I Was Wrong

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Emma Rinker. She bravely speaks of a pregnancy, a loss, and a subsequent baby that left her with pregnancy anxiety, followed by postpartum depression. We’re thankful for her words today. -Jenna]

I Was Wrong -postpartumprogress.com

I found out I was pregnant on Christmas Eve.

I found out we lost our baby on Presidents Day, barely two months later. I had a D&C that same evening.

I did my best to act like I was okay after that, when all I wanted was to crawl into bed and live there. Months went by.

I thought I would be better when I got pregnant again.

I was wrong.

I was terrified of losing another baby. I had anxiety attacks leading up to doctor appointments. My husband, who could clearly see I wasn’t myself, asked our OB twice if my level of anxiety was normal.

At each of those appointments our OB simply stated it was perfectly normal to be anxious after a loss. Our OB was the expert, right?

I felt anything but normal. Nothing could be the same as that rainy day in February when we were told there was no heartbeat. I refused to wear certain clothes. I considered rescheduling appointments if the forecast called for rain. I didn’t feel joy in being pregnant.

I had pregnancy anxiety and didn’t know it. I didn’t know it was a real illness. I didn’t know I could have—should have—been treated for it.

I thought I would be okay when I gave birth and could hold my baby.

I was wrong.

I became dehydrated during labor and developed a fever. When I gave birth to my son, I only remember patting his head and telling my husband to hold him first.

I thought I was too tired to make the effort.

I was wrong.

I had zero interest in trying to bond with our son at first. When I finally felt an urge to hold him, admire him, bond with him 15 hours later, he was promptly taken away for routine tests due to my fever. We didn’t see him for several hours.

We were told our baby was septic and needed to be moved to the NICU for antibiotics. He was placed under the bilirubin lights because he was jaundiced as well.

Hooked up to monitors and IVs and needing the lights meant we could only hold our son to feed him for the next five days. I cried. A lot.

When we finally came home as a family I cried all the time. I had thoughts of my baby getting hurt. I wanted to run away. I was exhausted. I was obsessed over the baby’s weight and whether he was getting enough milk from me. I felt a lot of anger and resentment towards my husband for being able to being able to sleep through every little noise our baby made at night. I looked at my son and only felt the instinct to protect him—the love I expected to feel for him immediately upon seeing him hadn’t happened.

I thought I was having a hard time adjusting to motherhood.

I was wrong.

People could tell I wasn’t myself, but no one said anything until I broke down at our son’s one-month appointment and was encouraged by the nurse practitioner to ask my OB about postpartum depression.

I was diagnosed with it two weeks later at my six-week visit with the midwife, who also handed me a prescription for an antidepressant.

I began seeing a therapist several months later. She was a saving grace as she helped me work through my anger and anxiety.

I didn’t think I would ever enjoy my son. I thought I would need to take a pill for the rest of my life in order to be a mother that was just “good enough.”

I was wrong.

My son was nine months old when I felt my heart swell with love for him. He was 15 months old when I realized I was enjoying being his mom—medication free.

One day you will find yourself smiling at your child as you watch them play. One day you will laugh with them and realize you’re truly enjoying them. One day you will look at them and feel all the love in the world for them.

You will.

Until then, keep fighting Warrior Mom Emma Rinker is Wife to her high school sweet heart and Mom of two boys. She loves chocolate cake, beer, and pole dancing (for fitness!). Emma has dreams of writing the next Great American Novel, but for now she can be found writing on her blog, Muddy Boots and Diamonds.

Bed Rest and Depression

Bed Rest and Depression -postpartumprogress.com

Last month the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a list of “Five More Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” when it comes to OBGYN procedures. It’s an addition to their Choose Wisely campaign which started with “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.” In all, there are now ten recommendations ACOG makes for physicians and patients to question.

Four of the ten recommendations specifically address pregnant women, and one of them caught my eye for a number of reasons. Julia West at Mothering addressed it as such:

This research shows many side-effects of bed rest during pregnancy including: “muscle atrophy, bone loss, maternal weight loss and decreased infant birthweight in singleton gestations, and psychosocial problems including depression, anxiety, stress, family disruption and financial burden.” ACOG states plainly that “information to date does not show an improvement in birth outcome with the use of bed rest or activity restriction.”

I just wish you could have seen the look on my face as I read that paragraph the first time. And the second. And the third. And then when I clicked over to read the research. Jaw-dropping doesn’t begin to describe it.

I’m not your typical pregnant patient. I have chronic unilateral hydronephrosis; the ureter out of my right kidney isn’t big enough and a growing uterus pinches it off, causing a host of problems. I experienced two surgeries during my first pregnancy as they tried to insert a stent which they eventually removed because it only made things worse.

They placed me on Level III bed rest at 18 weeks gestation. Financial burden? Anxiety? Stress? Depression? Oh yeah. I ended up placing my baby for adoption because I couldn’t see past the crisis mode that I was in at the time. You can also tick off “maternal weight loss,” too. I gained a total of 19 pounds. I wasn’t proud of it; I looked sick because I was sick.

I was also alone for almost all of that time. I spent hours in my apartment, staring at the ceiling of my bedroom, or when I dared, the ceiling in the living room. The isolation only exacerbated the depression and anxiety. It was a dark, scary, and very lonely time.

I expected, with better health care and a planned pregnancy, my subsequent pregnancies wouldn’t be quite so isolating and debilitating. I was wrong, of course. Level III bed rest came later on than it did during my first pregnancy—28 and 32 weeks—but I still found myself stuck on the couch or in bed. Living in a new state with no real friends yet, I didn’t really have any visitors other than my beloved mother-in-law. My husband worked 24 hour shifts, leaving me alone with our toddler during my third pregnancy. Parenting from the couch isn’t easy, let me tell you.

Was I depressed during these episodes of bed rest? You betcha, though I worked hard at hiding it. These were pregnancies I was supposed to be happy about; these were the babies the adoption agency told me I would someday have, when I was “ready” for “my own” children. I plastered a smile on my face and made jokes about how losing 11 pounds during pregnancy meant that my figure would bounce back so much more quickly. (Of note, it did not.)

I also stressed about the financial burden my bed rest placed on our growing family. While my husband’s job as a firefighter provided well for us, I felt an overwhelming need to provide something since I couldn’t during my first pregnancy.

My anxiety continued to sky-rocket. While I was actively seeing a therapist when I got pregnant with our second son, I couldn’t visit her once placed on bed rest, and from that point on, things were kind of touch and go when it came to intrusive thoughts, fear, depression, and panic attacks.

Part of me understands that I was a special case, that bed rest kept the constant contractions from turning into progressive contractions and pre-term labor. I was lucky and carried all three babies to 38 weeks. But this new news out of ACOG makes me wonder if they would have done something differently with my case(s) over a decade ago. If I had been allowed to keep working with my daughter, would I have parented? If I had been able to continue attending therapy during the final trimester of my pregnancy with our youngest, would my relapse of postpartum depression and anxiety have been caught sooner?

I don’t know. But I do hope these new recommendations will help expectant moms avoid unnecessary stays in bed and that it helps them avoid antenatal and, perhaps, postpartum depression and anxiety. Placing moms in isolating situations doesn’t seem conducive to positive mental health.

Were you on bed rest? How did it affect your mental health?

National Adoption Month: Addressing Depression During Pregnancy

National Adoption Month: Addressing Depression During Pregnancy

To say I felt depressed during my first pregnancy is an understatement. To say that my depression went untreated is also an understatement. However, considering I presented a number of risk factors for depression during pregnancy, the fact that my depression was basically ignored by those around me feels a bit like a failure of services.

As for risk factors, I could have been a poster child for Depression During Pregnancy.

  • A personal history of depression or another mental illness – Check!
  • A family history of depression or another mental illness – Check!
  • A lack of support from family and friends – Check!
  • Anxiety or negative feelings about the pregnancy – Check!
  • Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth – This was my first pregnancy, so no check!
  • Marriage or money problems – No marriage, no money: double check!
  • Stressful life events – Check!
  • Young age – Check!
  • Substance abuse – No check!

Six out of eight, and add in a side of extreme pregnancy complications due to my own health, and well, it’s easy to see that I was at least at risk for antenatal depression. Yet, not one doctor or nurse ever asked me, “Are you feeling okay? Do you need to talk to someone?” The woman parading as a counselor for the adoption facilitator I began talking to never once asked, “Would you like to talk to some other mothers who also had these same fears during their pregnancies?” No one in my family sat me down and said, “Listen, Jenna. I think you’re depressed and I think it’s affecting your decision making skills regarding this pregnancy.”

Because it did.

After surgery to place a stent in my kidney at 18 weeks, my doctor placed me on Level III bed rest. I had to quit my job as I could only get out of bed to shower. I began to panic not only about my financial situation but about my perceived inabilities as a mother.

I chastised myself all day long in my bed or on the couch watching movies on VHS tapes sent by an online friend as I couldn’t afford cable. “What kind of mother cries when she finds out she’s pregnant? A bad one, that’s the kind. You can’t do this. Look at you: You can’t even do pregnancy right. You’re biologically horrible at pregnancy, so why wouldn’t you be biologically horrible at motherhood? You’re going to fail this baby. You’re going to be a failure as a mother.” The voices in my head taunted me all day long.

So I listened.

I contacted the first adoption facilitator I found in the back of a magazine. I filled out their medical history forms to the best of my knowledge, including that I had previously been on antidepressants. Still, not one person I had contact with at their office ever asked, “Have you considered that your beliefs about your lack of ability to be a mother are signs of depression?” Instead, they preyed on my anxiety, my depressed state, my lack of support, my financial problems, and my age to help me paint a negative self-portrait—one who couldn’t be a mother.

Years later, when I found myself in therapy for postpartum depression after the birth of my second child, a son, I felt anger. I felt angry not only for the young mother who slipped through the cracks, but at myself for not being able to see; not being able to see through the anxiety or depression, not being able to see through the lies and half-truths, not being able to see my child as my own. I held on to that personal anger, the anger directed at myself, for years, much longer than I held on to the anger directed at the adoption facilitator. After all, as so many willing to dismiss birth mothers and their grief say, I “signed those papers, so it’s my decision, my fault.”

It wasn’t until sometime in the past year that I’ve been able to see that young mother with a sense of compassion. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. If you ask any person who suffered from depression, they will tell you that a period of time existed during which they simply didn’t know they were depressed. I simply thought I couldn’t be a good mother, that these thoughts were proof that I lacked maternal instinct, that maybe I’d never be the motherly type.

I’ve cried many tears for the young mother that I was in the process of healing, and yes, forgiving myself. I’m still working on the forgiving part, but I now fully understand how and why I ended up on the path of adoption and eventually relinquishing my child. I firmly believe if we offered mothers considering adoption access to legitimate mental health care resources, we’d see an improvement in the numbers of mothers who both choose to parent and, should they choose to place, feel as though it was an informed decision, not coerced by people seeking to gain from their loss.

However, while we’ve made great strides in acknowledging and providing resources for mothers and families fighting postpartum depression, ethical reform in adoption remains a slow-moving process. If we admit that mothers who are single, who maybe don’t feel worthy of being a mother are worthy of being mothers, then for-profit newborn adoption begins to make less sense. And there’s the rub.

For now, I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone, in offering hope and support to other scared mothers, and in continuing the work of forgiving myself. Maybe someday I’ll get there.

Anxiety Doesn’t Own Me: How I Beat Pregnancy Anxiety

Note: Today’s guest post is written by warrior mom Andrea Bates from Good Girl Gone Redneck, addressing the often overlooked issue of pregnancy and anxiety.

How I Beat Pregnancy Anxiety

When I found out I was pregnant, I was over the moon excited. Beyond thrilled. And, if I’m being honest, a little bit shocked.

As someone submerged in the mental health field, I was on the ball. I knew what to look for. I knew what could happen.

I knew about postpartum depression. I knew about maternal mental health. I knew from anxiety. I experienced it in my regular life.

Pre-motherhood. Regular. You know? The basic days of work and school, caring for pets, becoming a wife. Moving across several states. Away from friends and family.

I knew anxiety. I knew it could hit me. I was ready.

But I never knew how hard it would hit.

My experience was during pregnancy. People focus on postpartum mental health a lot. Many mamas don’t know that they can experience this during pregnancy, as well.

I’m here to tell you it happens.

Even when you’re armed with information.

Even when you think you know what you’re looking for.

You know so much, and yet—when it hits you? You’re never quite ready.

I had no idea the thoughts would come so quickly.

Would race—unstoppable—through my head.

I didn’t know my heart would pound. The tears would fall.

I didn’t know my fears would escalate.

I didn’t know I’d fear for my baby’s life for no reason.

For. No. Reason.

Nothing was wrong. Pregnant women have fears. For certain. These were beyond the “norm.” These were intense.

I rationalized with myself. I told myself the doctors would tell me if something was wrong with my baby.

I knew they would. Of course they would!

Realistically I knew that.

But it didn’t matter.

I tossed and turned in bed as my husband slept blissfully beside me.

How could he just SLEEP? Didn’t he know how terrifying this was? Wasn’t he worried about our baby?

I reached a point where it was time.

I spoke with my doctor and started medication.

I have no shame.

Medication helped me remain calm. Helped me get through pregnancy with restful nights.

Turned off those racing voices.

Prepped me for motherhood in some ways, as I truly believe that addressing my anxiety during pregnancy helped me to avoid experiencing more intense postpartum anxiety. Keeping the lines of communication with my doctors wide open ensured that I was being watched and helped right away.

I was fortunate to have this help early on. My anxiety after my daughter was born was certainly there. It shifted through stages as she grew and changed. There were days I felt it like a brick on my chest. But I made it. I found my way through. I shifted the brick. Tossed it to the side.

I confess, it still shows up every now and then. My daughter is eight. I still get anxious. I still feel moments where things are out of my hands and my mind jumps ahead. But I talk myself through it. I turn to friends. I find the support and reminders I need that things will be okay. I will be okay.

After all, look at what I’ve already survived. Look at what I’ve made it through. I’ll be fine.

 

Original image credit: mateusd.