an honest look at postpartum depression pt 1

"When the Bough Breaks" is a new Netflix movie  documenting the lives of mothers who have battled postpartum depression. Although I have only watched one small part pf it so far, I thought it would be a good idea to give an honest look at what PPD has looked like in my life. Healing takes on many forms and one form for me is expressing myself. My hope is that by sharing some parts of my story will in turn help another mom who might have gone through something similar.

With this being my second time experiencing postpartum depression I thought originally that I would be going through the same journey as I did with Calvin, but this has not been the case. This time around I realized right away there was a problem. As soon as Leo was born the anxiety hit my body like a train.

I remember my mom bringing Calvin and Max to my delivery room to meet Leo and the fear rising inside of me that germs were going to overwhelm my newborn. I was nervous about where Calvin and Max would touch the baby, I was nervous about my home and how my clothes would be folded, nervous about when I would sleep next, and the list goes on.

The thing with PPD is that for someone who has not experienced it, these types of thoughts seem outrageous and maybe even pitiful but for the mom going through it these are sometimes thoughts we cannot just turn off. 

No amount of help or encouragement at home could help ease the anxiety and depression going on inside of me. The only benefit this time around is that I knew the signs and so did my husband. I am going to be really honest here now so please read this without judgment and instead see how serious postpartum depression can be, especially if it goes undiagnosed and untreated (with or without medicine):

Each morning following Leo's birth I woke up not really wanting to live or get up. My morning thoughts were often dark and the anxiety I felt was overwhelming. I remember hearing Nick's alarm go off at 7 AM and me crying into my pillow that I did not know how I would be able to handle a day of caring and loving my 3 beautiful boys and my husband.

There was nothing expected from me besides keeping the kids alive and yet at the same time I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I would sit and nurse for hours on end and would become so bitter at all the moms I would see on Instagram who had put on makeup, wore trendy clothes, and had a perfectly calm baby sleeping in their wraps. How could they do it and I was unable to? How did other moms do it without family around and still manage to get out of the house with all of their kids?

Even the days where I thought I had the energy to get out of the house I quickly became consumed with laundry from the non-stop acid reflux, way too many blow outs, shirts getting dirty outside from the older boys and the list of things I needed to complete due to my obsession with order and cleanliness.  To top everything off I was neglecting to take care of myself. I showered every day and even had something clean to put on but I kept wondering if I would ever have the time or energy to do my hair or makeup again. When would I not be pregnant or nursing so that I could wear a normal bra? When would I fit back into my jeans that I purchased before finding out I was pregnant?

A doctor in the documentary said something profound that "most moms think in order to be a good mom we have to take care of baby first and we forget to also take care of ourselves." 

I am starting to slowly make sure I am putting myself into the equation. The little things like going for a daily walk after dinner (sans kids), doing a home workout, a cup of coffee in my room while the kids watch a show, a pedicure, etc. all these things are helping me slowly but surely take care of myself. I may never be "Gina before kids" ever again but I can work on who I have become.

This Netflix series has also shown me that women who prior to giving birth have already dealt with mental disorders (for me OCD) that these women are way more susceptible to experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.  Postpartum depression NEEDS to be talked about. Let's have the conversations no one is having.

Part 2 of this honest look at postpartum depression will be coming at you whenever I have time to type again ;) My husband will soon be writing on a guys perspective of taking care of and noticing the signs of a wife who is suffering from PPD/PPA.

Please feel free to share your story with us too, anonymously or not. Email me through the contact page if you are interested. Thank you for letting me open up about what I have experienced. 

outtakes aka real life

outtakes aka real life

winter.

Guest Post: Isabella Stofberg

Winter: our current season. It’s July in South Africa. Since we live in the southern hemisphere, June is one of the coldest months of the year. The last few months have been rather “chilling” to say the least, End of March my baby boy was due, our second child. I was debilitated by sciatica the last month of pregnancy, unable to pick up my almost 2 year old girl & unable to stand after 4pm. Consequently we had to “ship” her off to grandma’s until little brother arrived. He was “late” & the 2 year old devastated for having to be away from mom for almost 2 weeks.

After a painful & rather debilitating natural posterior delivery, my beautiful son was brought into this world. It was love at first sight, for the second time. Sadly I was yet again unable to walk well or pick up my 2 year old. Grateful my parents where visiting from the US to help.

On his 8th day of life my son was admitted for a severe urinary tract infection and was treated with high dose intravenous antibiotics for 5 days.  I knew “something was up” and we caught it just before he started going septic. The Dr poked him SEVEN times before finally getting an IV line. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding I stayed with him 24/7. I was still recovering from the delivery & unable to sit/breastfeed upright & was now confined to a chair next to my baby’s crib in a room with 6 other beds. Yikes!  Since my parents where leaving the following week we planned to have him baptised by his paternal grandfather, & namesake, while they where here, but his 5th dose was scheduled on the only available Sunday. The Dr that admitted him was a believer and let him out on “probation” with his little IV, so he can get baptised.  4 IVs later we got discharged: we survived and could finally start bonding as a family again.

A week later my son got admitted for dysentery: a severe form of gastroenteritis that causes bloody diarrhea. We were yet again admitted......for 5 days of IV antibiotics. Arrgh! At least we got a “private room” for needing to be in isolation. I guess bloody diarrhea can have its perks some times☺.  4 IVs later (2 being on his HEAD) we got discharged. His last IV dose was done outpatient and after it was over (they gave it intramuscularly, aka a shot, because his head IV went bad, AGAIN!) I was soo unbelievably happy and relieved. I got home, breastfed him and put him in his swing, picked him up to take him to another room, got dizzy half way there and dropped him, on his head.  Back to the hospital we go. Got his head scanned and bam.......we won ourselves another hospital stay, but this time in the Pediatric ICU. (The scan revealed he had a really bad scull fracture and a small bleed in his head). He was mostly there for observation and recovered well but it still sucked big time.

Althought my son was the only one getting admitted the rest of us were also struggling to stay healthy, especially my daughter. She was battling killer ear infections & was picking up every nasty little bug from kindergarten. The day after getting discharged with my son from the Peds ICU, my daughter’s pediatritian tells me SHE needs to go for ear surgery...the very next day! What??? It went well.

I will spare you the details of all the myriad of other things that went “wrong” during this time period but I do however want to share the truly encouraging part of it all: God with us!

Throughout this time period I was astutely aware of God’s presence. If it wasn’t a loving godly nurse or a believer doctor, it was my friends and family coming to visit and support us in the hospital with prayers and chocolate.  God’s provision abounded.

Also, I have never before in my life been more grateful for my nuclear family. The love in my heart for my husband & two children was so acute during this time.  While we were separated in the hospital my heart longed for my little girl & my mother heart ached with love for my son, having to endure so much so early in life.

I also learned that during trials there will always be a time of respite. Be it through comic relief or quiet moments to reflect.

So when you find yourself in the season of winter know that God is near to the broken hearted and He hears our prayers.

Since this is relavant to the blog I also wanted to mention that I have a history of anxiety and depression & my depression was intently exacerbated post partum. I am very grateful my OBGYN put me on Zoloft (sertreline) shortly after delivery. It is currently one of the safer antidepressant for breastfeeding moms & it made the world of difference for me.

 

The End.

 

Baby Pieter

Baby Pieter

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milk. lots of milk.

*Disclaimer: I know the topic of breastfeeding can turn into a huge debate of who did or did not breastfeed, how long did you do it for, we only formula fed, etc. etc. etc. If you nourish your baby by feeding them with a bottle or by nursing, I support you. There are various reasons for why you should and shouldn't, and some women are able while others are not. This post is simply a reflection of my own journey, and I happened to breastfeed.

Nursing. This topic would evidently come up because it's something I have been doing for almost 3 years now (minus a 7 month break while I was pregnant with Max). I honestly did not give breastfeeding much thought prior to being pregnant the first time, and I am thankful for my two sister-in-laws who both nursed their kids. It was through them that made me curious enough to go down this path when I had kids of my own. So I read all the books and took a breast feeding class, talked to a few moms and felt semi-prepared to breastfeed. 

Can you see my nursing pad? I still can't find one that hides relatively well.

Can you see my nursing pad? I still can't find one that hides relatively well.

All of my preparations could not prepare me for my breastfeeding experience with Calvin. I had no idea that you could nurse for over 8 hours in one day. I also felt like I had mommy brain and couldn't remember one technique or piece of advice on how to nurse once he arrived. Engorged, bruised, ripped, torn, and in pain, I was now the milk maid for this helpless and sweet little boy.

Contrary to what some people might believe, being blessed with an extreme oversupply of milk is not desirable. When you have enough milk to feed triplets, it's hard to walk into Target without having a drenched shirt (thank you crying babies and freezer departments). My biggest hurdle with breastfeeding has and is still my oversupply. I am thankful that I can donate milk and that I don't have to pay for formula, but I am daily in pain from engorgement.

Getting Calvin to latch properly without mutilating my body was another one of our biggest difficulties, along with him having horrible acid reflux and refusing to nurse on one side. I had formula in my pantry and bottles ready-to-go, because my whole life I had been a quitter, I couldn't stick to anything (hopefully that isn't the case with this blog!). Nick knew how much I desired to breastfeed, and he gently encouraged me to keep trying. Without his support I probably would have been done on Day 2. I also reached out to my sister-in-laws and some friends who kept telling me it gets better (Again, I know this isn't the case for everyone. Sometimes it only gets worse.).

I waited for over two weeks before getting professional help... Don't ever wait that long!!!! My lactation consultant fixed my issue within minutes and once I had Calvin latched properly, we only went up from there. I still had a lot of healing to do, but after leaving her office with a new confidence and proper technique I thought that maybe I would be able to do this breastfeeding thing.

Calvin nursed for 17 months, he never took bottle. Like never. He went straight to a sippy cup. I am not a mom who is super proud to have breasted for that long, but I am glad that I didn't quit when I wanted to. Breastfeeding is one of the few things that I ended up being able to do that I didn't think was possible. In the end I actually loved nursing Calvin, I cried during our last nursing session because I knew I would never again be able to care for him in this way. 

Fast forward 2 years and now Max is 6 months old and he also refuses a bottle. Go figure... Nursing did come pretty easily to me the second time around. I did go see my lactation consultant again because of some small issues but overall it has been a lot better than the first time around. I enjoy nursing, not because it is euphoric for me in anyway but because both my boys are very outgoing and it is the only time I can get them to sit still for a few minutes, and cuddle with me (Calvin is no longer breastfed).

Breastfeeding is a huge commitment and sacrifice, well for me it was and is. I can only wear tops that allow me to nurse. I can't wear most dresses. I have to wear a cover when feeding my baby, which turns into a nightmare because he hates the cover and he gets hot.  Max can only be fed by me since he doesn't take a bottle AT ALL. That means that I can't be away from Max for over 3 hours or without a pump (if on a date). You are not your own... I have to watch what I eat as to not upset his stomach. I am hungry a lot. I have to wear a nursing bra to bed, and even though it is great to get a lot of sleep at night I have a lot of engorgement pain.

Motherhood is full of surprises and difficulties. Even though breastfeeding is hard at times, it has turned out to be something I actually treasure and I know I will miss once Max is weaned in a couple of months. There is something special for me that only I can feed my baby, I know some bottle fed baby mommas feel the same way. If you breastfeed for one day or for one year, if you pump or don't pump, if you have only ever done formula, know that breastfeeding in itself doesn't make you a better mom than those who don't, etc. I fail at being a mom daily. Breastfeeding can't fix that.  

Here's my two cents for new moms or expecting moms who want to try breastfeeding:

  • take a breastfeeding class
  • talk to other moms who have breastfed before
  • have a lactation consultant's number ready (IBCLC Cerified) 
  • get help as soon as you have any problems, even if it is on Day One
  • know that babies don't nurse 24/7 forever, each month gets easier
  • have a breastfeeding buddy, (i.e. another mom who can text you during late night feeds)
  • invest in quality nursing bras, they'll save you from public embarrassment
  • get a good pump (Medela worked well for me)
  • know that you are not a bad mom or a failure if it does not work out