Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Journey of Postpartum Depression

When I started this blog, it was merely a fun side thing that allowed me to update family/friends on what was going on with our family. As the years have gone by, it's grown into so much more. It's become a place to grow and connect and share stories of parenthood. Today, I am so, so extremely excited to be able to have my dear friend, Natalie share her story of postpartum depression! I hope that you can relate to her story, be inspired by her story and learn from her story.

Natalie and I met almost 5 years ago when I was finishing up my internship for Drake and she was transitioning into a different role at work. I helped cover some of her cases and a love of Fazoli's and Snookie's helped unite us. Our offices were across the hall from each other and you could find us rocking out to MMMBop between clients or me making funny faces at her while she was on the phone or talking to someone in her office (she faced me), daring her to bust out laughing.

She is someone with an instant likeability factor- super personable, friendly and down to earth. She tells you like it is but has the biggest heart and passion for what she does both professionally and personally. I am proud to call her my friend. So without further ado, here is Natalie! 

After being asked by Shay to share my story about postpartum depression I decided to gather some statistics for you.
Sited from http://postpartumprogress.org/the­facts­about­postpartum­depression/

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have
postpartum depression symptoms. In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and
related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of
tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and
epilepsy. You might be interested to know, however, what’s missing from the CDC’s estimate.
Women who miscarry or whose babies are stillborn are also susceptible to postpartum depression,
but the CDC’s report only looks at live births. Given the shame associated with PPD, it’s possible
that some women didn’t report symptoms, while others felt that the symptoms described didn’t match
their experience given that many women have postpartum anxiety. Only 15% of women with
postpartum depression ever receive professional treatment. Part of the reason for lack of treatment
is the fact that many physicians, including obstetricians and pediatricians, do not screen. Another
part of the reason is the stigma that exists that either prevents mothers for asking for help or in
following through on treatments like therapy or psychiatric medication.

Whatever the reason, when
women are not treated for PPD, research shows they are less able to bond with their children or care
for them properly. They are more likely to medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. And they may
end up with lifelong chronic depression or anxiety.”

My Journey

My journey started on July 27, 2011 when my daughter Rileigh was born. I think it was a day that I was checking out of the hospital or maybe the day before I was given a questionnaire about how I was “feeling,” meaning, did I have the baby blues or postpartum depression.

I can tell you that when I was filling out that form, I was an emotional wreck. I was a new mom, my daughter was not latching right so feeding was a struggle, I was upset that the nurse gave her formula the first night and I felt guilty that I was not able to feed her. I had anxiety about making sure all of our parents had equal time with Rileigh so that no one was mad or upset with one another. So, I fill out this form and said to myself, "It’s just baby blues because who doesn’t feel this way."  Maybe that should have been my first sign......but it wasn’t.

Now we are home after spending 3 1⁄2 days in my safety bubble, aka: the hospital. I remember feeling that as Rileigh’s mother, I needed to be there for her 24/7. 

I was breastfeeding, so Rileigh and I were pretty much attached to each other which did not allow for much “me” time. When I wasn’t feeding her, I was changing her diaper, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of our two dogs while Eric was at work. During this time, I was pushing my husband away because I wanted to put all the weight on my shoulders and didn’t want help from him, even though I did. I felt that if I accepted help from him that it made me a bad mom.

Then it was time for the Iowa State Fair, only a few weeks after we had Rileigh. I told Eric to go like we normally would and I was fine staying home. Looking back on this day now, I was not okay with him going. But I also didn’t want him to resent me for asking him to stay home instead of hanging out with our friends. I know that he would have stayed at home with me and been completely fine, but this is what I was thinking at the time. I am not saying it is rational. I was not rational. I cried as soon as he left, and I called him about 3 hours later telling him I was picking him up. Rileigh was crying and she was not taking a bottle that had breast milk in it. At this point I was trying pump and feed to save up on my supply for when I would go back to work.

I was exhausted, tired and felt like a failure. Like I literally just failed my 3 week old baby and she was going to hold onto this moment forever and ever! 

These feelings and irrational thoughts lasted for about 6 1⁄2­ weeks after Rileigh was born. During these 6 1⁄2­-7 weeks no one mentioned anything to me about having postpartum depression. In my mind, I was just
adjusting to being a new mom. Then between 6 1⁄2­ and 7, weeks I have to have a LEEP procedure done, which was planned before I gave birth as I had a high risk of pre-cervical cancer cells. I was able to do it earlier than 8 weeks because I delivered via C-­Section. Eric and my mom took me to the surgical center to have the procedure done. We dropped Rileigh off at my parent’s house and my dad watched her.

They put me under for the procedure and when I came out, I was SCREAMING and sobbing for Rileigh. So not only was I dealing with having a new baby but also dealing with medical issues that were very concerning. The recovery nurse, my mom and Eric all said at that point that maybe I had postpartum depression and that something was not right.

About a week or two had passed and I decided to call Marla who was my family doctor and talk to
her about this. I loved my OBGYN but I trusted Marla with what I was about to share. She knew me as a child and now as an adult. We came together with some solutions to help me allow Eric to help more with Rileigh and take some of the stress off me. She also put me on an antidepressant. This seemed to help a little bit with my mood swings but it did not take away the feelings of guilt and shame

At this point I was open about having postpartum depression, but I felt judged. Anyone who knew, would ask me, "So, how are you feeling? Things getting any better?” Now I felt like I was being judged even more, even though I know now that was not the true intention, but that was how I felt. Again, not rational.

At 11 weeks, I went back to work. I remember crying a good part of the day that particular day. Everyday after that I was fine dropping her off at daycare, but it was picking her up at night and feeling so guilty because I had missed all those moments during the day. Plus we had her on a strict schedule so I was spending about 30 minutes to an­ hour with her before she would go to sleep. I continued to feel guilty and continuously felt judged.

I NEVER went to see a mental health therapist. I was open with my doctor but after seeing
everyone else’s reactions, I made the decision to just handle it on my own. I didn’t want to be
judged by anyone else.

 So for the first 1 1⁄2 years of Rileigh’s life, I pushed everyone I loved and cared about away. I picked fights and  I was emotionally volatile over things that I shouldn’t have been. I also pushed my husband away without him even knowing it. I pretended like everything was okay. 

Until one day we went for a walk. I remember this day vividly. We were talking and I just blurted out “I am unhappy and if things do not change I am leaving.”

Eric was shocked. He didn’t know how I was feeling because I was not sharing anything with anyone. Now let me be clear, I am not putting all the blame on me. There was equal blame to go around. But this was where I was at, at that point in time. We decided to focus on our marriage, communicate better and share the parenting responsibilities more.

For me the postpartum depression really lasted about 2 1⁄2 years. Since going through this struggle, it has taught me a lot! Postpartum depression is real and it is nothing to be ashamed about. Others suffer and feel trapped just as I did. 

I believe that I would not have been at the point of leaving my husband if I was seeing a mental health therapist in addition to taking my antidepressant. Also if someone would have sat down and talked to me (I mean really talk to me), at the hospital about this form I was filling out, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much. I also learned this valuable lesson-- Mom’s are superheros! But every superhero needs a good sidekick. Moral of that is let your significant others or support system help you. Listen to the cues they are giving you; even if it is not always something that you want to hear. Also make sure that you take time for yourself! I didn’t start doing that until a couple weeks before Rileigh’s 3rd Birthday. It has made a world of difference.

Thank you so much Natalie, for sharing your story today. You've shown vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. By sharing your story, I know you have helped others who have been in your exact shoes but have felt alone. Thank you again and if you or someone you love is going through this, please, please reach out for help! You are not alone! 

Additional links for Postpartum Depression resources (copy and paste into your browser)



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