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.