Postpartum Voice of the Week: Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away: My PPD Experience


Earlier this week, a fellow member of Twitter messaged a group of us to say she had recently written her story as part of her recovery. She wanted to share it but did not know where to start. I responded and offered her space at my blog. Later that morning, I had her story in my email. Then my week happened. Pediatric appointment with my 4 year old, my 6 year old coming home from school two days in a row and then insomnia hit. I finally got to reading her story and immediately wanted to publish it. I did not want to wait until Thursday. I love the way she breaks down lyrics from “Please don’t take my sunshine away” and writes her story. The story unfolds and unfurls as you feel her frustration, her desperate need to heal. I found myself nodding my head and cheering along with her once life begins to return.

If these words touch you as much as they have touched me and you would like to reach out to her, please leave a message in the comments. I’ll make sure she gets them.

She has asked to remain anonymous for this post and I am respecting this request.

Without further ado, I will step aside and let you read her words.

Update: The author of this post has left a comment and I have verified her desire to share her identity. Her name is Sarah. If you want to reach her, you can do so by sending her mail here: sem55(@)georgetown(dot)edu

She left the following in the comments:

I am the author of this story… what a difference a few months makes. When I wrote this I felt stronger, but still ashamed. My name is Sarah and I have PPD and I AM a great Mom! Thank you to all of the courageous women out there who have reached out to me to share their strength. I only hope I can return a fraction of the support I have received to someone who stumbles upon my story. Thank you Lauren for the opportunity to share, and for all you do for moms!

Thank YOU, Sarah, for revealing yourself. And Kudos to you for taking such a huge step in owning your experience. It’s a HUGE step.

And now, here are SARAH’S words.

 

You are my sunshine

The second you become a mother you are transformed. Your purpose, your dreams and your complete identity change. My son has taught me how to live, love and grow in ways I could have never understood before. His very being keeps me going and give me purpose. It is a love like no other.

My only sunshine

After nearly three years of trying to get pregnant, including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility, in June of 2009 I successfully conceived. I didn’t allow myself to get too excited or attached while I went for weekly blood draws and ultrasounds to monitor my early pregnancy. As the first trimester passed and we saw our tiny bean grow into a perfectly formed tiny baby, the hope in me stirred and I began letting myself feel joy. Anxiety continued, however, as I underwent frequent fetal echocardiograms to evaluate the baby for a heart condition he was at risk of developing. The second trimester came and went and his heart remained perfect; we were in the clear. At 32 weeks, I started having contractions, thus followed two hospital visits for pre-term labor. At home, I remained on bedrest, and luckily made it to the 37th week. My labor was quick and my beautiful baby boy A .N. was born perfect and healthy at 6 lb 1 oz. I felt the biggest relief in my life when I saw my newborn baby. This joy dissolved quickly when the OB began the repairs. I began feeling very funny. I was trying to communicate how weird I was feeling when I found I was unable to speak. Ringing in my ears drowned out the sounds and I began to slip into unconsciousness. This is it, I thought. My baby was born healthy, but the price I am paying for it is to die in childbirth. The next thing I knew I was waking up on the Mother-Baby Unit. The nurses there cheerfully told me I had experienced lidocaine toxicity and my baby was with my husband in the nursery. I ached to see his face and hold his perfect body. When they returned, I instantly felt a jolt of joy and energy as I acquainted myself with my new family.

Two days later we were discharged and sent home as a new family of three. Our families had camped out at our house but we sent them home to have the space and room to figure out what we were doing. The next few days were quiet, but things did not feel right with the baby. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with him. My milk came in late and A became dehydrated and difficult to arouse. After that crisis resolved, we received a concerned call from the pediatrician. The results from A’s metabolic screen were positive for a rare but potentially fatal disease. They cautioned us that there are many cases of false positives, but I went into panic mode. We stayed on alert night and day to watch him breathe at all times. We had to wait for a week for the news that it was an error, A was fine.

You make me happy when skies are grey

The weeks after were full of relief, bliss and love. I managed through the marathon feedings and fell more in love with my son each day. Parenting seemed to come naturally to my husband. I finally had everything I dreamed of. Then at 11 weeks, A did a remarkable thing, he slept through the night. Usually a cause for celebration, this milestone marked the beginning of my downfall. I felt as though this gift I had dreamed of for so long was somehow a mirage and could be taken from me at any moment. The lines between fear and reality became blurred. First I stopped being able to sleep, feeling the need to rest my hand on the baby’s chest feeling it’s reassuring rise and fall. I started having the most disturbing images in my head. These horrifying images tortured me relentlessly. I felt constantly nervous and on edge. I felt so agitated I couldn’t keep my body still, when I lay in bed to rest my legs wouldn’t stop moving. I had the most intense feeling that sometime terrible was about to happen to A. Something that I had to stop. Soon I was having stomach problems, not being able to keep anything down and then being unable to force myself to eat. I started going days straight without sleeping. I stopped eating solid foods, losing over 20 lbs. in a month. I became weak and fragile. I began having the images coupled with horrifying phrases in my head. All involved seeing my baby harmed. I started having urges to do things like bang my head on the shower wall to stop them. These urges were like the most intense itch you know you should not scratch. I felt if I didn’t give in to them, I would jump out of my skin or
explode. During the day, I was having panic attacks where I would feel as though I was dying; my arms would go numb, my heart would race, I would become sick to my stomach and feel paralyzed. At night, with the baby and my husband tucked safely in bed, I began having urges to disappear. I wondered how fast I could pack everything up and drive off before they awoke. I thought if I disappeared, my baby would be able to grow and thrive and would be better off without me. My husband did not understand at all what was going on and became very angry at me. We began constantly fighting. I had to ask him to stay home from work or leave work numerous times because I didn’t feel safe alone with the baby. June came and his birthday and father’s day came and went and I found myself unable to get out of bed. I wondered if I was dying or losing my mind. I didn’t want to live anymore. I pictured milestones in A’s life without me present. I became obsessed with planning A’s birthday party because I had the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be around by then. The day came when I couldn’t take another second. That was when I reached out to my Mom.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you

I always wanted to get better. For A, for our family. But help seemed so hard to find. Living in X, I had isolated myself. I didn’t want anyone to know what a bad mother I was so I tried to stop visitors and kept phone calls brief. I had been refusing to take the medications I needed because they were not compatible with nursing. Having to suddenly wean my baby was like a final blow of failure to me. After my urgent phone call to my Mom, she left work in the middle of the day without packing a thing, got on 95 and talked to me on the phone until she arrived 3 hours later. She took me to the midwife, who sent me to the ER to be admitted. Because I told them I had no imminent plans to kill myself, they wouldn’t admit me. They gave me sleeping pills and the address of an urgent care psych center. It turns out the place was a partial-hospitalization program, which my insurance did not cover and would require me
to be away from A during the day. I felt helpless and desperate. I didn’t have any hope of anyone being able to help me. I was taking the medication, but it didn’t seem to be doing
anything for me. Things escalated at home with my husband and I really feared hurting myself, so I packed our stuff and we left for Y.

After my Mom and my sister helped me get settled in Y with A, things started to turn around. I moved in with my sister who was a huge support to me. There was family and friends around me constantly. I had the help I needed to care for A while taking care of myself. I sought help at a local center devoted to post partum mood disorders and began to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly. I was given a name for what I was going through: Post-Partum OCD. I joined a local support group that meets monthly and I met the most amazing and inspiring women who really get it and have been there. Their strength was contagious. I starting believing that I could get better. The thoughts in my head became more fleeting. I felt more connected with my son. I still had some panic attacks where I felt myself regressing. Dark thoughts would again invade my brain. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting better at all and there was no point to struggling through this. But I learned to reach out to those who cared about me when I felt this way. During my darkest days the phrase “this will not end well” would repeat itself in my head, this mantra was now replaced by “this too shall pass.”

Please don’t take my sunshine away

Time, therapy and medication have given me my life back. My recovery has been full of ups and downs, good and bad days. I am still working on mending relationships. But as the Autumn came, I felt my old self emerge. I will never be the person I was before I had a child, but I am a stronger, wiser woman. I have found I am strong enough to make it on my own, but that the support of others is essential. I am learning to enjoy the moments without obsessing about what will come next. I am learning to let go of complete control and let my son explore and experience with my guidance. It’s a new way of living, and it’s very freeing. I am able to enjoy every day with A. He amazes me on a daily basis. I don’t know what challenges or heartaches I might face in the future, but now I am healthy and strong enough to face them head-on. And if I’m not, I will still be ok because of the support system I have. And in February, I will be at my son’s first birthday party, celebrating his year of thriving and mine of survival.

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Violence during pregnancy by intimate partner increases risk of Postnatal Depression


A study included in an early online publication of The Lancet examines the correlation of partner violence against women during pregnancy and the effect this may have on postpartum mental health.

The study took place in Brazil and included women from ages 18-49 years old. 1133 pregnant women were eligible for the study with 1045 included in the analysis. Of those 1045, 270 had postnatal depression. The most common form of partner violence? Psychological. “Women reporting the highest frequency of psychological violence were more likely to have postnatal depression even after adjustment.” while “Women who reported physical or sexual violence in pregnancy were more likely to develop postnatal depression but this association was substantially reduced after adjustment for psychological violence and confounding factors.”

The importance of this study may shift attention to psychological violence and abuse during pregnancy as an increased risk factor for postnatal depression. Physical and sexual violence still warrants attention.

Growing up, we all heard the phrase “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” According to this study, words may be even more harmful. The true danger here is that Psychological abuse is often a precursor to physical or sexual violence.

Another recent study also found that “Even After Leaving Abuser, Moms Mental Health Declines.” A mother’s level of depression and anxiety were still high at least two years after escaping an abusive relationship. This research study comes from Ohio State University and included data from 2400 women who were married to, or living with the father of their child at the end of the first year of a three year period. They were broken down into three groups. The women participating were all nearly low income, minority, first time moms and likely experiencing additional stresses. Women who stayed or left a relationship showed higher levels of anxiety and depression, meaning (psychologically) they were no better off than women who stayed. That said, the researchers DID find that “abused mothers who had more social support did better after the end of their relationship than those with less help from family and friend.”

Lesson learned here? Reach out for support. Don’t settle for abuse. You are better than that. You deserve better. Your child deserves better.

If you are an abused mom/woman, you can start by calling a Domestic Violence Hotline. Start here. Start now. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website for help. You are not alone.

Just Talkin’ Tuesday 06.01.10: Should I or shouldn’t I? Having another baby after Postpartum Depression


Last night’s #PPDChat centered on this topic.

Given the varied responses and concern, I wanted to offer an extra outlet to continue the discussion.

Many women struggle with this decision after they’ve experienced a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Prior to having depression, these are moms who may have dreamed of a large family. Or at least a family with more than one child. But then a Postpartum Mood Disorder crashed down across their tracks, making the future seem beyond an impassable obstacle. Once we’ve cleared the tree, hacked it into little pieces and shredded it up, we’re exhausted. The mere thought of speeding headlong into another impasse may immobilize some.

So unintentionally, we are at an impasse. Do we or don’t we? What if… how can I prevent this from happening again? What effect will another episode have on my relationship with my older child? Will my marriage survive another round? Will I survive another round? What if I’m ready but my husband isn’t? What if my husband is ready and I’m not? What if my family is pressuring me? How do I handle this?

So we wonder. We worry. We talk. We cry. We mourn what might have been. We make a decision but don’t publicize it until we are ready to defend it. Because we feel we have to defend ourselves. We shouldn’t have to – but we do. It’s what we do.

I was not ready to have our second daughter. I had not healed from my first episode. I did not know if I wanted a second child. But my husband did. And deep down I did too. I just hadn’t made peace with the decision yet. So we started to try. And then stopped. And then started again. I went through hell – worse than the first time around. But somehow I made it through. It was my third pregnancy that scared the crap out of me. I spent so much more time getting ready for me and my potential relapse instead of on getting ready for baby. Combined with therapy and meds, my pro-active approach proved to be what worked for me this time. I am thankful I had a postpartum where I got to enjoy that newborn time. But after that, a couple of months in, I got pissed. Why? Because my PMD robbed me of this experience with my daughters, irreparably harming our bond. Sure, we’re bonded now and we love each other but it’s different. We don’t have that from the start bond. And that breaks my heart. All.the.time.

So let’s get to Just Talking – even if it is late.

Where are you on this journey? Have you? Thinking about it? Have advice/tips? What’s keeping you from having another baby? What’s your biggest fear? Share it with us – we won’t judge.

Kudos to Dr. Oz MD & Dr. Michael Roizen MD


Last night as I was traversing Publix during our weekly grocery trip, all three kids in tow, I managed to flip through a copy of YOU, Having a Baby by Dr. Michael Roizen, M.D., and Dr. Mehmet Oz, M.D. Yes, that’s the same Dr. Oz with the daily TV show.

I picked it up and flipped to the index. Betcha can’t guess what I was checking for…. c’mon. Guess!

I almost didn’t find Postpartum Depression. When I did, it had three page numbers listed. Thankfully, Postpartum Psychosis was listed right below it so I flipped to the page closest to that one. (Pages 272 & 273 if you’re wondering.)

Dr. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet?

THANK YOU.

Thank you for addressing Postpartum Mood Disorders properly.

Thank you for distinguishing between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression.

Thank you for acknowledging that if a woman even THINKS there’s a problem she should see her provider.

THANK YOU for talking about scary thoughts.

THANK YOU for writing so honestly and informatively about Postpartum Psychosis and not making moms who have PPP seem like hopeless cases. Because they’re not.

I was very impressed indeed.

I can only hope other pregnancy book authors will follow your lead and write so honestly and informatively about Postpartum Mood Disorders. Moms deserve nothing less.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did not receive anything at all for writing this review. It is an honest gut reaction from randomly picking the book up while my two year old attempted to nap on my chest as we waited for Daddy to bring his sisters back from a bathroom break. It doesn’t get anymore real and honest than that, people. And yes, there is a link to purchase the book @ Amazon BUT it is not a link via my Amazon Associates account. Just a plain ol’ link.)

Baby after Postpartum Depression: Tips?


Postpartum Mood Disorders not only cloud your bonding time with your infant but they also cloud future decisions regarding childbirth.

If they choose to have another child or find themselves unexpectedly pregnant (I’ve done both), Survivor Mamas ready themselves not only for the new baby but for the very real possibility of another brush with a  Postpartum Mood Disorder.

This is one of the biggest questions I get as the Community Leader at iVillage’s Postpartum Depression Message Board.

It’s such a big question that Karen Kleiman has devoted an entire book to it entitled “Having a Baby after Postpartum Depression: What am I thinking?”

One of the wonderful women I’ve come in contact on this journey of mine has recently embarked on trying to conceive another baby. Understandably, she is concerned about experiencing postpartum depression again. She’s blogged about it here. Have any advice for her? Have you had a baby after a Postpartum Mood Disorder and not relapsed? Go show her some love. Don’t forget to leave some tips here too!