A Heartfelt Thank You as I Celebrate Six Years of Blogging


Six YearsSix years.

Wow.

Six.

For six years, I’ve been blogging about Postpartum Mood Disorders. I started with my own journey, in an effort to refocus facing pregnancy after two harrowing experiences with Postpartum Mood Disorders myself.

Then I moved on to Sharing the Journey, adding more voices to my own, acknowledging that there is power in the details of ALL our journeys. Through this interview series approach to my blog, I interviewed not only Moms, but experts and authors as well.

Three years ago today, I started #PPDChat and have since met some of the most awesome people to ever grace the Interwebz with their presence.

Being in the belly of hell during my darkest times with Postpartum Depression, OCD, and PTSD sucked. I was alone.

But I’m not alone any longer.

I want to thank Katherine Stone for supporting me as I first got started…for being a powerful and motivating voice which kept me going.

I want to thank Karen Kleiman for her words of wisdom in her book, “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression” which advises women to re-frame their pregnancies after Postpartum Depression. Her words are the ones which planted the idea of starting a blog to share my journey with others – to make it a real life example of what it’s like to navigate pregnancy after Postpartum Depression.

I want to thank Amber Koter Puline and Ivy Shih Leung for being there with me too as we all navigated this Postpartum Mood Disorder blog thing. Thanks for having my back and for your willingness to listen whenever we had issues. I love you both as if you were sisters. Seriously.

Most of all, I want to thank Wendy Davis of Postpartum Support International. Wendy has encouraged me in my journey of advocacy and helped me think through some very tough questions I had in the early days. She’s been the voice of reason, and never hesitated to talk with me when I needed advice or support. Meeting you in 2010, Wendy, was awesome.

I’d like to thank my Mother too – for her never-ending support through the hell that was my Postpartum Depression journey – for always being just a phone call away and for listening even when she didn’t want to and for letting me just pour my heart out. I can never thank you enough for being there for me when I needed someone to just listen. A huge thanks to my Father for telling me that while hospitalized that what I was experiencing was a completely normal reaction to everything I had been through. More than he’ll ever know, I clung tenaciously to that sentiment as I healed.

I know I’ve forgotten some people but if I thanked every single person, we’d be here forever.

A HUGE thank you to the #PPDChat community as well – without you, women and families wouldn’t have a 24/7 network of support to access on Twitter. Each one of you, yes, you too, are amazing. We exist in every corner of the world, it seems, and someone is always around. Even if you’ve moved on from the depths of hell or are now battling a different diagnoses, you don’t hesitate to refer someone to us. For that, I love you. You are part of this beautiful breathing thing  – this hands across the world cradling new mothers and families as they fight back and fight to see the light in their worlds once again.

I am truly blessed and grateful for the past six years, for all the good, and for all the hard. For if it were not for the hard, I would not be grateful for all the good.

Finally, thank you, dear readers, for reading and interacting for six years, for hanging tough with me when I didn’t have much to say, and for understanding why I needed to pull back. Thank you for welcoming me as I work my way back toward finding My Postpartum Voice once again. It has not gone unnoticed and I am blessed to have some of the best readers on the Internet -all of you so full of love, depth, honesty, support, and best of all – hope. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Spiffy New Commenting Abilities!


Ok, so maybe not spiffy. And maybe not so new to those of you with WordPress accounts.

But for those of you WITHOUT WordPress accounts, you may want to do a happy dance. Or not. ;-)

I discovered today that apparently I had the comment setting “Users must be registered and logged in” turned on. NO Wonder my “Share the Journey with You” Posts were wildly unpopular!

Ooops.

My sincerest apologies to those who have wanted to comment but have not had a wordpress account to do so with.

I have de-activated this setting.

Now even more of you will be able to comment here at Sharing the Journey. I am excited about this and can’t wait to see what crops up.

In fact, I think I may even add a new discussion feature called Just Talkin’ Tuesday. I’ll blog about a particular mood disorder or story and invite comments, questions, etc from experts, parents, caregivers, etc. I really want to encourage those of you who read this blog to SHARE the Journey. I’ve been amazed at the connections I’ve made in the two years I’ve been out and about in this Perinatal Advocacy land and definitely want to continue to pay it all forward!

Sharing the Journey with Helen Ferguson Crawford


I met Helen at Facebook. (Yes, I spend entirely TOO much time there) She’s a wonderfully brave soul who is opening up about her recent experience with Postpartum Depression and Thyroiditis. Did I mention her daughter also had kidney reflux? Helen is one tough chick and I can’t wait to share her journey with you. In fact, let’s get started now!

HFC

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Helen Crawford when she’s just HELEN?

Hey Lauren! I am a happy, confident, empathic soul.

Every day I am a being that is – a mother, wife, architect, artist, advocate, gardener, speaker, and big city lover. Our children, Joe (age 5 1/2) and Nora (age 19 months) are hilarious, engaging little people.

Did your pregnancy and birth go as you expected or were there some unexpected experiences thrown in for good measure?

Both pregnancies were good! You know normal stuff – morning sickness, back aches. I was busy doing things that I love to do both times.

My due date for both my children was the same day, October 16th. Ironically, it is also the day my husband asked me to marry him. Now, were they born on that day? Of course not!

With just about every pregnancy and post-natal period there are unexpected experiences large and small. With my son Joe, it was a c-section, and a lousy bout of mastitis afterward. I did not have PPD following his birth. However, after the birth of my second child, Nora in Oct 2007, everything was great until the fourth month post-partum. I started feeling tired, overwhelmed, and my hair was falling out. I was always cold, and my skin was rashy. I was anxious and sluggish. Thus began a very confusing, insidious spiral downward, a complete descent into more than one post-partum related illness.

You too have tread down the bumpy cobblestone avenue of Postpartum Depression. Just how bumpy was that road for you? How did your journey start out?

Severe bumps. I have seen clinical depression up close many times, as a witness. Depression runs in these genes, and having it myself was one of my biggest fears.

In March 2008, my OBGYN tested my thyroid. The numbers were off and I was sent to an endocrinologist. I was diagnosed with (temporary) Post-Partum Thyroiditis. Post-Partum Thyroiditis mimics symptoms of depression and anxiety. Since I had wacky blood work – that must have been it right? The source of the anxiety attacks and lost feeling? That proved to be wrong. It took 6 months for my thyroid to return to normal, and when it did the panic attacks increased. In late August 2008 when my daughter was 10 1/2 months old, I stopped sleeping and eating entirely. And then I knew, PPD was here. Full, clinical post-partum depression/anxiety had been here the whole time, hiding behind abnormal blood work, an thyroid in overdrive, increasing anxiety about my daughter’s kidney reflux, and my role as a mother and practicing architect.

What were some of the things you did to get through your darkest days? How were you received when you sought help?

I pulled myself together as best as anyone in the scariest place they have ever been could. Used every inch of energy I had to find a psychiatrist that would see me immediately. I found a great one and also called my therapist, whom I had not seen since Nora’s kidney diagnosis in June. She met me after hours immediately. I saw the psychiatrist 36 hours later and started medication. Medication was and still is necessary for me. On that day I went the the psychiatrist, I called my office and was honest. My office was accepting. And then crawled back into bed to begin recovery, whatever it would become, and is becoming.

Oh – Practiced breathing. Meditation. I accepted what was now – this depression and that I was doing everything in my being to crawl out of it. Once the medication started working and my appetite nourished my strength, I started painting and writing again. I wrote about what it felt like to have this monster. I drew strength from these words and images. Here is a diary entry that I read and reread often:

Dear Post Partum Depression,

After the birth of my daughter, you silently slipped in, and settled down. I recovered from birth, hugged my family, and watched autumn change to winter, while you slowly grew. You hid behind other temporary, post partum illnesses, undetected. You fed on stress. You fed on fear, until I found myself in a black hole so deep, dark and terrifying. The sides were wet, damp and crumbly dirt; the width of my arms. Up far above, the sky was barely visible. Sometimes I could feel the sun for seconds. There in that place, I accepted that you were here. With intense fear, I stood up and gathered my army – friends, family, therapist and psychiatrist. But even at night, when I lay on the cool floor of my porch, listening for anything – birds, trains, wind – waiting for the anxiety attacks to stop, waiting weeks for the medication to work, waiting for sunlight, sleep and appetite to return, I knew you were not me. Depression, you are something that happened along the way – a situation. I accept this. You do not define me. I laugh, sleep, play with my children, talk with my husband, draw, paint, smile, pray, cry, spend days with friends and live. I climb, inch by inch, fingers dug in the sides, pulling myself up. Each inch I climb is a triumph. I am on this path that is life. My light shines from within.”

Support from a spouse/partner or family and friends is invaluable during recovery from a Postpartum Mood Disorder. What was your experience with family and spousal support as you recovered?

Everyone needs an army. My parents came for 3 months to take care of us. My in-laws supported us in many ways. My husband went to therapy with me and took care of the children every night for 4 months, as I was getting stronger. I am truly blessed. It’s been 8 months since I sought treatment, and I am heading towards remission. I’ll still be on medication for a while and that’s OK.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

I overheard the 19 month old say to her big brother, “stop whining Joe Joe.”

A Jon Stewart clip.

My son break/karate dancing like a pro.

What do you find the most challenging about parenting? The least?

The dynamics are always changing – this is the hardest. The least challenging of course is loving the pure joy these two bring us. Beats all the hard work!

Self-care is so important. Often we forget to Mother the most important person in our lives – OURSELVES. Share with us what you do when taking time for yourself.

Every mother knows that this is one of the hardest things to do, find time. I realized with the help of my husband and therapist that I always sabotaged my own free time. I didn’t let free time for me happen, because I did not know how. Now I paint and practice yoga – by myself. I see my friends more.

At Facebook, you host a group encouraging the support of the MOTHER’S Act. Tell us about your support of this legislation.

I am still amazed that there is not much understanding of this illness including in the medical profession. Research and public awareness are necessary! This is REAL. It’s not momentary sadness, weakness or weepy, female emotions. The women whom get through this are the bravest, strongest women in the world. Listen to their voices.

The Facebook group is starting to take off. Its called “Sign This- Post Partum Depression Mothers Act.” All the names are sent to the national petition list that Susan Dowd Stone is compiling. Names are sent per state, so remember to let us know where you live!

On the group page there is an opportunity to contact your individual senators.

And last but not least, let’s say you have an opportunity to share some advice with an expectant (new or experienced) mom about Postpartum Mood Disorders. What would you tell her?

There is no shame in having this illness or possibly having this illness. Sometimes it just happens along the way. It is awful, but treatable, and temporary with help. I would hug her and remind her she did nothing wrong, EVER. She just had a beautiful baby and the body is having bumpy time trying to recover. Speak up, seek help and find peace within, even if it means medication and an army of support. My daughter is the happiest girl I have ever met. As I recover, I laugh out loud about how I gave her all my happiness to go forth in the world. So now I’m in the process of re-growing mine!

Sharing the Journey with Cynthia Olkie


A fellow Coordinator with PSI first emailed me about Cynthia Okie’s Project, It’s Not So Black and White. The project is a photo essay book focusing on stories and photos of survivors of Postpartum Mood Disorders. I immediately posted about the project, following up with an email to Cynthia with a request for an interview. I am so excited to be sharing her journey with you today! She’s still accepting submissions for the book from survivors so if you have a story to share and can squeeze it out in 650 words or so, shoot Cynthia an email at fleurphoto@aol.com. If you’re in the L.A. area you’ll even get a free photo shoot! Certainly can’t beat that!

Thanks, Cynthia, for working on what I am sure will be an invaluable contribution to the every growing body of work from survivors.

blog-pic-copy

Tell us about Cynthia. Who is she when she’s relaxing and hanging out?

I can’t say I stay put for very long.  If I am being creative I am happy.  That could include taking a walk on the beach with my husband, step-son and daughter, having visits with my family where we just hang out and talk (most of them with Long Island accents), taking photographs, doing an art project, etc.  If I get quiet time I do enjoy reading a good book.  Once in a while I will watch TV.  Reality shows are my vice.

Share with us your daughter’s birth story. Was pregnancy and delivery anything like what you expected?

I had a wonderful pregnancy and thank goodness no complications.  The birth was a different story.

My daughter was pushing 2 weeks overdue and they scheduled me to be induced at midnight on a Sunday night.  For the next 43 hours I went through 2 rounds of Cervidil and 2 rounds of Pitocin.  Not dilating at all I ended up having a  c-section.  Had I known how easy the surgery was I would have just opted for that and not go through the pain and uncomfortable process of inducing.

My daughter was born and I went to recovery.  I was in the recovery room for nearly 5 hours and the last 20 minutes completely by myself.  The nurse left to find out what was happening in the postpartum rooms.  It was a bit scary because my legs were still a bit numb from the epidural.  I had visions of being in a horror film where someone comes in with a knife and i can’t run because my legs were numb.  I rang the buzzer and asked for a nurse and finally was taken to a room.

The next 3 1/2 days were anything but enjoyable.  All of the nurses gave me different information about nursing-“hold the breast up”, “squeeze the nipple”, “don’t do this, do that”.  Even though I took a class once my daughter was in my hands it was totally different.  The nurses were a bit inconsiderate and contradicted each other.

Since my daughter had lost more weight then they say they like they told us we might have had to supplement with formula.  As soon as my husband left to go pick up my mother the nurse came in and said “bottle or syringe?”.  Syringe?? What is that?  Needless to say she stuck a bottle in my daughters mouth.  That got my hormones a bit in an uproar.

On Saturday before we were checking out the pediatrician and lactation consultant came in.  They were both amazing and said the nurse did not follow instructions and was supposed to wait until the end of the day and if anything do syringe feeding.  We were glad to go home and get our new family going.  We had a lactation consultant come over and she got us back up and nursing full time.

Postpartum Depression can be a dark and scary place. Share with us what your stay there was like.

After my daughter was 4 months old we had her Baptism.  Family that never come to Los Angeles came and we had a full house for almost a week.  It was a Wednesday morning and my brother who was going to stay with us for a few more weeks and I drove my mother and aunt to the airport.  It was the final send off which is always hard for me.  As soon as we walked into the door and sat down there was an earthquake.  Now,  earthquakes and I do not get along.  It was my catalyst that set me off like a light switch.  It got my adrenaline running and I got hot flashes. From that moment on I had a very difficult time trying to care for my baby.  Apparently I was holding her so tight in the door frame my brother took her from me.

Although the earthquake was the switch, the fact that I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed with being a new mom contributed greatly.  I found it too scary to wake up in the morning because I knew as soon as my daughter woke up that I had to be on duty and I couldn’t bear the thought.  The only thing I wanted to do was nurse her and then hand her off to someone else.  I had support through my local MOMS Club which was incredible because all of the doctors and medical personal I tried to contact gave me the quick brush off.  I finally got a prescription for medicine which I knew would take a few weeks to kick in.  I spent about a month crying every day and calling my family on the east coast at 4 am Pacific Time which I knew was right when they would get up.  I barely ate if at all, had no desire to do anything and wanted to escape.


How did your husband and family support you through your recovery? What were some of the things they did that helped the most?

My husband and brother blew me away with their support.  Being men I thought they would get scared, crawl up in their hole and try to ignore anything was going on.  Instead my husband took over with feedings which we had switched to bottles during the day only, made me food which I would try to eat and offered to do anything he could.  My brother who was staying with us also took over where he could.  He sat with me for hours patiently listening to me repeat the same things over and over and told me how great of a mother I was and that I would overcome this.  They both were there for me, my daughter and each other and owe them everything.  I also had a wonderful friend who came over when she could and was their for me every step of the way as well as my Aunt and Cousin on the East Coast who listened to me every single day for days on end and were struggling themselves to help me from afar.

In my journey I needed to constantly be talking to someone even though I would say the same things over and over.  I can’t say I found much professionals very helpful or supportive which was very disappointing.

Tell us about 3 things that made you laugh today.

My daughter’s silly face she makes.
My husbands goofy dances
How scared I was when I was sitting so quietly alone at my computer when I though the cat wanted to eat my piece of cheese and was all over the desk only to find out he was trying to get the HUGE moth crawling next to me. I don’t like bugs.

You’re working on a photography and essay compilation book. What started the inspiration for this project?

During the darkest of my days in postpartum I went to the park to cry and call my Aunt.  While I was sitting there I had a glimpse of my photography and how much I love taking photographs.  Some where out of the blue I came up with the idea to do a photo-essay book on my experience. It was almost as if I went through my experience so that my idea could come to fruition.  I still don’t know how it occurred to me but I do know exactly where I was sitting and how I felt.

What do you find to be the most challenging about parenting? The least?

The most challenging thing about parenting is how I don’t have nearly the same amount of time for myself as I used to. I am grateful to be a stay at home mom for the time being but find it hard to be home and not want to do something for myself.

The least challenging is how easy it is to love my child.  It is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me.  It is completely unexplainable.  The joy, emotion, warmth and unconditional love surpasses anything I have ever felt.

How did your husband handle your journey through PPD? Do you feel it impacted your marriage?

My husband was there for me through my whole journey.  I think for a few moments he was so nervous he didn’t know what to do but he sure didn’t show that to me.  He was stronger then I have ever seen him.  He would just ask what he could do and all I wanted was a hug.  And a hug from him makes me feel safe.  I am not sure my journey impacted our marriage as much as just the addition of a new person. A marriage needs work and adding a child adds even more.  We manage to work through our issues and we can only hope we are raising a wonderfully kind, gentle, smart  and decent human being.

Here at Sharing the Journey, I encourage mothers to focus on themselves. What are some things you do to take time for yourself every day?

Every day?  Ha! That’s a challenge.  I do cherish a good hot shower without any interruptions.  That’s something I can count on every day.  The hot water cleanses all of my worries even if it’s for a few moments.  I read a little every day even if its a few pages in a magazine.  I talk a walk with my daughter in the stroller which gives me time to breath in the air while she is not running around.

Last but not least, let’s say you have a chance to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) a piece of advice about PMD’s. What would you share with her?

Try to get help as soon as you can and don’t be ashamed.  Lots and lots of people told me “you are not alone”.  Although I know that now….when I was in my dark place it didn’t matter.  I wanted to be a child again myself and have someone take care of me.  Find support.  It’s out there.  Right now we have to do a lot of work to find it but so many people are speaking out about PPD that I pray it will soon get easier.

Sharing the Journey with Mary Jo Codey


As those of you who are familiar with Postpartum Advocacy know, Mary Jo has worked tirelessly to increase awareness and education of those around her. In fact, along with her husband, former NJ Governor Ritchie Codey, Mary Jo aided in passing New Jersey’s state-wide legislation for Postpartum Mood Disorder Screening education and screening. She also strongly advocates for the passage of The MOTHER’S Act, a bill that will increase funding for research, education, and awareness of Postpartum Mood Disorders here in the United States. Mary Jo has graciously agreed to Share her Journey today with the hopes of increasing signatures to the Perinatal Pro list as well as calls to the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee.

I sincerely hope her words will help spur you into action. Let me put it this way. If you know ten mothers, at least eight of them have experienced the Baby Blues. Two of them have experienced full-blown Postpartum Depression. And these are only the ones we know about. How many other mothers have suffered in silence? Help them break the silence. Let them know you are on their side. As New Jersey’s campaign says – “Speak Up when you’re Down!”


88_mary_joTell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Mary Jo Codey when she’s not passionately speaking out about Postpartum Mood Disorders?

I’m a teacher at the Gregory Elementary School in West Orange NJ. I love spending time with the children, watching them grow and flourish, and to instill a good self concept about themselves so they can take with them and utilize throughout their lives. When I’m not teaching I love to spend time with my husband Ritchie and my two boy’s, Kevin and Christopher. I also enjoy gardening, playing golf and eating chocolate with my dear friend Sylvia!

In 1984, after the birth of your first son, you began to experience some very frightening thoughts and moods. Would you share with us what you went through?

After the birth of my first child, Kevin, I had terrifying thoughts about hurting him. I had intrusive thoughts about smothering and drowning him. Those scary thoughts raced in my mind over and over throughout the day and night. It caused me such a great deal of pain and shame.

After the birth of your second son, with the aid of medication, you were able to have a “normal” experience. Describe the differences. At any point during this second postpartum period, did you find yourself upset about having missed out on your first son’s infancy?

With the birth of my first son Kevin, I had no idea what postpartum depression was. I never even heard those words before. I couldn’t even get out of my bed to visit the nursery to see or feed him.

With the birth of my second son Christopher, I was immediately put on medication which were extremely effective. I was elated that I could care for him and take care of him. I did however feel cheated by postpartum depression with my first child. At times I mourned and felt guilt for missing the first years with Kevin. I remember reporters coming to my home to do a story on me and I was asked if I had any pictures of Kevin. I was ashamed that I could not provide them with one picture of him.

When you first talked with your sons about Postpartum Mood Disorders, what did you tell them? How have they handled knowing about your experience?

I started to talk to my boys about my experience with postpartum depression at a very young age. I made sure that they understood that, it wasn’t their fault and that I loved them more than they could ever imagine. I explained to them that I was sick at the time. I also told them that they were the two greatest gifts that God had given me. They’ve handled it remarkably well.
New Jersey is the first state to enact legislation for Postpartum Mood Disorder screening and education. How did this law come about and what was your involvement in it’s development?

The minute Ritchie became Acting Governor for New Jersey the first item on our agenda was postpartum depression. Which led to “Speak Up When You’re Down.” It encourages women and their families to talk openly with each other and with their health-care provider if they are feeling depressed after the birth of their child. It also provides a 24/7 PPD Help line and postpartum depression information and resources; 1-888-404-7763.

Name three things that made you laugh today.

Watching my friend Phyllis come out of her home with 5 dog’s on leashes and luggage as we were leaving for the airport!

Trying to get on a large tube for “The Rapid River Ride.” After numerous failed attempts trying to get myself positioned on the tube, a stranger approached me and shoved me on the tube finally! He said that he couldn’t stand watching me struggle anymore…well it finally worked!

Calling my friend Sylvia and listening her imitate her Sicilian mother on the phone. Every time she imitates her mom it literally slays me!! It leaves me in stitches!

Senator Robert Menendez, NJ, introduced The MOTHER’S Act earlier this year to Congress. Share with us what this bill would do for women and families.

This bill is so very crucial for all women and families suffering with postpartum depression. It will help provide support services to women suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis and will also help educate mothers and their families about these conditions. In addition, it will support research into the causes, diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression and psychosis.

Stigma plays a large role in women not reporting symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders. What can we do to overcome this stigma and replace it with acceptance and compassion?

Having women share their experience with postpartum depression, rather than keeping it to themselves is very important. To not be ashamed or afraid to speak up to their family members, health providers and women’s groups when they are grappling with postpartum depression. This will help replace the stigma of postpartum depression with acceptance and compassion.

How did your husband handle the changes your struggle with Postpartum Mood Disorder brought into the home? What can new dads do to support their wives as they fight to move back to “normal”?

At first my husband Ritchie blamed himself for what I was going through. He thought it was because he didn’t pay much attention to me because he was too involved with sports. He couldn’t understand what and why I was going through this. He was angry that I asked him to find another wife when I went to the hospital because I believed that I wasn’t going to get better. He never gave up on me! He stayed with me and understood that postpartum was an illness that we were going to overcome as a family. He never stopped praying. New dads need to be supportive and understanding towards their wife who is suffering with postpartum depression. Most importantly, they need to be patient and compassionate.

Last but not least, if you had the opportunity to give an expectant mother (new or experienced) just one piece of advice about Postpartum Mood Disorders, what would you tell her?

Women suffering with postpartum depression need to know that they are GREAT MOTHER’S! Do not worry about not being able to bond with your baby, it will happen. First you need to get well. Most importantly please, please, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.