Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

Before I start this post, I just want to preface with this:

My intention here is to show postpartum depression and anxiety in a way that can be real to you & for anyone out there struggling with it (or any baby or non-baby-related mood disorders) to not feel ashamed or alone. Please do not feel sorry for me! I am the luckiest mama, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, & friend on the planet and I’m so privileged to have the love and support of such awesome people!

So here we go.

It’s funny, we’ve been talking about starting this blog for a while, so I’ve been keeping a list in my notes on my phone of topics to write about for months, even before Wren was born. On this list was “postpartum anxiety”. I put it on the list before I even had Wren, because I knew it was going to become a reality for me.

There are a few different types of “mood disorders” that can occur postpartum. According to americanpregnancy.org, the “baby blues” is considered the least severe of the forms of postpartum depression and typically subsides within 2 weeks of delivery. This affects nearly 80% of women, which isn’t incredibly surprising considering the rapid shift in hormones that occurs after the baby is born and the mother is no longer pregnant. Postpartum depression is more severe & longer lasting than the baby blues. It includes more intense symptoms & postpartum anxiety is often umbrella’d under it. “Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after birth, but may begin later — up to 6 months after birth.” The rarest and most severe form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. “This can lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.”

General anxiety is something I’ve struggled with for years. I think it’s probably been hanging around for most of my life, but it’s just always kind of been my normal. In an effort to be totally transparent- I will share that I was on anxiety meds for about a year (while Aaron was deployed- way too much for me to handle without some help) & I have gone through two rounds, for lack of a better term, of counseling. At the time, the meds were the right choice for me and really helped take the panicky edge off of my feelings. Both times I went to counseling were incredibly helpful & I definitely learned great skills to help manage my anxiety and keep it mostly at bay. At any rate, I knew my anxiety would be fueled by the hormones, exhaustion, & fears as a first-time-mom.

After Wren was born, I was definitely hormonal and emotional. Like most new moms, I was overwhelmed & exhausted. We’d had a complicated delivery (you can read that story *here, here, & here*) and were about to embark on a cross country move with a newborn and 3 dogs. I felt like most of my feelings were totally in the normal realm of the baby blues, especially considering the huge changes we had coming. After the big move and once things settled down, I felt pretty okay for a little while. I had some (what I could consider) normal-first-time-mom-anxiety about if Wren Marí was eating enough, if I was doing things right, etc., but it didn’t feel out of control. I was able to let these things pass and generally enjoy my days and my time with little girl & my husband.

Then, about two months ago (about 3.5 months postpartum), it started to get worse. What had worked for me in the past to keep my anxiety in check was no longer sufficient. I definitely did not realize it at the time and can only now look back and see when the change happened. It didn’t occur to me that I could be having postpartum anxiety & depression so long after her birth. I was generally not enjoying my days and I was spending a lot of time preoccupied in fear, which made me depressed. I’ve been asked what it is that I worry about, but truly, that part is unimportant. It’s the irrational, overwhelming feeling that can allow what was once a “normal” concern to snowball into 480 worst case scenarios that play on repeat in my mind. It’s the fact that feeling this way interferes with my life & my relationships — preventing me from being the best mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, etc., that I can be. The best way I can think to describe it is as if I’ve somehow ended up stranded in rough surf, fighting to stay above water, but exhausted from the struggle. I won’t give up, but I’m so tired.

So anyway, let me tell you a story. This is embarrassing for me to admit, but it’s just part of my truth. A Friday morning, about two weeks ago, Aaron was out running errands. He’d seen an ad for the local roller derby that had a game (is that what they’re called?) that evening. We’d been talking about going to one of these for seriously years, so he excitedly texted me about it & suggested we go that night. I responded that yes, that sounded fun & we should check it out, but I immediately started to worry. What if we got into a car accident? What if someone flew off the roller rink (?) and smashed into us? What if Wren picked up some kind of awful illness while we were out? What if? What if? What if? I spent the entire day silently worrying about all the possible awful things that could happen on our way to, & at, the event. I couldn’t focus on anything. Thankfully, some tiny, rational piece of my mind stopped me in my tracks. “Do you realize you’re avoiding going out in public because you’re afraid?” Woah. How did I get here? This is not who I am or who I want to be. I was so overwhelmed with fear and guilt. I knew something had to change.

So I told Aaron. I’m sure he could tell that I’d been off for a while, but probably didn’t realize (just as I hadn’t) how far away I’d gotten. Just sharing my feelings lifted such a huge weight off me. It can feel so very isolating to be so lost in your own head. We talked about it and I decided I wanted to go to the roller derby. It was really fun & I’m so glad we went. In a way, I’m so thankful that my anxiety reached this extreme because it helped me to see just enough through the fog to help me find my way out of it. I also found out that a previous hairdresser of mine is apparently a roller derby champ. Maybe I should go see her instead of getting my hair cut at Great Clips again… (hashtag mom probs).

Since then, I’ve been very intentional about being aware of my thoughts and trying to stop myself when I begin to stumble. Some of the things that I’ve found that help me are:

  • Exercise
  • Spending time outside with my family
  • Working on projects/hobbies
  • Reading
  • Staying in frequent communication with family & friends
  • Church
  • Ice cream & cookies (let’s be real)

Sometimes these things work & sometimes they don’t. This is a process that I know I’ll be working on for a long time to come, probably forever.

In doing some of the research for this post, I came across something that said  “This isn’t about positive thinking — it’s about being rational,” and that really says it perfectly for me. This isn’t about being glass-half-full or empty. This is about staying conscious of when my fears and worries “overshoot reality.” I certainly don’t have the answers, but I know that with the support of my family & friends, I will continue to push & grow through this.

I hope that if you are experiencing depression or anxiety, you know that you aren’t alone! Finding your happy again looks different for everyone, so don’t give up until you find the thing(s) that works for you.

~~~

http://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/the-other-postpartum-problem-anxiety/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/symptoms/con-20029130

http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues/

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The Birth of our Baby Bird

I think I should preface this one with a disclaimer: I’m not one for a lot of build-up and back-story. The experience of seeing my baby girl come barreling into the world does not begin with ultrasounds, lab work, and weeks upon weeks upon months of agonizing over preparations and plans. All of that stuff occupies a separate compartment in my mind. Our baby girl wasn’t quite a little human to me until the morning she was born. I had tried my hardest, having been through a miscarriage in the past, not to become a father to my daughter until she was in my arms, breathing and crying and squealing. Of course I have a grasp on reality, but I am also firmly rooted in the pragmatic and I am really cautious and reserved when it comes to investing emotion into anything. I like to remain in control of myself, regardless of the circumstances… Continue reading “The Birth of our Baby Bird”

Wren’s Birth Story, Part 2

Once the doctor broke my bag of waters, my cervix closed back up a little bit on one side. After being fully dilated at 10cm, I was now 9.5cm, and it was no longer safe to push. We spent the next 2.5 or so hours trying to get that part of my cervix to open back up but had no such luck. I was in an incredible amount of pain and had no break between contractions. They were just on top of each other and I was starting to get really desperate. The nurses kept being sure I’d progressed to 10cm again & were constantly checking my cervix to see if we were ready.

Aaron was so great during all of this and was doing whatever he could to help me. They had me laying on my side in bed for a while to see if gravity would help the cervical lip & let me tell you, contractions while laying down were a bitch (pardon my language). When a contraction would come, I would just grab whatever part of Aaron my hand landed on and squeeze until it was over. At one point, I grabbed his shirt and accidentally yanked a handful of chest hair. Whoopsie! Poor guy.

We tried so many positions and nothing was doing the trick to get me fully dilated again. I was starting to feel very pushy but they were telling me I could NOT push until I was 10cm (obviously). I truly did not know what to do and was struggling to fight against what my body was telling me to do. I was having a really hard time not pushing, so I opted for the smallest dose of phentanyl to try to help me catch my breath. I was hoping to get ahead so that I’d be ready when it was time to push. However, it didn’t help at all with the pain & ended up making me just fall asleep between contractions.

Finally, one of the nurses decided to try to force my cervix the rest of the way. She kept her hand on my cervix trying to push it to 10cm through several contractions. HOLY hell, this was AWFUL. After what felt like an eternity, it finally gave way. That was probably (definitely) the most uncomfortable part of the entire labor. I remember actually asking the nurse to take her hand out of me for just one contraction because I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Anyway, they decided I was ready to start pushing. My doc said to go ahead and start and she was going to run to check on someone else and would be back in a few minutes. So we start some “practice” pushes. On the second (I think?) contraction, I pushed Wren into the birth canal and her head was starting to crown. The doc was not back yet because again, they had assumed I’d be pushing for a long while since I’m a first time mom. I remember thinking Wren was half way out already from the way it felt, but they told me she wasn’t.

So, with the baby in the birth canal and her head crowning, they were telling me “DON’T PUSH! Breathe like this!”. So I was trying as hard as I could to breathe and not push, but the next big contraction came and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It’s incredible how your body just takes over. I remember saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t help it!”. Aaron said I had the most apologetic look on my face. So with that contraction, my baby girl flew out all at once! My husband videoed it and it really is amazing to see her fly out from head to toe in a half of a second. One nurse, who I later found out was on orientation, just barely caught her and the second nurse was still running over putting her gloves on.

Wren was crying right away and they set her on my tummy. The cord was around her neck, so I unwrapped it. You can hear them in the video saying, “Mom coming in clutch unwrapping the cord.” I guess they had paged the doc in the midst of all of that insanity, so she came in and started washing up and said “Ok, are we ready to have a baby?!” and the nurses were like, “Uh, she’s already here.” Wren was doing perfectly, so they let us continue skin-to-skin.

Once the doctor was washed up, she asked me to push once and she tugged on the cord (we will come back to this later) and my placenta came right out. At this point, I was bleeding pretty profusely. I was still pretty out of it from the pure exhaustion of labor and increasing blood loss, so I didn’t really know what was going on. They said they were going to give me more phentanyl & some local anesthetic and work on cleaning me up. They worked on me for what seemed to be about 30 minutes, but was apparently about 2 hours.

I don’t remember much from this part but I do remember that I got to keep Wren the whole time. I just looked & looked at her perfect little self. I also remember the doc counting how many gauze pads she was putting in and taking out of me and saying a few times that we might have to go to surgery. I didn’t have a clue what was going on but was honestly too tired and mesmerized to care. They finally got things under control and then explained to me what had happened. I’d had a partial uterine inversion… AKA: My uterus had tried to come out with the baby. I just barely escaped having to have a hysterectomy & I lost a lot of blood. The doctor was finally able to slow the bleeding and push my uterus back into place. Due to my blood loss, I was right on the edge of needing a blood transfusion however, the doctor said I could supplement with iron if I preferred, which is what we chose to do.

I had to stay flat on my back for the following 24 hours to ensure that my uterus wouldn’t try to come out again. I had to be spoon fed by Aaron or a nurse, use a bedpan, and breastfeed all while laying completely flat on my back. Thankfully, my amazing baby girl has been a champion nurser from day 1, so we were still able to establish a wonderful breastfeeding relationship. I also had the most amazing nurse who went way above and beyond. She stayed with me and chatted and helped with the baby when Aaron had to go home to take care of our dogs and get the house ready. She even brought me a more comfortable hospital bed from a different part of the hospital that had better beds. I am so thankful for this. Being flat on your back for 24 straight hours after labor & delivery is pretty miserable. Funny side note- she had noticed my nail polish color & liked it, so the next morning she came in to check on me and showed me that she’d gone and gotten hers done that color, too. We were instantly buds (I guess that happens when someone is literally dealing with your shit) & she truly made a huge difference in my experience.

My doctor came later that day & told us that we had been in a “true obstetric emergency”. I guess this isn’t something that had happened at this particular hospital before and she said that the OBGYN’s at the hospital had been talking about how to handle inversions in future situations. She also said that she was thankful to have previously worked at a hospital that dealt with high risk pregnancies, so she’d experienced an inversion before and knew how to handle it.

That day I also received a visit from the hospital CEO. He said that he visits different units in the hospital every day to see how things are going & that this was just routine, but I’m a little suspicious that it had something to do with our emergency situation.

The rest of our story is pretty simple… we went home that Friday, November 20th, 2 days after Wren came into the world. She was as healthy as could be from day 1 and was already at her birth weight again after only 3 days. I healed relatively quickly & my blood levels were normalized after about 3 weeks. My uterus has stayed put and I shouldn’t have any problems getting pregnant again (well not anymore than we already have).

The doctor did said say that I will likely not be able to have anymore natural labors. She said that a second uterine inversion is likely and since my first labor was so fast, I would probably have to have a “very controlled” induction at 38 weeks where they pull the baby out with forceps while someone holds my uterus inside me. This seems a little extreme to me and after further research, I’m not sure I’ll be taking her advice here.

So that’s our long, crazy, beautiful story of how we got our little baby bird, Wren Marí.

A few thoughts after my birth experience…

First, I think that the uterine inversion was likely caused by my doctor pulling on the placenta. That is a HUGE no-no & a known cause of inversions. Doctors KNOW this, so I’m not sure if she was just in a hurry or didn’t believe that it could really happen. I think she knew she messed up & I think this is also why I was visited by the hospital CEO. They are all very lucky that I healed well & won’t have any lasting repercussions from her actions.

I’d made a birth plan and given a copy to my doctor, but I wish I had made sure to go over each part of it with her. There are a lot of things that I wish we had done differently that I think would have made a difference in our labor & delivery experience. I think we could have avoided a lot of the drama.

Things that were in my birth plan that didn’t happen:

-I had a lot of things I was going to tell myself during labor that I knew would help me get through it. For example, “don’t fight against the contraction” and even something as simple and obvious as, “this is temporary & your baby girl is just hours (or less!) away.” I could NOT think anything at all during labor & I should have made sure Aaron knew these.

-I did not want my water broken. There is NO reason the waters need to be broken before the baby is born and I wish I’d just let my body do its job.

-I did not want to be told when to start pushing. I wanted to wait until my body started pushing on its own and push as my body directed me, rather than pushing as the doctors counted & instructed.

-I wanted to allow my placenta to come on it’s own. The body will contract again to expel the placenta without any direction from a doctor, and I feel pretty strongly that if this had happened naturally, I wouldn’t have had the inversion.

In the end though, we got a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She didn’t have any health problems as a result of our experience & for that I am SO grateful. I am hopeful that we will get pregnant again and that I’ll be able to use Wren’s birth experience to help us have a more drama-free labor & delivery.

If you’ve had a baby, do you have things you wish you’d done differently? If you’ve had more than one, do you feel like your experience with the first helped for the second or third babies? If you haven’t had kids yet, have you thought about how you’d like your labor & delivery experience to go? Share with us, we’d love to hear from you!