The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression and How I Prevailed

I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning while my husband gets ready for work. I can hear my son fussing and crying while my husband changes him and gets his breakfast ready. I know that in a few minutes I will be on duty as a mom and I cannot bear this thought. At this moment, I hate being a mom. The sound of my child’s fussing is like nails on a chalkboard and I want nothing but to be left alone. This is something I cannot have now, I must find a way to be a mother today, find a way to cope. I come out of the bedroom and my husband wraps me up in his arms while I sob and beg him to stay home from work. He cannot because he has already called in the last two days because of my sleep deprivation and sadness. He kisses me good-bye and shuts the door behind him and I crawl up in a ball and continue sobbing. My son watches me anxiously and then finally, tired of being ignored, cries out for me. I get him from his high chair and then we sit on the couch together while I cry…about nothing. “There is nothing wrong with me” I tell myself over an over; “there is nothing wrong with my life and no reason to be like this, I just want to be happy and enjoy my life and my child.”

This was me in January, February, March, April, May and June of 2012. I was battling postpartum depression, and loosing the battle. Everyday I would wake in fear for the day and every night I would battle sleep as my mind filled with every possible anxiety and worry. Everyone said I was fine, that life was hard with a baby, but was it supposed to be this hard? I never really told anyone how bad it was for fear of appearing vulnerable or weak. I used to be so strong and positive all of the time and now I felt like I was drowning in my own life with absolutely nobody to rescue me. I never thought of killing myself or hurting my child, but just mothered with a sort of apathy and intolerance for my son and his needs. I tried to trick myself to be happy; tried to train myself to think positively and tried to exercise to raise my serotonin. People said to balance my adrenals with nutrition and to cut out foods from my diet. For 6 months I battled alone and then finally, one sleep deprived day,  I had had enough.

I sought help! I went on medication! Within 2 weeks, I started feeling better!

Slowly I noticed that situations that used to make me fall completely apart, were completely manageable! I noticed that I was happy and I enjoyed being a mother again! I felt like myself! I still got grumpy and sad, but it was a surface feeling and deep down, I was content and my old positive self. I cannot tell you exactly why I waited so long to seek professional help. I think perhaps I didn’t believe in medication. Or maybe I didn’t want to admit that I was actually depressed because of the social stigma. A big part of it was that people would tell me that what I was feeling was normal “because I had a lot on my plate and my stressed reaction was appropriate.” I can assure you now that THOSE FEELINGS ARE NOT NORMAL!

I am sharing this story with you because I feel it is important to know what postpartum mood disorders look like. It is important to know that this happens to 20% of women after giving birth. It’s important to know that you are most at risk 3-6 months after giving birth and after weaning. Mostly, It’s important to know that you can get help and that IT DOES GET BETTER.

The good news is that if you have Postpartum Depression, there is treatment available. In addition, here are some things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Get good, old-fashioned rest. Always try to nap when the baby naps.
  • Try and take breaks for some “me” time.
  • Stop putting pressure on yourself to do everything. Do as much as you can and leave the rest! Ask for help with household chores and nighttime feedings.
  • Talk to your husband, partner, family, and friends about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to speak up as it will help immensely.
  • Do not spend a lot of time alone. Get dressed and leave the house – runan errand or take a short walk.
  • Spend time alone with your husband or partner.
  • Remember that babies are fussy and cry and that if you need a break from that, it’s okay. When they cry they are communicating and you are not failing.
  • Talk to your health care provider about medical treatment. Do not be shyabout telling them your concerns. Not all health care providers know how to tell if you have Postpartum Depression. Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression.
  • Talk with other mothers, so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Join a support group for women with Postpartum Depression. Call a local hotline or look inyour telephone book for information and services.

Here is a list of resources that will come in handy if you have PPD or another postpartum mood disorder.

If you live in Washington, this is an amazing list of support groups that will help.

Postpartum Mood Disorder Support provides warm, understanding, effective and private support and professional referrals for new mothers and their family members. 1-888-404-7763 (PPMD)

Best on the Web Blogs, a list of PPD blogs that could be helpful.

Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth.  1-800-944-4PPD

Pacific Postpartum Support Society provides telephone support, weekly women’s support groups, partner education sessions, community trainings and resource materials. 1-855-255-7999

Mama Eve writes that “bouts of depression are often associated with the post-partum period and the intensity of caring for a newborn, but I think the roots of it can definitely be found during pregnancy as well.” Here on her blog she shares her challenges with depression or “blues” during her pregnancy.

I had this worry that if I went on medication it would affect my son, but according to Thomas Hale, PhD LLL: “The effects of an untreated depressed mom on the infant are significant and hazardous; but the marginal effects of any medication usually are less hazardous than those effects. Treating a mom with postpartum depression (PPD) is much preferable to not treating, since a baby has a better outcome generally (as measured by Bayley scores, measuring interaction skills and speech and language development) when being cared for by a non-depressed parent.” According to this study, “Infants exposed to Paxil and Zoloft had undetectable levels of the antidepressant in their blood.” This needless worry of mine caused me 6 months of suffering that could have been avoided had I acted sooner with medication.

One thing to know is that 1 in 10 dad’s can experience postpartum mood disorders as well. The difference between depression in women and men is that men may be more in denial than women and refuse to seek help. In this article it states that “while Dad’s depression may take a different tone, with more irritable and angry behaviors, than Mom’s, it is likely to be just as detrimental to the child.” Here is a great resource for how to help your husband if you sense that he may be suffering from any postpartum mood disorders.

Now that I have sought help, I don’t feel that I “lost the battle” or “gave up” by going on medication. I feel empowered that I finally made the choice to care for myself, and in turn, care for my family.

I feel that this experience happened to me so that I can openly share my story and hopefully help other women suffering from postpartum mood disorders. This is a common challenge for new parents and we can help remove the stigma by talking about it openly as well as offering support to parents that struggle.

Please share your comments of your own experiences with postpartum mood disorder as well as other resouces you may have surrounding this topic.

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Let Him Live His Life: A Weaning Story of Loss and Separation

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I’m on the brink of weaning and it feels that I am looking over a cliff into an abyss of darkness. Every time I nurse my son and he pushes me away to go play instead, I feel a sharp sting of loss and sadness. I know it’s only a matter of time before he’s done, and I do feel that I will be glad to be done too. For some time I have thought this actually, sensing our further separation as individuals and our bodies becoming our own. I am happy for the change, happy that I will have my body back and proud that he is becoming his own self, but first I will grieve.

In our relationship over my lifetime, I will inevitably experience many many instances of loss; when he no longer wants hugs, when goes to school, when he drives off in a car and then eventually leaves the house and gets married. A long life of loss and sadness? No, a long life of my son being independent and happy. I will have to get used to this kind of loss over and over as it is my intention to let my son live his life; to let him out into the world as much as he wishes. At 7 months, he pushed away the spoon so he could grab heaps of banana mush and put it in his own mouth. At 8 months, he began squirming out of my arms to go off and crawl far away and explore. At 9 months, he started pushing away my breast so he could find more interesting and new things. Now he will even leap from my arms to his dad and not look back. I could take this personally, I could imagine that he does not want his mom and wants everything else instead, but this is not true. The fact is that he is so secure in our relationship that he feels no fear that I will leave him; I am his strong foundation that he can always come back to. This is how it will always be in our life, my son running off and making mistakes and me always standing back and letting him, only to be there sure and steady just when he needs me. I know he loves me deeply when he is 100 feet away in a field and looks at me and waves, as if to say “hello mother, I am fine here, see?” I smile back and wave and feel pride for my adventurer. This is the same pride I want to feel as he strives to nourish himself without my body, yet I still take it so personally. I must be strong for him and let him make this choice, I will grieve when it is over yet be aware of our more evolved sense of closeness. Like when he holds so still nestled in my neck when I ask for a hug; today he grabbed my face, pulling my lips to his for a kiss. He seeks affection from me and I find relief and comfort in this. Perhaps with his old soul he is helping me to be brave and giving me the comfort I need in this transition, as it is clearly harder on me than him. As I initially felt fear of the loss, I now feel strength that he will help guide me into what will come next. Perhaps I’m not actually alone looking over this cliff, but we are there together, mother and son, learning from each other and growing and changing together, ready to brave the unknown.

Update on our weaning: ON a not so particularly special Thursday morning in early August, our breastfeeding days came to their end. My son latched on and ambivalently nursed on one side before switching to the other only to push me away the next moment and crawl off . It was actually not a sad or dramatic experience in any way. It was as if he decided that he was done and ready to move on. I offered a few times after that and he clearly lacked interest, and at this point if I offer he just blows rasberries on my chest and laughs. It had been such a gradual weaning process over weeks that my milk and hormones adjusted so easily and my son did not have any weaning trauma as he initiated the whole process. I am so glad to have my body and mind back again too, something that I had lovingly shared for almost 2 years was now all mine once again. Sometimes I do wish that I could still breastfeed him from time to time, but that phase is passed and we have so many more ways of bonding; I chase him around the room while he giggles madly and falls over, he always stops in for brief cuddle intermission before running off to play again and now he will finally let me rock him and snuggle while he drifts into sleepiness. These phases will also come to pass and be replaced with new joys, but for now I will remember every single day how special and fleeting our time is together.