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.
Critics at their worst
Could never criticize
The way that you do
No, there’s no one else I find
To undermine or dash a hope
Quite like you
And you do it so casually, too
— Aimee Mann, “Nothing Is Good Enough”
I am my own worst critic. And the negativity and criticism have reached critical level in my head to the point where I have seriously considered suicide. I even had a plan, too. Won’t tell you what so I don’t give any ideas to others who might be vulnerable but it was a plan I was comfortable implementing.
I have cried a lot recently. Cried over my self-worth. Cried over the time PPD took me away from my child. Cried over my difficult relationship with my child.
I guess it’s kind of bad. I have this “Christian” faith in God. But when it comes down to it, the faith that once helped to keep me alive I have now, in actions, abandoned. I haven’t really found a good excuse to stay alive. Except for my husband. I know he’d be devastated without me.
And I mean, devastated.
On September 29, I enrolled in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) in attempt to avoid full hospitalization. (The last time I was hospitalized, I was almost sexually assaulted.) My actual PHP began on September 30. Insurance has approved 10 days in the program and I have only been able to attend 5 out of 8 days so far due to medication side effects and illness (the worst migraine of my life that lasted at least 48 hours).
I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety too. It prevents me from doing the most basic (and annoying) tasks. I had an anxiety attack over balancing my checkbook, checking my personal email, looking at my reactivated Facebook account. I refused to even try checking my work email for fear I’d get sucked into flipping out of work projects and concerned emails from coworkers.
My husband has repeatedly expressed his desire for me to live. I want to honor that. If for no one else, I am going to attempt to fight back against my suicidality and negative thoughts so he can enjoy the rest of his life with his life partner. I feel fight in me right now. I can’t promise that I’ll feel fight in me on Monday. But I’ll try to hold on to this feeling.
I was enrolled in a PHP after my full hospitalization back in 2006 and I don’t remember it being half as good or effective as it is now. While it was structured back then, it is even more structured now. There’s a pattern to it. A 50-minute pattern that I appreciate. It starts off with the full group participating in either yoga (Mondays and Fridays) or mindfulness meditation. Then we break off into 2 groups for a daily check-in where we rate and discuss how we are feeling that morning. Subsequently, the 2 groups combine for a class based on a specific topic, such as core beliefs, shame, self-care. (Quite honestly, this is the one “class” where many of us nod off. Sometimes it’s boring but sitting there as if it were a class is sleep inducing.) After that, we have lunch and then head into open group where we can discuss anything that is on our mind or help someone who is particularly troubled or struggling that day. Finally, we end the day with mindfulness meditation again and a “check-out” that allows us to rate how we are feeling at the end of our daily PHP.
Quite frankly, I never appreciated structure until this program. I always disliked structure because I felt like things would become “routine,” which of course was the point. I preferred variation, changing things up, and never knowing what might come next. But as I’ve gotten older, lack of structure bothers me. It drives me nuts. Life with a toddler is anything BUT structured. Never knowing each day whether I’m going to work late is NOT routine. Structure doesn’t have to be precise or exact. Group doesn’t always end exactly at 12:20 pm before lunch like it should. Sometimes it ends at 12:17 pm. Sometimes it ends at 12:25 pm and cuts into our lunch a bit. And that’s okay with me. It’s a simple reminder that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and I can get back on track as soon as I am able.
My PHP experience is teaching me quite a bit. I’m learning to forgive myself and be patient with myself. To not be so quick to criticize myself when I screw up or to spew negative words at myself when I’m not perfect. I’ve identified a few core beliefs that are extremely negative and cause me to feel worthless and hopeless. I’ve learned that shame causes me to be impatient with myself, to not settle for being anything less than “perfect,” and causes my inner worth to feel tainted.
I’ve also identified several aspects of self-care for myself. I’m not sure how to incorporate them daily but weekly may have to do. A few activities that I consider to be self-care include the following:
- journaling or blogging
- listening to secular music in the comfort of my home
- writing a short story or novel (yes!)
- spending time with friends
- reading the Bible
- listening to Christian music that inspires me
- attending church regularly and being part of a community
To help manage much of my anxiety, I have learned breathing techniques and grounding techniques. I never knew there were actually tangible things I could do to calm myself. I’d rather use these techniques before popping a Xanax.
So my PHP has been extremely helpful for me, and I’m really trying to absorb all of the information provided to me. I’m not ready to return to work yet. I still need to get my medication adjusted to the right dosage that allows me to function regularly (eg, lack of day drowsiness, lack of extreme morning grogginess, absence of headaches and nausea). I still have a weird jittery side effect whenever I’m still or at rest so I’m hoping that eventually goes away.
One of my primary tasks is deconstructing the core beliefs about myself.
- I can’t do it.
- I don’t fit in.
- I’m a loser.
- I’m worthless.
- I’m not as smart or talented as others so I’m no good.
- I’m boring.
- I’m not important
- I’m not capable.
- I’m stupid.
- I’m ugly.
- My thoughts are dumb.
- My opinions aren’t wanted.
I’m having a moment where I feel like many of those things aren’t true. But WOULD TO GOD if I always thought that way. The first step to breaking down my negative core beliefs is simply identifying them. Somehow, I’ll need to move from there. (I have a handout about this but it’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors so I’ll have to find something on the Internet.) 🙂
There’s a better story
Of true love of true grace
There’s the hope of glory
And our first chance to be truly brave
It’s the place we’re going
When we can’t stay where we are
— Sara Groves, “Rewrite This Tragedy”
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.
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…