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.
I’m worlds better than I was in August, September, and October. After trying different medications (and getting back on my Vitamin D and fish oil with omega-3s), I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. Bubbly me. Not exactly cheerful but normal. I’m on a max therapeutic dosage for lithium and Lamictal along with reduced dosages of Prozac and Ability. The combination seems to be helping. I just saw my psychiatrist and he didn’t want to tinker with a good thing. I was in such a good mood that I drove myself to and from Philly safely and considered walking into his office as though I were manic. But I decided against that and just let him see my bubbly disposition.
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” — Stuart Smalley
I haven’t really had suicidal thoughts lately. Not like when Robin Williams died. It’s like I took his death and internalized it to a point where I felt hopeless. Not like I knew the guy, but he was so vibrant and full of life that I couldn’t imagine living a life any better than he did.
I’m looking into a new daycare for my son. I was looking for something a little more local, but I just found out that he shares a crib with another baby at his current daycare. Even though the workers sanitize and put clean sheets down, it still rankles me that my son shares a crib with another baby. He should have his own! It could help explain why my son has been consistently sick with a cold since August.
My postpartum depression, I think, is getting better. I’m still afraid to care for my son when no one’s around. But I hope to use a few days in December to take care of him while everyone’s at work and show myself that I am capable of that. I need tackle this particular anxiety head on.
Perhaps this is a blog post that belongs on my other blog, depression introspection, but this blog has been rather active so I prefer to post the following here.
My psychiatrist has added two more medications to my regimen. I was on Abilify and Prozac daily. I took Ativan as needed. Now, I’m on Abilify, Lamictal, and Prozac daily with Xanax as needed. Read more…
You turn the radio on
Play your favorite song
~Sarah McLachlan: In Her Shoes~
I’m battling. Warrior mom FTW (For The Win).
I want to share how my day at the Philadelphia Climb Out of the Darkness event went. It was fantastic.
I met several amazing and inspiring women who had been through some form of perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. It meant a lot to me because the women there were able guide me out of darkness and into light. Even, if only, for a few hours. I was able to watch children happily run around, share my story with other women, and receive an amazing massage. I also was able to receive 3 hours of doula care from Main Line Doulas. I connected with a sweet n’ sassy counselor at the Postpartum Stress Center. The event organizer for Philadelphia, Heidi, is an amazing woman who encouraged me with her own story of climbing out of the darkness. And to meet Heidi’s mom, the official photographer, was such a blessing because it reminded me that we all can find support from somewhere.
I was originally supposed to meet up with a more local group at Valley Forge but due to communication issues (I’m looking right at you, Yahoo! Mail), I missed out. But that’s all right because I connected with the climb leader, Christy, who is A-MAY-ZING. My husband believes I was able to make a better connection with her as a result of my email snafu, and I have to say it’s been a blessing just getting to know her.
I have to recognize several women in my postpartum journey who have helped me above and beyond their call of duty: in person—my mother-in-law, Chris and my friends Rachael D., Karen W., Christine R., and K.C.; online—A’Driane, Lauren, and the many, many of you who left positive uplifting comments in my blog post, Heaven Can Wait.
Today was a difficult day. I was depressed from the moment I woke up (thank God the baby was with the grandparents overnight) and I could barely get out of bed to brush my teeth and shower. Life just seems so bleak. So many women have echoed in my ears, “It gets better,” and I really hope it does. I’m holding onto the hope of other women.
You turn the radio on
Play your favorite song
And sing out
~Sarah McLachlan: In Her Shoes~
Feeling hopeless. Like a disappointment. Like a failure.
Having someone take care of my son part-time feels like a failure on my part. Like I can’t hack this mom thing.
Oh, and I just got my yearly reminder in the mail: I have a frozen embryo on tap. What do I want to do with it?
I want to discard it. Because I can’t imagine that I can be a good mother a second time around. I’m having a hard time being a good mom THIS time around.
But I won’t. My morals (belief in the value of life and all that jazz) won’t let me do that.
Postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD—all of it—has taken a hold of my soul and won’t let go. I have cried several times this week. More times than I’ve cried since the sixth week of my son’s life.
The screechy crying. It’s like the wail of a dying baby. It never ceases to freak me out. I feel like such a horrible mom for strapping him into the car seat while he’s crying and then the high-pitched wail reverberates through the car sending figurative splinters under my nails.
I still have thoughts of suicide but little impulse to act upon it. Right now.
I’m still here.
(I think this is the month for Michael Jackson quotations. I mean, after all, he did pass away during the month of June.)
Where do I begin?
If you’re reading this after having recently commented on my last post, Heaven Can Wait, thank you. I always felt alone and as though I didn’t really matter in the world. Then came a storm of warrior moms (I can see why they call y’all warrior moms now!) to my rescue. They encouraged me that things will get better. That this too shall pass. That I am not alone.
The sun is beginning to peek through the overcast sky in my life. I’m feeling worlds better than Tuesday. And even better than when Saturday when I replied to many of your comments.
I am working with a therapist at the Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, PA and we have come up with a solution that can make me an even better mom: have someone else care for my son part-time. Whether that means part-time daycare or a part-time nanny, it will allow me the space and opportunity to take of myself while supporting my family. While I was pregnant, my husband and I decided that I should be a “full-time” stay-at-home mom and work part-time (I work at a library 2 to 3 days a week). Now, it’s looking as though I will be a “part-time” stay-at-home mom who also works part-time. Perhaps getting another caregiver to help me with my son is not me being a bad mom; it’s a way for me to keep my sanity, keep myself alive, and keep myself involved in my son’s life.
I have a call in to my psychiatrist to see him sooner than July 29. I had been doing so well…
I don’t know how many warrior moms are reading this, but I can’t say thank you enough to everyone for their encouragement. It means a lot to hear from other women who have been where I am and tell me to keep going.
Also, Postpartum Progress is a major resource that I’ve been able to use (and raise funds for!). I also want to send a shout-out to Lauren H. (@unxpctdblessing) who runs #PPDChat on Twitter. That group of women was there for me before I even got help.
I had hoped to participate in a local Climb Out of the Darkness in my area, but I don’t know if that will happen. In the meantime, here’s a video celebrating many of the warrior moms who have reclaimed their lives against perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.