Parenting Milestones After Postpartum Depression

Parenting Milestones After Postpartum Depression

My tiny human graduated from preschool last Thursday. As my husband and I sat in the front row, waiting for the most adorable procession I will ever see, I started thinking about this moment in time.

Back, when I was at the sickest. Back, when I wanted to leave my family, run away and hide from everyone, die.

Back when I looked at my screaming new born from across the room (because I refused to pick her up) and I could not fathom her getting past this stage in life. To me, in that moment, she would always be a little purple lump of screaming. I was broken and, therefor, had given birth to a broken child.

In the weeks, months, that passed, I carried her around like a ming vase. I wouldn’t let others hold her, I was obsessed with looking at her but was hesitant to interact with her directly. I was fragile and, therefore, so was she.

She wouldn’t sleep. She wouldn’t stop crying. She hated all of us and I held that guilt deep within my heart. What had I done wrong while carrying her? I knew the answer;I had always known the answer. I went into this grand adventure already suffering from debilitating depression which manifested into perinatal depression which manifested into postpartum depression. I had done this to her. If only I had been one of those happy pregnant women. If only I paraded around in adorable maternity clothes and attended birthing classes and took professional maternity pictures.

I did none of those things. I celebrated nothing. This was not the happiest time of my life.

For months, as I said, I thought she was broken.

That is, until one evening when I was changing her after bath time. My husband was standing awkwardly nearby, in case I burst into tears. I poked my daughter on the nose and made a “BOOP!” noise.

My difficult, broken daughter laughed for the first time.

I didn’t even really hear it. I felt it run down the expanse of my spine; down to my toes and then, quick as lightening, back up into my heart. I burst into hysterical tears. I could hardly breathe between sobs.

“She isn’t broken. I didn’t break her. She isn’t broken.”

Parenting a child up through school age after postpartum depression and mental disorder is often like walking on those moving side walks in the airport the wrong way. I feel as if I am trying very hard to get somewhere, to do something, to teach her. Often times, depending on my energy level, my anxiety level, my self-loathing level, I gain no ground and, in fact, find myself further back than when I began.

Sometimes, life gives you chances to sprint forward. They don’t happen often and they certainly don’t announce themselves so you have to always be vigilant; of your emotions, your surroundings, your child’s emotions.

When you get that sign, that shooting star against a dark sky, grab it. Grab your child. Hold them. Read to them. Take them to museums and the beach and to Disney World. Do all of the things that your depression constantly tells you that you do not deserve. Throw up a big middle finger to your mental issues and do the things anyway.

While teetering constantly on these two sides of a swing set, I have created a child who is incredibly empathetic. She is able to feel when others around her are struggling. She knows how to approach her friend, her teachers, her mother, with the utmost patience. She is kind. She shares. She is the most clever little thing I have ever seen.

And so, with sobs caught in my throat, I watched this little thing of a child cross a big stage with her cap and gown on. I saw her shake the director’s hand like she was graduating from college. I saw a little girl, a little baby, a little fetus, who had such a hard start to things show us all that she refuses to be defined by what she has been through and what she has seen. She is five years old and certainly stronger than me.

 

I watched my daughter graduate preschool and I realized, perhaps once and for all, that she is not broken; I did not break my child.

A Long Journey with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom in Australia. She said that this site helped her understand more about postnatal depression and anxiety (PND), which is how they refer to postpartum depression and anxiety Down Under. She wanted to share her story to help other moms. We’ll note that if treated, postpartum mood and anxiety disorders don’t have to last as long as this mom’s experience. Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. This mom got help. You can too. Note: Mild trigger warning for suicidal ideation. -Jenna]

A Long Journey with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Looking back, the anxiety began the day my son was born. I hadn’t slept in three days by the time he arrived at 4:45am on Sunday morning, July 7, 2013. He was ten days late and I’d had a fairly long labor: 52 hours including the very early stages. But he arrived safe and was feeding and sleeping. I wasn’t. We spent two more sleepless nights in hospital then my husband took us home to my mum, a nice warm apartment, and home cooked meal.

Everything was a blur after that. The first few weeks flew by. Mum had to fly back to Sydney after a week to get back to work. My sister visited when Flynn was around four weeks old. That was around the time I got mastitis. It wasn’t the worst kind, but it happened and it took me a week to get over, whilst still trying to care for and breastfeed my baby.

Which we struggled with.

I still vividly remember crying to my husband when Flynn was around three months old asking why he wouldn’t feed from me, why was it taking so long to get the hang of, why was it so hard? I think we finally got into a rhythm when he was about four months old, and I’m glad we persevered, as I was able to feed him till he was 13 months old.

I was tired, severely sleep deprived, and still living off adrenaline and nervous energy. My husband worked long hours, and we’d just opened a gym when Flynn was nine weeks old, so I had no help during the week and limited over the weekends as I was breastfeeding and was the only one who could settle our baby at this stage. I didn’t ask for help from anybody. Most of my family lived in Sydney and I didn’t want to burden anyone. Plus society puts this pressure on us as mothers; it tells us that we’re supposed to know what’s best and should be capable of doing it alone. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure.

Flynn wasn’t the best sleeper. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him, could have been the mounting anxiety I started to feel over my baby every waking hour. The books all told me that he should sleep but he didn’t. I guess that’s when the cracks started to appear. I remember crying to my husband on the phone one day because Flynn wouldn’t stop crying. I was so upset and would cry all the time. I thought it was normal, but it should have been the first sign I wasn’t coping.

The months passed and we were finally booked into a sleep school when Flynn was seven months old. Relief at last, or so I thought. He did well but the baby next to us cried all night, so I didn’t sleep and it would often wake Flynn up. This is when I was finally forced to seek help. The following week, I saw my GP, he did the test, told me I had postnatal depression, gave me a prescription for an antidepressant, and off I went.

Back up, what? I don’t have postpartum depression and anxiety. I’m just severely sleep deprived with a newborn, well seven month old, that doesn’t sleep. Why would I get postnatal depression? I was never going to have it. Everyone had told me I was born to be a mum, and besides, PND only happened to others. Clearly I didn’t believe it, so of course, life went on. I didn’t tell anyone and continued to live in denial of the unforgiving illness that was slowing creeping into and taking over my life.

Flynn eventually turned one and it was lovely to celebrate. We’d made it through his first year. Life went on and as a couple more months passed by, I decided I was better and it was time to wean myself off the meds. That didn’t go so well, so my GP upped the dose.

Flynn and I took a lot of trips to Sydney to be with family. Christmas came and went and then in early January, the day Flynn turned 18 months, we found out we were pregnant. I felt elated! Then the severe morning sickness hit and I began to find it hard to cope with an 18 month old and the stress of being pregnant again. We were in the middle of planning a move, trying to find a new place and packing, which is stressful enough without adding a toddler and pregnancy into the mix. My GP didn’t write me a referral for any ultrasounds; they were too expensive apparently and I was told I couldn’t have one till I was 20 weeks pregnant as we had opted not to have the Nuchal Scan. He was not supportive of my pregnancy to say the least. Obviously my PND hadn’t been resolved.

On Monday March 2, 2015, we lost our baby at 13 weeks. I still can’t write these words or think about them without crying or feeling utter despair at the loss I still feel for that little soul. Through my own healing and trying to seek out some kind of closure for this unexplainable loss, I found out that we were having a little boy. He would like to be called Ben and that he was cheeky, happy, and understood that it was just not his time. Sometimes when Flynn would be playing by himself in his room, I could hear him chatting away and could picture Ben there playing with him and that gave me great comfort. Understandably, my depression and anxiety spiraled down further from here. I still remember weeks and months after losing Ben that I just couldn’t bare to let Flynn out of my sight, constantly fearing that something would happen to him too. [Read Also: 13 Things You Should Know About Grief After a Miscarriage or Baby Loss]

Life went on as it does and another few months passed when I had a pretty bad, “bad day.” We decided to go Bunnings one Saturday afternoon as you do, and Flynn was just being a normal testing toddler. I told Rob I’d had enough and retreated to the car. They came back five minutes later. I’d had a good cry and said to him, “Now I know why people kill themselves.”

Wow. But I was still in denial.

We went back to our GP that week and Rob told him what I’d said, so the doctor decided to change my meds. I wasn’t weaned between the two properly or even told the side effects of this new medication. As I was still in denial of my illness, I didn’t do the proper research either. To say this new medication did not agree with me is an understatement.

One morning I forgot to take it and by the afternoon I was in a severe drug withdrawal. I was told to stick with it, so I did. By this time, I thought it might be best for me to talk to someone who could help me sort through my thoughts and help me. My GP told me that talking to someone was a waste of time, it never helped anyone, and was an extreme waste of money. Seriously? Time to change GPs.

We’d moved not long after losing Ben, so I eventually found a new female GP in our area from a recommendation. She immediately referred me to a psychiatrist, who referred me to a psychologist. Flynn turned two and we celebrated with our big boy. I couldn’t believe two years had passed and everything seemed to move along just fine. Things were starting to look up with the right help and care. Christmas arrived and I couldn’t be happier. It is my favorite time of year after all.

January came and my mental state started to decline again. I still can’t pinpoint why. Christmas was over, maybe the medication had plateaued; I’m still unsure. The end of February was dreadful and the bad days never ended.

Looking back now I can see more clearly. It was coming up to the anniversary of Ben’s birth and so on his birthday, March 2nd I was admitted to the psychiatric emergency department at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. I had been having intrusive suicidal thoughts for days, couldn’t see the positive in anything, I didn’t want to keep going anymore, and started to plan my exit.

That day and experience was a real eye opener for me. Rob and I sat there for over 12 hours in a tiny locked room with just about any and every kind of public mental health patient there is roaming around outside. The doctors gave me hope though. They just had to find the right medication combination for me and I would get better. We were able to leave later that night and the following week my doctor added a new mood stabilizing medication to the mix. Within a week, things started to improve. We had finally found a winning combination, and the old me was starting to shine through again.

A few weeks later, on the eve of Easter Friday I found out we were pregnant for the third time. Surprise, shock, and elation: I couldn’t have been more excited! We were all very happy and couldn’t wait. It didn’t take long for the severe morning sickness to kick in again, and within weeks I had stopped all my meds cold turkey as I could barely swallow water. Not a good move, but I was so miserable with nausea that I wasn’t thinking straight.

However, as luck would have it I was about to see a new psychiatrist, one of the leading doctors in Brisbane who specializes in Pregnancy and Postnatal Disorders. She immediately changed me to a new medication to help with my severe nausea. Unfortunately, this one also didn’t agree with me. Typical weight gaining medication, I put on 10kg in my first trimester, not to mention it didn’t help with the nausea at all. Then some poor luck struck again, she went away on holidays, my previous psychiatrist was away ill, and I was left to deal with the morning sickness and mind games alone. I eventually stopped that medication and changed back to the previous mood stabilizer that had worked but not soon enough.

By the end of May, I wasn’t coping again. I let it go on for days and by Thursday June 2, I was having another bad, bad day. I kept trying to push through it but I’d let it go on for too long; my thoughts were too far gone, too intrusive, and I was resorting to suicide as my only option again. I eventually rang for an ambulance when I realized I wasn’t going to make it on my own.

They took me to the Royal again and it was like déjà vu. Luckily I only had to spend one night there and was transferred to Belmont Private Hospital into their BCPND (Brisbane Centre for Post Natal Disorders) ward. It’s a shared mum and bubs unit and the only one of its kind in Queensland. I’ve been here for the past three weeks and am going home tomorrow in a much better state of mind. They’ve given me the right tools, coping mechanisms, and taught me so much through my time here. I know my journey through PND isn’t over yet, even after a long three-year battle. I’ve still got at least five months before this baby arrives, and I hope to stay well and in control so that I can love and care for our new babe as much as I do for Flynn.

I want to thank everyone who has stood by me through this journey. My husband Rob; I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into when he promised me five years ago to stick by me “in sickness and in health.” My family who has been so supportive no matter what I’m going through and who are always there for me. I know I’m not the easiest person to know and love! My amazing friends, you know who you are! You’ve texted me constantly, come to visit, and understood if you hadn’t seen or heard from me in days, weeks, or even months.

And to the stranger reading this, thank you for continuing to the end. The more people who are aware of the signs and symptoms of PND, the sooner they can get help and recover.

And to my son, thank you for loving me unconditionally no matter what I do. Your smile, your laughter, your boisterous manner and infectious energy make me want to be a better person and mummy to you everyday. I love you much!

~Kyrie McMaster

Fighting PPD After Weaning

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who found hope here on the site and wants to share her story to offer struggling moms the same thing. We love our Warrior Moms who give back in this way! -Jenna]

Fighting PPD After Weaning

Hello ladies. My name is Jen, I’m 30 and from Ohio and I have recently experienced postpartum depression after weaning my son after one year of breastfeeding.

I hope my story gives hope to all my sisters who feel like they are barely holding on. I do want you to know that it does get better and you will feel like yourself again. I promise. Postpartum Progress helped me a lot. I would read and reread the stories of all the women who posted their stories. It helped me so much to know that I was not alone.

Here’s my story:

I noticed that I didn’t feel quite right when I was in labor and delivery before I had our son. I had my epidural and all of a sudden my mood dropped off. I told the nurse and my mom looked at her and asked if that normal. The nurse shook her head no.

I brushed it off thinking it was the drugs. I had Lucas. We spent two nights in the hospital, and by the second day, I thought I was going to lose it. I was anxious; I needed out of the hospital. I felt this way until my milk came in. When it did, I was calm.

I stopped breastfeeding in August 2015. In July, I noticed that I didn’t feel quite myself. I felt aggravated, on the brink of having a panic attack many times. By November I started to spiral into what seemed like a deep dark hole that I felt bound and determined to get out of by myself.

I do want to mention that I developed OCD when I was about 12. I had controlled it well up until this point in my life with prayer, exercise, and staying very active.

By December, I knew that I could not do it on my own. I experienced panic attacks that seemed to last all day. I couldn’t concentrate. I wasn’t sleeping very well, and I was barely eating. My husband was worried about me, but did not understand depression/anxiety/OCD. He felt that it was all in my head and that I needed to snap out of it.

I had to go to the doctor; just knew I had to. So I went.

I wrote my whole story down so I wouldn’t forget anything (because my short-term memory was horrible) and just sobbed in his office. I felt like a failure. Here I was in a doctor’s office telling him my deepest. darkest. thoughts. The thoughts that I was sure he was going call child protective services over as soon as I left his office. He didn’t. Thank the good Lord.

He gave me a prescription an SSRI. My husband and I talked about the appointment, and he saw the prescription. We had one of the biggest fights that we had ever had. He felt like anti-depressants should be the last resort. I decided not to take the meds and try counseling, a natural doctor with supplements and calming oils instead. The counseling seriously helped. I strongly recommend it, especially if you do not have someone at home who can listen and tell you that you’re not crazy.

By January, I was down 15 pounds. I was thinking about hurting myself, hurting others; I didn’t want to do this, but I could not stop thinking about it. My brain would not shut off. I had racing thoughts that would not quit. I thought I was seeing things. I thought I was hearing things. My mind would go from memory to memory, on things I haven’t thought of in years. I felt like I was in a dream.

I thought for sure I was going insane and at any moment I was going to lose it. I could not get my thoughts in a positive place; I could not snap out of it. I was not sleeping and if I could fall asleep I was up four or five times a night. I would wake up shaking with anxiety. The lack of sleep exacerbated the anxiety.

At this point, I had the blessing of my husband to start taking the anti-depressants. Of course, it was not a quick fix, it took five to kick in to where I felt a little better. I am thankful that the SSRI the doctor first prescribed worked because sometimes you have to try many medications to get the right fit. I seriously did not have time for that. I was at the point where I wanted to die.

I did go back to the doctor when I started taking the anti-depressant because I had to get something to sleep. My husband went to the doctor with me. He had to; I couldn’t drive. That was the turning point for him. The doctor was very calm and answered all of my husband’s questions. From that day forward, he was so supportive. We actually grew closer through the storm.

So, let’s talk about the anti-depressant: Yes, I had side effects at first. Dull headaches, dry mouth, nauseated. I would wake up in the morning drenched with sweat. In February, I started reading more about the gut/brain connection and decided to give up gluten and dairy; that helped a lot. I am still on the anti-depressant, but I have absolutely no side effects.

When I eat gluten or dairy I can tell, my anxiety does escalate and I have night sweats. I would like to start weaning myself from the meds because my husband and I would like to have another baby, but at this point I’m too scared to be in the dark place I once was. I’m loving life again and I do not want to compromise that.

Ladies, there is hope. Please hold on and reach out for help.

~Jennifer Reed

Being Your Own Advocate with Doctors and Insurance Companies

Today’s Facebook Live Chat covered a number of topics, including how you can best be your own advocate when dealing with doctors and insurance companies.

You can watch it for yourself.

Here are all the links that were shared in chat.

Insurance and Postpartum Depression

Stories About Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression Resources & Tools

The best quote from Katherine during this chat was, “We have to be a part of the solution.”

We have to be part of the solution. Be your own avdocate.

We had a number of moms share how they were scared to speak up (anxiety will do that!) to ask their doctor questions or disagree with diagnoses if they felt the doctor was wrong. You are a part of your treatment plan. Your opinion on options and your knowledge of your own body are of vital importance. Learning to advocate for the best care is hard, but you’re worth it. You have to be a part of your solution.

Lastly, we’ve shared a poll on our Facebook Page asking for Warrior Moms to reply with the best times to host our Chat would be. We had a large group today at noon, but we recognize working moms and others might want a different time slot. So please go take our poll about our Facebook Live Chats so we can best serve you. (All times are in Eastern Daylight Savings).