Archives for posts with tag: Postpartum

Photo courtesy of papaija2008 /

Physically, my pregnancy was easy. I felt, even at the time, that the baby was only giving me what I could handle, which, especially in the beginning, wasn’t a lot. Offered his dream job, my husband Brian had moved a five hour drive away to an idyllic rural community, while I stayed in the city, and shacked up with my sister to avoid hermitude. The time was right for a long-awaited baby, so we figured that I would figure out how to make the move when I got pregnant. Getting pregnant took only a few months, but during that time, my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he passed away the week we found out our happy news. I was able to work out a new job and a work-remotely deal, and after an initial training period moved to join Brian at the beginning of my third trimester, ready to leave the emotional strain of the last few months behind.

When I arrived, I was happily greeted by Brian’s new colleagues. But in his grief, he hadn’t managed to meet many friends over the year he had been there alone. When I moved in, working from my home office, we had a few friends, but were much more alone than I was used to. So although we had taken a full-day childbirth class in the city, we signed up for all of the classes our rural hospital offered—to get to know the staff and facilities as well as meet other new parents.

My labor was most notable for being unexpected and quick, about two weeks before my due date. When we arrived at the small rural hospital, we found that another baby had just been born, so the main labor and delivery room wasn’t available, and the staff was in a tizzy at having two babies coming at the same time. After a short, intense labor, the doctor gleefully exclaimed “it’s a girl” and put our new daughter, Laurie, on my chest. I knew, rather than felt, how much I loved her, or would.

Over the next few days, as I worked to learn how to feed Laurie and meet her needs, I also struggled to trust myself with her. I felt that my main job was to feed her, and couldn’t manage anything more. Brian became in charge of diaper changing—I was too afraid—as well as everything else. He even sat up with me at night when I fed her. Around day four, I woke up early one morning and snuggled her on my chest on the couch, realizing I hadn’t held her yet aside from nursing.

As my milk came in, she proved to be quite skilled at nursing, regaining her birth weight by the time of our follow up visit. While that meant I never had the stress of worrying about her growth, it meant that there was never enough food in the world to keep me from being hungry. I realized later how much that hunger affected me, that the shakiness I felt in that first month in particular was from constantly being hungry and not realizing it as I frantically sought to take care of Laurie, never myself. I cried every day, never trusting that she was thriving and that I would be able to provide for her. I went to her first doctor’s appointment with a list of ailments I was sure she had, and didn’t believe the doctor who told me I was wrong about everyone of them based on her healthy weight gain.

We were hours away from family, and the friends that visited were all new friends, not trusted ones I could cry to and admit my fears. And I seemed to have a bunker mentality—I didn’t want either of our families to come visit in the first few weeks, I wanted them to wait until I had my act together more. So I was alone, unsure of myself, and constantly, unconsciously hungry. I was afraid to leave the house, feeling that Laurie was a fragile flower who needed to be watched at all moments, waiting for a crisis that so luckily never came.

Brian is a teacher, and so was able to spend the first month home with us in August. Thankfully, as I really wasn’t trusting myself alone with Laurie yet. The first time I went out with her alone, a half hour drive to pick up our farm share, I was a basket case. I was nervous to be driving, nervous in case she would cry and I wouldn’t know what to do, unsure of how to deal with her and the world around me at the same time, afraid everyone would see what a poor mother I was. And so I nervously awaited the day Brian would have to go back to school and I would be trusted alone with her for hours at a time.

My salvation came a week before that, in an e-mail. The message came from the father of the baby born the same morning as Laurie. We had met that couple at a few pre-natal education classes, and had liked them, and had chatted with them a bit while we were all in the hospital together. His message said that his wife Sue was looking for new mom friends, would I be up for a walk. As I got to know her, I realized she was a still obviously dealing with the crisis of new motherhood but also up for the challenge, and seemed to be functional. She suggested we go for a walk with our girls. At that point, in week four, it had not occurred to me yet that it would be ok to take Laurie out for a walk by myself. Literally just getting out of the house and into the fresh air cleared my head, but I hadn’t realized it was ok to do that until she gave me permission. And not only was Sue dealing capably with the same issues I was, but she also had a four year old daughter. She gave me the confidence that it was ok to leave our home and interact with civilization again, and that it was ok to feel stressed without letting it overcome everything—after all, she was doing it with another child! I came to view her both as a friend that I enjoyed spending time with and a trusted resource that had already gotten one wonderfully charming daughter to preschool, so must know what she was doing.

We began trying to get together as often as we could, generally about once a week. Listening to how she had the same struggles, I gained confidence in myself, realized how much of my anxiety was caused by my constant hunger, and began living outside of my own head. I reached out to another new mom to go for a walk, hoping to pay the favor forward that Sue had done for me. At that point, I realized Laurie and I were going to make it. Which isn’t to say I haven’t still obsessed, worried and cried needlessly, but the totally enveloping fear had subsided. My lesson was that it really does take a village, or at least someone else to share powerful emotions with. As other friends have had their first babies, I have told them in plain language how rough the first weeks can be, that it’s ok to cry anytime, make sure to eat enough and try to take some care of themselves, and have friends on call for when things get dire, including me.

We have now, a year and half later, moved yet again. I love Laurie more than I could have imagined in those first dark days, as every day she becomes more of a person, more herself and farther away from baby. Her belly laugh chases clouds away, and even her new toddler tantrums are still charming. As I contemplate a sibling for Laurie, I am actively building a network of mom friends that I hope to be able to count on if I need help again, and offering my help to them. Writing this renews my commitment to give myself permission to struggle without despairing, to forgive myself for when I do despair, and to forge a community to help me through the crisis. New motherhood is scary enough, no one should ever go through it alone.


I thought the weight of my 6lb 12oz daughter could have crushed my chest. Literally, I felt the weight of the world was now on me. This tiny human with her entire world in my hands, and I wasn’t interested or up to the challenge. I changed my mind about being a mommy but it was too late. I was tired and just wanted to sleep.

They told me I would be in love her the instant I saw her and that simply wasn’t the case. I loved her but I didn’t feel the bond.

The next few weeks were filled with terror, tears and loneliness. Had my mother not been there to help me I’m really not sure how I would have even gotten out of bed. I couldn’t eat, and I certainly wasn’t sleeping.  I lay in my bed crying and cold for days. I felt despaired. I felt I had lost my husband. For so many years it had been us.  Now this little baby had thrown my world upside down.

The pressure on my chest didn’t seem to lift even when I wasn’t holding her. It seemed to be there 24/7 and I couldn’t breathe.

Mommy friends would ask to meet her but I couldn’t be seen by them. I felt alone and ashamed. After all, what kind of mother feels this way about their infant daughter? She was helpless and needy and crying. Everyone said it would get better someday. And it did.

She became my world, my sweet loving little angel that I thank God for everyday.

3 years later I got up the courage to have another baby. This time When they placed him on my chest I was elated. I DID love him and I COULD do this!

24 short hours passed and the depression hit like a ton of bricks. It came fast and furious.
How could I handle two children?? Bella needs me so Tom will have to take are of the baby. I don’t have time for him, I would think.

Once again I couldn’t eat or sleep and spent my days crying. Holding Bella in my arms rocking her like a baby.

I found myself at the doctors office after 2 weeks of this. As the doctor wrote my prescription for Valium she placed her hand on my knee. I looked at her through my red swollen eyes and she said “Are you going to be alone with the baby? Is there someone who can watch him for you?”
I knew then that she felt I might harm my child and I will never forget that moment. I felt like a monster.

Slowly time began to heal my anxiety. I slept a little more, ate a little more and life moved forward. With the help of Zoloft, Valium, a postpartum therapist and loving family unit eventually I pulled out of my very lonely dark place.

My beautiful angels are now 5 and 1 and I am the happiest mother I could ever dream to be. They are the most wonderful joys of my life. People ask me all the time if I’m going to have another baby, and I tell them the truth. I tell them about my postpartum depression because no one really talks about it. I tell them I won’t have another baby because I don’t believe my family can go though that pain again, I know I can’t.


I thank God everyday for those 2 little blessings and now when I feel their warm little bodies against mine I know I’m right where I should be. Home.

I became a reluctant mother five years ago this month. I was never someone who wanted children and when my husband and I first got together, neither did he. After living together for four years, about when he turned 35, something shifted for him. He began to want to have children. To really want children. This posed a serious issue for our marriage, by far the most serious we’ve ever faced.

We argued, we fought and I cried many tears. I absolutely could not envision myself as a mother. I am very close to my own mother and I had a very happy childhood so it’s not as if I had a negative view of mothers in general. It just was not something I saw fitting into my already very full life.

Needless to say, I eventually changed my mind. I love my husband very much and I’ve known since the first time I met him that we could build a very happy and fulfilling life together. I could not imagine my life without him and I came to the conclusion that our marriage was not going to withstand a life without children. So, very slowly, I changed my mind.

And of course, I became pregnant almost immediately. I was completely in shock. Even though I was having unprotected sex, I just assumed it would take a long time. My mother had a terrible time getting pregnant with me and I somehow imagined that my hesitance to become a mother would play into my biology. Nope.

Physically, my pregnancy was simple and straightforward. I was never sick. I am a runner and I continued to run until I was about 5 months pregnant, then I hiked and did yoga. I was tired, like every pregnant woman, but all that clean living gave me glowing skin, thick, shiny hair and a radiance that I always thought was a myth about pregnant women. However, I really hated being pregnant. I didn’t really feel like I could say that, not in such strong words, because at 30 I was surrounded by friends trying desperately to get pregnant without success. And since I felt so good physically, it seemed petty to complain about being sad all the time.

Looking back, I think it was much more than just “being sad.” I think I was clinically depressed. I had never heard the term prenatal depression. My midwife, who was wonderful in all ways, kept telling me that it normal to feel blue or listless when pregnant but I was not fully sharing the extent of my misery with her or anyone else. It was a grueling, day in day out, feeling of hopelessness and emptiness. And, it was completely out of character for me. I’ve always been full of energy and life. I’ve always been the one who wants to do more, do it again, do it better. Until I got pregnant.

My husband was very supportive and I know it was a long year for him too. We joked about my overwhelming sadness when we could and he just let me be sad, without trying to cajole me into feeling things I was not feeling. I lived with a weight and a level of fear and paranoia I have never known. I felt unsafe all the time. I felt like someone, usually the strange man I would encounter while hiking, was going to attack me at any moment. The fear and anxiety took away all my pleasures in life, namely being outside alone, and left me feeling like a mere shell of the person I had been just months earlier.

Still, the baby grew and I grew and I just counted the days until I would be longer be pregnant. I knew, even then, that I would be an OK mother if I could just get to the other side of the darkness that engulfed me. And as if the universe just wanted to twist that knife a little more, I went 15 days past my due date before I went into labor.

I had my daughter at home at 12:30pm on January 16, 2009 on the coldest day of that winter. It was -25 when the second midwife showed up around 2am. I labored hard from about 2am until 6am when I started pushing. And, as if a physical manifestation of my reluctance to be a mom, I pushed for six hours. Yep. Six whole hours. I could actually see her head for about 4 of those hours but I could not make any progress. It was beyond maddening and it was exhausting. At the time, I kept refusing to think what I could not help but think…that the birth was slow because I was reluctant. That it was my fault.

Once she was finally born, I learned that the umbilical cord was wrapped many times around her neck and that it was preventing her from coming out. In fact, the cord tore on the inside once she finally did emerge and it was then that I understood why it felt like a part of my insides were being slowly torn apart. They were.

But, this is a postpartum blog and here’s my postpartum story. It all got better. Almost immediately. My spirits lifted and I kid you not, within hours of giving birth, I felt great! Sure, I had the issues that every new mom has. I was tired. I was learning all sorts of new things. I was getting to know my daughter and how she sometimes cried for no reason at all. But, the crushing sadness of pregnancy was completely gone. I was overjoyed to have my life back.

My journey into parenthood has been remarkably easy and smooth ever since. My daughter is strong and healthy and was an “easy” baby, compared to some. My husband and I settled into our new roles as parents and we are probably happier than we’ve ever been. I have seen no glimpses of that darkness and since we don’t plan to have another baby (No, really this time. He got a vasectomy) I hope to never encounter depression like that again.

There’s a lot of pressure to be a happy pregnant woman, especially when everything about the pregnancy seem right. We were happily married. We owned a house. We had good jobs and lots of support from our friends and families. I was healthy and the baby was healthy. But, I now believe that prenatal depression is a very real thing. Had I known, I may have reached out for help. I may have been more honest about the extent of my misery and the depths of my pain. I may have found relief, through medication or therapy or something. But instead, like so many people who battle depression, I just
suffered through it.

My daughter will turn five in just a few weeks and I love being her mother. When she is older, I will talk to her about how depression can come upon you, even when you are not expecting it, and that it’s OK to talk about it and ask for help. Then, I will hug her and think how lucky I am to have had the experience I did and to have emerged on the other side.

                                                                      mabel sledding

The Inconvenient Truth about Postpartum Life

1. The physical, mental and emotional challenges
Obviously, labor took a lot out of me. And the sudden and complete lack of sleep on top of that hasn’t made recovery any easier. Add to that the physical challenges – painful stitches healing (tip: witch hazel pads, seriously), shrinking uterus pains (although I love the fact that I’m already back in my pre-preg jeans – go breastfeeding!) and most unexpectedly – lochia. Loads and loads of lochia. Lochia that lasts for weeks, no matter that some claim it clears up in days (tip: Buy big packs of depends-level pads, trust me). Mentally, I’ve had to adapt to a complete shift of priorities from ME to SOMEONE ELSE. It doesn’t matter what I would like to be doing at any given moment – James wears the pants now. Actually, having a moment to blog is blowing my mind right now. I’ve definitely also had my share of “holy shit” moments of complete emotional wreckage, and not a whole lot of forthcoming touchy-feely support at home (husbands…yaknowwhatI’msayin’?). It’s been a lot to handle in one short month.

2. The no-sleep thing is really no joke
This is one truth I was pseudo-prepared for, if only because I was dreading how completely useless I get when I don’t get enough sleep at night (and have always found it near-impossible to nap during the day). While newborns do sleep most of the time, it is in weird, random spurts that don’t necessarily line up with when you would like to also sleep. I know, I know – “sleep when the baby sleeps.” But when baby James sleeps and I am starving, I’m going to take the opportunity to make myself something to eat. Or do the necessary daily load of laundry (cloth diapers!). Or let the dog out. Or make a phone call, send an email or write a blog post, so I feel somewhat connected to the outside world.  Or pee. I do occasionally manage a power nap, but for the most part, I’ve just had to adapt to weird, random spurts of sleep, especially at night. I’ve been doing a lot better with the lack of sleep than I thought I would (although I do still fantasize about a 7-hour stretch)…and it feels nice to actually have a REASON to be tired, not just exhausted because I’m pregnant.

I find that what works best for me is to do my super-productive stuff first thing in the day, and then take it really easy the rest of the day (possibly with a single power-nap at some point). Streaming seasons of TV shows on Netflix has been a godsend. Lately, Butch (who normally stays up later than me) has been hanging out with James downstairs during the first round of nighttime sleeping (aka, “the times between feedings”). That way I can sleep undisturbed for 2-3 hours upstairs without keeping one ear open for his cries. We plan on introducing the bottle this weekend, so the plan is for Butch to take care of that first nighttime feeding as well, which will possibly give me 4-5 undisturbed hours of sleep – heavenly!

3. The  baby will get upset over NOTHING, and you must try EVERYTHING to make him happy
With James, usually it’s the indignity of being changed or wanting to feed for the millionth time (I swear, it has been one continuous growth-spurt since birth), but there are times when he’s having a meltdown for who knows what reason. If baby James is upset, I first try the boob, for either feeding or comfort (more on breastfeeding in a minute), and that usually works. But sometimes there’s no solution besides running the gauntlet of “maybe THIS will work” hijinks – check the diaper, up on the shoulder for a burp or for a narrated tour around the room, try some exercises for gas, sing a lullaby (acoustic versions of rock n roll hits), take a ride in the swing, make a variety of random noises and try a variety of random dance moves/bounces…etc, etc.

This applies to sleeping in the sense that, if James suddenly refuses to settle down in the crib that he was perfectly fine with a week ago, I must humor him and let him sleep curled up on my chest. This of course results in a lack of restful sleep for me…but HE’S happy so who am I to argue? I know this “in-arms” time is fleeting, so I’m trying to enjoy it, even when it’s inconvenient.

4. Breastfeeding has been a lot more challenging, but so much more rewarding, than expected
I went to the breastfeeding class. I did the research. I watched videos and read articles online. The first feeding immediately after birth was magical, despite James being born with a tongue-tie (which was fixed the next day). Outwardly, his subsequent latches looked perfect, even according to the hospital nurses, but feeding from then on was painful. And over the next week, as my nipples became cracked and sore, the pain got worse. Something was not right, but it was hard to place, since outwardly it still looked good. I started by assuming that James just couldn’t seem to open his mouth wide enough to latch in a pain-free way…unless he was wailing with impatience, and I obviously didn’t want to wait to reach that point every time. I scoured the internet, which naturally resulted in worse-case-scenario self-diagnosis: Thrush. Mastitis. Posterior tongue-tie. The word on the breastfeeding message boards were that it shouldn’t hurt at ALL, if done correctly, from day one (yeah, right!).

Luckily, a good friend is the head of the local La Leche League, and was kind enough to take my incessant phone calls, answering every question, helping me put aside the worse-case-concerns, and most importantly, offering encouragement. After 2 solid weeks of pain, I was very close to throwing in the towel and just pumping…or even going to formula. But I stubbornly persisted, eventually finding tips and links via Kelly Mom that resulted in a pain-free latch (tip: “feed” your boob to baby like a hamburger. A boob-burger). Now the biggest challenges with feeding is James’ instant impatience, habit of straining out an intense poop while feeding (while twisting around on my nipple!), gassy-ness (possibly due to a strong-letdown – we have “burping breaks” during feeding that seem to help) and the fact that he’s a HUGE baby, so I’ve had to create my own way of holding him that is not very text-book. But no more pain! I’m so glad I stuck it out, since breastfeeding is a very special way for us to bond and be close.

I do think I could have benefited (and perhaps have experienced less pain) from a little more private time right after the birth to get the breastfeeding down (along with all the other “new-parent” tasks)…which brings me to my next point.

5. Other people are, understandably, majorly interested in the baby…
…in meeting the baby, holding the baby…and that’s great! Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave room for a lot of concern for the new mom. I know myself, and the level of space I need, so I did insist that the first out-of-state visitors stampeding towards our door at least not STAY with us. In hindsight, I should have also insisted that we get at least a week (possibly 2) before visitors parked in my living room for 12 hour stretches. However, since all of our extended family lives out-of-state, I’m sure it would have been considered selfish for me to put off these visits. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the excitement surrounding the birth, and how anxious everyone was to meet the little guy…but I should have given myself the gift of a quiet, stress-free time to figure things out. I deserved that. And from now on, I’ll be putting the needs of my little family first, regardless of outside opinion.

And for anyone offended by the bluntness of #5, please reference this perfect list from Offbeat Families of some simple courtesies new-baby visitors can follow.

6. I am a lot better at this than I thought I was going to be
I love kids, especially my friend’s kids. But before now, I had little to no hands-on experience with newborns. I had never even changed a diaper! And while there are still plenty of moments (or days) of complete teary-eyed despair at how incompetent I feel, they are becoming fewer and farther between. Instincts really do kick in and it is possible to get into a groove, even with a 1 month-old who barely has a feeding schedule at this point. As the weeks go by, I’m sure this confidence in my own abilities will grow. And when those difficult days happen, I need to just take a deep breath and look into this little face:


It’s worth it.

To read more from Corinne, please visit her blog A Green(ish) Life.


My baby girl was completely unplanned. I was finishing my 5th semester of college when I found out I was expecting. Thankfully, 6 weeks later, my husband and I got married (over winter break from school) and two weeks after that I returned to school 3-1/2 months pregnant. I was due during summer break, which meant I could return to school without taking time off. It sounded like a better idea before I gave birth. On July 28th, 2012 after 27 awful hours in labor with various complications, I gave birth to my baby girl, Ruby-Mae.

Due to all the complications Ruby had to spend nearly two weeks in the NICU. By the time I brought her home I had just two weeks until my senior year in college began. I cried my first day back, it was awful! I couldn’t focus and all I wanted to do was be home with her, but I knew how important it was for me to finish school. Thankfully my mother in law quit her job to stay with Ruby (what a blessing!) and that made it easier. After a few weeks I was in full swing but it was absolutely exhausting, I never slept, and since I was nursing I would pump overnight, and in the mornings and evenings breastfeed her. Let’s not forget that I had to make dinner for my husband and make sure everything else was taken care of. It was just plain awful!

Two months later, still in school I found a job and added that to my already crazy life, I cried almost every night because I was exhausted and simply wanted to be home with her, but that wasn’t possible at the moment. Nor did I have any time for myself. Though it was the most difficult time of my life, I’m glad I did it because I graduated in May, and since then I’ve been working part time and enjoying quality time with my daughter! I didn’t miss a thing. It was all worth it! My husband was super supportive and helped me as much as he could. It only made our relationship stronger.
For all the moms out there who want to return to school or work, I say do it! It’s possible, you find the strength from somewhere and you do it!  AND it doesn’t make you a “bad” mom which was something I learned to grasp.

c sabianmaggy

© sabianmaggy

This post is one I have been thinking about writing for a few days. I quite honestly don’t know where to start. After giving birth, your body changes. Fast. Drastically. In a big way. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s depressing.

After I gave birth to Nick, Hubs went right back to work. He wasn’t going to take any parental leave. I could handle two kids on my own. It couldn’t be that different from having just Alex. I was wrong. Within a month Hubs was home with us. I couldn’t do it. (It takes a lot to admit this) Anytime the kids cried, I had anxiety attacks. If only one of them cried, no problem. But put them together and I shut down. Hubs came home one day to find the three of us sitting on the floor in the playroom crying. He’d noticed that there was something off with me since I had the baby, he just wasn’t sure what. He went on parental the next morning to give me the support I obviously needed at home, and sent me into my Dr to talk about what was happening. The Dr diagnosed me with mild postpartum depression and moderate postpartum anxiety. Hubs and I did some research, we talked, and we coped with it. I started taking birth control to help regulate my hormones. I started going out once a week to interact with people. I had an amazing photographer take boudoir photos of me (amazingly it helped. A lot. I started feeling better. Then we decided we wanted another baby.

When we made the decision to have a third baby, I was excited. I couldn’t wait. Things were going so great with our family, but I felt like something was missing in our lives. Once we made the decision we wanted another baby, we knew that we needed to talk about what we could do differently this time around to make the postpartum period easier. We talked for a long time about the circumstances around Nick’s birth. We realized we had a lot of negative people in our lives. I decided I needed to get those people out of my life. So I did. Anytime someone was super negative about our situation (for example, criticizing our choice to have a third baby) I removed them from my Facebook. I got my friends list down from over 200 people to 70 people. We were excited to be expecting Zoey and my pregnancy progressed.

Throughout my pregnancy, there were a few ‘episodes’ when I would have anxiety attacks, but overall I was controlling it well and I was optimistic that things were going to be better. I was over it. It went away. Turns out depression and anxiety don’t really just ‘go away’ they are always there. In the background. Watching. Waiting. For the opportunity to present itself. When I had Zoey, I felt great. The delivery was easy compared to the boys, my recovery was fast. But my body. It was so so so so so different. Even more different then when I had the boys. The stretch marks. The saggy-ness. It was depressing. I know that it won’t look like this forever, rationally. But my rational self is on a shelf that I can’t reach right now. Leaving me very irrational. Leaving me feeling anxious about things I shouldn’t feel anxious about. I know I don’t need to worry about what my body looks like. Stretch marks and saggy-ness is to be expecting after having a baby, especially after having 3 back to back babies. I mean, I’ve already lost 30 lbs. I am doing good for having just had Zoey 3 weeks ago.

My body isn’t the only thing causing me anxiety. There are other things too. Things that, rationally, I don’t need to be anxious about. But I can’t control it. At all. It consumes me. So it’s all I can think about. But I don’t doubt my parenting. I know I am a good Momma. I doubt how great of a wife I am being lately. I doubt a lot of things about myself. But never my role as a Mother. That’s gotta be an improvement right?

I am going to see the Dr later this week. I know there is something wrong and that I need help. Hubs and I have talked about it. And now I have made it even more real by writing it here. The reason I wanted to write this, is because after I had Nick and was going through this originally, I felt alone. Anxiety and depression seem to be taboo topics to talk about. They shouldn’t be. They are real. And the people who feel them are real too. And we all deserve to be listened to. I don’t feel so alone now, I have found a support system. And that helps. A lot.

Read more from Lynn at her blog: Momma Needs Coffee

The Jordan Collective Photgraphy

© The Jordan Collective Photography

I remember the day that we all realized I needed help.  My daughter was almost three months old, and, after a day spent obsessing over every minute of her sleep and every ounce that she ate and both of us crying every second in between, I dared to ask aloud: “Will I ever be happy again?”

Thoughts like this weren’t new to me.  I had been having them since my baby girl was about six weeks old.  And even though my family and friends knew I was having a tough time, no one, not even me, really understood what a dark place I was in.

I was wracked with anxiety.  I became obsessed with reading every piece of research ever written on having a newborn, even though all it did was increase my anxiety.  I was afraid to be alone with my daughter. I was afraid to let anyone else even hold her.  I was afraid she wasn’t getting enough sleep, and that an hour lost here or there would cause her developmental delays for the rest of her life. I was afraid that her incessant crying was a sign that she knew I was unhappy, and that she would be emotionally scarred for the rest of her life as a result.

Everyone kept telling me that it was normal.  That the first few months are hard and, coupled with sleep deprivation, every new mom feels this way.  Totally normal.

Except it’s not.  I felt trapped.  I felt resentful.  I felt hopeless.  I felt like I had been robbed of any and all joy in my life.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I could barely get out of bed.  The smallest decisions, like what to have for dinner, felt like they had unforeseeable, life- altering ramifications, and I couldn’t make them.

Unintentionally, my friends and family tried to silence me. Told me to wait it out a couple more weeks. Told me it was just the baby blues and hormones.  Told me I just needed to get out of the house for a few hours.  I could have listened.  I could have just waited for it to get better. But I didn’t.  Which is a good thing, because post-partum depression/anxiety isn’t something that just goes away if you ignore it.  It gets worse.

We live in a society that tells us that women can do it all. Which is true.  To an extent.  Because this also translates into women thinking they have to do it all.  And they have to do it alone.  Getting help makes you weak.  Makes you less than.

They’re wrong.  Getting help makes you brave.  Getting help makes you smart.  Getting help makes you better.

People still try to silence me.  My truth makes people uncomfortable.  I have gotten e-mails from readers of my blog telling me that they feel bad for my daughter, that I should give her up for adoption, that I am not capable of being a good mom.

I could listen.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I let the depression and the anxiety take these words and make me believe them. Those are not good days.  But then I realize: what if I had never spoken up?  What if I had never gotten help?  It’s not just me that would have suffered.  Or my husband.  My daughter would have suffered.  And I’m her whole world.  I can’t change the fact that I have post-partum depression/anxiety anymore than someone can change the fact that they have the flu or shingles or cancer.  But I can do something about it.

I will not be silenced. When I say the things that make people uncomfortable, like the fact that I felt resentful, I am able to see those thoughts for what they really are: separate from myself. When I give voice to my anxious, negative, self-critical thoughts, I set them free.  I release myself from their hold. I get better.

And when my daughter is old enough to read my blog and to understand how I felt, she will not, as the people who try to silence me tell me, hate me and try to emancipate herself.  It is my hope that she will say, “Momma was in trouble, and she got help.  When I’m in trouble, I should ask for help.  And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

I’ve been seeing a therapist for over two months now.  She has helped me to see that my depression/anxiety is not me.  It’s not even a part of me.  It is an illness, and I am getting better.  While I still experience anxiety and obsess over little details of my baby’s life, I am no longer bitter.  I am no longer resentful.  I am never crying when I hold my baby close.  I am able to see her, and me, for what we really are.  Now we laugh and play and generally adore one another. Don’t get me wrong, there are dark days.  It’s not all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies. But most of the time, I actually love being a mom. Which two months ago, I honestly thought would never be true. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like now if I had stayed silent.  Thankfully, that’s one less thing I have to worry about.  And when you worry about as many things as I do, one less thing is a big deal.

Don’t be silenced.  Don’t stay silent.  And you will get better.

Read more from Beth at her blog: Tales from the Trenches



© kabils

All This Mental Health Business

It’s an interesting thing, mental health.

I’ve always felt like I’m on the fence. I straddle the place between happy, normal, sanity and that place just on the other side of sanity, which feels impatient and angry and frustrated with my kids for doing what normal 4.5 and 2.5 and almost .5 year olds do. I don’t like that place. And because in any given month I spend 3 weeks in the normal place and one in the quick-to-anger I watch myself act crazy, know its crazy and yet somehow can’t stop myself place. I have PPD postpartum depression, or really PMDD.

Really, it’s PMDD, but because Maggie is only 4 months old it’s exacerbated by the chaos of having a new baby.

Which is to say that once a month for a week I am uncharacteristically moody, short tempered with my kids, self conscious, and a wee bit neurotic. Okay, a wee bit EXTRA neurotic.

Two weeks ago I noticed a shift in my mood. It was subtle to those on the outside. It’s easy to hide when I feel like this. It’s not easy to hide from my husband. He’s a sharp one. Monday I felt extra bitchy. And bitchy would be fine, but taking it out on my kids by yelling at them is NOT fine. Tuesday I was also not fine. Wednesday was more of the same. Thursday morning I called my midwives and asked for Zoloft.

Oddly, it was not a big deal at all. It wasn’t a decision I agonized over. I felt no guilt about “needing help”. When I made the call I explained to the receptionist that I wasn’t feeling like myself. I wanted to talk to the midwives and see about some Zoloft. The receptionist asked me if I was with my kids. Did I feel okay to be with them? Was I thinking about hurting them or myself.

It’s protocol for her to ask. I’m not offended by the questions. I don’t think, “What mother could ever hurt her baby?” I only think “I’m glad I called right away. I’m glad I made this easy on myself. I’m glad it hasn’t gotten that far. I’m fortunate it’s never been that bad.”

And then I realized something. Something I know but often forget. It doesn’t have to be that bad to be worth fixing.

It never really even felt broken. It just felt like it could be better.

It’s starting to be better already.

From Emily’s blog: Tales of Fruit and Cake

© GenBug

Hey Nina,

I’m hoping like hell that you guys are full of newborn baby bliss and that everything is going really really well. BUT, just in case it’s not – and you’re wondering if you will ever sleep again or ever not cry at the drop of a hat – I wanted to reach out to you to let you know – YOU ARE NOT ALONE and IT DOES GET BETTER!

Caleb will eventually develop a routine – he’ll eat well, sleep well, coo at you, smile. He’ll stop having problems latching, or with spitting up, reflux and gas. He’ll stop screaming for hours on end… He WILL be everything fantastic you ever imagined he would be.

Your nipples WILL stop hurting. They may go through several stages of bruising, bleeding, maybe even mastitis, but nursing does get easier.

You WILL sleep again, although not for a while. The good news is – in just a few short weeks you’ll forget what is was ever like to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time and you’ll just pop right out of bed without so much as a groan when he wants to eat. And then, before you know it, he’ll be sleeping through the night.

You WILL get your body back and your old clothes will fit even better than they did before. Your hair will stop falling out, your boobs will belong to you once again, and if you’re like me, just about then you’ll miss being pregnant and do it all over again!

Your marriage WILL survive this. It has never ceased to amaze me that just when a couple should be leaning on one another the most – through exhaustion, frustration and excitement – the stress makes you resentful, and short, and angry… On many occasion in the early weeks of each of our children Goat and I said “are we going to survive this? Will we ever be more than just our kids’ parents? Will we ever stop fighting over the smallest things because we’re so tired?” And so far, we’ve survived and those conversations have subsided… Harass Joanna to watch Caleb for a few hours so you guys can have a date night and just reconnect.

Your house WILL be clean again, the laundry WILL get done, the thank you notes written, the visitors will end… It DOES get better. So chin up, keep snuggling that precious baby boy, and if there is anything I can do to help – please say so.

Like I said, i really hope that none of this applies to you, and if it doesn’t then it is probably WAY too much of an overshare on my part… I just feel like there is so much “they” don’t tell you about having a newborn. So when you get home and you’re exhausted and overwhelmed and feeling inadequate – you think you might be the only woman in the world who ever felt that way. But you’re not. That is – if you do feel that way… .

What I never wanted to say…

“These last two weeks have been the most miserable of my entire life”

I was holding my two week old son, swaddled up like a burrito, turned on his side, jiggling him madly as per ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’.  My husband was aghast at my words.  He looked a little disgusted.  I couldn’t look at him, I was ashamed to have said them, those horrible words, made all the more horrible by being so true.

My Postpartum Depression began instantly after the baby was born. Instantly.  And it was never depression, not in the typical sense.  I didn’t feel down, I didn’t feel detached from the baby, and thank god, I never had any urges to harm him.  It began as irritation. Really, really intense irritation.  I remember hearing the footsteps of a nurse crossing the delivery room floor just minutes after the birth and it was tantamount to fingernails on a blackboard to my ears.  I desperately wanted everyone, including the baby, to go away and leave me alone.  I chocked it up to exhaustion, and to some degree it certainly was, but something else had begun inside of me, something that has robbed so many mothers of the joy of birth and of new motherhood.  I expected sleep deprivation, I expected to feel the loss of my free-wheeling childless days.  I had been prepared for all the possible complications during pregnancy and all the possible complications of delivery.  I knew what terrible disorders and diseases could befall my baby and me, but no one told me to prepare for PPD, didn’t even mention it in my childbirth class.  I was told how difficult it might be to recover from a C- Section or an Episiotomy.  I knew that I might pee my pants for awhile, have stretch marks, a squishy belly, painful intercourse etc, etc… no one told me that I might fall into the darkest, saddest period of my life. No one really talks about it.  So I’m going to talk about it.  Heck, Gwyenth Paltrow did, and I always say, ”Whatever Gwyneth Paltrow can do, I can do”. Minus the movie career, and the rock star husband, and the tallness, the yoga toned body, the Oscar, and the cookbooks.

It began in earnest the day I left the hospital.  My sister, brother-in-law and niece had accompanied me home.  I had been excited to come home, felt happy and hopeful, but as the time of their visit began to dwindle away and I knew that they would soon be gone, I started to feel….dread?  That isn’t the best word, or the most accurate word to describe the feeling, there is no word. I had never felt it before, but for the next few weeks, it was all I felt.   Suffice to say, it was terrible and I felt very, very alone.  Soon after, the anxiety set in. Now, no one has ever mistaken me for an easygoing, laid-back kinda gal, but this was very different.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was consumed with anxiety about the baby, about myself, about my husband.  I missed him, so badly, as if he was away at war and yet I saw him every day.  I became obsessed with the baby’s sleep schedule. Why wasn’t he sleeping longer?  When would he sleep more?  Why did he need to be held to sleep?  Would I have to hold him to sleep forever? I remember my sister saying to me, ”he’s only two weeks old, Heather”.  I could hear it in her voice, she thought I was a freak.  These might seem like standard new mother worries, but I promise you, they were far worse.  I cried hysterically when he wouldn’t take a nap, sobbing to my husband that something was wrong with him.  I called my husband at work crying every day, but I couldn’t put into words what was wrong.  I was so overwhelmed, I eagerly took weekend trips away without the baby, I was relieved to leave him with caretakers that I felt were better for him than I was.  He was the innocent recipient of my stress and it broke my heart to know I was burdening him with it.

And then, there were the visions. Every time I closed my eyes I saw my baby fall.  I tripped on the stairs and dropped him.  I slipped on the hardwood floor and dropped him.  I stood with him on our balcony, lost my balance and watched him fall into the water below and drift away from me. It was torture.  I don’t use that word lightly, it was truly unbearable.  The images were vivid.  I could see it happening so clearly.  I heard every sound.   Every time I closed my eyes, he fell, he fell, he fell.

Thanks to the interwebs, I’ve since learned that in fact, most women who suffer from PPD actually experience more anxiety or obsessive compulsive thoughts/actions, than they do depression.  It’s heartbreaking to think of all the women, throughout the world and throughout history that suffered this way.  I don’t want to get all up on a soapbox, but there is no PPD support group in our community.  There are support groups for mothers of multiples, for women breastfeeding, for parents who have lost children.  All good and necessary, no doubt about it, but not one group for PPD?  None that I can find anyway.  Why?  Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d be happy to know it.

There is medication though, and you better believe I jumped on that wagon.  I didn’t even think about going natural.  Hell no.  And it worked. That, and a part-time nanny.  My husband’s 60+ hour a week job was not helping matters. By the time my son was two months old, I was feeling pretty much back to normal.  Don’t. Wait. To. Get. Help.  Whatever kind of help you seek, get it immediately.  So much precious time is wasted otherwise.

Should I really be admitting all this, I’ve worried?  Even now, I still feel the shame. I’ve cringed at every word I’ve written.   But why shouldn’t I admit it? The fact is, it was no more in my control than morning sickness, craving ground beef or having sore boobs; all products of the hormones rising and falling and swirling around in my pregnant body.  I want to shout it out for all the women who never could, when there was no solution, no support and no name for the affliction. Talk about it.  Tell your friends about it.  And tell a new mother.

Read more from Heather at her blog: 6:30 and a Glass of Wine