On being a postpartum depression survivor who had another baby

02/13/2012 at 9:16 pm | Posted in PPD | 7 Comments

When Lily was about three weeks old, I bombed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. I was scared, incredibly sleep-deprived (with insomnia on top of the baby waking every hour of the night) and feeling profoundly hopeless.

Suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.

And trying to hide it.

About six weeks later, I finally sought out the help I needed. And I healed. But I sure wish I’d discovered then the wonderful online community of survivor moms that I’m part of today, led by the fearless Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress.

Because the second time around, these women I’ve never met in real life played a huge role in my survival of the newborn experience. Amber Koter-Puline, who authors Beyond Postpartum and was pregnant at the same time I was carrying Sophie, corraled a handful of us moms preparing for more children after having survived a perinatal mood disorder. Many of us were pregnant, and each one of those babies born in the past year is a sign of hope. And progress.

I leaned heavily on this group. Especially during those endless hours in the nursery, rocking and rocking and rocking Sophie with my phone as my only connection to the outside world. I wrote the group for advice on medications, breastfeeding, going back to work, everything. And I tried to respond to others’ needs as best I could.

We held each other up, shared photos of our kids and rejoiced in each birth or piece of adoption news.

And now, a year after our group formed, we’re taking our conversations public.

All this week on Postpartum Progress, we’re sharing our stories, our collective wisdom and advice to other survivor moms who might be hoping for another child. Here’s the first installment. Each day we’ll discuss a different topic, and toward the end of the week you’ll see an unedited email exchange from this past fall when we rallied around Grace, who had just given birth.

I’m proud to be part of this little group of amazing women. And I really hope that our words and experiences can bring hope to others.

Having a second baby after surviving postpartum depression was a terrifying proposition for me, to risk that degree of suffering again.

But I took the leap, and I’m fine, thanks in no small part to these women.

In which the Internet strikes today. Except me.

01/18/2012 at 10:37 am | Posted in Bloggy, PPD | 5 Comments
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I’m supposed to black out my website today.

As a blogger, it’s my duty to protest SOPA and PIPA. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read here.)

Of course I hope the government can find a way to stop Internet piracy, but I don’t think these bills are the answer. I certainly don’t want my blog censored, or those sites that I count on reading on the daily. I want unlimited access to news and Facebook updates and Twitter and photos of celebrities doing silly things. And videos like this one. Oh, the awesome.

But if I black out today, there’s a very good chance I’ll push the wrong button and send pretty*swell into oblivion. And more importantly, my blog is here for new moms. Search terms like “baby blues not stopping” and “intrusive thoughts after baby” bring women to my website nearly every day.

I would never, ever want someone looking for help to land on a black screen.

So, I’m keeping the lights on today. And I’ll be back later with the latest installment of Happiness 365.

Because we all need a little happy every day, right?

A Strong Start for all moms

10/06/2011 at 7:12 am | Posted in PPD | Leave a comment
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I’ve been asking for your help a lot lately. Between the fundraiser for my friend Hope’s family and the StrollerThon, I know you’re tired of hearing from me.

But here I go again. For a cause very close to my heart.

After I gave birth to Lily and spiraled into postpartum depression, I had no idea that Postpartum Progress existed. Honestly, I had no idea that blogs existed, or how many awesome women had taken to the web in this way. But once I joined the ranks of mommy bloggers, I discovered Katherine Stone and her awesome site.

And I’m proud to say that that site is now a bona fide nonprofit organization. Katherine is doing amazing things for new moms through Postpartum Progress, and she’s asking for our help so that she can do even more.

When I became pregnant the second time, I didn’t hesitate to contact Katherine. She was relentlessly supportive (in her wonderfully bold way) throughout my pregnancy and in those critical first few weeks with the baby. She was (IS) a big part of my village, and I am so grateful.

Please, if you’re able, consider making a donation to help Katherine’s nonprofit, Postpartum Progress, get off the ground.

She is helping thousands of women right now.

With your help, she could touch the lives of thousands more.

Thank you.

DonateNow

 

Full circle

10/02/2011 at 9:52 pm | Posted in About town, PPD | 7 Comments
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When Lily was about 10 weeks old, I went to my first Moms Supporting Moms meeting. I could barely breathe I was so scared.

But then I met other moms going through postpartum depression, heard their stories, saw their tears and left that room feeling, for the first time since having a baby, NORMAL.

Validated. Not alone.

It was awesome.

I went to those meetings every Thursday night for about a year. Then, when I felt able, I began volunteering  for Postpartum Education and Support. I wanted to give back.

Yesterday, my postpartum experience came full circle.

I’ve technically been recovered from postpartum depression for years, and I teetered briefly on the brink after delivering Sophie. But I’m well now. Really well.

And the StrollerThon brought it all home.

As I watched my father shake my doctor’s hand, met the babies of the women who have poured out their hearts in our meetings, and hugged all of those other survivor mamas, I felt exhilarated.

Pictured above are: my new bloggy friend Amy and her daughter Charlotte, Beth Anne and Harrison, Ann and new baby Cole, my dad Al, Laura and Olive, and Ann’s husband Jack with their other son Ian.

Marc, Lily and Sophie arrived shortly after the walk … boy was I happy to see these faces:

Here is my friend Natalia and her sweet Lila:

And, here is my niece kicking butt in the Tot Trot race:

It was a wonderful, humbling day.

Circle. Complete.

Four months old

09/07/2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in baby sunshine, Motherhood, PPD | 11 Comments
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I want to eat this face.

Seriously. I give her cheek-hickies all the time.

And I’m in awe of the fact that she is four months old today.

I feel like we’ve survived a battle, her and me, and come out on the other side relatively unscathed and totally in love with each other.

I was so scared of taking her home from the hospital. Scared of her tiny, fragile body. Scared of her cries. Terrified that history would repeat itself and I’d get sucked into the rabbit hole of postpartum depression.

But it didn’t happen. I survived. And so did she.

And here we are, four months later, waving hello to a milestone that I once thought would take forever to reach.

In the blink of an eye is more like it.

She is smiling, chuckling, rolling. Her face lights up with recognition of the people she loves. She is grabbing toys and shoving them into her mouth. Her thighs are ringed with oh-so-delicious rolls. And her hair is starting to get thin on the sides, just like big sister’s did.

She makes me immeasurably happy.

Happy four months, sweet Sophie girl.

Postpartum depression clinic the first of its kind

08/16/2011 at 5:10 pm | Posted in PPD | 3 Comments
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This article makes me happy. For North Carolina, for my alma mater, and most importantly, for ALL of the women who will benefit from this wonderful service. (Thanks, Daniel, for sending me the link.)

Giving myself permission to stop breastfeeding

07/20/2011 at 9:52 am | Posted in Motherhood, PPD | 30 Comments
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It’s a head versus heart battle.

That’s the best way I know how to describe my breastfeeding experience.

The type-A Virgo part of me wants to know exactly how much this baby is eating. I need schedules and dependability. I crave numbers, in the form of ounces and hours. The selfish part of me wants to be able to eat and drink whatever I want. To be able to leave the baby for a few hours without an act of Congress. And mostly, I want to sleep. Because we all know that formula-fed babies sleep longer.

But. My heart yearns to feed this baby with my body. To hold her close in our little belly-to-belly cocoon and nourish her. She is comfortable there, as if she’s lived there for years. Oh yes, I imagine her thinking, this is my favorite boob. And this is the one I like to rest my cheek on like a pillow.

She can eat and snooze and eat. All with just a turn of her little head.

It is bliss.

But again. Breastfeeding means less sleep, loss of freedom, and riskiest of all for me, it leaves my body in this bizarre hormonal state that isn’t very good for my mental health. In fact, for that very reason, my doctor advises all of her patients who’ve survived postpartum depression not to breastfeed.

I’ve waved the white flag a handful of times. After horrendous nights where my supply just couldn’t keep up with her demand. When I felt beaten down, my nipples sore and my eyes burning with tears. I loaned my pump out to a friend in need, vowing never to use it again.

As crazy as this sounds, I wished for mastitis or for my supply to dry up like it did last time. For any reason to be let off the hook. Because, no, I hadn’t been able to give myself permission to stop. And when I researched ways to wean my baby — after each  declaration of quitting — there is virtually no information on the internet that supports that decision. In fact, one of the articles I came across that was titled something like “How to wean your baby from the breast” rambled on (for two pages) about the benefits of breastfeeding and all of the related “shoulds” before begrudgingly addressing the topic in its title.

I wanted desperately for someone to force me to stop. To tell me that it would be okay and my baby would be healthy and forgive me. Not even the fact that Lily was a formula-fed baby and is healthy as a horse (never an ear infection, barely a handful of colds) mattered to me.

I couldn’t grant myself the grace.

Our culture is too punishing, and I buckle under this sort of pressure, whether perceived or real.

But those occasions in which I was desperate to quit were few and far between. And always, I picked myself back up the next day, unhooked my nursing bra and fed my baby.

I honestly can’t believe I’m still feeding her this way. Eleven weeks and counting. This is virgin territory for me. I only nursed Lily for six weeks before PPD robbed us both. And I have believed for all this time that breastfeeding was a trigger for my depression. In my preparation for Sophie’s birth, formula feeding was just as much a part of the plan as filling my medication and booking therapy sessions. I bought Similac and cleaned bottles.

But when she was placed on my chest in that hospital bed, my heart took over.

And each time she latches (with such great ease!) and gulps so contentedly, I feel peace like I’ve never before experienced.

I’m following her lead. It’s taken this baby to tell me the right thing to do. To ignore as best I can all of the “shoulds” and act on what I think is best for Sophie and for me.

So I continue. Who knows for how long. Prepared, much to my surprise, to try to pump from work when I return there in a few weeks.

But not because some article or well-meaning person tells me to.

Because I want to.

And because I finally give myself permission to make these decisions. To follow my heart. Or  my head.

 

Mental? Maybe. Totally thrilled? YES.

05/26/2011 at 11:43 am | Posted in Bloggy, PPD | 2 Comments
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What a treat to open my email this morning and discover that this here blog has been nominated for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Mental Wellness Blogs!

Thank you to the kind soul who nominated pretty swell. I’m proud to be in the company of some amazing women, many of whom I call friends.

Aaaaand here is where I ask you, my lovely readers, to help the cause. You can vote once a day through June 15. Like me and my mom will be doing. Just clicky on that little purple badge to the right.

Seriously. I’d love to keep my place on this list. Helping new moms survive perinatal mood disorders like PPD is one of the biggest reasons I started this blog nearly two years ago. Since then, an awesome community has formed here. And I like to think I’ve helped a mom or two along the way.

Whether you’re here as a mom, a bacon-lover or a Small Fry fan, we’d really appreciate your votes!

Thanks, friends!

The one in which I eat my words

05/23/2011 at 2:47 pm | Posted in baby sunshine, Motherhood, PPD | 16 Comments
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So things have gotten a little tougher.

Big surprise.

The very day I sent this post out into the universe, a string of bad nights settled upon us. A not-so-gentle reminder that this newborn stuff isn’t easy, no matter how mellow the baby.

But I’m okay.

We’ve adapted and come up with strategies to help everyone get a little more sleep. Marc is giving Sophie a bottle at the beginning of the night, so I crawl into bed early and don’t have to be vertical until after midnight. And unlike last time, when I lay wide awake listening to Lily’s every little noise, I’m actually able to crash between feedings now. Thank goodness.

I’ve also figured out (I think) when Sophie is full. She’ll hang out on the boob thrashing around and crying, not letting go no matter the direction her head turns. Good times. This behavior totally confused me, so I’d try to soothe her and help her eat. And as a result? Two-hour nursing sessions in which she wasn’t really eating for the last hour and a half. By my husband’s grace, we realized that she wasn’t actually hungry and that by removing her from the milk buffet and simply rocking her, she’ll pass out cold.

I’m learning.

And I’ll say it again: I’m okay.

Happy, actually.

Sure, there have been plenty of tears. And I’ll admit that in frustration, I swear up and down at least once a day to quit breastfeeding.

But I haven’t come anywhere near the slippery slope of postpartum depression.

And I already feel so connected to this baby, it’s incredible.

Still pinching myself.

So this is what it feels like

05/17/2011 at 10:10 am | Posted in Motherhood, PPD | 30 Comments
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Today is my first day home alone with the baby, and I’m not scared.

This is a big deal.

When Marc went back to work after Lily was born, my downward spiral accelerated. I didn’t want to be alone with her. She was so fragile and tiny and needy. I didn’t believe I was capable of taking care of her by myself.

I remember crying to my mother that I just wanted to wash a dish. To feel normal.

Not this time.

Of course, it helps that Sophie is one mellow babe. She cries only when she’s hungry (which is often) or poops her diaper (which also is often). She is consolable. She sleeps. She sits in the bouncy seat by herself, content.

These things never happened with Lily. She cried non-stop. Around the clock. For any number of reasons we simply couldn’t figure out.

I quit dairy, then stopped breastfeeding altogether. We tried 500 different kinds of formula, bottles, nipples. The doctor put her on reflux medication. And she never wanted to be put down.

To this day, I still don’t understand why she cried so much. But my instinct tells me (three years later) that she was hungry. My depression and anxiety, I’m convinced, compromised my milk supply. And this devastates me. I do still feel like I failed Lily in those first few months of her life. But I also believe that she has benefited — and thrived — from our undivided attention for the first three years of her life. She is healthy, happy and smart. She knows love.

I need to keep remembering these things as waves of guilt wash over me this time around.

By comparison, Sophie is easy. I never understood how new moms could find time to brush their hair or fix a meal. Push a weeks-old baby in a stroller. Check their email.

Until now.

And, believe me, I am taking not one second of this experience for granted. I am trying to relish each moment with Sophie. Moments that escaped me when Lily was so little. And I’m also trying to love on my big girl more than ever.

I can’t erase the dark memories of my paralyzing fear during Lily’s first few weeks of life, but I can focus on that which I know to be true: I am blessed to be mother to an amazing three-year-old. I am blessed to be given another shot at actually enjoying the newborn experience.

I am blessed. Period.

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