Mindy Roberts: On Knowing What She Didn’t Know Then

Dear Moms,

If I had just seen this article on Coxsackie Viruses before Dylan was born, I would have recognized the signs much more quickly. I still got him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stanford before he went into respiratory arrest, but still. But still. I didn't know what I was dealing with, and I am so so so so so so grateful to still have my little boy.

"Newborns, who can be infected from their mothers during or shortly after birth, are more at risk for developing serious infection, including myocarditis, hepatitis, and meningoencephalitis (an inflammation of the brain and meninges).

Symptoms usually occur within 2 weeks after birth and can include fever, poor feeding, irritability, and lethargy. Infants with coxsackie myocarditis have trouble breathing and sometimes develop cyanosis, a bluish color of the skin, lips and nails caused by too little oxygen in the blood."

As I sit here at my desk, I am just completely flushed with those feelings of fours years ago, when he was eight daysold, in an induced coma, on life support and I was in the depths of postpartum depression.

While I am honking that particular horn, I ask a particular thing of each and everyone one of you. If you know someone who has recently given birth, and seems to be doing well, and especially if they don't seem to be doingso well, make a point of sitting with them and asking if you can be of any help whatsoever. Offer to clean the bathrooms, or the kitchen. Offer to do laundry. Offer to sit and hand them Kleenex while they sob, and then don't tell anyone else about it and let them know that they have a safe place to cry and vent.

Postpartum depression is a terrible thing to endure, and it is more common than most believe. It is not very well understood, especially by well-wishers who are a little confused or disappointed if the new mothers isn't as gushy and proud as those around think they should be. To be frank, most of us who suffer from PPD just want to give the baby back and go crawl into a hole.

Be a friend. Be a good friend. And do what that person tells you will help, not what you think will help. If all she wants is for you to bring dinner or take the baby out for a bit, do it. Let her sleep without guilt. Don't badmouth her attitude to anyone. Love her. She will come out and remember every bit of generosity and kindness; she will also remember if she was abandoned, misunderstood, made to feel guilty, criticized or unsupported.

Why am I harping on this? Because I suffered postpartum depression four times, and each episode was more frightening than the last. I don't think I ever really got over the third one when the fourth swept over me, and nearly three years later and I am still feeling the ghost of it. I can't stop thinking about it, and how critical relationships changed forever. Coping with PPD is about preservation, not pretension. Trust me on this.

Just a thought for today.

Mindy Roberts is a four-time survivor of postpartum depression. She is author of the blog The Mommy Blog and the book "Mommy Confidential: Adventures from the Wonderbelly of Motherhood". She also serves as a panelist on Momversation. You can follow her on Twitter at @themommyblog.

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think

Comments

  1. Such an important message, Mindy. There should be some sort of guide to being a good friend to new moms -this is a great start!

  2. Your post is right on the money, and it should be mandatory reading for family and friends of new moms! I definitely agree with you on the notion that ppd is more common than most would be believe. Statistics say something like, what, 20% of new moms suffer from it? Well, then I'd like to know why at least 80% of my friends who are mothers have described experiencing varying degrees of a postpartum mood disorder following childbirth. And I am so glad Dylan is okay. I can't even imagine how terrifying that experience must have been.

  3. It took me three times to pinpoint it. I just thought it was situational but each time was progressively worse. I can't help but wonder if I had known what was going on the first time around, I might have been better prepared to cope the second and third time.

  4. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Mindy,
    Thank you so much for being a part of the Mother's Day Rally. Every time I think of you having PPD four times I shudder. You really deserve some kind of lifetime achievement award. One could fully expect you to run as far away from this topic as possible, yet you speak of it openly and serve as a great example. We're lucky to have you as a Warrior Mom.
    — Katherine

  5. Thanks, Katherine. As I just said to Moosh, I can't say I have it licked. I'm still crying some days and want to sleep while my kids are at school. I have been doing it almost every day for as long as I remember, I tell myself it is because I wake up in the middle of the night and work, but it sounds a little lame, even to me.
    And before you ask, know this: I have been under a psychiatrist's care for eight years, on what we believe to be the best combination of medications that allow me to function without being in a daze or on the ceiling. I sound untreated but I'm not, and I WISH IT WOULD GET BETTER.
    I wish there were someone we could sue for lost time and sanity, some sort of class action suit against humanity or the health care system, for marginalizing us, for sending me to a psychologist who knew nothing about PPD and to whom I had to write out a list of books on the topic, for whatever allowed my former in-laws to think it was ok to side with my husband and feel sorry for him being married to an unstable woman. And especially for whatever fucked up society allowed my husband to think it was ok to NOT side with me. To NOT defend me. I can't shake the resentment, the hurt, the anger I feel when I know I didn't need fixing, I just needed HELP. And I still do. But I am an unmarried woman putting the free back in freelancing, with three kids in elementary and middle school.
    Criminy.

  6. P.S. It's helping to listen over and over to this song my daughter wrote for me this weekend.

    And now I must bring my son his wallet so he can eat. Because that is what we do.

  7. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Oh gosh Mindy. I can understand your
    resentment. There is nothing worse than
    being kicked when you're down, when you
    need help and support the most. This
    happens to a lot of women and I wish I knew
    what to do about it other than keep
    trying to raise awareness. It's unfair
    and wrong. There a lot of husbands that
    deserve, in my husband's words, "a
    cock punch". (Sorry y'all.) I can only
    hope that you feel some sense of support
    from all of us out here who believe in you
    and who are rooting for you. Success — and the undying love of your children — is
    the best revenge.

  8. Yes, if I could put my daughter's song on a t-shirt I'd label it the best revenge and tuck it away with fussy.org's shirt that says, "Writing well is the best revenge."
    Oh, and "donkey punch" is somehow more palatable and so much fun to say. Same thing, though. šŸ™‚
    I can't tell you how much your efforts and so many others' efforts at raising awareness have helped. It feels lame to be shouting, "SEE? I am not alone! I am not out of my mind!" But it's really all we have, right? To feel validation and try to prevent more of the same by giving it a voice.
    On a side note, as you may have noticed, this has opened a few wounds and I am really struggling to stitch them back up. Even the most understanding people around me are having trouble understanding it. Can you write me a note and pin it to my shirt?

  9. Katherine Stone/Postpartum Progress says:

    Writing that note and emailing it as we speak.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Mindy Roberts, The Mommy Blog & […]