And it’s Day One of the D-Listed Blog Hop, too! I’ve got tons of reading to do today! And tons of work. And tons of time? No. But I’ll get it done! (Seriously. If you’re not D-Listed, go sign up!)
But first, I want to give a huge welcome to Lauren, our first guest blogger! (@unxpctdblessing on twitter!). I followed Lauren, or she followed me, or something like that, when I participated in a twitter chat on PPD.
Sidenote: I fought against twitter for so long because I just didn’t understand it. And man, am I glad I’ve joined up. Twitter has brought me a wealth of PPD/PPA support, even though I feel like my struggle is becoming less of a struggle. I’m really just glad to know that there IS so much support out there for women going through this!
Laruen is the Co-Coordinator for Postpartum Support International for her state and can be found at My Postpartum Voice. Lauren also has three children and is a survivor of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
One of the things that I asked this week’s guest bloggers to focus on is what PPD/PPA, or postpartum mood disorders in general, have looked like for them. Some of these women are survivors. Some, like me, are still surviving in the trenches. Here’s Lauren’s story:
As a little girl, I had long, straight, silky beautiful hair, the kind of hair you secretly hate the Pantene commercial chicks for having and find solace in thinking that it’s been Photoshopped. Through the years, my hair went through several changes. I chopped it off in the second grade, permed, dyed it, grew it back long, cut it off, dyed it some more, grew it back, cut it off, you get the picture. But one of the most comforting memories I have from my childhood is of sitting in the floor as my mother brushed my hair. She would start at the roots and go all the way down what seemed like a forever length until she got to the tips of my hair. Then she would start all over again. Sure it gave me goose bumps but I loved it nonetheless. It soothed me.
When my second daughter was born, my hair was halfway down my back, having survived a few years of not being chopped. The night our daughter was finally born after 42 exhausting hours of labor, I woke up to go to the restroom. After I finshed and stood up to wash my hands, I stared in the mirror. My face pale, my eyes empty, but my hair – my hair was still full of life. It seemed to be taunting me. So I grabbed my brush and began to tame my hair. I brushed and brushed and brushed. And brushed some more. It hurt to stand up. My ankles and legs were swollen, my vajayjay hurt. Parts of me I hadn’t felt in ages hurt. But I still stood. And brushed. For 10 full minutes at least at 10pm at night, I stood and brushed my hair. The entire time I stared at myself in the mirror almost willing my eyes to reflect a spark even if it were a fake. Never happened.
Our daughter had been born with a cleft palate. We were unaware of this prior to delivery and it went undiagnosed for 30 minutes. Once diagnosed though, people filled into the room, she left, my husband left, and there I was left, all alone. Abandoned. Wanting so badly to know what was going on but in no shape to even think to call for a nurse. All I could do was stare at my husband’s also abandoned cell phone and will him back to the room. I was jealous. I was helpless. I was confused, angry, and sad. All of this came waltzing into my life on the heels of undiagnosed Postpartum Depression/ Obsessive Compulsive with our first daughter which had in turn contributed to depression during my second pregnancy.
Why me? Why us? What did I do wrong?
My second night at the hospital found me curled up in a ball, crying so hard I couldn’t even talk and if I had endured a c-section I surely would have ripped some stitching. But I told no one. Not even the next day when my OB asked me if I wanted some medication. I said no. I wanted to see if I could handle this on my own. I was strong.
Three days after delivery I went to Atlanta to be with my daughter, my mother and other daughter in tow. There’s a reason they tell you to take it easy after delivery. You’re not supposed to be on your feet trekking miles across a hospital to a NICU. You’re not supposed to be hooked up to a hospital grade breast pump with no hope of getting anything out the first few days either.
I developed a routine when we were at the hospital. I’d go to the restroom, replace my pads in a certain order, wash my hands, brush my hair, and then I’d go into the NICU where I’d wash my hands again, then go into the pumping room, wash my hands yet again, wash my pump parts, pump and find solace in the tic toc whirring of the monstrous machine, wash my pump parts again, wash my hands again, then drop off my milk with the NICU nurse, go wash my hands again, then apply first aid grade moisturizer and some hydrocortisone cream to my hands. I did a lot of washing and scrubbing at home too. Washing my hands, pumping, and brushing my hair kept my thoughts out of my head. For the time being, at least.
For me, my postpartum was filled with obsessions and intrusive thoughts. I wanted our daughter to go away. I wanted to go away. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was tired. I finally woke up at about two months postpartum wondering what would happen if I just let go. If I just.let.go. By midnight, I was in a psych ward over 45 minutes away from home with a few items my husband had managed to pack for me, including my breastpump. A nurse checked on me every five minutes to make sure I hadn’t harmed myself with the tubing or the electrical cord. By the end of the weekend, after a lot of sleep and a prescription change, I felt better. I was discharged, having come up for air.
I began to take time for me. I’d go for a walk or treat myself to something special like chocolate. Simple, little things. At seven months postpartum, I realized I had to stop pumping. It came down to my mental health or my relationship with my family. The choice was clear. I cried as I bought formula but deep down I knew I had made a good decision.
At almost a year postpartum, I began to volunteer for Postpartum Support International, just three months after starting a local support group. My local support group no longer meets because there just was not a sustaining interest. But I still support women through the Internet and via the warmline with PSI. Advocating for and supporting families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders was a huge part of my recovery. It’s not for everyone and it’s hard work as it has forced me to keep my own memories close to the surface. But now, telling my story isn’t such hard, sad work anymore. Instead it’s easier. And happier. Because I know there is a quiet power within my tale. A power that may just speak to a woman currently struggling with her own Postpartum Disorder and enable her to use her own postpartum voice so that she too, may find solace instead of continuing to drift along in that unforgiving sea.