This is the Warrior Mom Book Club discussion of the first half of the book Dancing on the Edge of Sanity by Ana Clare Rouds.
Question 1: In the chapter titled “Interesting Sensations,” Ana shares the story of her labor and delivery. I found this to be a fun chapter due to all the mooing she was doing during labor. Do you have any funny or different stories from your labor and delivery?
SK: I don’t have any super funny stories. I was actually very quiet during labor, and surprisingly able to hold my temper and not yell at the nurse who wouldn’t quit talking. However, after my son was born, we found out my IV had blown (which I guess can be serious but I was fine) and my hand was the size of a large cartoon character’s hand. The swelling didn’t go down for a few days and it made for some funny pictures.
JG: I cracked up at the mooing sounds. My funny story is that I went into labor with C. With my first she was breech, and I was a scheduled section. I never went into labor. I had given away all the labor and delivery books. I sat on the toilet as my water was breaking trying to remember what the hell I needed to look for. I finally realized that I should turn on the light in the bathroom. Color was one of the signs.
CB: Loved the mooing. My labor wasn’t anywhere near as fun!
ST: No funny stories here.
Ana Rouds: I also felt guilty that I had a good or easy birth. I knew birth trauma could trigger PPD ,and I thought, “I have no right to be sad. I had a beautiful birth experience.”
SK: Ana I felt the same way, I had a great birth experience, that generally went as planned, so I didn’t understand why I couldn’t feel happy.
ST: Same here. Great birth experience. Why couldn’t I be happy?
Question 2: In the chapter “Welcome Home Mama,” Ana discusses how much she was overwhelmed by normal noises and how much discomfort she felt. Noises were/are one of my biggest triggers, I get very easily irritated and distracted by loud, persistent noises. Was this something you could relate to? Was there something you noticed when you brought baby home that bothered you more than you thought it would?
JG: Yes. Noise sensitivity over here as well. My anxiety kicked into overdrive almost immediately. The sound of my daughter’s cry set me on edge all the time. That was a huge trigger for me for a long time.
SM: Nothing bothered me, but I think that in and of itself was the issue; being numb to literally everything. But I can relate to the general discomfort of being home. I hated everything about being in our house and thought, “If I just lived somewhere else I would be happy.”
SK: If there is too much noise or too many people, I cannot concentrate and my anxiety immediately goes up. When I was having my postnatal issues, the other thing that bothered me was people touching me. The baby was on me so much, that I just didn’t want anyone else touching me.
SM: I felt that if I were somewhere else I would be happy also. Getting away made me feel like I could get some peace. JG, that must have been difficult, you want to comfort your daughter and get away from her at the same time.
JG: Yes. I had to wear earplugs. I really struggled while I was on maternity leave and home alone with her.
AT: Weird sounds for me are something that set me off. Like the sound the baby wipes make as they scrape together when they’re pulled from the container. Or the sound of the dishwasher running. It makes me feel like running out of the house.
SK: AT, that’s interesting that it was sounds that not many people notice for you. Everyone experiences things so differently.
CB: I am with SM; I was numb and thought of being anywhere else but at home!
ST: My daughter’s crying became extremely annoying.
Ana Rouds: My daughter was crying today while my son was trying to tell me something and I was cooking dinner. I wanted all the noise to stop because I couldn’t concentrate but my heart was not speeding up like it did when my son cried. Sometimes I wonder if I tolerate my daughter’s cry better than I did my son’s or is the cry not as harsh.
Question 3: On page 335, in the chapter “Scary Thoughts,” Ana talks about how everyday tasks were beginning to feel insurmountable. Recently I realized that I see the dishes as a “threat”and they tend to cause me to go into fight or flight and I also learned that this is not a normal reaction to dirty dishes. Do you have a chore that you find causes you high anxiety? How did you learn that what you were experiencing wasn’t a normal reaction?
SK: There are still some nights where I tell my husband that the dishes are “threatening” me again, and he knows that it is too overwhelming for me and he will take over. It was almost funny to see his reaction when I explained it to him, because I explained it as I realized it, and realized that it wasn’t normal. The nice thing was he knows me well enough to know that I am not making this up (which I sometimes feel like it sounds like when I explain my quirks).
SM: OMG. Everything! Washing bottles, showering, eating, and letting the dogs outside. They all gave me so much anxiety in the beginning. I actually managed to un-potty train my dogs because I couldn’t let them out. Nine months postpartum and we’re still trying to get them back on track. Ugh.
JG: Bills and laundry upset me. So much anxiety if I wasn’t caught up. Those were the only two things I felt I could control.
SK: The only way I figured out it wasn’t normal was expressing it out loud and hearing that other people did not have this reaction to dishes. I have since gotten better at telling my irrational thoughts to take a hike. SM, JG, did you guys realize your anxiety was out of control or did it take you a while to figure out that these reactions weren’t normal reactions?
SM: I think I knew from the beginning it wasn’t normal, especially since I’m such a neat freak, but I was too scared and too much in denial to really admit it was a problem.
CB: I am with JG: Bills and laundry. But I think the anxiety grew over time; it wasn’t immediate.
JG: I realized that my anxiety was there right away. I kept denying it until it escalated over time to where it debilitated me. CB fist bumps. Ahem. Confession time I had to balance my check book and put away laundry before I got ready for bed tonight. Those habits die hard.
Ana Rouds: JG, I need a touch of your diligence. I tend to avoid the tasks that overwhelm me and I dread paying bills and folding laundry. Luckily my husband helps me attack both things these days because otherwise it would not get done.
JG: Ana I careen between avoidance and do all the things right now.
Question 4: On page 52, in the Roller-Coaster week, Ana talks about how she would hear people blaming her when really they were just saying that something needed to be done. Her mother would talk about hoping the baby would sleep at night and Ana would hear that she is a horrible mom and should not let her baby nap so much during the day. Did you find that you did this postpartum? Was it something that got worse after you had your baby or was it something you had done all along?
SK: This part of the book really hit home for me. I used to do this so much without even realizing it. Once my therapist pointed it out to me I didn’t know what to do to fix it. Finally, I went to therapy with my husband and he helped me realize that he wasn’t blaming me, and now I have been able to not only be better with him, but with my family also. Just because someone is mad or suggests something does not mean they are blaming you for whatever is wrong.
CB: I usually hear the negative in the conversation – especially from my husband – but it got way worse after I had my daughter. She is two and my husband still can’t be frank with me without it sending me to near relapse. Hard lesson to learn when you don’t know you are doing it!
ST: I heard negative conversation throughout the beginning of my PPD. It became worse and worse, yet no one was being mean. They were actually being helpful. I just saw myself as a failure.
CB: I have a touch of social anxiety so I already think people are looking at me and talking about me – this got worse with PPD.
JG: My self-talk has always been super critical. I had no idea how bad it was until my therapist had me write it all down. I also took everything everyone said personally. My husband and I still work on this. I still tend to get defensive instead of actively listening.
Ana Rouds: I notice this trait in myself still. It’s not nearly as bad as it once was or when my son was born. But it’s usually the first sign that I need to slow down and sleep more.
JG: Yes. If everything and everyone is irritating me, I need sleep and self care.
Question 5: In the chapter “Darkness Descends,” Ana discusses the difficulty she encountered when trying to get family to understand how far in the depression/anxiety she was, getting people to stay to help, while trying to balance the relationship with her husband. She described reaching out to her mom and getting a very accepting reaction and reaching out to her husband and getting some rejection. It is so hard to reach out and ask for help, were there any parts of this chapter that really stood out to you? That you could relate to?
SK: I was very lucky that my family and husband were very supportive. Some I could tell didn’t always understand, but if they didn’t agree with anything I was doing, they didn’t say it to my face (which I appreciate because at the time I probably would not have handled it well). I know a lot of people though who did not have the support, and I can imagine that it must be so difficult.
SM: I think I was most afraid to tell my mom because I thought she would tell me to get over it and what did I expect, but when I told her she was extremely supportive and comforting and even shared her own stories about how she really struggled after I was born. Mothers never stop surprising us.
SK: SM, that is so true, when I shared my stories more publicly I got so many messages from friends that have also struggled but felt too ashamed to share. If we can get more people like Ana Rouds to put their story out there then hopefully we can erase the stigma.
CB: It was easier telling my husband than any outside family members – though reading this I was envious that Ana was able to be so open with her family! It took me a year to tell my mom and I craved the relationship that she had with her mother.
SM: I told my husband first, but I really struggled telling anyone else; I could barely even get the words out to tell my doctor! I started a blog after my diagnosis and shared it on Facebook six months postpartum, and it was really scary to do, but the feedback has been amazing and I’m not ashamed to admit it or talk about it anymore.
Stay tuned for Part Two!