Follow Me on Pinterest

Friday, November 30, 2012

There is NEW Life After PPD!

I'm sitting on my couch in my living room on a Friday afternoon thankful to have the time to squeeze an extra pumping session in (pun intended).  Both of my darling children have finally given in and are napping, thank God.  It's a rare occurrence that they both do it at the same time!  I figured while I'm strapped to my nipple taffy-pulling machine, I might as well do something I enjoy, like blog a bit.

Being a 2nd time mom is incredible for me.  I say "incredible" because the fact that I even had another child is pretty unbelievable.  If you've read any of my previous posts (I'm Back!Dear Me, Please Come Back, Love, You),  I was pretty deep in the muck of postpartum depression after I had my first child, my son.  I don't have any enemies that I know of, but I can tell you one thing honestly, I wouldn't wish postpartum depression on them, or any mother for that fact.  I swore, with fidelity, that I would never have another child when Karl was a few weeks old when I was so lost in the haze of my postpartum depression and anxiety.  In fact, I was so miserable that if a future-seer could have told me that in just 17 short months from then,  I would find myself with another newborn I would have considered preventative surgery to remedy that problem.

Yet, here I am.  I have a 20month old son and a 2 1/2 month old daughter and I can proclaim that I've never been happier in my entire life.  "Happy" is a word I did not, could not, and would not use when I was in the midst of PPD after my son.  I wasn't happy at all.  I was tragic.  I was pathetic. I was drowning in fear, sorrow, and obsession.  I could not feel more opposite now, though, than I did in the dark days that followed my son's birth.  I am a living, breathing example of proof- there really IS life after PPD.  For those of you who have experienced PPD or who are experiencing it now, you know that there comes a point in the disease when you truly believe you will NEVER be happy again and that life will never be the same as it was.
I studied Biomedical Science in college.  I am a science teacher. I think scientifically and therefore, I have wracked my brain since I developed PPD after my son's birth for a logical explanation as to why I experienced PPD.  Why did I draw the short straw?  There's got to be a reason why I was affected when so many other moms aren't.  What did I do differently or wrong to cause me to have this awful problem while other moms completely avoid it?  I just could not figure out the answer to that question.  With hindsight now, I don't believe there really is a legitimate "why." Who knows why I was struck with PPD?   I recovered from PPD with my son, but when I got pregnant with my daughter those questions haunted me all over again- this time not because I wanted an explanation but because I wanted prevention.

 I was pregnant again.  Did that mean I would automatically suffer the same fate as I did after I had my son?  What on God's green earth could I do to prevent PPD from happening to me again?  I was admittedly terrified when I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter.  I had recovered from PPD with my son by that time, but the memory of how awful it was lay fresh in my mind like an open wound.  Finding out I was going to have another baby was exciting but it also hurt a little too.  I loved being a mommy to my son but the sacrifice my mental health made after he was born was such a scarring event in my life that I was nervous to get too excited about having a new baby, for fear that I might "jinx" myself  into getting PPD again.

My treatment for PPD with my son included regular visits to a psychiatrist and therapist.  It also included medication.  Upon learning I was pregnant again, I made an appointment with my psychiatrist to discuss the safety of remaining on my medication during pregnancy.  She assured me that it was safe.  Studies and trials had been done for years on the safety of my medication during pregnancy and she advised me to stay on it. The really hard part came then- should I continue my medication while pregnant even though there was a slight risk it may affect my baby, or should I stop taking my medication while I was pregnant to prevent that slight risk?

Readers, other moms, doctors, therapists- everyone can form their own opinion as to whether my choice to stay on my medication during my pregnancy was one they themselves would have made but no one has the right to judge me for making that decision.  I stayed on my meds and this is my reasoning for doing so: During my first pregnancy I was plagued by anxiety and depression (I should add that I have suffered from anxiety my whole life).  I made the decision then to stop taking my medication in order to get pregnant and to avoid any risks (though they were minuscule) that the medication may have on my baby.  So, I stopped my meds, I got pregnant with my son, I had my son, and then I lost my mind.  If you've never experienced PPD then you don't know the true agony of trying to "mother" while you suffer.  It's like trying to perform your own life saving surgery.  It hurts beyond belief but you must do it to survive.  Being a mommy is so difficult when you have PPD but you can't just throw your hands in the air and say "Okay, never mind. Someone can take this kid back to where it came from. I'm through!"

I did not have the option of wallowing my depression this time around.  I did not have the option of fighting through it, either.  I had my son who needed me.  He needed a mommy who was healthy and happy, to take care of him while taking care of his new sibling.  I stayed on my medication during my 2nd pregnancy for my son's sake.  I knew if I went through the pain of PPD again this time that it wouldn't just hurt me and my new baby but it'd hurt my son, too and that was a price I was not willing to pay.

It turns out, viewing this pregnancy through a mental-health lens, my pregnancy with my daughter could not have gone better. I was confident, happy, excited, and energized. I made the conscious decision everyday to focus on the positives throughout my day. I had a beautiful son and I was going to have a beautiful daughter, too.

I have a few theories as to why I haven't had PPD this time around.  As any scientist will tell you, though, you can not be certain of an explanation if you haven't tested just one variable at a time. So much was and is different this time around.  For one thing, I stayed on my medication while I was pregnant this time.  I'm still on it.  I think this is the biggest contributer to my current state of mental health.

 This time around I had a girl, whereas I had a boy before and had PPD.  Maybe hormones are to blame?  My labor and delivery scenario was completely different this time around. With Karl, I was induced and I was given an epidural at the hospital.  I had SO much anxiety from that procedure alone that I could probably consider it a catalyst for my postpartum anxiety.  This time around I went into labor on my own and I delivered my daughter naturally with no pain meds what-so-ever.  Maybe the slurry of medication that was pumped into me when I had my son negatively affected me?

I was so clueless when I brought my son home.  My anxiety was heightened because I didn't know what I was doing.  My tiny screaming little boy required all of my attention.  He screamed and cried for no reason at all.  Breastfeeding was new and daunting.  I was up all night long and all day long, too just trying to feed my son.  I didn't know if he cried because he was hungry or if he was cold, if his tummy hurt or he had gas.  I remember very vividly a horrific nightmare I had shortly after I had my son.  I dreamed I was in a plane crash in the ocean and that I survived along with him, though, we were stuck in the water and I had to tread to stay afloat while holding on to him.  I struggled so intensely in my dream to keep my head above the water and my baby's head, too, until he slipped out of my arms. I  watched him slowly sink into the inky blackness of the ocean in my dream, unable to swim to him to save him.  It is unbelievable how well my subconscious mind played out my conscious feelings in that dream. I literally felt like I was drowning, day in and day out. I just couldn't keep up, didn't know what to do, and everything I did felt like a mistake that would permanently and negatively alter my son's life.

Having my daughter is different.  She's a much easier baby.  She doesn't scream and cry.  She only fusses when she gets hungry and when she gets tired.  She's happy and healthy and gorgeous.  It's not that my son wasn't healthy and gorgeous too, but he sure didn't seem happy to me, and that certainly affected my PPD.  Maybe moms who have baby boys are more likely to have PPD?  Maybe moms who have difficult babies are more likely to have PPD?  Who knows???  I do know that this time I feel  like I know what I'm doing because I've been there and done it before.  The element of the unknown is not present this time because I've already had a newborn to contend with and learn from.  Maybe I got PPD because I was so clueless after I had my son?

My point is- who the hell knows why I got PPD to begin with.  Who knows why any mom ever suffers with it? I honestly don't know why and I am okay with that.  I have accepted the fact that I had it, I had to deal with it and that it robbed me of some beautiful and precious moments with my son when he was still a new baby.  I know I missed out and that hurts.  I feel torn between feeling grateful and blessed to enjoy my special moments with my daughter and resentful and broken hearted that I missed out on those moments with my baby boy.  I really was so sick in the head that I couldn't enjoy the chaos.  I couldn't shirk it off like most moms do.  I couldn't laugh when my son pooped through his outfit.

 I could dwell on the fact that I was so miserable and I did not get to soak up those little moments with my little boy but what good would that do me?  It would make me angry. It would depress me.  It would rob me of the precious time I have with my son now.  It would rob me of the precious time I have with my daughter.  I will not let that happen.  I've been down that road before and it is miserable.   Instead, with the help of clarity of mind from my medication and the wisdom I gained from having lived through the PPD before, I can move on.

What I do know now is just how breathtaking being a mommy can be.  I know how deep true love is.  I understand unconditional love in a way I could not before.  My children are the most beautiful aspect of my life.  I know that having babies doesn't equal misery as I thought it did before.  All I knew of becoming a new mommy was painted in the ugly, dingy film of anxiety and depression.  My perspective of parenting a newborn was so skewed and bent to the shape of my illness that I didn't know how enjoyable it could be.  My daughter is tiny and precious and ooey-gooey yummy and I can't get enough of my time with her.  I spend the extra moments holding onto her at night before I lay her down to sleep because I know now how to savor them and I know how few opportunities left I have to hold her.  I love snuggling with her and I feel connected to her in the way I feel connected to my son, only I've felt that connection since her birth the way every mom should.  Postpartum depression keeps moms from feeling that connection and it's a dirty, rotten, disgusting shame.

For all the moms out there who experienced PPD and are scared to death to even think about having another child for fear that you will have to endure the treachery of PPD again, please know that you don't have to.  Having another baby does not equal misery all over again.  Life with a baby really can be beautiful and it should be beautiful.  You've got to have the confidence in yourself to know that you can have what other moms have- a happy life with your new baby.  I said "happy" and not perfect for a reason.  My life is not perfect by any means now.  I have mornings when my son wakes up screaming just to hear his own voice and my daughter is crying to eat and the dogs are barking and wining to go outside and I haven't even had a chance to pee let alone sip a cup of hot coffee and that's OK.  I can handle it. I can stop in the middle of the insanity and giggle at the moment and say to myself that I'll miss days like this when my kids are grown up. My life is not perfect, but it sure is happy.  That's all any mom could ever ask for!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery: NAILED it!

It's been two months since I was blessed with the most perfect daughter in the universe.  Really- she is.  As to be expected, I haven't had copious amounts of free time to type about it, but God blessed me with an evening tonight when both of my kids went to sleep early, giving me a chance to recount my labor and delivery experience.

Hanalei (pronounced "Hawn-uh-lay", after the most beautiful place my husband and I have ever seen, Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii) joined our family on September 21, 2012 at 8:59pm EST.  She couldn't have come at a better time and I could not have been more physically and mentally ready for her.

 My pregnancy with Hana had begun with rough start.  The doctor told me I was at high risk for a miscarriage.  I had been nursing Karl still when I became pregnant with Hanalei and she was not fully attaching to the wall of my uterus.  My OBGYN told me it was because I was still nursing so I was forced to quit nursing Karl early (just 2 months shy of a year!) and I had to take progesterone supplements to help the embryo take hold.  Thankfully, after all, she began to grow healthily in my womb.

After the drama of the first 2 months was over, I found that pregnancy this time around really wasn't as bad as it had been with my son.  I was super nauseous this time, but I actually didn't throw up at all (something I did on the regular with Karl...bleck).  After the nausea passed, I felt amazing.  I had the burst of 2nd trimester energy I had heard about but didn't believe really existed (because I DID NOT have that with my pregnancy with Karl).  Things were going great.  Rainbows and butterflies.  I found out I was going to be having a daughter and my husband and I were over the moon in love with the idea of a daughter.  I actually even thought (even just a couple of times) that pregnancy wasn't so bad this time around...until...

Friday, July 7, 2012. I woke up and got Karl and I ready to go to the splash park because it was a hot and sunny summer morning and I wanted to get us out of the house.  I lathered him up in sunscreen and squeezed my 28week pregnant self into my bikini- shamelessly I might add (it was summer time and I felt great even though I was big and pregnant).  I got us both in my car and started driving when I suddenly and abruptly was hit with an agonizing cramping pain.  My whole lower back region seized up in what felt like a charlie horse from hell.  I thought that maybe the baby had moved and was lying on a nerve because the pain eased up momentarily.  While driving in Friday morning rush hour traffic, the pain came back to me in a wave.  My back cramped and the pain radiated around to the front of my belly like I was being constricted by an invisible anaconda.  This time, the pain didn't let up.  It grew more and more intense.  I began to sweat and shiver.  Karl was in the back seat so I was trying my very best to keep complete composure, plus I was still actively driving while my body was writing in excrutiating pain.  I was closer to my mom's house by this time than I was to my own home, so I drove there.  When I arrived it took all of the strength I could muster to get out of my car and crawl onto my mom's bed.  I called my sister because I was convinced I was in preterm labor and I needed to get to the hospital immediately.

My sister sped me to the hospital- literally going 90 miles an hour down one of the busiest highways in my town, all the while I was screaming, literally yelping, in pain in the seat next to her.  The pain wouldn't subside, not even momentarily- it just continued to grow and intensify as if my insides were in a yolk being pulled, stretched and wrenched in all directions.  I'm not being melodramatic either, it was the worst pain I've ever experienced.

Turns out, I had appendicitis.  1 in something like 1600 women experience it during pregnancy, and I won the lottery.  I had to have an emergency appendectomy.  Thankfully, after the pain of the surgery and the recovery, everything turned out alright.  I did go into pre-term labor that day, however, it was because of the appendicitis.  I now have a scar, what I've dubbed my "Franken-scar," that's about 5 inches long, dotted with pin-prick scars all along the top and bottom from my staples.

I suppose after the emergency surgery scare, Hana decided to take it easy on me.  The pregnancy was relatively uneventful afterwards.  I had to take it easy and wasn't allowed to lift anything (including my tank of a son, which was heart-wrenchingly difficult).  I had contractions on and off until the day I finally went into labor.

It was around 3pm and I started to have contractions- timeable ones this time.  We were at home and my husband decided to mow the lawn.  My contractions grew more and more intense and they were only about 4 minutes apart.  I was in the house alone with Karl, who was on a screaming rampage because his daddy was outside and he was not, and I was pacing the floor trying to breathe deeply and find a serene place in my mind.  Bruce's cell phone wasn't working so I couldn't call  him.  I was in just my underwear because I was sweating so much and Karl was literally throwing my clean laundry around the house.  I marched into the front yard, in my panties and waved like sailor on a ship to someone on land to get Bruce's attention.  Sweating, covered in grass flecks and dirt, and stinking like, well like he'd been working in the yard, Bruce stomped  up to the house where  I met him in the doorway, panting through a contraction and Karl running wildly about (in only his diaper, also, come to think of it).  With a "I'm going to kill you for mowing the lawn" look I bleated "I'm (hehehe, hooo hooo hooo) in (hee hee hee, hoo hooo hoo) LABOR!"
He replied "For real?  Like, really?"  My pacing like a penned bull and labored breathing of a beast of burden didn't give it away, apparently.  "YES!" I growled at him.  So, naturally, (because when your wife is in active labor, why isn't this your main concern?) he went to take a shower!

My mother and sister had arrived by this time and I'm extremely grateful to them both for their help.  My sister entertained Karl while I writhed in pain on my knees in my living room and my mom called my doctor for me.  The entire time Bruce was in the shower, which felt like a decade, I would yell "I'm going to kill him if he doesn't get out already!"  I had this yin-yang feeling of wanting to cause him physical harm for taking his damn time while I was in labor and this desperate  and urgent need for him to be with me to help me through the pain I was in.

By the time we got into our car and headed to the hospital, my contractions were 3 minutes apart.  The heavens opened up and it began to rain intensely.  Of course, it was a Friday night, so my doctor would not be the one to deliver my baby. I had to use the doc on call.  On my way to the hospital, in the swirl of rain and uncertainty of my physician situation, I made the conscious effort to stop worrying that everything was going to go wrong and to start really focusing on having my baby instead.

I got the hospital and checked in and I was a whopping 8cm dilated and 100% effaced.  You could have stuck a fork in me- I was practically done.  I was actually so relieved when the nurse told me how far along I was because the pain was pretty severe and I was worried I'd be stuck at 3cm, and in that pain, forever.  My nurse asked me if I had planned on having any pain meds and I literallly laughed out loud at her because I hadn't.  It dawned on me that I was there, at the hospital, having my baby. She was coming all on her own, and I was having her naturally.  It was oddly relieving because at that moment I realized all the anxiety I'd ever had about having a baby, all my doubt and worries, were meaningless because I was DOING it... I was LIVING it.  Hell, I was rockin' it!  I was having a baby.  It's like, through all the pain of labor, this empowering wave of certainty and determination swept over me and I was suddenly super woman.  Well, at least I felt like it.  Never in my life have I had such a confidence about the unknown.  It was awesome.

After an hour at the hospital I was ready to push.  30 minutes later, after literally pushing my guts out, I heard Bruce (who, thankfully, was spanking clean!  He actually got to deliver our daughter.  The doc on call turned out to be fabulous and guided him through the entire delivery) announce "She's here!  She's here!  She's gorgeous!" and he laid our beautiful, perfect little gift on my chest.

I'd been sweating, I'd been screaming, I'd been out of breath, worn out and crying from pain but the moment I opened my eyes after the last push to see Hanalei on my chest the most weightless, high-flying feeling I've ever experienced overcame me. I don't know how else to describe it other than feeling like I was flying, suddenly and all on my own and having the time of my life doing it.  I began to laugh and the laugh grew.  My laugh grew because I was filled with so much joy I literally felt like I was going to pop.  I was instantly, fully and completely in love with daughter.  I was riding a rush of love and a complete natural high that I hadn't ever experienced before (I didn't have this feeling after my son was born, not that I didn't love him instantly, because I did,  but the instant elation I felt after the birth of my daughter just wasn't there after I had my son, and I have my theory as to why, but I'll write about that in another post).  I felt like I could get up and run a marathon.  That might be stretching it a bit, I had just given birth after all, but I was filled with a complete rejuvenating energy.

My family feels perfect now- because it is.  It is perfect and that fact is not lost on me.  I am so blessed.  I have two healthy, beautiful children and I have a husband who loves me more than words can describe, and I love him back just as much.  I've never been happier in my entire life and even though each day I don't think I could love my kids any more than I already do, I wake up each new day loving them even more.  I think the high that I experienced after giving birth to Hanalei will last me for the rest of my life,and if that's the case, call me a junkie.  There's no greater feeling than the love you can have for your children.  I'm so thankful I get to feel that everyday!