Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Postpartum Depression

There.  I said it.

I get it.

There.  I said that, too.

While I'm in it, I don't like to talk about it, I don't like to draw attention to myself or what I'm going through.  After I'm better I can talk more freely.  Like now.  I'm better.  For the most part.  There's normal ups and down days in the life of parenting in the middle of nowhere when at times you don't leave the house or see a soul except your husband for days and days on end.  Where sometimes you forget who you are and become a bit of a zombie and lose any motivation to do anything other than take care of your kids.  Those days still happen.  Those are normal, right?

But the intense sadness, feeling alone, empty, pressure on your chest, wanting to do nothing but curl into a ball in the corner and cry and disappear?  Those days are all but gone.  They used to happen.  They used to happen almost every day, if not every day.

After I had Naomi I figured these things were caused by the long months of being cooped up inside (since I had her mid-October after being on bed rest for a few weeks before hand).  Then having a preemie baby kept me in for a few months.  By the time that was over winter was in full swing, it was January and why would I take my 3 month old outside, anyway?  I thought that when your husband says something like, "Is the dishwasher clean?"  Because he see's the massive amount piling up in the sink he assumes there is a clean load in there waiting to be unloaded.  Isn't that why there is a pile-up outside of the washer?  Probably not because I just haven't loaded after unloading, so there is an almost empty dishwasher waiting for all of those dirty dishes I haven't even bothered to rinse off because I can't stand to go in there.  So, when he asks that question, I hear, "Why haven't you been doing the dishes?  What do you do all day?  You don't have a job, but I do.  So why is the kitchen dirty?"  And I cry and cry.  He doesn't know what to do with a sobbing, hormonal woman sitting on the floor changing a diaper.

Naomi at 8 months old.

That first year after having Naomi was the hardest of our marriage.  It was a cake walk before kids!  And it wasn't the kids that made it hard.  It was me.  It was the PPD that came with the largest adjustment in our life together.

It wasn't until Naomi was 11 months old that Jaren came in one afternoon during lunch and we had another one of these episodes.  The one where he asks an innocent question or makes an innocent remark and I take total offense because I'm feeling quite worthless anyway and I cry and cry.

We talked about how he feels like he is walking on egg shells every time he comes in the house.  He doesn't know what will set me off.  He's afraid to ask where I put the remote for fear I'll cry and talk about how I know I'm a terrible housewife for leaving it on the other couch when I know he sits on the big one.  It's ridiculous, but it's real.

I knew I wasn't myself.  I didn't know how to get myself back.  I didn't know I could.  It was when Jaren said, "Something is wrong.  This is not you.  You are not my Whitney and we need to get you some help."  First reaction was that I didn't need to be on any medication.  That I could deal with it just fine.  Then I saw how tired Jaren looked and how he looked at me like I was a wounded animal.  I knew I needed to get checked out for him.  For Naomi.  For me.

First time Nae drank more than an ounce from a sippy.  On her first birthday morning.  Looks like I have a puff on my back....

We went in shortly after for Naomi's 12 month check up and that's when I first talked to my doctor about what was going on.  Explaining how I felt, how I would be totally fine then feel like I was buried in a pit of despair the next moment when my baby started to cry.  When he first mentioned those words.  Postpartum Depression I immediately recoiled inside.  Not me!  Never me!  I'm one of the happiest people I know!  I'm an optimist!  The glass is always half full!  Or totally full most of the time.  He started filling in the gaps that I left out with what it all entails; I had to admit he was right on target and he was describing me.

We decided to forgo medication at first and to try getting out more.  Doing more for myself and acknowledging the problem.  Working together; Jaren and I, to help me through it.

What is strange, is only a few weeks later I felt fine.  Those moments were almost all but gone.  I remember reading somewhere that PPD usually lasts about a year, then goes away.  Well, it was almost text book for me.

At dinner in Jackson Hole on my birthday 2 years ago.

When I was pregnant with Adalyn I was a little worried about it, but felt like I knew how to handle it knowing what it was.  I was going to take it one day at a time.  Then I had Adalyn unexpectedly early and went through that NICU experience I wrote about a few posts down.  That wasn't the best start and I found myself so quickly back in the daily grind of tears and despair.  The moments were just as bad, but they were fewer than with Nae.  I chalk that up to knowing what was going on, having a baby during the warm, sunny months and having a bright, smiling 2 year old around.  I immediately started exercising since I know that is one of the things that directly ties me to my moods.  I'm a happier person when I am active, in shape and fit into my clothes.  I had to take it easy for the first 5-6 months because I was trying to keep my milk up (I lose it really fast).

Around Adalyn's 3 or 4 month check up is when I talked to my doctor again about what I was going through.  I stress a lot with my babies and their sleep and eating.  Adalyn was not sleeping as well (or eating) as Naomi did.  I would sit in Adalyn's room holding a pacifier in her mouth while she cried and tried to go back to sleep because she was supposed to sleep another hour!  Noami did!  So Adalyn should to!  Aren't all babies the same?  They're not?  Yep, found that out the hard way.  I would cry and cry and bite my finger while wanting to scream.  I would lay on the floor while the swing was swinging and Adalyn was crying and cry and pray.  I begged for her to fall back to sleep. Not to mention the pleading for her to eat when she started to refuse to eat, bawling onto her little face feeling helpless because she would cry and refuse.  Then I'd bring out the bottle and she would eat happy as a clam! 

Adalyn was 4.5 months old here.  This was one of my favorite moments with her.  Right after she woke up, I would change her diaper and she would smile, coo and laugh at me.  She'd pick her feet up and put them on my cheeks and laugh when I kissed them.  It was something I needed after each nap because they were usually when I had my melt downs.

Talking to my doctor about this he said a few things to me.  One, babies are different.  Adalyn may not need as much sleep as Naomi did.  Naomi, who slept for a total of 5.5 hours each day spread out through three naps until she was 8 months old.  Then still slept 5 hours spread out through two naps until she was 16 months old!  Adalyn only needed half of that.  Or less.  It took me a few months to figure that out.

Second thing he told me; the world does not revolve around me.  What?!  What's that supposed to mean?  It means that I am not the only one who can take care of my babies.  There are other people who can feed them a bottle, or put them to sleep, make their sandwiches, change their diapers, sing to them, give them kisses, get them dressed, give them a bath... ect.   I felt like I was supposed to do it all.  Because I made that baby in my womb and I have the title Mommy I am supposed to take care of everything!  Aren't I?  I chose to bring those babies into the world, so I should be the one taking care of them at the expense of me.  That's how I felt.  That's not the reality if you want a healthy Mama.

I want to be a healthy Mama.

I worked something out with Jaren and his Mom.  I knew the number one thing I needed was to get out of the house.  So I would run without the kids.  I would plan something to do each week that got me into town or down to Idaho Falls.  Even though I was by myself, at least I was out and about. That all helped.  It didn't totally fix the problem, but it helped.

The third thing was once you leave your kids with that person, forget about them.  What?  Impossible.  I can't.  I leave and I rush to where I'm going to rush through what I'm there to do to rush back home to get them so they aren't a bother to who is taking care of them.  Even when that person is their ever-loving Nie Nie.  Or their Father.  Again with the whole, they came out of me so I have to raise them all by myself, thing.  I had to work through that one and realize that I could ask for help, I needed help and I needed to take that help and run with it.  I had to tell myself that they were in good hands and that I would be right back.  That those people taking care of them love them and will take better care of them than I can for those few hours because they aren't exhausted and stressed and crying because the clean laundry has been sitting right there in that basket in front of the couch for 4 days now.  So why don't you fold it already?!  Because I just don't want to.  I would rather sit on the couch and cry.

For those who haven't been through this you think, "For heaven sakes, just get off your rear and fold the clothes!  Put those kids in a stroller and go for a walk!  Take a shower already!"  Hearing my baby cry is like a knife to my eye balls.  When they are tired and crying I want nothing but to help them sleep.  Get that rest they need.  Their tiny bodies need to rest so they can grow!  She needs to rest so she can eat!  It's a vicious cycle.

So I worked on doing all of these things.  I ran, I cleaned, I went on errands by myself.  Things started to get a bit better.  The turning point for me was making a friend.  A friend who understood and who showed an interest in me.  Who made an effort to come over and visit and tried to understand my anxieties when she didn't have the same ones.  I have had some friends while living out here, but not one like this who is like another me in a different body.  She has been one of the biggest blessings in my life lately and I owe part of my sanity to her.  Naomi was in preschool, I left Adalyn with her Nie Nie and I went to the gym with Macie and her sister in law.  I opened up to my Dad the most and then a bit to my Mom and my Sister in Law Vicki.  It was a hard thing to talk about because I felt torn wide open for anyone to inspect and I couldn't stand being that vulnerable at that time.  I had friends to socialize with, an outlet for my physical stress in the form of the gym.  I went out with girlfriends once every two weeks or so.  Jaren would watch the girls, put them to bed so I could go out.  It was wonderful.  It helped tremendously.

This summer I ran my third half marathon.  Running is a huge form of therapy for me.  I feel good while I do it (when I'm not being attacked by dogs) and it helps with the weight loss.  I'm still working on Jaren and his focusing skills....

Where it took a year to get better after Naomi it took about 8 or 9 months for it to be all but gone after Adalyn.  It is such a surreal thing to me how it all but turns off at some point and the sunshiney Whitney emerges from the shadows.  I'm so grateful it does go away.  I know for some it does not and I feel for them.  I can only recommend these few things.  You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.  Those Daddies helped make the babies too and they can help as well.  There are friends and family who would love to help for a few hours so you can get your sanity and self back.  It's a constant battle and constant work.  Just because you come home feeling rejuvenated only to be in a pile on the floor an hour later doesn't mean it was for nothing.  Because I've found that I have a better grasp on things that whole day and into the next and maybe even the next one.  Those down moments may not last as long.

Just a few weeks ago at my parents house in Washington.

I know PPD can express itself differently for people.  For me, not once did I have a violent or hurtful thought.  Not once, during my darkest moments did I ever even an ounce regret having children.  All I have ever wanted in my life is to be a Mother and make a difference in those lives.  I'd be in sobs and still thank my Heavenly Father for those girls because I knew it would pass.  Things would get easier and I could (hopefully) get back to normal.  For me I just dealt with intense sadness, desperation and feeling like I couldn't measure up, that I wasn't good enough. 

As for medication.  I think that's between you and your doctor.  We decided to see how I did without it while trying these other methods to help alleviate the symptoms and stressors.  Next time, if I get it, is a different story because I will have two other children to take care of and be whole for.  I have a hard time taking Excedrin for a headache so this was a huge decision for me. 

Postpartum Depression is a real thing and it's okay to need and ask for help.  Recognizing it is the biggest obstacle and then discovering your own self-help plan is the next.  I know that more than likely with the next one I'll be facing this issue again.  Hopefully I'll be better equipped to handle it and it will go away even sooner.  I can only hope.  For now, I hope I can help those who struggle to know they aren't alone and that they can work through it and get better.

Do you have anything to add?  Advice?  Thoughts?  Experiences?


Nana said...

That was beautifully written Whit, and I'm so glad you are feeling like yourself again! Love you. :)

Danger Cat said...

Thank you Whit, this was so well written, do you mind if I pass it around a bit? I can think of a few people who would really appreciate it.

Nichole Gaertner said...

Hey Whitney, I had no idea that you struggled with PPD. I too struggle with it every time I have a child, and unfortunately it feels like it gets worse with each one too. Maybe it's because I am adding more to my plate? I really appreciate reading your story and how you take care of yourself. I chose to medicate after my third baby and I wish I would have after my other two as well. I very strongly believe it is one of the number one factors that has helped me finally get so much of my weight off.

You are such a beautiful woman, mother, and friend. Thank you for sharing and letting us other moms feel a friend in this battle that can come along with a new baby.

Macie Robison said...

I have something to add- I love you! Reading this made me cry. I am so glad we found each other and can share such fun moments together. Thank you for being my friend. I am glad that you need me just as much as I need you ;)

Whitney R said...

Mom, Thank you :) Me too and I love you, too.

Aunt Lori, thank you! And yes, pass it on to anyone you want. I waited till I was ready for the world to hear it to write it, so it's out there, I hope it helps people.

Nichole, I can only imagine that having to juggle more would increase it and make it worse for you. I'll be coming to talk to you after the next one if I choose to medicate to find out how it worked for you. Thank you for your compliments and sweet words.

Macie, Amen to everything you said. I'm really looking forward to next week when we can start the gym all week back up! Mostly so I can have my daily Macie dose.

Victoria Gilbert said...

I love you Whit. I'm sure this was hard to write, but I'm positive it will help someone else who struggles with PPD. I struggle too after having a baby, and I know it's hard to talk about. I'm here to listen anytime!! I just want you to know that you are an amazing mom, sister, and friend. Your girls have a wonderful Mama's example to follow as they grow! Love you :)

Ramona Samuels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ramona Samuels said...

So well written- out of my 3 boys I had PPD twice. I have struggled with depression since my teens, (and by the grace of God I don't struggle anymore- but that is a DIFFERENT story) but my third baby was the worst, I had it for a year and a half. I was hysterical, suicidal, and totally bi-polar. It was horrible- and I didn't dare tell anyone! Now I talk about it freely and try to be open. This is why I love your post- women need to know there is HELP out there! Do not sit home and cry!
Good job Whit!

Dax and Jen said...

My sister in law had severe PPD after having twins 2 years ago (she had 4 other kids). That is when I realized what a very real thing it is. I looked up to her so much, and it was crazy to see her go through something like that. Other people basically cared for her family for 4 months while she struggled through different therapies and meds. Then she slowly recovered and gained a little more ability to take care of her family with time. Today she is back to herself. Glad to see you are too!

Heather Von St. James said...

Hi I'm Heather! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog! Heather.vonstjames(at)gmail.com Thanks!!

Nikki Mena said...

Hi, I'm Ramona's friend. Thanks for posting about your PPD experiences--they make me feel less crazy. I only have one child, but I'm desperately terrified to have another one because of how bad my PPD was. It's so hard to leave your kids with other people, even if it is your husband. BUT I need to learn how to do that more.

Thanks again!

Riley&Destry said...

You're such a beautiful person Whitney!

Jen Allyson said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I've never had PPD, but It is really nice to know what to look for in case I do get it with future pregnancies. I'm going to send my pregnant girlfriends here so that they can understand the story of one new mother who went through PPD and how you dealt with it and recognized it as well.