October 11, 2016

Infancy Without Postpartum Depression, what we did this time around

At the end of October Baby Tee will be ten months old. He is crawling, pulling himself to standing, cruising, and saying "mama." He laughs at his older siblings' silliness and they love to perform for him. He likes cheerios, sweet potatoes, graham crackers, and his mama's milk. He has seven teeth and sometimes I think he looks like an elf.


Can I just tell you that I am completely smitten with him? Some things are tough, of course, like teething and night nursing and all the food he drops on the floor, but he is so sweet and so lovely and my heart bursts with love of him.

I've never had an experience like this before. All my other children's infancies were shadowed by postpartum depression and now that I see what life with a newborn is like without PPD touching it I am incredibly sad that we were all robbed of happier days and a lighter, more peaceful, more loving home. But I am also so incredibly grateful that this time I have not suffered from PPD.


There were moments I was afraid it was coming. One night in particular I was so tired and so anxious. My anxiety kept me awake after a night feeding and I paced the house, I sobbed in the family room, I shook with fear, and I kept seeing this picture of a spiraling, Wonderland-like fall of which I was standing on the cusp.

When exhaustion or stress crept up on me, as they did a couple of times, they showed themselves through anger and an inability to tolerate anything. In the past I would have succumbed - I would have gone crazy. I had...


... but this time was different. We were proactive and we had plans in place. We knew that exhaustion and stress triggered my spiraling into PPD and so my husband, my mom, and I decided what we would do. In the end I would say three things really helped me get through this postpartum period without succumbing to postpartum depression.

First, and probably most importantly: sleep. My mom basically moved in with us for the first few weeks, waking up with Tee's cries, tending to him until she had to get me to nurse him, sending me back to bed immediately after he finished eating, and putting him back to bed. She and Travis made the meals and with he and me sleeping well at night Mom was able to nap during the days. My mother-in-law also helped by relieving my mom and occasionally keeping the older kids at her home. I sat with the kids, rested, and nursed the baby  - and for months that was pretty much all I did. In the months that followed those first six weeks I did not hesitate to put on a movie for the kids and nap, ask my mom or husband to watch the kids so I could sleep, and / or go to bed at 8pm.

Second, I allowed for a lot of quiet and introspection. I spent a lot of time observing how I felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I prayed, I read my Bible and Beautiful Mercy, I asked for other people to pray for me, and I used Jenna Hines' book 30 Days to Calm.

Finally, I took pills, but not medication like before. My midwife prescribed for me to take Omega-3 supplements (EPA-DHA 720, 1-2 at a time, four times a day) and Magnesium Glycinate (300mg, 4 at a time, 4 times a day). They were amazing. They helped me relax and just... feel good. I know that seems like a vague statement but it's true. If I started to feel overwhelmed I would take my pills and within thirty minutes I was calm and relaxed. I felt little to no anxiety and I slept better with them. I don't think these pills alone would have worked for bringing me out of my former PPD, but they were wonderfully helpful for keeping it bay this time.


In the end, this has possibly been the best year of my life. I have six amazing children, a husband who loves me immensely, and a devoted mom (and mother-in-law). As a family we have hit our stride and we are thriving, happy, and full of love. That might sound cheesy but I don't care. I've always like nachos.


PS - Speaking of babies, I was invited to be a contributor to the Waiting in His Word: A Couple's Journey Scripture Study on fertility. Nell, Nancy, and Laura have done a fabulous job of bringing together women and men with a wide variety of experiences: loss, adoption, infertility, hyper-fertility, foster care, and more. You can learn more and buy your copy here.


PPS - Not to sound silly, but I would love it if you'd vote for A Knotted Life over at the Fisher's Net Awards. I mean, who else gives you blog posts about food allergies, miracle babies, parochial school, parties, and fashion for barrel-shaped bellies? I mean, when it comes to that combination you know that I am the BEST.


PPS - I am definitely not saying that these three things are all you need to do to beat PPD, and please, please, please know that there is no shame in getting help - be it a therapist, medication, a nanny, etc - to overcome postpartum depression or any mental illness. If you think you have PPD please talk to your doctor or midwife. If you are still pregnant and worried about suffering through another bout of PPD, as I was while pregnant with Baby Tee, then perhaps this post will inspire you to think about your own triggers and create a plan with your loved ones so you can get the best care.


 

20 comments:

  1. This is such an eye opening post for me! I always thought that PPD was something that just happened to a person and there wasn't anything to be done about it, until it "hit". How encouraging to know that one can be proactive about it! (Though I am of course taking your final PPS as the grain of salt!) :)

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  2. I too suffered ppd with all my babies and it took my fourth baby for me to finally seek help. It has returned with my fifth baby but I am taking the necessary steps to keep it st bay. Thank you for being so open and honest about this!

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  3. Having one postpartum with PPD and another without PPD, I get ya on the crazy amazing difference! I have the same triggers you do. Stress and exhaustion are what do me in, and sleep is the absolute you-just-can't-fake-it NEED.

    Here's what I did differently the second time around: http://underthyroof.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-rest-of-story-what-mom-can-do-to.html

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  4. I'm so happy for you and I'm so glad this year has been so good. Baby Tee is adorable. I hope we can see eachother again soon, friend! Love you. :)

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  5. Bonnie, I love this - and your honesty - so much. I haven't suffered from ppd but i have had depression and anxiety during pregnancy several times, which has been awful. I've been trying to work on a game plan for future pregnancies to make sure I have the necessary support and stress-reducing measures in place, and this really inspired me. My midwife is always singing the praises of fish oil, so I'm going to bring this up to her whenever I see her next.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this Bonnie! I have had increased anxiety this pregnancy and am, well, anxious that PPD is on the horizon for after delivery. Your suggestions are a blessing!

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  7. So glad to hear that this time has been so different! I avoided PPD this time around by making a plan, getting lots of help, reducing my expectations and i did choose to stay on my low dose of Celexa. Its crazy to me how much more joy I feel mothering this time around. It's easier now with three than it has been since I got pregnant with my second. So happy for you and baby!

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  8. So glad to hear that this time has been so different! I avoided PPD this time around by making a plan, getting lots of help, reducing my expectations and i did choose to stay on my low dose of Celexa. Its crazy to me how much more joy I feel mothering this time around. It's easier now with three than it has been since I got pregnant with my second. So happy for you and baby!

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  9. This is good to hear. I'm so happy for you. I appreciate your sharing your story-- I had such debilitating PPD after my last baby that I'm afraid of having another baby. Our hearts are starting to open up again though and I do look forward to welcoming another baby at some point. We'll get there, but it's nice to know it can get better and managed if it were to happen again.

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  10. Bonnie I am so thrilled for you. Luke was my first baby who didn't arrive with full blown PPD/A under his arm, so it has felt like a game changer. Sleep, supplements, spiritual care and progesterone have made this past year one of the most transformative of my life. I too mourn for what could have been with my older 3's babyhoods, but God must have wanted specifically to bring healing through Luke's birth, and I have peace about that. I am so glad you got the help you needed, and so thankful to you for speaking out about it. Headed over to vote for your blog now!

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  11. I voted! This it was the exact opposite of the real election. Instead of having only awful, awful candidates, there were several great candidates. How refreshing! :)

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  12. I keep thinking about this post. I've never had PPD, except for this time (my baby is 2 months old) where I have had twinges of it. I've managed to keep it at bay with omega-3 and amino acid supplements (I HIGHLY recommend the book The Mood Cure), but I think for me what it boiled down to was a lack of help and support after this most recent birth. Not that my family didn't try to help out...they did. But this time, my mom didn't come and stay with us for a week (and I REALLY missed that) and I was working at home (and we REALLY needed the money so I felt like I couldn't take ANY time off) I was even working in the hospital, within the first 24 hours of birth. So that was hard, not having that 1-2 weeks at home to do NOTHING other than nurse and snuggle a new baby. Physically, I recovered fine, but I feel like I never had an actual postpartum phase as we jumped right back into regular life after birth.

    The one thing that jumped out at me from this post is the importance of having help and support. It sounds like all the help and support you got was so vital in avoiding PPD and I think a lack of help and support is a key factor for a lot of moms. I'm wondering how more moms could get that help and support they really need.

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    1. That's what I'm wondering about this post, too. I think it's really good advice, and I have also read elsewhere that a good support system is one of the most powerful protections against PPD/A.

      I would love to hear some brainstorming from folks about what to do if you do not have support and cannot seem to access it, though. What do you do if you don't have mom/sister/inlaws to help, and your husband doesn't get any parental leave? And you can't afford to hire help, even for housecleaning? This is our situation. We are fortunate in our community that most people do receive a number of meals from friends after a birth, and I am grateful for that, but I can't ask my friends (also moms, pregnant, nursing, broke, etc.) to support me to the level that is needed.

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  13. That is really awesome and I'm keeping this post in mind if we're blessed with another. I think the support is so wonderful but it seems like I get less and less of it with each child! My parents and in-laws aren't much help and my friends and fellow parishioners seem to think, hey, she has seven, she must know what she's doing! I've gotten to the point now, though, where my oldest (13 and 10) are really helpful in occupying the younger ones, so that's great. PS - I did vote; yours really is one of my favorite blogs (along with Mama Needs Coffee).

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  14. This post will help soooo many!!! Is that magnesium harsh or gentle on your stomach? Some types of magnesium are very tough on my system...

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  15. I don't know you, but I am so happy for you and your family. What a gift - to be "thriving, happy, and full of love." Your children will have beautiful childhoods because you were smart enough to care for yourself. Thanks for this post.

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  16. That is wonderful not only that you were able to have so much help, but that you welcomed it! It's so easy for moms (at least me) to feel like we need to always be the one's doing EVERYTHING. I'm learning more and more that I need to ask for help before I need it sometimes.

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  17. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story! I'm sure it helps many women in May different ways. Blessings,

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  18. Thank you for sharing your story! It is so comforting to know that I am not alone when it comes to anxiety and depression. I never suffered from ppd with my daughters, not until Last year when my husband left for six months to the police academy. Thanks to God, I'm in a much better place than I was last year. We are thinking of going for baby #3, but honestly the fear of going thru ppd scares me. I'm blessed with a wonderful support system but I've been waiting to strengthen my anxiety coping skills. Any advice? Thanks Marilyn

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