Tuesday, June 30, 2009

post partum depression

consider it PURE JOY recently kept it very real on her blog and chose me as one of the ten she wanted to keep the honesty torch rolling. Hmm... I can't think of much that you haven't already heard. Except the raw stuff- maybe it's time for that.

After the birth of my second daughter, I suffered from a life altering case of postpartum depression. At least, that's how it felt to me. And I'm sure that's how it felt to my oldest, who was just two years and ten months old at the time. It took four months before I went to counseling and another two in counseling- twice weekly- before I felt okay again. I personally didn't choose medication because this was 1997 and my counselor told me that I'd have to stop nursing to take anything. Finding out I was pregnant in 2001, with my third child was both thrilling and scary. However, knowing that there was an increased chance I would experience postpartum depression again, I created a PPD management plan(symptom sheets for John, and close friends and family, along with an action plan if symptoms did arise) along with my birthing plan- just in case. I felt so relieved and safe. Fast forward to about oh, my seventh month of pregnancy and you would find me sleeping entire days away. Barely moving. Eating wayyyy too much. (I gained 85 lbs!) Back to the counselor and back home with a diagnosis of pregnancy related depression. This time, after Shaye was born, I only nursed for 12 weeks- so I could try and get my hormones back in check and get some additional support via medication. Still, it was a long, 9 month or so, road to recovery. Pregnancy four? You guessed it PRD and PPD. No meds- I added lots of walking, talking, and ASKING FOR HELP to the agenda. It was during my fourth pregnancy that I wrote a story for our state's own parenting mag- and women came up to me everywhere, and for years (literally) afterward, recognizing me from the story's picture and telling me that my article got them to recognize what was going on for them and/or ask for help. These women also gave me valuable insight into what isn't helpful when someone you know is trying to cope with PRD or PPD(and you would be surprised at how many women experience these same conversations with people they love!):

  1. Saying things like "You wanted kids". We did. We still do. We don't want to give them back. We just need help coping. Pregnancy Related Depression and Postpartum Depression are medical conditions. Would you tell a woman who smoked who was suffering from lung cancer- "You wanted to smoke." Probably (I hope!) not.
  2. Asking if we want help. Just give it. Most women suffering from PRD and PPD are already weighed down with guilt and feelings of inferiority or not doing it right/normal/better and will often not ask for or admit we need- or want- help. Just come over, without judgements, and take the baby- tell us to take a relaxing shower. Clean our house. Make us call the doctor. Get us moving and talking- and keep at it until we are really okay. I had a great friend who called me several times a day, often showing up and putting the baby in a stroller and taking us for a walk. (Thanks Micky!)
  3. Saying things like "Well, I had (enter number of kids here) and never had a problem". Lucky you. You were one of the 87% percent of women who don't suffer from PPD. Either that, or time has colored your memories a little too rosy. No matter, it's not helpful. In fact, it hurts. And it is one of the most common things we hear. Really. Especially by older family and friends- like parents and in-laws- I know, it's hard to believe because it sounds so cruel in print. See # 1 people!

And then,

if you love us,

tell us what you can do to help.


Steph @ AnnoyinglyDomestic said...

As a life long depression sufferer (strike that, I'm a depression *manager*), I applaud you for talking genuinely and candidly about it. There's a lot of very vague PRD/PPD info out there, but when women talk *genuinely* about their own experiences without just glossing it over to say, "Yeah, I had it," it's so much more impactful. Bravo for writing the article that proved helpful to so many, and you're absolutely right - if you want to help someone you fear may be enduring this, just help. Don't ask, just do it.

Much love.

Kat said...

Very important topic. PRD, PPD, and depression in general is so misunderstood. As a family that deals with similar issues daily, thank you for talking about it and sharing your story.

Jules said...

Thanks for being willing to open up and share this. It is so important. I had a friend IRL who also suffered from pregnancy-related depression. I had never heard about it until she told me what she was going through.

Thank you for your bravery! Hopefully your post will help someone somewhere, who may be suffering right now.

Chelle said...

Thank you, Gina, for putting this out there. I suffered through PPD with Isabella...except I had no idea what was wrong. They never talked about it my entire pregnancy. And I for sure "never thought" I would suffer from it as we had been trying for 2 years for our little girl!

Boy was I wrong. I thought I was going insane. I cried 24/7. I suffered from anxiety to do anything. It sucked. Big time. My mom didn't understand...I don't think even today she truly understnads the hell I lived in for almost 4 months... I finally called and made an appt. And sobbed the entire time. Thank God my doctor was amazing and I finally got put on something to help me and it has helped. Tremendously.

I'm still on it today. My mid-wife felt strongly that I would need it and it would continue to benefit me...especially after Madelyn is born.

Sorry this is sooo long! But I applaud you and just want to give you a hug for writing this :)

gina said...

Chelle- such another good point! We aren't unhappy. We know we "should" be okay , feeling blessed, etc. We aren't choosing to be negative, lazy, spoiled- we are medically unwell!!

So glad you and everyone who wrote so far have programs in place that worked/are working for them!

Ashley said...

I think I may have suffered this after my first pregnancy. My marriage to my first husband ended in divorce when our son was 3 months old. I never sought help, and eventually felt like myself again after 6 months or so.

Thanks for sharing. It is an important issue that women should know more about.

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Thanks for sharing from your heart. I too suffered from this after my first pregnancy 21 years ago. I didn't understand it, and my husband definitely didn't.

It is so important to be honest and get it out in the open so women can get help!!


purejoy said...

thank you for hittin it real. your voice is so welcome for the women who struggle in that area. well said and well organized. i pray it will be a tool that will bless many mothers and families.
you rock!

Sarah C. said...

Wonderful post, Gina! It is one of my fears after the baby arrives. I think I'll print this out to share with DH and have ready just in case. Thank you for being so open & honest! :)

Farm Fresh Jessica said...

I didn't tell a lot of people because I didn't want to hear it. But when I did tell, it was such a relief to feel supported. And it's always a fear that it will come back.

There is a lot of shame in depression meds for some reason--like you can't do it yourself. My counselor told me, If you could will yourself well, would you? Well of course, I said--then why wouldn't you want to be on the meds? So freeing for me.

Thanks for your honesty Gina.

Ann(ie) said...

This is a great post. I had a really rough time with PPD after Ben and I was so scared this time, but I've been lucky and have not experienced it yet...I'm only 12 days post partum, but I'm hoping it's not going to ruin the fun. xo.

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