What Does Battlestar Galactica have to do with Postpartum Depression?

Now, I like this show. However, it's visually dark and it can easily alter my mood.

Now, I like this show. However, it is visually   dark and it can easily alter my mood.

I was about four weeks postpartum when H returned to work.  Still feeling guilty and inadequate, I felt alone.

My friend was 30 weeks pregnant and had been recently diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  In the middle of the night her husband texted us both.  He requested prayer as he was taking her to the hospital, her blood pressure was out of control.

She received a double-life-saving cesarean section, her daughter weighed less than 4 pounds.  Unfortunately, my friend did not have a fast recovery.  As her organs struggled to function, we didn’t know if she would live.

H was working an 11 hour shift that day.  I had no way to get to the hospital to see my friend.  On this cold, gray January day I did not have the ability to turn on the lights, to call someone for help.  I just cried on the couch and held my precious baby.  Certain she deserved a better, more capable mother; I turned on the only thing I hadn’t watched in our iTunes: season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Without any context I watched and my spirits sunk.

Fellow geeks, fear not. I have since healed emotionally and watched it from the beginning and like it.  But even now, I can’t watch it on a hard day.  I guess it is so well done that it easily changes my mood.

The Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale is a tool developed for physicians to help them determine if a woman might be suffering from PPD.  For the sake of accountability, I took it again today.  My score was 9.  Had I taken this after Z was born, it would have been a score of 22.

If you are struggling with this, please ask for help.  Depression can look different for each individual.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that anger is a clear sign to me that I am “not okay.”

There are so many ways to get through these tough, sometimes dark, days.  You are not alone.  I really thought I was.  So many other moms are right there with you, we just don’t know it.  It is scary to be vulnerable.

Talk to your doctor, consider therapy, consider medication, consider natural remedies.  How you heal does not have to look the same as me, or anyone else.

My friend recovered slowly, her baby came home.  They are healthy, two miracles.  I survived that trauma.  Hang on, do not do it alone, ask for support.  You deserve TLC.

Dealing with Discouragement

I’m at the coffee shop again, because I just can’t think in that messy house.

I got sick over the weekend, and I am just too tired to keep up on all of the chores.  My husband has an interview today, and no clean white shirts. My son has a rescheduled doctor appointment, because last week I thought it was at 10:30, nope.  It was 9:30, I wrote it down wrong.  Normally, I remember wrong.  I guess I am tired. Oh, and my 3 year old has started having accidents 3 times a day. I’m also pretty sure there is a drug dealer on our block, and I spent the night paranoid about that instead of cleaning or writing.

I have to keep this short, so I don’t miss today’s appointment.

I have some tendencies when I am discouraged:

Procrastinate, waste time and mope.

So here are a few things I did last night and today that are helping me come out of this discouraged mindset.

Last night, while I was scared about the suspicious behavior, I sat on the couch with my daughter and pulled out the scrabble tiles she wanted to play with so badly.  I let her make a mess of it and then she sat down with me and asked me to read from her children’s Bible.  I immediately began to feel less afraid.

After my husband and son got home, we snacked and put the kids to bed.  I allowed myself to watch Agents of SHIELD, and went to bed early.

This morning, I was still overwhelmed by missing my writing yesterday plus the messy house.  I wasn’t exhausted though, I rested really well during the night. After I nursed my sweet baby, while scrolling through Facebook I read something really encouraging about the #write31days challenge. Then I went to She Reads Truth and read MONDAYs devotional, because yes I have slept in all week and missed my quiet time.  Do you know which word appeared in every scripture from Monday’s devotional?  GRACE

I got my son’s diaper changed, packed my bag and WALKED to the coffee shop, and strapped baby J into her carrier . I logged in to my website improperly and was locked out for 20 minutes.  Well, life certainly didn’t get easier!  I feel better though.  It’s okay that I am not perfect, that I got sick, that I am behind on chores.

Before I jump off I want to point out a major difference I feel THIS time postpartum and how I felt last time, because depression presents differently for me, and it might for you too.

With my first two, the stress and disappointment of the past few days would have resulted in extreme anger and lots of yelling on my part.  I get angry, frustrated and that is how I eventually realized that those feelings were abnormal and unhealthy.

Today, and the last few days I have felt anxious, disappointed and frustrated. I only yelled once (scrabble tiles and hi-ho-cherry-o pieces on the floor).  I have not felt like I was drowning and would never find a way out of the mess and stress.  I just feel like, “this is going to be a great deal of work.”

Give yourself grace mommas, extend it to others.

For me, fresh air, a bit of exercise, rest, a bit of reading and covering myself in God’s word have made a big difference.

What helps you mama?  How are you being kind to yourself today?

No, I am not okay

www.sparklystefka.comDays 2 – 17 of my son’s life are some of the most stressful days of my life.  To be completely honest, I can’ remember when every detail happened.  It’s hard to think back on those days, because my heart hurt so much, my body was still exhausted from pregnancy, labor and birth.  My emotional capacity was stretched to his limit.  I am struggling to write this because I want to be accurate with the story, but my memories are cloudy.

He was born weighing an impressive 7 pounds and 10 ounces.  Approximately 48 hours later at our home visit he dropped 6 ounces. I was disappointed, but not shocked. We began supplementing C with donor milk. His first non-meconium diaper was orangey-mucousy.  Our midwife consulted with his doctor, we were only given the option to take him to Children’s Hospital, we could not get in with his doctor.  We didn’t go to Children’s that day.  I still wonder if that was the right decision.

Since he was still having adequate wet diapers on the 1 oz supplements, and his diapers returned to normal newborn diapers, were starting to feel comfortable with how things were going.  When we saw the doctor and he was down a full pound.  I honestly can’t recall if this was the doctor visit where his tongue tie was discovered and clipped.  I think it was. My husband couldn’t be in the room for it, but I knew it was the right decision.  My heart ached to much to see the pain he was in, and I was trying to hard to be strong.

We saw the midwives again at home one or two days later, and he was back up in weight.  I had a breakdown with the midwives.  The stress had been too much, and I was so tired.  He was such a sleepy baby, and I knew the normal breastfeeding advice didn’t apply to us.  Yet, almost no one understood our unique challenges, and even fewer who could advise us.  I felt like such a faiure.  They assured me that I wasn’t and that I was doing an amazing job.  He had a touch of jaundice, but no one was concerned.

I think it was the next day we had a doctor weigh-in and the scale said 7lbs 1ounce, five ounces less than the day before with the midwives.  In the hall, I heard the medical assistant tell our doctor the weight.  I will never forget hearing my doctor’s exasperated shout, “Seven-one?” I wanted to die. I was crushed.  I worked so hard to educate and prepare myself since my daunter had weaned 11 months before.  Apparently, none of it mattered. I was not making enough milk and my baby suffered because of me.

My emotions took control the next afternoon.  I could not get him to wake up in the afternoon for a feeding.  I did it all, tickle foot, get him naked, gave him a bath.  I insisted that we take him to the hospital.  My husband tried to reassure me and convince me otherwise.  I wouldn’t listen, I knew if he was sleepy he wouldn’t eat.  If he didn’t eat, he couldn’t poop.  If he couldn’t poop the jaundice would get worse.

We got to the hospital, all four of us, and there was no valet.  I went in, while H parked the car.  I checked him in and they quickly moved us to triage to avoid extra germs in the waiting area. The scale showed his weight was under 7 pounds.

They asked all the questions, but because we’re “crunchy” every one wanted to know about water birth and cloth diapers.    Normally, I would talk about them until the cows came home. This day, I couldn’t care less. I felt defensive, tired, scared and stressed. My daughter was attempting to play with every medical instrument within her reach.

We were moved to an examination room and they wanted to do a blood draw to check his bilirubin levels and his electrolytes.  Z freaked out, she yelled at every staff person who entered the room “Don’t touch my brother!”  H had to take her for a walk.  I was alone, with my sweet, tired baby, and my dark thoughts.

I knew I was failing, and I couldn’t believe things were actually worse this time around.  I did everything right: I expressed colostrum in pregnancy, took all the correct herbs, teas, drank enough water and even lined up donor milk.  I was supplementing at the breast exclusively with a home made SNS.  None of it mattered, I failed.

They came back in with the results: bilirubin was fine, electrolytes were fine.  I was instructed to keep supplementing and follow up with my doctor the next day.

My husband gently reminded me that everything was okay and I was doing a good job.  He could have said, “I told you so” but he never did.  He is so wonderful.

Looking back, I can see that part of the problem was his tongue tie, he couldn’t transfer milk effectively in addition to my low milk supply.  Even though I was doing it all “right” he didn’t have the tools he needed until we clipped it.

Everyone loves babies.  I think everyone loves mamas too.  However, sometimes in society we fixate on how wonderful it is to have a healthy baby.  It is wonderful, but it is only part of the equation.  I think it is similar to an every day exchange many of us do without thought.  Someone asks “How are you?” and the response is, “fine.”  If instead we say, “Terrible, tired, or angry” people are taken aback.

Now, few people mean to imply that they have no time, interest or concern for unhappy emotions or experiences, but we generally don’t know what to do with such honesty and unpleasantness.  It carries over to postpartum life.  People ask about the birth, the baby’s healthy and mom’s health.  We struggle with anything beyond  the normal response.  It’s a shame.  We lose out on an opportunity to be vulnerable, to connect with a fellow human, to reach out to a struggling soul.

Sometimes babies are not healthy.  Sometimes moms have trauma from their birth experience.  Sometimes breastfeeding is a train wreck. These emotions are relevant, and we need a place to be honest about them.

Yes, I was so happy to have our little boy.  Yes, my birth experience was ideal.  I was thankful, but not okay.

I thought I could educate my way out of my first traumatic postpartum experience, I could not.  Those emotions were under the surface and triggered by my son’s inability to gain weight normally.

I thought I could prepare myself enough to avoid the ugliness of it all, but none of the preparation stood up to the fears revisited and intensified.

This has been so hard to write, It’s not fun to revisit.

I am not a mental health professional.  I don’t want to offer advice when I’m not qualified to give any.

Yet, I wonder what your experience was.  Was breastfeeding smooth?  Was your baby healthy?  Did your birth plan fall apart?  Did your birth or postpartum time trigger a previous traumatic experience?  Did you get help to deal with these things? What wisdom would you offer to an expectant or new mom?

 

Sparkly Stefka’s Postpartum Life

dayspostpartumWrite 31 Days

October, Another reason to love autumn.  As if apples, squash, crisp air, pumpkin spices, corn mazes, trick-or-treating and bonfires were not reason enough.  The Write 31 Days challenge is here, and I am honored that you have joined me.

God saw fit to direct me to #write31days, and I am so thankful.  I first heard of this challenge in passing on a podcast from Tsh Oxenreider.  I was reminded of it in August while pouring over The Only Hope I’ve Got.  I adore Kayse and her message has been perfectly timed for this season of my life.  Write 31 Days is the working out to be the grand opening of Sparkly Stefka, and I am launching it with a topic near and dear to my heart: postpartum living.  As you read my story, I’d like you to know a little more about my family.

Me and Mine

I am a massage therapist and doula, I am self-employed and I LOVE my work, but they are both physically and emotionally demanding so I limit this work to around 30 hours a week and 1 birth per month.

My husband and I were married in January of 2011. My husband lost his job 4 weeks after our first child was born, and has not had “regular” work since.  This bit of information is important as you read these posts, because although we are currently debt-free concern over finances have always added enormous stress to my times of maternity leave.

These days my husband has quite an irregular job as an artist.  He loves to do sculpture, but he primarily sells hand-crafted mustaches, wands and cardboard swords.  He also is a talented cartoonist.

We have three children, a daughter who will be 4 in December, a son who turns 2 tomorrow, and our freshly born daughter. They are beautiful, funny, smart, silly, energetic and in need of constant care and attention.

Longing

I always loved babies and children, I spent most of my teens and early twenties babysitting, volunteering in church nurseries and children’s church.  I longed all my life to be a mother, and understanding that a diagnosis (at age 15) of PCOS might mean fertility challenges, I was terrified the day I told my (then) boyfriend that I might not be able to have children.  Because we married in our 30s we decided to forgo hormonal birth control and use barrier methods.  My husband and I were shocked to learn I was pregnant just a few months after we married. My dreams were coming true, and without the anxiety or broken-heartednessI expected.

Expectations

I anticipated baby-bliss and because I am a perfectionist and organized, a clean house.  I lack the words to express how much I wanted to be that perfect stay-at-home mom with healthy meals and of course, homemade cookies.

I never thought my dream coming true would be connected with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  The year after my daughter was born was the hardest year of my life.  I was completely in love, and so thankful for her little life.  Yet, I was also broken hearted and overwhelmed.  I felt like a fraud and failure.

The expectations placed by society on women after birthing are varied and confusing.  In my experience, women take this pressure on in different ways, many times it becomes unhealthy.  It can rob us of the beautiful, exhausting experience of bonding with our newborn babies.  This is intensified when we have other children to care for.

Important self care for the new mom!

Now

I write today just 5 weeks after the birth of our third child, a little girl.  I am a little overwhelmed, and by God’s grace, healthy and joyful. I will spend the next 30 days exploring the physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual complexities of postpartum life.  I’ll share about giving birth, breastfeeding struggles, failure to thrive, postpartum depression, marriage with a new baby, and of course the insanity of caring for three children under 4 years of age.

You

If you are close to someone who has recently birthed, please visit her and bring a snack.  Instead of asking how to help, may I suggest that you just start a load of laundry or dishes. Offer to bring a meal over, maybe create a meal train for her. Perhaps you could take her older kids out for a fun activity so she can rest and bond.

If you have just given birth, stay in bed as long as you can.  Ask for help and do something that makes you feel rested and at peace, even if it’s just 3 minutes.

Mamas, you are not alone. Mothering is hard work, especially when your body is recovering from pregnancy and childbirth.  In the last 3 hours, I’ve had 3 baby-free minutes and she cried the whole time.  Ask for help, it’s not selfish.

This Matters

I am passionate about this topic because babies need healthy and happy mothers.  I am passionate because I believe this time is also sacred.  We can allow God to minister to us through the exhausting nights, the long days, the messes, the days without a proper shower.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  Please share this series with anyone you think may benefit from it. You can subscribe to Sparklystefka,com so my posts pop up in your inbox and you don’t have to remember to pop back over here every day. The subscription box is to the left of the posts.  I won’t use your e-mail address in any other way.

 

Unedited photo of my daughter and I shortly after her arrival.

Unedited photo of my daughter and I shortly after her arrival.

 

 

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