Most people don’t think of postpartum mood issues (in short, PPD) in relation to infertility. I sure didn’t.
I’ve written numerous times (here, here, and here) over the years about my struggle with infertility. It was a struggle of 4+ years and I dreamed that once I had my child, all would be right with the world. The dream I had desired for so long would come true and I would get to hold my baby in my arms and love him immediately.
Because I have struggled with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues in the past, I was a prime candidate for suffering from PPD. But I tried to remain optimistic. A baby is what I had long wanted. I would get it; PPD be damned.
Often, you hear the stories about how women overcome infertility and their dream of having a child comes true. And it’s the best thing ever. They instantly fall in love with the baby of their dreams and everything seems wonderful except for that darned newborn period when you don’t get sleep. (But that’s pretty much everybody, right?)
What about the stories of women who struggle with infertility and then get PPD? No one talks about them. We feel guilty because for so long we wanted a child and now that we’ve received one, we don’t feel a bond. We don’t feel a connection. We worry too much about hurting the dream we had so longed for. We lose touch with reality and nearly harm our child or even ourselves. Panic attacks over losing our baby or taking care of our baby are a daily occurrence. Or we simply cannot get out of bed, too depressed to care for this human being who is completely and totally dependent on us.
Then there’s the added guilt of knowing that there are mothers—tons of other mothers—who are silently suffering the loss of what could be. Many mothers grieving month after month over not having a child. And here we are, finally over that hurdle. And we feel horrible. We don’t want this child. We don’t care for it. Take it away. I don’t want to see it. I’m a bad mother; I can’t care for this kid. But there are so many women who want a baby just like I have one. I have to love this kid—for them.
But those who suffer from PPD after infertility should know they are not alone. The internal pressure we give ourselves to be happy during (what should be) a joyous occasion can often be a tight cord around our neck. It’s OK to admit that after your years-long struggle that you’re not exactly overjoyed to be holding that “bundle of joy” in your arms. What’s NOT OK is pretending that everything is fine and trying to suck it up. This isn’t the time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This is the time to seek help. And there is no shame in admitting that you’re feeling sad, anxious, or worried about your mental health.
Reading this and don’t know where to turn? Here are a few resources:
- Postpartum Progress – Katherine Stone runs this advocacy organization to help raise awareness about postpartum issues among mothers, clinicians, and the general population. You can also discover great information via the Postpartum Progress blog.
- Postpartum Support International – Another organization that helps guide women through the changes surrounding them during the postpartum period. It offers resources, such as a toll-free hotline specifically catering to those with postpartum mental health needs.
- Postpartum Stress Center – This center provides professional support to women suffering from postpartum mood issues. It’s worth noting that PPD tends to be a catch-all abbreviation for conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and psychosis, to name a few. The Stress Center tends to serve residents in the eastern PA area but will help those outside of the region find a local resource.
Remember, PPD can affect anyone, infertile or not. Don’t be afraid to seek help as soon as you recognize that something isn’t right. The sooner you get help (even if you think it’s just the baby blues), chances are, you’ll recover more quickly. Get your life back. Get help today.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I don’t really have anything special planned for this blog. Although I probably should.
In going through old posts written in May, I have never once blogged about mental health. I suppose I’ve been so consumed with my infertility struggle that mental health issues really fell to the wayside. It’s something I’d like to change, but when it comes to topics on mental health, my mind is blank now. What can I blog about on mental health that hasn’t already been covered in depression introspection?
I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal tendencies since 1994. I ended up in a behavioral hospital in Jamaica, Queens back in June 2000. In November 2006, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wrote a post about it. I briefly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a stay in a psych hospital. In May 2010, I wrote a post about trying to conceive with mental illness. Little did I know that was part of my path in my infertility journey. (And little did I know there would be many a “spell caster” ready and willing to help
spam solve my infertility problem.) In September 2011, I dealt with severe anxiety. Now it’s May 2014 and I’m receiving treatment for postpartum depression after giving birth in the beginning of February 2014. Since 2004, I have taken the following medications (on and off) to help manage my mood and anxiety disorders:
Not a whole lot of meds compared to some people but it’s a wide and varied history for me. For the most part, I’ve tried to maintain a consistent attitude that medication can have a proper place in treating someone who seriously needs it. Heck, I’m currently on an Abilify-Prozac cocktail currently. I take Ativan for anxiety when necessary. I am not anti-medication.
Another thing that I need to work on is being more positive. My postpartum therapist tells me to “be kinder to” myself and to “be patient with” myself. I am hard on myself, in every aspect of life possible: Jesus following, wifelihood, motherhood, daughterhood, livelihood. Nothing is ever good enough for me when it’s done by me. I guess the problem is that I don’t know what being kinder to myself looks like and what being patient with myself looks like. This is something I’ll have to muse on quite a bit.
Someone tell me: why is the official color for mental health month puke neon green? Hmm…
Although I have a son, the pain of infertility still resonates with me. I still want to assist others who struggle with having children. I want to encourage others going through fertility treatments. I don’t want to look down upon the different options of fertility treatments. Each couple has their own path to parenthood. My husband and I chose the path that we were most comfortable with.
Stigma surrounds infertility. If you read through the Bible, it’s something women have struggled with since ancient times. Children are often seen as a blessing. What appears to be the “withholding” of children seems to be a curse. I struggled long and hard with feeling like I was cursed. That God was holding out on me. Each month of “no” that went by stung deeply. I simply wanted to be a mother. And that’s the desire of so many women. Some couples who get pregnant easily can be quick to deny alternate avenues of pregnancy for others.
The struggle with infertility is hard. I experienced it for nearly 5 years. Here are some of the things that I faced:
- Friends getting pregnant with their first, second, or FOURTH(!) child while my husband and I waited to conceive
- Invitations to baby showers that I either had to refuse or attend but leave early
- Failed intrauterine insemination (IUI), once known as artificial insemination
- Ridicule from a doctor who is supposed to be a top regional doctor in reproductive endocrinology
- The decision to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF)
The decision to pursue IVF was somewhat difficult. From a Christian perspective, my husband and I at first weren’t sure if we were “playing God” by taking matters into our own hands this way. But we came to the conclusion that God provided a miraculous way for infertile couples to conceive. We aren’t Christian scientists. We believe that God provided Tylenol and technology to help people recover from illness. Why can’t God be involved in the process of creating a child scientifically?
When I spoke to Christian friends and family about our decision to pursue IVF, everyone was supportive. My husband and I agreed beforehand that any viable embryos would not go to waste. Five eggs were extracted from me . While all five eggs fertilized successfully, only two were viable. We chose to freeze (cryopreserve) one and transfer the other. “The other” is now our 11-week-old son. We have a picture of him before he was transferred into my uterus.
I praise God for the existence of modern medicine, technology, and science that gave my husband and I the ability to conceive when we would otherwise likely be childless. Some Christians, however, have issues with infertility treatments, such as egg freezing, donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy. I think each couple has to come to a decision that they’re comfortable with. My husband and I were not comfortable with donor options and surrogacy. There was no need for egg freezing in our case. But for those who struggle with infertility, egg freezing, donor options, and surrogacy might be legitimate fertility routes although there may be legal complications with surrogacy.
A Christianity Today article, The Overlooked Ethics of Reproduction, questions the moral ramifications of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). I couldn’t help but feel a little indignant in reading the article. It was as if the author was passing judgment on Christians who chose to pursue various fertility options, namely surrogacy.
The fact that so many people fail to consider the moral implications of IVF suggests that in the age of fertility treatments, surrogates, and modern family-building via parenting partnerships, a woman’s womb has come to be seen as a somewhat arbitrary location.
As Christians, I think we need to consider the moral implications of ART but not be quick to dismiss them as evil or ungodly. Every couple (or perhaps woman) has a certain comfort level with ART. And if a Christian couple decides to do something that doesn’t seem to line up with biblical principles, such as abortion or discarding viable embryos, I think that is something they will have to eventually explain to God. That couple’s final authority is God, not man.
I’m a mother now. After nearly 5 years of waiting, a dream has come true. But I’m afraid. So many women become moms and their identity is swallowed up in their children. They forget they are individuals with likes and dislikes and revolve their worlds around their kids.
I don’t want that to be me. I want to continue being the Kass I was before I got pregnant without the incessant melancholy over infertility. However, I do want to pursue my own interests and take time to care for myself and feed my soul. I want to expand my interests and seek new horizons.
- I still want to be a part of the battle for others to overcome infertility.
- I want to champion awareness of mental illness: PPD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, and many other mood disorders.
- I want to expand my horizons professionally and attend conferences that will challenge me, engage me, and help me grow.
- I want to expand my horizons personally by connection with supportive women online and offline.
- I want to support non-profit organizations wholeheartedly, e.g., Postpartum Progress, Food for the Hungry, International Justice Mission, and Amnesty International.
- I want to educate the wider Christian community about fertility options and treatments.
- I want to enjoy my work as a library assistant.
- I want to enjoy my work as a freelance editor.
- I want to be a loving, supportive wife.
- I want to be able to splurge (occasionally) on myself.
I don’t want my identity to revolve around my son (as cute as he is).
I know, I know, I’m a Christian so my identity should be based on Christ. Perhaps it’s better to say that I don’t want my personality to be swallowed up by motherhood. The following is a list of things I plan to do for me—to remind myself life isn’t just about my son:
- I plan on treating a friend (and myself) to a massage for relaxation.
- I plan on registering for the Warrior Mom conference that takes place in 2015.
- I plan on being in a wedding in August.
- I plan on attending another friend’s wedding in August
- I plan on going to an editorial conference in September.
- I plan on attending an editor’s conference in March 2015.
I hope to enjoy life more. I want to blog more. A lot of people would add travel to that list. Nope, not me; I’m a happy homebody. I’ll see the Eiffel Tower on the Internet and not deal with turbulence on an airplane over the ATLANTIC OCEAN, kthxbai.
I want to see Justin Timberlake in concert again but not by myself. Alas, some dreams aren’t meant to be realized.
The majority of my pregnancy was difficult. Although I wasn’t on complete bed rest, a perinatologist (er, ultrasound doctor) evaluating my case recommended partial bed rest.
Where to begin? Read more…
This post isn’t exactly fun to write, but I am making it public in the hopes that it might help someone who may feel similarly. I’ve been seeing posts written by other women about the topic of postpartum adjustments and it feels important to add my voice to the mix. Read more…
It’s been a while since I’ve written about anything on this blog, mainly because I haven’t had much to write about. But after Shady Grove Fertility, which I will henceforth refer to as SGF, highlighted the brief mention I gave them on my end-of-summer update, I decided that I want to write about my TTC (trying to conceive) experience and the incredible role SGF and its staff played in my fertility journey. (I will be using the pronouns “my” and “me,” but please recognize that this fertility journey is really an “us” and “we” experience that includes my spouse.) P.S. This post may be a bit on the long side, so settle in with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Read more…