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.