she was early.

After 42 hours of grueling labor, my daughter was born. She looked perfect. 10 fingers. 10 toes, screaming, a perfect squishable pink human all mine. I made her. As I tried to latch her to nurse, she wouldn’t latch. Just kept screaming. I didn’t know why. I tried for 30 minutes. Then we called the Lactation Consultant. I knew what I was doing, damn it, I had nursed our first for 16 months. Why wouldn’t she latch?

The Lactation Consultant swept her mouth as soon as she got to our room.

That’s when shit got real.

My darling perfect little squishable baby was rushed away from me, the word “cleft palate” left hanging in the air.

There I lay, in a hospital room, epidural still wearing off, all alone, no staff, no husband, nothing to show for almost 2 full days of labor except for the echoing of my heart shattering, insidious voices flooding my head with the phrase, “It’s your fault.”

I did that to her. She grew inside of me, imperfectly.

I lost it that night, brushed my hair for 10 minutes in front of the mirror. Ugly cried on the phone a lot that week, so much so that my ex-husband couldn’t even understand me at several points. In front of nurses. I cried a LOT. This? Wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Why had I failed?

She was in the NICU for 21 days, undergoing one major surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. Seeing your 9 day old infant on apparatus breathing FOR her… yeah.. um… yeah. “I did that to her.”

The kicker? The geneticist at the hospital asked me if I took my prenatal vitamins. I lied. I didn’t need any more guilt. I really didn’t. In my fog, I failed a lot.

People told us if we made it through the first year….we’d be scot-free.

They lied.

She’s seven now. Is one of the bubbliest personalities you could ever hope to meet. She’s perfect in every possible way. But she’s struggled so much and her struggles are far from over. Because of me.

She fights for every word she says. It could be worse, I tell myself. She could have so many other issues kids with her same condition have – texture issues, an additional syndrome, etc. Aside from her Pierre Robin Sequence at birth, she’s fine. She has speech therapy, and has had additional surgeries to help with her speech. Before she was 2, she’d been through three times as many surgeries as I have in my entire life.

I did that to her.

What if I’d taken my prenatals? Would she have been born this way? What if I’d fought harder for myself in seeking help for my depression after the birth of her sister?

Intellectually, I KNOW it’s not my fault. But still, the sting is there, long after the scorpion has faded out of sight.

It’s there, just a tinge of it, every time we talk. Every time I have to decipher what she’s said to me based on the context of the words I am able to understand because I still can’t understand every single thing she says. I recently won $200 headphones. They help me immensely in understanding her when we Skype. The ear-buds I had before just weren’t high enough quality to do so. Even now, I have to make her slow down and repeat what she’s said because she’s seven and well, seven year olds get excited.

She will need a lot of orthodontic work. She has the risk of giving birth to a child with similar issues. Kids will tease her because of the way she talks. She was born a fighter without having a say in the matter. While I know this will serve her well later in life, it is something with which I struggle.

Some mothers have Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, etc, and they heal, with no adverse affect on their children. But there are those out there who experience issues with their children. And because of what we’ve been through, we draw that line from point PPD to point whatever Alphabet Soup DX with our kids. There’s research to back most of it up. There isn’t research (that I’ve found) to back up PPD related to cleft palate but a “Friend” of mine once tried to draw a line to the type of med I may have taken to my daughter’s cleft palate. Punch.IN.THE.GUT.

Moms like me need a gentle hand. We need to be heard, not dismissed. We don’t need to hear that “It’s not your fault” because in our heads? It is. It always will be no matter how much you tell us that it’s not. It just will be. We need you to stand with us, to be there when we need to scream, cry, vent, and shake our fists at the sky. To understand that our truth is a hard truth and sometimes it will break us but we will rebuild, a constant practice in our lives shattered by this spike of unexpected blow-back from our already complex, shame, and stigma-riddled experiences.

We are women made of glass. Under that glass, yes, we are steel, because we have to be, but on the outside, we are glass and we shatter. We need you to be someone who lets us shatter, someone who helps put us back together and take another step forward as we walk toward processing our new truth.

It’s time for us to come out of the darkness and speak up, to be honest about the role we feel we played in the issues affecting our kids, and to find support, REAL support, not dismissive attitudes, in our search for the light both we and our children need to thrive. We seek out the research drawing the lines from Mom to our kid’s issues, whatever they may be. Sometimes, the line tracing back to Mom is real, worth exploring, and worth understanding. Without it, we’re just left wondering why. I, for one, don’t like hanging out in the middle of nowhere with no answers.

Any answer, even a horrible one, is better than no answer at all.

It’s something. A direction in which we can begin to move forward from, a new beginning from which we can start to walk toward solace. Even if we never reach it, walking toward it is often enough. It has to be, right?

 

 

 

Happy Third Birthday, Text4Baby!


partner button_300x250When Text4Baby first came on the scene, I was very excited. Here was a service that offered moms, for free, information about their infants and motherhood which would come straight to their phones. No signing into email or having to go to a website, just sign up for the service and BAM. Valuable information about your baby comes right to your phone. What’s really cool is that Text4Baby includes information about Postpartum Depression as well!

They turn three this month and I am thrilled to wish them a Happy Third Birthday! Text4Baby has grown quite a bit from a small service to a network of over 900 partners.

Here are a few wonderful facts about Text4Baby:

  • Text4baby is a free service that delivers three text messages a week to pregnant women and moms with children up to 1 year old. The text messages are timed to the mother’s due date or the age of her child.
  • A recent study by GW found that moms who used text4baby were “nearly three times more likely to believe that they were prepared to be new mothers”
  • A study by UC San Diego found that 63.1% of women reported that text4baby helped them remember an appointment or immunization that they or their child needed; 75.4% reported that text4baby messages informed them of medical warning signs they did not know; 71.3% reported talking to their doctor about a topic that they read on a text4baby message.
  • Text4baby is a collaboration of 900 partners. A comprehensive list can be found here.
  • 95% of women who use text4baby would refer the service to a friend

I haven’t used Text4Baby as when they began, my youngest was just a little over two years old so I was out of the target audience range.

As the founder of #PPDChat (which also turns 3 this year, incidentally – in May!), I am all for any technology which helps provide solid information and support to moms. Text4Baby does just that!

I hope you’ll join me in wishing an amazing service a Happy Birthday. May Text4Baby continue to grow and make a difference in the lives of mothers & babies!

I did not receive any compensation for this post. @Text4Baby approached me about writing a post and I happily accepted because I believe in what they do for new parents.

A Postpartum Valentine


February.

A sparkly, shiny, red month filled with nearly naked flying toddlers armed with arrows.

What’s not to love?

Sure, there are regular every day people who moan about Valentine’s Day because they won’t have anyone with whom to celebrate.

rottenecard_33445963_b54n9nhfv8But then there are those of us who do have someone to celebrate with –or are single moms with children old enough to celebrate plus a new baby –and a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

Ugh.

Who has time to put energy into telling someone you love them just because Hallmark says we have to do so? Why this day instead of that day? Just…ugh.

With a new baby in the house, chances are both of you are exhausted. Nobody is sleeping, you want to scream at the world or are worried about everything BUT pulling an awesome Valentine’s Day off. Because let’s face it, when the nearly naked toddler in your life is busy screaming about needing to eat or refusing to cooperate with potty training, the last thing you want to do is make a gazillion Valentine’s with glitter because it will get all over ALL THE THINGS.

I think Susan over at Learned Happiness nailed it in her post for today.

They’ve been celebrating it all month.

Then she points out the bonus of 50% off candy on February 15th.

What’s happier than half-price chocolate? (Okay, half-price wine but I digress).

Today, I want you to give yourself a Valentine.

Do something, anything, little or big, whatever is in your budget, for yourself.

Because today, you matter too and you shouldn’t have to wait today (or any day) for someone to show you how much you matter or are loved.

It starts inside you.

Your Valentine to yourself might just be the pick-me-up you need right now. Plus, you know yourself better than anyone.

Or…wait until tomorrow.

Because you know, all the good stuff will be on sale, as Susan so deftly pointed out.

That’s really winning.

Guest Post: @momgosomething – “You Never Know What Lies Behind a Perfect Smile”


There aren’t enough words in the universe powerful enough to explain how I feel about Kim from All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. We met on Twitter, through #ppdchat. She’s become one of my friends, even though we’ve never met in person. (God, I love the Internet for that!) She is real, she is honest, and the girl can write. She’s hilarious. Also, obsessed with Chuck Norris, which is just awesome. I’m honoured to have her writing here for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Without further ado, here are Kim’s words.
It was 9 in the morning when she had called and asked if she could come see him. I looked down at my pajama bottoms and the state of my kitchen. Bottles stacked one up against the other waiting to be sterilized, breakfast dishes left on the table, and his swing covered haphazardly with a blanket speckled with spit up.
“Of course you can come over,” I said with an exaggerated chipper tone.
She said in 2 hours.
In those 2 hours I cleaned the kitchen.
I dressed myself, including doing my hair and make-up.
I dressed my son in the finest clothing that was hung neatly in his colour coordinated closet.
I made the beds.
I swept the floors.
I got on my hands and knees and plucked out any noticeable lint and dog hair from the carpet.
I had just finished wiping down the bathroom with antibacterial wipes when the dog started barking at the door.
There she was.
My Aunt held a bouquet of daisies, my favourite, and an outfit for my son.
She immediately swooped him up in her arms and looked me over.
“You look so beautiful. I mean that. When I was 2 weeks postpartum, I was still in the same pajamas I had worn home from the hospital.”
She roamed my house with my newborn son, holding him tightly on her chest.
I watched her anxiously, looking for any indication that she had figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me.
“Your beds, they’re made. Kimbers, your house is absolutely spotless. Did you hire someone to do this?”
I bowed my head, “No. I do it.”
“Kimbers, you should be resting when the baby rests.”
I nodded in agreement.
When she finally left, she told me she was proud of me; that I was “rocking” motherhood with ease.
And as her car pulled out of my driveway, I took a breath of relief.
I fooled another person into believing that everything was ok.
In the days following, I went to great lengths to conceal my internal struggle.
If I looked perfect, if my son looked perfect, if my home looked perfect, no one would know.
It was so easy to hide my internal battle behind the cheerful facades that I had created.
And why did I do this?
Because I was scared that I would be labeled as a terrible mother.
Weak.
Failure.
Monster.
Crazy.
Not to be trusted with her child.
For weeks, and even after my diagnosis, I still kept a perfectly pretty barrier between me and my personal hell.
When I finally admitted to friends and family that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, they all had the same reaction:
“I had no idea. You looked like you had everything under control.”
Postpartum depression and anxiety does not have a face.
People cannot see it.
What they do see is what is portrayed on television, in the newspapers, tabloids, internet, etc.
They see monsters, psychos, nuts, disheveled, with twitches in our eyes and all the other horrible words and images that are associated with mental illness.
This sort of exaggerated misinformation breeds stigma like a wild fire. This is why so many men and women suffer in silence when they don’t have to.
Just like I did.
That’s why we have to stand up. We have to use our collective voice to teach others about our illnesses.
They need to understand that the way we experience depression looks completely different from everyone else’s.
This was me at 4 weeks postpartum.
 
Can you tell that I was crumbling inside?
More importantly, we need to keep talking to Moms. We need to ask those difficult questions like, “Are you ok?”
Even if they get offended, just ask them.
You never know what lies behind a perfect smile.
You could save a life.
 
Kimberly is a Registered Nurse, Mom and wife to a beautiful 4 year old son. She is a 4 year postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder.

She writes on her personal blog, All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something.