Archive | June, 2015

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

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