Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and Baby Blues

If you had missed the first 3 segments then feel free to check out the links:


Postpartum Depression. Postpartum Anxiety. Baby Blues. When you first read those words, you immediately think of Andrea Yates, Brittany Spears, Brooke Shields, Angelia Jolie, & Kendra Wilkinson. Some of those cases are so drastic enough to cause women to snap, and behave erratically or even harm their children. Some of those cases are women suffering in silence with a happy smile plastered on their face, pretending that they had their careers, emotions, and marriages together while their weight plummeted, or ballooned. There's always uncomfortable feeling when you learn that your friend is battling PPD. You pretend that there exists no such thing. Why? The society has pounded in our heads that mothers are magically attuned to their babies from the day of birth, express nothing but happiness, and joy. Mothers have everything together regardless sleep deprivation, bumps with adjustment to motherhood, marriage/partnership, and  work. Sadly, this false expectation in our society has led to stigma, and shame that a mother "can't" keep it together.

I wish someone had warned me of all the non-pleasant emotions that came with childbirth, but I did not want to share all the negative parts about pregnancy, and childbirth because they should be allowed to be excited. I had no idea that one of the happiest time of my life would also be the most miserable. All of my friends had babies, and were happy go luck about everything, or pretending to be anyway. I literally felt my mood shift immediately after childbirth.  I was happy about my child being healthy and everything went well, but was miserable otherwise. The first two weeks of my little one's life were literally the worst 2 weeks of my life! When I visited my doctor after 2 weeks of being so depressed I could barely operate, 19 out of 20 questions I answered led them to diagnose with a severe PPD. The 20th question being "have you had thoughts of hurting yourself, or your baby". I never thought about hurting either of us. I definitely had thoughts of leaving, and never coming back. I had thoughts of kicking my husband to the curb every time he asked me a stupid question such as "why is she crying" or "what's wrong with her" or "why didn't you wake me up?" My husband did not (still doesn't) understand the seriousness of my depression. He thinks I was just a little emotional. He thinks I'm strong enough to get through it without help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help! It's very hard to go through this alone. -Brandi L. 


Out of all my segments about pregnancy, labor & delivery, and recovery; I believe that this is the most important of all because it affects us on a personal level. Our society is not comfortable discussing about what happens emotionally postpartum. The label, DEPRESSION, brings out uneasiness in people. Why is this the case? 

There is so much emphasis on pregnancy, and birth, but what about when you leave the hospital? I'm not talking about taking care of the baby. There's plenty out there on that. I'm talking about taking care of mom. It is funny, everything I've read, and I've read a lot, seems like it is selfish for moms to even talk about ourselves afterward. It is like you're not a good mom unless you completely sacrifice yourself. That's a lot of pressure. -Kristina G. 

My whole pregnancy was a fairy storybook tale. It was perfect. I did not suffer from much of morning sickness. I exercised. I ate well. I had a lot of support from my family, friends, and my husband. I had so much fun preparing for Forrest's arrival. I enjoyed documenting every minute of my pregnancy. I dreamed meeting my son. When it was time to go into labor, and deliver Forrest; I was ready to meet him, and become a mom. I really had anticipated everything to be wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I prepared myself for hard days ahead especially with sleep deprivation, and raising a newborn, but I had no idea how hard emotionally it was going to be.
I have had baby blues with both of my kids, but Lillie was the worst one I had. I went on "happy" pill. I don't know why it got so worse with my second...maybe too overwhelming by taking care of the first, and second kid at the same time, trying to get a routine, and figure out how to balance with both of them. It was hard at first, and now I am glad it is so much easier. -Alisha P.

The day when we left the hospital, I was terrified, and fought tears as the nurse wheeled me out to the entrance. I kept thinking to myself, I am not ready for this. I want to stay, and have help available anytime I needed it. Stu pulled up my Jeep to the front. I stood up on my shaky legs, and bit my lower lip to prevent myself from crying out that I didn't want to go home. I felt horrible for feeling this way because I wanted Forrest so badly. I wanted to be a mama. But by god, I was scared to death. The minute I sat in the back with Forrest; that anxiety melted away, and I fell all over again in love with him. We got home, and things went smoothly until nighttime. I asked Stu to watch over Forrest so I could rest. I went to bed, and started crying because I was so fatigued, but I was unable to sleep. I went to check on Stu, and found him fast asleep with Forrest in his arms. I woke him up to yell at him, and started bawling again. What made me so angry was that I was unable to stop crying, and I hated to cry. I did not understand why I was crying, and that made me cry even more. It pissed me off how nobody warned me how HARD, and how scary it was be at home with a baby away from the hospital.

Since Forrest was born in late summer, Stu was unable to take a full paternity leave due to work probation for new employees, and coaching football season had just begun. To toss in the mix, he had a long commute, and there were days when Stu was gone between 12-15 hours shift. Thankfully, in the very beginning, I had tremendous help from my mom for the first two weeks, and it was what helped me to get through the initial bump. Once she had to leave, my anxiety grew, grew, and grew. I did not share this with anyone because I wanted people to be confident that I was able to handle it all. I wanted Forrest badly, and got blessed with him. By admitting that I had a terrible anxiety, I felt it suddenly put a mark on me as if I was no longer a good mother, that I did not want Forrest, and regretted my pregnancy.

The 28 days of NICU, I stayed there 24 hours a day everyday. They provided hospitality to mothers while kids are admitted in NICU, and I refused to leave. Because they couldn't feed they couldn't nurse, but I was determined to provide breastmilk. So I pumped...and still pumping to this day! Every single day, I cried, and nobody told me how much of an adjustment it would be. How the hormones take you right out of reality, and then throw in the stress of NICU! When they finally came home, it was even worse because I was home all day to do it by myself, feeding, changing, feeding, changing, pumping--a mad cycle, thank god I had wonderful babies to make it less stressful. Because of my bedrest, I returned to work 3 weeks after bringing them home! The anxiety got better, but I still can't leave them long, and the only one has had them without my husband, and I is my mother, and father. Despite my in-laws being 2 minutes away, they rarely see the twins, and therefore, I have zero confidence leaving them with them. I do wish there was more on postpartum with twins, and handling  & nursing twin newborns. -Ashley A. 

I started obsessing about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) because I had read several sad situations on mommy support groups online. I started worrying about Forrest at the night. I struggled with falling asleep. Once I was asleep, my mind was still on, and refused to turn itself off. I had not been able to enter a regular REM sleep intervals because I constantly woke myself up to check on Forrest. I spent chunk of my time laying my hand on Forrest's chest to make sure he was breathing. Me being Deaf really affected me because I worried I was not going to be able to hear his breathing pattern change. I literally had very little sleep during Forrest's few first months of his life.

I was never diagnosed (never told anyone including my husband or my doctor about this), but I really struggled with the first month or two, and even still sometimes now. I really wanted little or nothing to do with Ethan at first. He didn't feel like he was mine, and it felt like such a burden to take care of this demanding screaming thing that (dare I even say it) I didn't even feel like I loved. His crying drove me insane--worse than nails on a chalkboard. The times I was forced to take care of him was when I had to nurse him, and it was so incredibly painful to hold him (recovering from a long hard labor, and c-section), for the actual breastfeeding part itself, and then he nursed for an hour or sometimes even more every time, every 2 hours. I really honestly hated those days, and when I look bacon them, I still have almost all bad feelings. Sometimes even now when he's crying, and I can't get him to stop, I just completely detach, and want nothing to do with it. And now after getting this off my chest, I wonder if maybe I have some PPD, or I'm just a really horrible person. -Anonymous

I had a really hard time dealing with Forrest's crying. I dreaded it when he cried. Guilt ate at me when I started dreading his crying. I didn't feel like I did a very good job of calming Forrest down. Therefore, it must have made me a bad mom. There was this particularly bad time when Forrest had a really terrible crying jag for nearly 3 and half hours. Nothing worked. I was at my wits end. I started bawling, and begged Stu to come home. Stu refused, stating that he was unable to leave coaching to make 45 minutes commute to just take a baby off my hands, and I was stuck. It was the most helpless feeling in the whole world to be alone, not knowing what to do, and not being able to calm down a crying baby. It was very difficult to be alone, not to have a family or friends nearby, and dealing with my anxiety did not help. In this instance, I ended up putting Forrest down in his bouncer, and walked away for a few minutes. I hated having to do that. Failure plagued me. I kept thinking, if I was a good mom, then I would have calmed Forrest down, and not have to walk away. If I was a good mom, then I would have been a good wife by not having to call Stu, and beg him to come home. If I was a good mom, then I would have kept my shit together better than this. 

Still to this day, I admit to feeling this initial sense of dread every time my monitor goes off at the night. It is not that I won't get up, and attend to Forrest. It is that my anxiety starting to bloom  inside, and hoping I am able to handle what unfolds. I am not sure why I feel this way because 99.9% of the time, I am able to handle the situation just fine, and manage to comfort Forrest.

The more out of control I felt, even more anxious I felt, and it began to affect my behavior. I decided it was time to move Forrest into his own bedroom because I had hoped that having him sleep in another room, I was able to sleep better, and I desperately needed my sleep. Having him sleep in another room helped a bit. Even with that, I developed a new "ritual", I had to check on Forrest literally every 5 minutes, lay my hand on his chest, and made sure he was okay. Stu began to notice that I was getting up frequently at our bedtime to do this, and he did not say anything.

I did not want to have people take Forrest from me because I was so worried that he was not going to be taken care of properly. I worried about WHAT IFs. I worried whether the caregiver was going to really know how to put him down to bed, to keep his sleeping space safe, and what was going to be given to Forrest. I struggled with just leaving the house to go on a simple errand even for just half hour. I grew so anxious to the point of tears. I struggled with social settings with people. I was so afraid that they could somehow see through my false bravery facade, and see what a mess I was on the inside. I saw nothing, but judgment, and doubt in their eyes when it came to me mothering Forrest.

 I did not have postpartum depression with my first (even with my bipolar background). I was nervous that it would show, but I think the high of having a new baby, and the connection was so strong that I was fine. The postpartum period with my second was completely different. I loved the birth, and was very pleased with how it went, however, I had such disconnection with James. I felt so emotional and awful for having to share time between the new baby and Aidan. When I saw my oldest show any form of connection between James, it ripped my heart out. Totally not normal. I cried inside every time Aidan hugged or kissed James because I felt bad he had to "share" so to speak. I had a struggle with breastfeeding n the beginning (especially living in someone else's home). I always had to hang out in the bedroom, and wasn't getting any time with my oldest. Most of my time was spend working on breastfeeding relationship with James. Then I started getting very impatient, frustrated, and irritable with James (a newborn!). He had no fault in the matter, he was an infant for crying out loud, but I just couldn't control my emotions. I hate to say it, I was starting to loathe him.That's when I knew I had issue. My husband was the one that kept telling me something was not right with me. Even though I knew that, it helped to have someone verify that.  I went to see my midwife, and she prescribed Zolfot for me. It helped even though it took me awhile to get there. -Sarah S. 

Up until very recently, I have finally embraced my role as a mom, and felt comfortable to discuss about what happened emotionally after giving birth. It did take me a long time to see myself as a mom. I was somewhat detached from the whole experience due to my anxiety. It was because I was a first-time mom dealing with a lot of emotional upheaval, and adjusting to my new identity as a mom. I loved Forrest to death, and wanted him from the very start. The strange thing was, I had a hard time identifying myself as Forrest's mom despite the fact that I was his primary caregiver. I ran on very little sleep, I stressed so much about SIDs, and felt anxious about people judging me. I got overwhelmed by all advice, suggestions, and what-to-do with my baby. I was drowning in very tumultuous sea, and I had no idea that it was okay to ask for help. I had to juggle my roles while trying to figure out who the heck I was now I had a baby. Once I got my routine down, and started talking to people about my anxiety; I found it easier to manage with my anxiety, and dealing with motherhood.



I was so angry that no one told me how horrible the first week or two after birth would be. I was in pain, felt like I have to up my life, worried that my husband would leave me or that something would happen to him, and I would be left to raise this baby by myself! I thought for sure I would be miserable forever! "What did I just do?!" I asked myself. But then after a week or so, it all came back into perspective, and I stopped feeling that way. I've made it my mission to tell other pregnant women that the first week or two might be totally horrible, but it gets better! My doctor prescribed me Zoloft for PPD in the first week, but I never took any. It was like the idea of having it available if I needed it was a cure enough. -Stephanie F. The Working Wifey

Why did I struggled with anxiety for the longest time without sharing or telling people or my doctor, and even Stu? I did not know that anxiety was also considered to be part of postpartum depression. I figured that if I was not crying on a daily basis, had a difficult time relating with Forrest, or functioning on a daily basis then I was fine. I had no clue that anxiety was also something that should be talked about with my doctor until a friend of mine explained to me about her experiences with anxiety after giving birth. I related to her, knowing how that felt, and that helped to know that I was not the only one. I finally brought it up to my doctor, and she confirmed what I was experiencing, and gave me a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. I never went in to fill the prescription, and just knowing I had a piece of paper helped me somehow to get through. Over the time, most of my anxiety did fade away, and it helped to be able to talk about it with people who also went through similar experiences. This whole experience helped me become more aware of myself, and of those who are also mothers.

It was not only mothers that I was aware of, but also fathers. Many people dismissed fathers, thinking that while they did not go through drastic bodily experience such as pregnancy, delivery, and recovery, and saw them only as a bystander. Very little did I realize that fathers also struggled with adjustment, and fatherhood.  I was surprised to learn that 1 out of 10 fathers suffered with PPD! I wished I had more information on this because I felt it was so important to recognize fathers especially now they have become more active with parenthood now more than ever.

The days following Forrest's birth at our hospital, not one single doctor or nurse approached us with a pamphlet or information about fathers, and PPD. We were bombarded with pamphlets, statements, and symptoms to look out in case if I had ever developed PPD. Stu was told to "keep eye" on me, and the baby in the following few weeks yet to come. At my six weeks check up, I was again questioned by my doctor to ensure that I was doing well, and adjusting to motherhood. There was so much focus on me. Stu was a bystander. He was not questioned. He was not asked by people whether he was doing alright, and that he was adjusting to fatherhood. Stu was working full-time, with little paternity leave that he had, and dealt with sleep deprivation. On top of this, he felt he had a responsibility to take care of us during this time period. It was difficult for him. Looking back, I was grateful for what he did for us, and at the same time, I saw a lot of things that could have been changed especially with how we looked at fathers.

Dealing with PPD, especially as a man, was difficult. Our society looks so heavily down toward men that are emotional. Man up! Real man don't cry. Be there for your wife. There's no "manning-up". I was barely hanging on. -Josiah M. 

When people ask me about what to expect when they become a parent for the first time, I am very honest, and open about everything. One of things I am most surprised about is how little PPD, anxiety, and baby blues are being discussed. It is as if it is an unspoken rule not to talk about them. It is sad because PPD, PPA, and Baby Blues is very normal, I dare to say, following birth, or adoption. We should talk more about this, spread awareness, and reduce the stigma, or shame that is associated with what is considered natural part of the process. Talking, and being proactive about PPD, PPA, and Baby Blues does help with dealing with them.

Ohh, do I have plenty of experience in the baby blues department. After I had Logan, it was several hours after I had him before I even got to hold him. By then, he had already had a bottle (not by my request), and refused to breastfeed. I wanted a connection, that bond, with him I knew would be so special. Heartbroken, I figured he had to eat no matter what, and I eventually allow him to continue to bottle feed. Even after bringing Logan home, I had a hard time bonding with him. After a month after having him, I recall a specific night where he would scream if I held him, but as soon Shawn took him, he was fine. I was convinced that Logan hated me because we did not get to be together. That night was a long night. After that, I started to bond with him a bit better, but I would dry at the drop of hat at anything. The worst was usually at the night when I stand over his crib, and watch him sleep while thinking, he is getting big way too quickly. My wake up-call to the reality of baby blues was when I returned to work. I continued to cry about everything, even if someone looked at me funny, and it was so NOT my personality! My boss finally pulled me into her office and told me that I needed help from a doctor or she couldn't have me work there anymore. That was beyond scary because I obviously need my job.Once I was on a medication for 2 months, my hormones semeed to slowly fall back in the place. I was beyond worried I'd have the same problem with Liam, my second child, but thank god he, and I had our bond at birth, and no baby blues! Liam has actually changed my attitude about a lot of things. - Jessica M.B. 

Being a mom is honestly one of the best things I have ever done despite my emotional struggle in recovering from pregnancy, and delivery, and an adjustment to motherhood. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Forrest is worth it. At the same time, I know what to expect, and be able to prepare myself. We need to talk about this more often, and to show that we are not alone. Being a parent is an adjustment, and does not come with a life manual. Postpartum emotions are very real. It is not something to be dismissed about, and pretend that they don't exist. They do. 

2 comments :

  1. Absolutely a great piece!!! So many moms-to-be should read!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for stopping by Ashley after such long time! I see a lot has happened in your life, too. Great that we are still connected.

    Susu Paris Chic
    http://www.makinen.fr/susa/wordpress/

    ReplyDelete