Be honest and ask for help

•July 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I asked for help.

Many women suffering from postpartum depression or a related illness are afraid to ask for help.  And I get it, because even though I asked for help, I still kept my illness hidden from some people.  And I didn’t “look” sick, so why would anyone pay attention to me any more than they usually do.  Since we don’t “look” sick, we have to ask for help.  Sometimes we may get it without asking, oftentimes not.

I was told I was strong because I admitted that I had postpartum depression and willingly sought help.  I always knew about postpartum depression, at least that it existed and some mothers got it.  I was quite ignorant about the immensity of postpartum health as a whole.  I did worry I would develop it after I had a baby, but I was horribly unprepared.  I also say that my symptoms of postpartum anxiety and OCD caught me by surprise both by slowing emerging and hitting my fast and hard.  Time itself took on a different perspective or dimension.  I know something was wrong, and that I needed help.

I certainly encountered roadblocks.  When I called my ob-gyn to get a therapist referral, the nurse did ask if I was depressed.  I said no, I’m just anxious and scared all the time.  I got the name and number of a therapist.  The therapist wasn’t at that number anymore, but I got a new number.  I left a message, and thankfully the therapist called me back.  My therapist was incredible, and I know I was lucky.  Sometimes you have to go through a few to find a person you connect with.  If I hadn’t called my gyn’s office, I wouldn’t have found my therapist.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and get the right help.

My hubby knew something was wrong, and also that he wasn’t equipped to give me the help I needed.  He never blamed me, and was very supportive.  He saw me at my worst and come June, we’ll be celebrating 9 years of marriage and 15 years since we met, along with a beautiful little boy who is smart, funny, and adorable.

Geographically speaking, I had very little of my family near me, and no one from hubby’s side.  I did, however, have the support of the family that was there, and also saw what had happened to me.  Early on, the best help I got was from my husband and my therapist.  One last thing, and I can’t stress this enough, KNOW YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY.  This means knowing the physical and mental health history on both sides of your family.  My therapist told my husband when I was in the hospital after my breakdown, that had she known there was a history of mental health issues on both sides of my family, she would have put me on medication much sooner.  Many families don’t like to talk about it, or have the mentality of “we didn’t talk about it back then.”  No excuses, it is imperative to know if you’re at higher risk.

Be well.

My symptoms are becoming apparent

•June 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

While all this is happening, I’m noticing other changes.  I’m washing my hands more, and using sanitizer more.  And yeah, okay, new parent, obsessed (healthily) with cleanliness around my newborn.  Then other things started creeping in.  I’m becoming scared to go to work and touch everything at work, and having all that “stuff” transfer to and hurt Blue Eyes when I get home.  So I stop immediately taking my son when I get home.  The first time was the worst.  I actually cringed and pulled away when my husband offered our son to me.  My husband was rightly worried about Blue Eyes, and how seeing his mommy pull away from him might affect him.  He managed to convince me that it was okay for me to kiss him on the cheek before changing, since our son missed me all day.  He’d had enough time with Daddy, he wanted Mommy.  This ritual progressed, becoming more complex and time-consuming.  At first, I came home, slipped off my shoes and left them in their spot by the door to the spare room (where I wouldn’t touch them again until the next morning) and dropped off my (eventually new and only for work) bag on a chest that I would not touch again until the following morning when I had to work again.  I’d tiptoe (so my pants didn’t touch the floor) to the bedroom, where I’d carefully strip off everything but my bra and panties.  I’d grab baby wipes and wipe myself down (mostly my arms and hands, face, neck, and any collarbone area that had been “exposed.”  I’d also wipe off my hair, and wash my glasses (sometimes twice).  Then, I could get dressed in my jeans and shirt and hold my son.  Sometimes he’s be in my husband’s arms or the playpen next to our bed in our bedroom.  Later on, after a conversation with some friends (also a clue, very susceptible to suggestion and incorporating those rituals into my routine); my ritual became more complex.  No longer could I simply strip, wipe, dress and I was good to go.  No, now I had to strip and shower, cleaning my glasses, and after that I could dress and handle my son.

Going home with baby

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

So I’m trying to nurse at home, and the suggestion is to nurse exclusively for the first six weeks.  And I really planned to do that.  I wasn’t strict, as in thinking “no formula EVER.”  I just figured, it nourishes my baby, it’s free, and it helps me lose weight.  We’d gotten bottles and cleaned and sterilized them, for the thought of me pumping and popping them in the fridge to be given to Blue Eyes when I was working.  I still had problems.  It all stemmed from Blue Eyes not being able to latch on.  I followed the directions, did (I thought) what all the nurses did who were successful in getting him to latch on.  With the latching on problems (and the hospital telling me to feed him every 1-2 hours or when he’s hungry, whichever’s first.  So unless Blue Eyes wanted to feed constantly or every half hour or something, I had to try every couple hours.  And of course, there’s was the little chart we had to fill in with when he was fed and changed and how many of each diaper (number 1 and 2).  If it wasn’t filled in, they asked.

So all that amounted to nursing becoming a traumatic experience.  I’d try (already anxious from the previous failed attempts on my own), my son would start crying, I’d get more upset, and it’d become an endless cycle.  I think I succeeded twice, and let him eat for a good long while.  At the hospital, the nurse had told me my “job” was 15 minutes.  Any longer was my decision.  Well, given the problems we’d had nursing, I let his nurse longer.  There was also the added anxiety that even if I was successful this time, there was no way of know if I’d be successful again.  Fairly soon it became clear that we’d have to get Blue Eyes on bottles and formula.  That realization wrecked me.  Obviously, I was glad we could feed him, that we had another means of giving him the nourishment he needed.  I did tons of research of breastmilk and formula, and found that the only thing missing from formula was immune system enzymes that science couldn’t duplicate.  I also found out (much later on) that back in the day, breastfeeding had a stigma attached to it (that’s right, breastfeeding had a stigma).  This stigma was basically that only poor people breastfed, because they couldn’t afford to buy formula.  Talk about wow.  Anyway, so knowing that formula was just about the same as breastmilk helped me a little in coming to terms with Blue Eyes getting formula.  I didn’t even care about the bottle (actual nursing was weird for me, but pumping was annoying and time-consuming; glad it’s available, but doesn’t mean I have to like it).  My concern was still being able to give Blue Eyes breastmilk.  So I pumped.

Something you learn, whether in Lamaze class or on your own, is that the mechanics (for lack of a better term) behind a baby nursing and pumping are different.  And the difference, at least for me, was key in my pumping.  Essentially, the way a baby feeds actually tells the muscles and nerves (or whatever) in a mom’s body to produce more milk.  Pumping doesn’t, and if you’ve ever actually watched a pump in action, you kinda get why.  It’s is subtly different, but it’s enough.  Now I’ve met some women (one of whom is a friend of mine), who had no problems pumping despite the fact that she was not nursing, or at least she stopped at some point (baby teeth are sharp, trust me).  Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.

The other problem I had with pumping is pumping at work.  Now legally, they couldn’t stop me from pumping.  However, any nursing mom knows that the baby and the mother’s body are on a schedule.  Go too long and your breasts can actually hurt from having too much milk.  Normally, you’re supposed to pumps every couple hours, right after you nurse (if possible), but eventually your body gets into a routine.  When you’re working a 9 to 5 job, that means nurse/pump before work (if you can), mid-morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, and then nurse the baby and pump when you get home for dinner.  Here’s another thing, the actual pumping.  Pumping breastmilk is a process, it’s not a quick trip to the bathroom.  You have to have space because double pumps are best for working moms and they’re big and there’s setup involved, both with the pump and you.  So a good pumping session is probably a good 30-40 minutes.  Maybe longer if you’ve really got some steam going.

No pun intended, that doesn’t always work when you’re working.  Some people gets morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch break, some don’t, etc.  And normal morning and afternoon breaks are maybe 15 minutes max.  You see where I’m going.  There was no way I could get a good pumping session in.  Anxiety running through your veins when you’re on the clock and trying to pump, is not a good recipe.

So I tried, and tried, racing to the bathroom (yeah, no separate room where I was comfortable baring all and having the constant anxiety of someone accidentally walking in), trying to get set up and pump and make the most of my 15 minutes.  Now granted, I did have the option of taking a shorter lunch, and then I could have 3 30- minute sessions.  In retrospect, I possibly should have done it.  However, my actual job made it more difficult, as I was the front desk person.  Answering the phone was my bit, and yes I could get coverage, but I think I’d have had a bit more leeway had I been higher up in the company food chain (which wasn’t going to happen where I was because of the needs of the office, etc.)  Plus, I didn’t feel comfortable discussing my parenthood and the associated challenges with most of my co-workers, even the women.  So again, I struggled and struggled.  It felt like weeks, but was probably only a week at the most (when you’re constantly pumping, time both slows down and speeds up).  And throughout this struggle, because I wasn’t nursing, my milk production was decreasing.  At one point, past the six-week mark, I tried to nurse my son.

Mix all this up and I started researching different methods of increasing my milk production.  Another thing I loathe about the health system in the States, holistic and alternative medicine are not part of medical school training.  So unless you pursue the knowledge yourself, you won’t know what you’re talking about.  I was researching holistic methods of upping my milk production.  Obviously you want to be careful, since whatever you eat/drink/consume is going to be in your breastmilk.  I read about different herbs that could be taken, but, like a “good” girl, I checked with my ob-gyn first.  Unfortunately, even if someone on the staff there knew about holistic remedies, there’s a good possibility that legally they couldn’t advise me.  Liability and all that, which I kinda of understand.  However, they should have had referrals to other professionals to help patients with these concerns and questions.  As it was, all I got was the advice of, keep trying to nurse.  Great, thank you very much.  Granted I could have called a lactation consultant, but I’m a touch busy.  New mother and going back to work.  No one checks on you after you get out of the hospital, except for one checkup six weeks postpartum.  I’ll get to that later.

The story continues…

•May 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

OK, so I thought I’d already posted again this month, and I’m not sure what happened.  But I am keeping going and keeping my promise.  So here we go…

 

Every attempt at nursing became traumatic.  I felt forced to feed him every two hours because he wasn’t crying to be fed.  I kept trying and my little guy had trouble latching on.  I probably needed to practice more, but it’s a little difficult without the baby.  A doll would only do so much.  However, one thing I’ve learned both from my experience and from other moms: every mother is different, as is every baby.

Thankfully I was able to give my son the “super milk” that comes right after birth.  The official term is colostrum.  I still had issues, and not one successful feeding at the hospital.  (insert “but all women have issues right? Or “but doesn’t it just happen?” )  We got formula soon after returning home, though in some ways I’d have preferred to stay at the hospital a little longer.  If for no other reason than I would have been able to heal quicker.  So I’m trying to nurse at home, and the advice is to breastfeed or nurse exclusively for the first six weeks of life.

Now in hindsight, it’s quite accurate.  My Blue Eyes was put on a bottle within a couple days, and with the breastfeeding problems, it was more and more on the bottle.  He was so used to the bottle that when I actually tried to breastfeed again, he had no interest.

I really wanted to breastfeed.  Better for Blue Eyes, free, and it would help me lose weight.  I still had problems nursing.  We’d gotten bottles before Blue Eyes was born, and I’d gotten new tubing for the pump. I told hubby that once the baby got teeth, I was done nursing, but I still wanted to nurse.  It was a nightmare.  The whole bonding experience during breastfeeding never happened for me.  I didn’t love breastfeeding, but it was better for Blue Eyes.  And the anxiety of, even if I was successful, not knowing if I’d be successful again, really affected my nursing.  And when I was having trouble, Blue Eyes could sense my anxiety, which would have him bawling and screaming.  That screaming and bawling, when thus far you’ve been surrounded by soft, pretty images and stories of loving every minute with your newborn, is heart-wrenching.  Perhaps because I was a first-time mom and feeling completely clueless about being a parent.  Granted there’s no handbook, but I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

So every time I successfully nursed (a few times at most), I let Blue Eyes feed for a good half hour.  Another side note: the nature of my relationship with my mom notwithstanding, she formula fed me and my sisters, so no help there.  Anyway, in the hospital I was told that my “job” as far as breastfeeding time was concerned, was fifteen minutes.  Anything beyond that was my decision.  Given my situation, is it any wonder I let my baby feed longer.  Fairly soon it became clear that we’d have to supplement with formula.  Despite my best efforts, pumping was not going great.  I was tired, but I dutifully pumped after every feeding.  Unfortunately, I didn’t always nurse, so pumping didn’t yield nearly as much as I would have liked.  Also at that point, in hindsight, I regretted not pumping beforehand to stock up on breastmilk.  It took so much time pumping just to get enough for one feeding.  So with all this I did some research on the different between formula and breastmilk, since I knew there was one.  From my research, and having no medical degree in the slightest, the only thing formula lacked was the immune system enzymes that science cannot (I don’t think) duplicate.  Which could explain why kids who are breastfed don’t get sick as much as formula-fed kids.  I can attest to having a crappy immune system myself.

Knowing what was in formula mollified me a bit, but I was still resolute in my desire to breastfeed Blue Eyes.  And despite labor laws telling companies that they can’t prohibit a mom from pumping at the office (and apparently need to provide a room/spot for the mom to do said pumping), it’s still not easy to do.  Any mom who’s pumped knows a good pumping session takes at least 30 minutes.  The fifteen minute window is just the pumping itself.  It doesn’t include the actual getting to where you’re going to pump (the handicapped bathroom stall in my case), setting up the whole system (tubes to cups to pumping apparatus with storage containers to hold the milk), actual pumping, aka, being exposed, hence the need for absolute privacy (and if you’re lucky, setting up a new container if you fill one or both), then the clean-up and store everything away.  It is a process, and there aren’t any shortcuts.  And the recommendation is to pump every 2-3 hours.  So the pumping schedule becomes morning, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, evening.  That equates to an hour and a half for pumping alone.  Most jobs you get a 30 minute to maybe an hour lunch break.  And not all jobs give you a break before or after.  So pumping at work was a huge struggle.

In Honor of…and a promise

•April 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Today is April Fool’s Day, for a little longer anyway.  Today is also my grandmother’s birthday.  She passed away several years ago (over a decade).  She missed my college graduation, my wedding, my son being born, and all the little things in between.  But I know she saw everything.  And I always remember her, especially due to her birthday.  She also suffered from postpartum depression in a time when one of the only therpies was shock therapy.  She lost some memories due to it.

So in honor of my grandma, who I can still see clear as day in my mind, I want to make a promise to you, my readers.  I’ve been very bad in not keeping up with this blog.  I’ve got lots written down, and some of it typed up, but the original schedule is too much for me.

So I want to try to post once every two weeks,  Yeah, I know, in the blogiverse, that’s practically forever.  Especially with many blogs, with a variety of topics, posting every couple days, daily, or even every few hours.  Then again, I’m one person, with a part-time job, a hubby, and little one, and, well, life.

But I started this blog for two reasons.  Hubby thought it would be good therapy for me, and he’s right.  And as hard as it was to deal with it when it happened, and how hard it is at times to remember, I don’t want to forget.  I shouldn’t forget, which brings me to my second reason.  Helping someone, anyone else.  Even if it’s only one person.  Too many women suffer a postpartum mood disorder, some fight and survive and thrive, others unfortunately do not.  For them, I grieve.  And for those who are fighting, or may someday have to fight, I hope I can give some measure of comfort, knowing that I survived with my family intact and happy, and so can you.

So I’ll hop down off my soapbox, and just tell you that I’ll still tell my story.  And cliche as it sounds, this is true: you are not alone.

In the Spirit of Temba, His Arms Wide

•January 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

phaerygurl:

An excellent explanation, particularly for Star Trek fans.

Originally posted on My Postpartum Voice:

The past week or so, the Star Trek Next Generation episode, “Darmok”, has weighed heavily on my mind. In this episode, Picard heads to the planet of El-Adrel IV to connect with an alien species known as the Tamarians.

The problem?

The Tamarians only communicate in metaphor. Picard and the captain of the Tamarian ship, Dathon, beam to the surface of El-Adrel IV to face a large beast. The Tamarians beam Picard against his will. According to Tamarian metaphor, this action rooted in a significant situation in their past – “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”

Darmok arrived at Tanagra alone as did Jalad. On Tanagra, there was a beast which threatened them both. Working together, Darmok and Jalad defeated the beast and left Tanagra together, friends instead of enemies.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra could also be a metaphor for parenthood, could it not?

Darmok is a parent. Jalad is…

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Learning from Tragedies: Listen to the New Mom and Respect Her Needs

•January 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

phaerygurl:

So I know I’ve been quiet…so consider this my attempt at becoming a little better about posting here. I’ve got a few drafts in the works, and part of it is remembering. Anyway…this article is more important.

Originally posted on Ivy's PPD Blog:

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

There was another tragic and preventable loss of a new mother’s life.
AND
Another family is now without their mother.

This mother’s name is Joe Bingley.  Joe’s husband is determined to try to prevent what happened to his wife from happening to other mothers.  He has formed the Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation to raise awareness of this debilitating, highly stigmatized, misunderstood, and potentially life-threatening condition experienced by approximately 1 out of 8 new mothers.  Realizing the family history for postpartum depression (PPD) that ran in Joe’s family, he is determined to prevent what happened to Joe from happening to his daughter.  Joe’s death occurred back in April 2010, and this Daily Mail (UK) article was posted a few…

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