Arm Yourself with Information

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A guest post by Kristin Shaw

When I was going through a divorce in 2004, I was sad, hurt, angry, and I cried a lot. A whole lot. I prayed to make the pain stop, and I would call my mother sobbing.

“I can’t take this, Mom,” I would say. I’m sure her heart was breaking for me.

I refused antidepressants and I was determined to beat the pain on my own. I went out with friends, I self-medicated with wine, and I went to the gym for an hour or two a day. My journal was my closest confidante, and I created a mantra: “I will not be bitter. I am strong. I can do this.”

Five years later, with a new life under my belt, I took a hit that was even harder than that one.

In the face of postpartum anxiety and terrible sleep deprivation, I knew I had to beat the creature taking over my existence, but I could not get past it. I tried taking walks with my baby and took deep gulps of air, trying to calm my heart, beating out of control. I told myself that I was stronger than this thing; that I must get past this for our son.

I prayed for my life.

Dear God, I am asking for your help. Please lift me into your arms and help me get through this, the toughest time of my life, so I can enjoy every moment with our precious baby boy. Please continue to give my husband strength to carry all three of us. Help him remember to eat so that he can take care of us. He is my rock here on Earth and I thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for bringing our son into our lives and giving us such a little miracle.

He is such an amazing baby. He is happy and smiling every day, and he rarely cries. Right now he is talking to the animals in his mobile and laughing as he bats at them. He does not notice the tears in my eyes or the deep, dark circles on my face.  We will get through this together, as a family.

Prayer alone did not help, as much as I wanted it to. The anxiety was building and building, and by the time I saw my obstetrician, I had full-out insomnia, was sleeping two hours a night, and was shaking like a vibrating bouncy seat. I could not focus long enough to read one page of a magazine. I hovered over the crib, checking my son’s breathing.

The doctor took one look at my face and could see I was floundering; she diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety, the close cousin to PPD. She prescribed Zoloft to regulate my sleep and anxiety, and it took two excruciating, terrifying weeks for it to kick in.

I nursed and took great care of my son, but I could not figure out how to take care of myself in the meantime. I lost all of my baby weight by the time my son was a few weeks old, which meant I was worrying myself through more calories than I was eating. I entertained the idea of showing up at the ER and begging for a room in which I could just rest.

Even as the Zoloft was working its way into my system, I took Ambien – with great hesitation – to help me sleep. I started with a half of a tablet and slept for three hours in a row. Reading about the side effects of Ambien, I started having nightmares about sleepwalking and trying to care for my son as a zombie. In desperation, I alternated between Tylenol PM, which made me worry about my milk supply since it included an antihistamine, and Ambien, which scared me. I nearly asked my husband to lock me in the garage one night so I could sleep in the car to ensure that I would not sleepwalk.

The light of the mornings saved me, even after a desperate night. I called a friend who had been through similar trials and she listened patiently. Finally, I got back on track. The sun came out. I could see how beautiful my life was again and it was even shinier and more gorgeous than I remembered it. My son smiled through it all – although he’s never been a great sleeper, he was consistent and mellow through his first couple of months.

Every new mother should arm herself with information on postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, just in case. It’s scary, it’s real, and she may not even know she is afflicted. I’m thankful my husband was there. I don’t know how a single mom could get through that without help, because having someone to lean on meant that I made it through to the other side. Asking for help is hard, and surrounding yourself with people who can help and will help you without question means the world.

Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS, Facebook, or her bloghttp://www.twocannoli.com, where she writes about relationships, motherhood and love.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Recovering From PPD In the Face of Life Challenges

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Today, Warrior Mom Jamelle is bravely sharing her PPD story with us and how realizing she needed help has helped her begin to recover. Please send some love her way in the comments. 
My son was born April 2012. I’d had a slightly difficult pregnancy, including 24/7 morning sickness for the first five months and an outbreak of PUPPP (skin rash) in the last couple of months with a dash of bad acid reflux in between. My labor was fortunately pretty easy and quick and, after a night in the hospital, we were home with our son.

Everything was okay, more or less, at first. I had difficulty breastfeeding. No one at the hospital taught me how and as I worked during my pregnancy, I didn’t have time to seek out assistance. I remember crying those first few days at home because I felt like I was failing my son. Watching videos from youtube helped me understand what I needed to do. I felt more confident about breastfeeding although towards the middle and end of my time doing it (I did it for six months) I began to feel resentful and wanted my body back.

It wasn’t until my parents left and my husband went back to work that I started having suicidal thoughts. I had been warned about postpartum depression from a girlfriend who had given birth the year before, but for some reason I couldn’t equate how I was feeling and what I was thinking to having PPD. Outwardly I’m sure I just looked and acted like a typical new mom: frazzled, sleep deprived and confused. In fact I’m sure that’s how  most people saw me because no one expressed concern for how I was doing. Everyone’s so concerned about the baby and mom just gets pushed to the side. While my husband was gone, I would dwell on thoughts of him coming home to me and our son, dead on the bed. Sometimes I would just think about him finding me dead, with our son crying on the bed next to me.

After three months I went back to work, which helped a little. I was interacting with other adults and doing something with my day other than feeding, changing diapers, and napping. But work added other stressors, causing my depression to manifest in other ways. I became short with people, including my husband. Little things began to irritate me and cause me to become irrationally angry. I had a blow up in Dec 2012 that made me realize something was wrong with me and had been wrong with me since my son was born. It took me another month to tell my husband how I was feeling–my sweet, wonderful, patient husband, who made the call to our insurance for me so I could get help for my PPD.

I can remember feeling such relief after talking to the intake counselor and explaining why I needed help. I had no idea how heavy a burden I was carrying until I had to detail out the thoughts and feelings I was having. They assigned a counselor and a doctor to me; after they assessed me I was put on anti-depressants and something else to help me sleep at night. The meds helped so much. I was feeling more like my normal self and I wasn’t having awful thoughts. I ended up seeing the counselor only twice–she and I didn’t really mesh and I didn’t feel I was getting anywhere with her. Shortly after that I went off my meds (for a very dumb reason that I don’t even want to get in to) and I thought I was going to be fine. Then my husband lost his job and we lost our house not too long after that. The stress of trying to keep my family financially afloat triggered my depression again. Luckily I can recognize the signs now.

I’ve only recently started going back to therapy. I found a counselor I really like and I’ll be going back on meds soon. I wish I hadn’t stopped in the first place but you never know where life takes you. I’m going to be much better about it this time around. This has been really hard to write, but I’m glad I did and thank you so much for listening.

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No Link Between Antidepressants During Pregnancy & Stillbirth

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The New York Times reports on a large study finding no link between stillbirth and the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. According to the Times, the Danish study of 1.6 million births, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that, “The neonatal death rate (before one month of life) in babies of the 29,228 mothers who had used S.S.R.I.’s did not differ from that of the population at large.”

For a review of this study about taking medication during pregnancy by the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health, click here.

 

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Which Psychiatric Medications Are Safe During Breastfeeding?

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breastfeeding postpartum depressionI’m often asked by mothers who want to breastfeed about which psychiatric medication is safe.

First, I want you to know that it is a myth that you must quit breastfeeding if you are going to be treated for postpartum depression. I’m always saddened to hear of moms who refuse to seek treatment because they are afraid they will be made to quit, or whose doctors tell them they must because they’ll be on medication.  That’s just not true.

Certainly, if you feel that it is better for you to formula feed that is a perfectly acceptable choice.  Also, therapy alone is a good option for some mothers.  If you need to take medication, though, you still don’t have to quit.  There are certain medications that have been fairly well studied and, according to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, are “… considered to be relatively safe for use during breastfeeding when clinically warranted …”

I wanted to offer you some resources for those of you who plan to breastfeed but must also take an antidepressant or other psychiatric medication for the treatment of your postpartum depression or related illness: [Read more...]

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