Why I Climb

17 Jun

I haven’t blogged or written in FOR-EVAH, but this is an occasion where I feel the need to sit down and let my fingers do the walking… on my keyboard…. errrh. Ehem. (25 points to those who are old enough to know that reference!)

I have read a lot of powerful and personal stories from women, over the past 6 months, about their harrowing journeys with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.  The worst of the worst–postpartum psychosis–is a hell I can’t even imagine and I know several women that had it. My experience doesn’t even come close to that.  I didn’t hear voices, I didn’t have delusions, and I didn’t have to check on the baby 25 times a night to see if she was ok. Actually, on the contrary, I hardly ever checked on her. The rational part of my brain told me that she was fine, and the tiny little messed up part said, “if she’s not breathing, she’s already dead so I might as well sleep.”

So many stories I have read and heard about this year have to do with incomprehension, denial, shame and fear. A common thread among women who experience perinatal mood disorders is that they either do not believe they need help or are scared to admit it. Only 15% of women who need help seek and receive help.

I was one of those 15%. My story is not about over coming shame or stigma. My story is about a lack of awareness and  the inadequate mental health resources for women’s maternal mental health.

I tried for a long time to get pregnant with Beatrice. I went to GREAT LENGTHS with drugs and fertility treatments, ultimately deciding to do an IVF cycle.  IVF is no joke and not for the faint hearted.  I had to take my needles and medicine on a plane. My husband had to give me a shot in the butt at precisely 9pm at my sister in laws wedding, and then I had to take a town car back to Baltimore to be at the clinic by 8 am for bloodwork.

I was thrilled when I heard I was pregnant.  I was excited, scared, and then… I was sick.  Up until that point, I had never felt so sick in my life (until 2 years later when I got pregnant with Bea’s brother… another story. Ugh.)  So, it didn’t take long into my pregnancy to start not liking the whole thing.

“Oh my gosh but its so worth it in the end.” If I heard that once I heard it 50 times. Shut. Up. Please.

But the 2nd and third trimester were pretty good. Once the illness subsided I was more excited.  I was REALLY excited when we knew it was a girl.  We decorated her room, bought clothes, and did all the things parents do when they are expecting their first child. I kept hearing how wonderful being a parent was going to be.  Why did no one tell me?

I had Beatrice via a c-section on September 2nd, 2010.  I was disappointed we ended up with a c-section, but my body wasn’t cooperating. I was tired and in pain.  The OR is not the most warm and cozy place to have a baby, but my rational brain (again) said… women do this here every day.

I heard her cry. Check. I heard them confirm it was a girl. Check. “Can I see her? When can I see her? I want to see her face?” They brought her to me and I saw the sweetest little face I’d ever seen. It was like I had known her all along.

She nursed for a bit and then the nurses carried her off.  I went back to my room and begged for food and ginger ale. Then I tried to sleep. And they were back again in a few hours. I tried nursing again.  The next day I was sore and tired and trying to heal from surgery that, had I not been delivering a baby,  would have placed me on strict bed rest and limited mobility. But they kept coming in. Visitors. Doctors. The damn photographer lady. Nurses.  Checking the baby, checking the baby, checking the baby. Pressing on my stomach.  At my request, the lactation ladies and nurses helped me many times but she was losing weight. We tried the syringe thingy.  I finally gave her a bottle on her 3rd day. That night I woke up crying. I didn’t know why.

The morning we left I was a mess. I begged my mom to come straight home with us, instead of that evening as she said she would. I came home with her and didn’t know what to do. Clean? Do laundry? sleep? Eat? Write thank you notes? Call people? That night she cried ALL. NIGHT. LONG. My husband and mom were up with her for a while and she fell asleep in my arms in the bed at 4:30 am. Bob tried to move her to the pack n play and I said no. I wasn’t about to move an inch. I think she was hungry. The next day at the pediatricians office she had lost even more weight and my pediatrician said I needed to nurse every two hours. “But what about at night?”  Every two hours. What?

At this point, I have to tell you, I hated everything about being a parent. By day FIVE. My nipples were sore and forming scabs.  I tried to rest but people kept calling and coming over. At night time I could’t fall asleep because I was frozen with anxiety that she would wake up at any minute. I cried all the time. People would ask how I was doing, and I would answer honestly “Not good.”  No one usually expected that answer. Bob would give Bea a bottle overnight and after a few more days her weight stabilized. I went back and forth between bottle feeding and nursing.  I hated nursing. I hated pumping even more. I called my pediatricians office three times to ask how to wean her off without too much pain (sobbing through the phone). But every time I’d say I was done, my boobs would hurt and I’d say “just one more.”

“Oh but its so worth it in the end.”

“They are only this little once, cherish it while you can.” No, you f**king cherish it. I wasn’t eating. I was hardly sleeping. I hated hearing her cry. I just wanted quiet. I wanted to run away. I wanted to just go sit in a cool movie theater for three hours and eat popcorn. I was chained to this child, who was just a thing.  My body was no longer mine. My time was no longer mine. My boobs were no longer mine. I missed my husband. We were so tired we barely had normal conversations. One time, after a particularly painful nursing session (scabs people… scabs and blood) I was crying to my mom “I just want to give up.” She said, its ok you don’t have to breastfeed. I said “No, I want to give up being a mom. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it.”

I cried when my mom finally went home after a week (home being 20 minutes away).

Somewhere in the beginning of that second week, I knew I needed relief. Not much time passed in between crying spurts. I was still nursing, but we were also supplementing with formula. I was STILL having to feed her every 2-3 hours but between 12-6 I was instructed not to wake her to feed anymore. Have you ever spent a LOT of money on something, only to get it home and totally hate it? Or, as a kid, see a toy on TV, only once you saw it in person be totally let down?  This is what parenting was for me.  I regretted my decision to have a baby. After all that trying and all the effort we went to, I was convinced this was a mistake. Huge. Mistake. One day, while out for a walk with her, there was a bus coming down the road. I thought, just for a brief second, how tragic and awful it would be if the bus hit the stroller. But then at least I would get to sleep tonight, I said to myself.

My rational brain said that she would grow up one day and sleep longer stretches, but I did not know how I could survive in the meantime. I knew these kinds of intrusive thoughts didn’t mean I was crazy or that I would hurt my baby, but instead were a sign my brain was not working on all cylinders. I knew I was depressed and needed help. I went onto my insurers website and looked up psychiatrists that treated post partum depression.  Three of the numbers were disconnected or no longer in service. One of the doctors had moved on from the practice. The other didn’t have a time slot for me for another month.

In the meantime I had scheduled a check up with my OB, prior to my 6 week scheduled check up.  I told her I thought I was depressed.  She prescribed me 50mg of zoloft and told me to find a therapist or psychiatrist or both.

I had great friends at the time (still do) who were very supportive and checked in on me. One of them happened to be a psychiatric resident at Georgetown. She asked her boss if she had any referrals for me in Baltimore. She did. I called. They did not take insurance. It was uber expensive. They could see me in a couple of weeks. Bob and I decided the cost was not a deterrent since this was my health we were talking about.

My intake appointment was with the director of the clinic. We talked for two hours.  I hesitated when I referred to Beatrice as my daughter. It still felt so weird. I was given a higher dose of zoloft and referred to a therapist.

I continued to be beguiled by how shocked people were that I was not happy to have a baby.  I was brutally honest when I spoke to people.  I did not understand why a) no one told me how hard it was to have a newborn and b) why no one was anywhere near as concerned about me as they were about the baby.  Some people understood. Most did not.  And then the childless people who would squeal and say how cute she was and how they wanted one.  “Take her,” I would say.  OH hahahahaha.  No, really.

When Bea was about four months old, my therapist told me she was going on medical leave and referred me to another therapist.  I made one appointment with him. I left feeling like it was a waste of time. I emailed my old therapist and said “I appreciate your referral but I feel like maybe I am doing well enough that I don’t need to continue with him.”  She wrote back and said “I think so too.”

So, here I was, someone who was trying to get help.  I KNEW what was going on. I knew I needed medication and to talk to someone to feel like everything was going to be ok. So I reached out. And I got jack squat at every turn. Had my friend not been a doctor, I am not sure how different my story would have been. Had we not been able to afford the $1100 appointment fee (you read that right), what would I have done? Seen some random dude who was treating drug addicts and doing marriage counseling right after he saw me? Gone to someone who didn’t know the research about SSRIs and breastfeeding?

Not everyone has a friend that is a psychiatrist or a doctor. Not everyone has great insurance or can afford big out of pocket costs. So, if, for me, someone who had those things, who knew she needed help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, it was a difficult process to navigate, what about the other moms? What about the moms who think they are abnormal and afraid to speak up? Or the ones that don’t even know where to begin to look for help? What about the families and support systems who tell them they just need to “put on a smile and be thankful for each moment”? What about the women who don’t realize this can happen DURING pregnancy? Or the ones who are too afraid to speak up for fear they are in danger of having their children taken away?

We need awareness. We need education.  Yes.  But once every mom is aware….once every mom is educated… and once they begin to reach out for help….

Where will they go?????????

If only 15% of us are seeking treatment, what will happen when that number reaches 25%, 30%, 50%?  We need resources. We need pediatricians, OBs and General Practitioners who understand the research and statistics.  We need LCSW’s, therapists, counselors and psychiatrists to receive special training in this area. We need screening and follow up on hospital discharge.  We need warriors on the front line, talking to policy makers about all of this. We need a place to ask questions. We need to connect with other moms and know we are not alone.

This is Why I Climb.

Please help us help the mommies. Donate to our fundraiser to help Postpartum Progress reduce stigma, raise awareness and be a peer resource for mothers dealing with perinatal mood disorders.

#warriorhons

I did it again….

23 Jul

I found this old blog in my draft pile from NOVEMBER 2013.  I don’t know why I didn’t publish it.  Maybe it was hitting too close to home.  I am glad I saved it.  I remember this day well…

___________________________________________________________

Well I did it again.  Another blog post.  Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m referring to.   Today, while sleepily walking through the soda aisle at Safeway, trying to find Ginger Ale in a can for my daughter, who threw up at 4:30 am, I found myself silently wishing I could trade places with someone that did not have children.

There.  I said it.  I’m awful.  I know.

I have been down this road a few times this year.  First, for some God awful reason, my children keep getting stomach bugs.  Why not colds? Seriously, why not.  No, its always the stomach bug, and I think, if I am counting properly, this is our third time around since January.  Sick kids always suck, but the stomach bug is the ninja of all bugs, and inevitably it goes from one kid to the other and then to me and/or Bob.  So, if we are keeping track: second worst thing ever is a sick kid, worst thing ever is a sick kid plus a sick parent. Oh and worst, worst thing infinity is sick parents and two sick kids.  Been there.

Then, as many of you know, I weathered more difficulties with Post Partum Depression this winter after having Gus.

“Oh the second one is soooo much easier!” they said.

“Your recovery will be so quick!” they said.

“You will wonder why you thought it was so hard the first time!”

“Breastfeeding will be a breeze this time around,” I heard.  Umm, no. Actually everything was fucking hard as shit, much harder than it was when I had Bea and further complicated by the fact that I now had a two year old and then got it in my head that it would be a much better experience with the second.  I should have known better. **Disclaimer: Every kid is different, if you are pregnant with or thinking of having #2, he/ she may very well be easier than your first.  Just wasn’t the case for me.

So, back to Safeway.  I had been up since 4:30 (or 5:30 or whatever you want to call it since the clocks “fell” back), I was exhausted, downtrodden, hungry and I had a headache.  I was getting Ginger Ale, popsicles and a few other things.  And then…they walked by.

That couple.  You know them.  They were about 26 or 27. They were in their workout clothes. Probably just came from the gym.  She was wearing tight yoga pants, long hair in a pony tail, hot pink Nikes and weighed about 110 pounds.  He was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers and clearly hadn’t shaved.  That familiar feeling waved over me as they passed me by (with their little basket–pffft).  Somewhere between envy and indignation that voice in my head said, “Man, you guys don’t know how good you have it.”

And let me tell you, that feeling–that feeling RIGHT there–is the kind of feeling that every mom has had at one point or another.  I don’t care who you are.  Sometimes we feel it with a side of wistful remembrance. Sometimes with a little jealousy. And sometimes with desperation–as in, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE build me a time machine so I can be you again for just one day!  That feeling of being trapped; of wanting to break away but not being able to.  Not that I wanted to go anywhere, but the principle of the fact that I was stuck in the house with these people, waiting for my insides to twist as it became my turn for the black death…. well, that feeling could easily have turned into resentfulness.  It’s a defeatist, useless way to think, but sometimes you have a bad day and your mind wanders over to that place.  Women with PPD or depression tend to do that to themselves. It’s called catastrophic thinking.

Anyway, as I kept walking in the grocery store, I made a conscious effort to stop myself from going down that road.  I asked myself, What is this girl going to do for the rest of the day, and how great is it, REALLY?

Well, it was Sunday.  So chances are, she and the boy were going to go home, shower and head off to their local watering hole to watch football.  They will meet other single friends there and some couples, too.  They will drink a good amount of beer, eat some wings and probably be home by 9:00.  Maybe they live together, maybe not. Maybe he spends the night, maybe not.

She will wake up tomorrow a little groggy because she had too much Miller Lite and shame herself for ordering the wings AND the burger (must hit gym hard tonight, she thinks). She will go to work and talk to her coworkers about her weekend.  She and the boy exchange a few texts and emails.   Maybe they are talking about what to do for dinner.  If they don’t live together, they are planning their next get together.  Who’s house will they sleep at?  Who’s friends will they hang out with?  If they do live together she might say she’s making something for dinner tonight (fair assumption since they were at the grocery store today).

I should pause the story for a moment and admit that I overheard the girl telling the checkout guy that they had been together three-and-a-half years.  No ring.  So this was obviously a committed relationship.  Ok. Unpause.

She probably has a pretty good job, but is at a point in her career where she is ready for a bigger challenge.  She may go back to school. She may have decided that she is in the wrong line of work.  She might be perfectly happy where she is, but she knows in the next year or two, she needs to go somewhere: Up, over or out.

She is happy, yes.  She is free. She is independent.  She is strong.  But, she is also that same girl that stares at my babies with googly lovey-dovey eyes when she sees them at the grocery store (on that rare occasion I let them out of their cages that I keep in the basement).  She walks by the wedding magazines at the checkout aisle and has to steel herself from staring too long at the cover.  I have to remind myself that I have what SHE wants… not the other way around.

Now, now… before all the single ladies, feminists and DINKS start yelling and posting nasty comments, allow me to explain.   I am not saying that a woman’s entire life is spent in pursuit of a husband and children.  I am not saying that you are not ‘complete’ without these things.  Nor am I saying that a woman isn’t truly happy until she achieves this stage in life.  On the contrary.  I loved my 20s.  But I knew I wanted to find a partner for life and have children one day, and there aren’t many young women that don’t want to have a family, too, eventually.  Note I said FAMILY.  It doesn’t have to mean a husband and/or kids.  It can be one or the other or neither (I have several friends with same-sex partners and dogs that are quite content, thankyouverymuch).  But most all of us want a family of our own in some capacity or another.

True, this young woman really doesn’t know how good she has it: sleeping in, ab muscles that still touch, the ability to go away for the weekend at a moments notice and the luxury of going out to eat whenever and wherever her wallet will allow.  But, she wants to have a family one day.  She has love within her that she knows is meant to go around.  She is tired of wondering if he is “the one.”   She already knows what shape diamond she wants in her engagement ring.  She wants to hear her babies giggle in her ear and smell their heads until they are too big to let her.

I walked out of the grocery store today and reminded myself that I live with no regrets, and have enjoyed and learned from every stage in my life.  I reminded myself that one day I will be called on to help guide my own children through their own life decisions.  And I reminded myself that I would much rather know what I am missing than fear that I somehow missed out.

…and I also reminded myself that my kids will have kids of their own one day and I will laugh at them.

 

 

How to be the perfect parent…

21 Mar

Cheaters blog alert! Not every wise word written on parenting comes from me, didn’t you know?? 🙂 so every now and then I’ll re-post an awesome article or blog. It’s cheating and I have no regrets.

I read this today and felt like the words came straight from my addled, malnourished brain. Enjoy!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/una-lamarche/how-to-be-a-perfect-parent_b_2888253.html

Survivors

19 Mar

I was talking with my Best Friend the other day about some bad news she had recently gotten. Many of you who know me know that she had a harrowing 2012, being diagnosed, treated for, and eventually overcoming, stage 2 breast cancer. It was triple negative. You can read about triple negative breast cancer here and learn why it is a scary diagnosis.  My friend was 36 when she got hers.

Anyway, said friend is doing great with a lovely new pair of boobs and a flatter tummy to boot.  But she has met and grown close with many other women during her journey, and learned that one friend had to have a hysterectomy because her cancer came back.  She was a newlywed and hoping to get pregnant.  😦

This made me think.  When we talk about being a SURVIVOR, what does that mean?  That one has escaped death?  I guess in the most literal sense, you are escaping death when you survive, but I think being a survivor is so much more.  My friend didn’t just survive breast cancer.  She endured despite (because of?) all she experienced while getting treatment.  When you survive something, you don’t just survive the event itself; you survive everyone else that didn’t.  You survive what you went through to come out of the other end, most likely very different than how you entered, if not just on the inside, maybe even on the outside.  You have battle scars and wounds that you wear proudly and you will never be the same again.

Her weekly trips to Hopkins were not exactly summer camp excursions.  She is likely to have more stories like this as time goes on, sad as that is.  But this makes her even more of a survivor to me.  I imagine the diagnosis of cancer is not nearly as scary as chemo, surgery, mastectomies, or the pain she feels when she hears of another fallen comrade.  Of these things, she is a survivor, too. I tended to think that after this surgery of hers (see “boobs” above), that it was pretty much over.  But she is now inextricably linked to this culture, and these other women that crossed her path on her journey.  And to endure the loss of another friend, well– that, to me, might be the worst part of being a survivor.

We are all survivors, though, aren’t we?  Everyone has a story.  Look at us.  Marriage. Relationships.  Breakups. Divorce. Fertility treatments.  Pregnancies that made us so sick we thought we’d never get out of bed or gain weight.  Painful births.  The scar of a c-section after 2 hours of pushing.  Mothers. Sisters. Wives. Daughters.  The decision to stay home with our children, or go back to work, either one an agonizing decision to make with equal downsides.  Caring for ailing relatives. Sacrificing. Dealing with illness. Admitting we need help.   We are all survivors.   As women, this is part of the hand we are dealt, and we all must survive. And every day, we grow stronger.

Being a “mom” before I had kids was so one dimensional to me. I only knew how to be a daughter.  Now I know that “mom” isn’t just a dictionary definition of a maternal parent, but a symbolic representation of the greatest and strongest type of survivor.   It is entry into a club that you can’t even fathom until you get there.  It is looking at life through a new and permanent kind of lens.  It is seeing every human being as somebody else’s baby.  It is truly understanding why God made Woman.  It is feeling connections with other mothers through a single look, because that’s all it takes to say the thousands of words we want to say to each other.

I would imagine that surviving cancer is like most things in life, in that you can’t understand it until you’ve gone through it.  I would never presume to.  And my friend is one of quiet contemplation, not a boisterous noisemaker like me, making it something even more individual, complex and unique.  The next time I see someone who has gone through cancer, I won’t just see someone that beat a disease, I will see someone that survived two lifetimes worth of battles.

The X-Factor

22 Feb

Okay moms, I’ve decided.  All this stressing, worrying, consulting, reading, class-taking, and flash card purchasing is in vain.  For the first six months, you only have control over 10% of what your kid does well and doesn’t do well (sleep, eat, latch, take solids, sit up, roll over, laugh and crawl).  There will always be another kid that makes you wonder about your effectiveness as a mother.  Don’t let it erode your confidence.  Some kids just have it:  the X-Factor.

Beatrice was always a great sleeper.  By 8 weeks she had a schedule, slept 5-6 hours at a time and went back to sleep easily after waking to nurse.  Her brother Gus….not so much.

I started a new baby playgroup for Fussy Gus and we have met several other moms and babies (all of them first time moms).  I am sure they are sick of hearing me talk about how different Gus is from his sister and what a great sleeper she was.  Who am I trying to convince?  Maybe if I say it out loud enough, I’ll convince myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, or, rather there isn’t anything else I could or should be doing. I just have a fussy baby.

Then yesterday it hit me.  I hosted playgroup at my house.  While a few of us commiserated over interrupted nighttime sleep, babies that have to be held all the time and low milk supply, I was in awe of one mom and baby.  Not only did “J” sleep from 11-6 each night, and had been doing so for weeks, when we asked his mom about nursing, she said she produced 4-5 ounces… per side.

“PER SIDE!!!”  we all exclaimed.  She had 200 bags of frozen breast milk in her freezer.  Meanwhile I was happy to get 3 whole ounces when I pumped (way back when I still pumped).  They sell supplements, herbal teas, even a line of snacks to help with Mother’s Milk.  Old wives tales tell us to drink Guinness every day.  Our Pediatricians tell us to eat fatty foods.  And all of that stuff helps to an extent. Some women just produce a lot of milk and others don’t.

I think, among all of Bea’s friends, their moms and I have probably read just about every sleep book out there on the market:  Happiest Baby on the Block, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the Sleep Lady, Ferber, etc.  So I’d consider us all pretty educated on the topic of sleep.  Why, then, did some babies cry from colic for three months and not sleep through the night until a year?  My expert answer is: Who the hell knows?  Some kids just have the X-Factor and some don’t.

We all started out feeding our eager six month olds healthy veggies and fruit.  Many of us reveled in making our own baby food.  There wasn’t a colored jar on the shelf that Bea wouldn’t heartily gobble up. So, why, then, does one little friend eagerly gobble up whatever vegan-friendly concoction his mom makes in the Vitamix, and Beatrice suddenly only likes chicken nuggets, rice and plain noodles?  On veggies, he’s got it. She doesn’t.

I nursed Bea for five months, so I was fully prepared to stick it out again with Gus (yeah, it hurt just as much as the first time.  Needles. In. My. Boob.)  But poor guy was losing weight.  We supplemented and he was still losing weight.  He was ravenous after a feeding because he wouldn’t stay on for more than 3 minutes.  So I stopped after two weeks.  Why?  Beatrice had the X-Factor on nursing.  Gus did not.

So, I am happy to say, let’s not stress anymore.  Do what you gotta do, moms. If your baby does not have the X-factor, its ok.  By six months, he will have caught up for the most part (and if he hasn’t, your ped will help you).   If you or your kid is lucky enough to have the X-Factor, be glad, but don’t get complacent.  Your next one may not.  🙂

Remind you of anyone?

13 Feb

A good friend passed this onto me yesterday. Hilarious.

http://www.scarymommy.com/when-mother-knows-best-its-the-worst/

I’m OK, You’re OK

1 Feb

So I have to thank my friend Lisa Dvorak at Housewife Hon for inspiring me to write again. Well, maybe the competitive edge in me came out. Lisa stays home all day, every day with her 2 1/2 year old and 7 month old. Lisa is hands on in every sense of the word, and makes all of us fellow playgroup moms look bad by making fun crafts and then having time to blog about it. She has managed to post like 10 times already in January. Her most recent post is about cleaning toddler poop up from the carpet, on her hands and knees, WHILE SHE BREASTFED HER INFANT AT THE SAME TIME IN THE ERGO CARRIER. You read that correctly. I would have been sobbing in a corner on the phone to my mother or husband, baby screaming from hunger. But I digress….

Where to pick up? Seeing as how I have both my kids parked in front of Dora the Explorer, I estimate I have three minutes to write. So, uh, yeah I got pregnant, was sick for three months (If Kate Middleton was a 10, I was a 9), lost my job, moved to the suburbs in the middle of a Baltimore summer (AGAIN) and had my cutie pie Gus William on December 1st. Okay, so you’re caught up.

Well, I guess not quite. This blog started out as something to discuss fertility, and slowly walk you through my journey of having Beatrice. Then I got pregnant again (not through fertility… oops!) What many people don’t know is that I suffered Post Partum Depression very badly with Beatrice and somewhat again with Gus.

Maybe this is a post for another time, but if you’ve had PPD, or even a touch of baby blues, you and I are sympatico and we share the war wounds. If not, you are one of the lucky ones that my friends and I secretly make fun of, because newborns are like ZERO fun on a good day. Just kidding, hahaha, seriously though you were lucky and probably have a sunny outlook on life all the time. So I won’t get into how it felt, how I got help, etc. That’s an important story but, again, for another time.

When going back to my Doctor for a check up recently she asked me if I would accompany her on an upcoming psychiatry lecture to med students. She was going to be discussing Post Partum Depression and wanted someone who had experienced it to be there with her to talk to the group and answer questions. She said she knew I would be “brutally honest.” LOL. I was more than happy to do this! I feel like everything happens for a reason, and if I could possibly help one person who will eventually become a doctor go on to help another person, then it was worth it. I mean it was worth it to have my kids and all, but you know what I mean.

It was an auditorium full of med students and my doctor and I basically walked through my history… having Beatrice, taking her home and feeling full on as though my life was over as I knew it. Getting help, getting better, having another baby…

But I wish I had talked about one other thing.  As a doctor treating someone with PPD, I think its important for them to understand, contextually, what it means to be a parent today.  And that is, that we are wayyyyy too hard on ourselves.  From the minute a woman gets pregnant, she wants to do it better than her own mother and instantly starts making mental notes of what she knows she’ll NEVER do as a parent (wink, wink).  And when we give birth, we immediately feel we aren’t doing enough, should be doing something better, bigger, more spectacular.   We don’t spend enough time with them, they watch too much TV, we haven’t done the baby book yet,  they haven’t learned to swim or missed out on immersion Mandarin classes. Why do we do this to ourselves?   Where does all the guilt come from?

I couldn’t articulate this any better than the blogger, Pregnant Chicken.  She wrote about Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother and a good friend passed it along.   Honestly this article sums it up for me, and I want every pregnant woman to read it!

Its important, I believe, when trying to understand a new mom’s feeling of depression, to know that she has just been thrust into this new competitive world of parenting. She’s been preparing for motherhood her whole life, and now that she’s finding its terribly hard, she feels like a failure.  She sees all these other super moms around her (who are actually feeling the same insecurities, she’ll later go on to find).  The pressure to breastfeed (breastmilk is best!), feed organically, to co-sleep or not to co-sleep, to make sure your child doesn’t lay eyes on a television screen  more than 10 minutes a month…. this new mom feels the pressure, and feels guilt for not enjoying EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of her newborn child as everyone says she should.

They only make “Congratulations” cards for new moms, so that must mean I should be constantly feeling on cloud nine, right?  They don’t make cards that tell the truth: “You are about to fall in love like you never thought possible, but it may not happen for you right away and you are still a good mom if it doesn’t.  It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and you will not get much gratification for your efforts at first.  I am here if you need a hug.  Oh yeah, and you will sleep again, just not for a few months.”

Take it easy on yourself, Mom.  You are doing great.  And, what your child needs most–more than breastmilk, a natural birth, organic carrots or violin lessons– is a happy, healthy, semi well-rested mom.

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