Sunday, March 20

Women helping Women

I received an e-mail earlier this week from a really wonderful woman. She told me about her children and a little about her life and family. I love hearing from and about the people who read my blog. It warms my heart. I continually am amazed that people actually read my blog. Before I go on, thank you everyone, deeply from the bottom of my heart.

The reason I am posting about her, is she asked me a few questions and shared with me her current struggles with PPD (Post Partum depression).
I take few things in life seriously and I am not a doctor (obviously) nor do I pretend to know anything about anything... but this is one of a few things I don't joke about. I wanted to do what I can to help this wonderful woman get as much information, help, and support as I could possibly get her in a non-judgmental and loving way.

I have had doula clients of mine, a few close friends, and I myself have struggled with this vicious demon.

Looking back I believe I experienced PPD after all of my children's births; I think I was a little more arrogant and unwilling to admit it (to myself) with the first two - I just pretended like nothing was wrong because in my mind a "good mom" doesn't have those thoughts and feelings about her babies.  Thankfully with a lot more experience and maturity I am able to admit that what I experienced and felt was actually PPD.  I wish more than anything I could go back to those years and do them over with more honesty and humility.  I wish I would have asked for help and I wish I would have been OK with admitting when things didn't feel right.  I think I would have spared myself a lot of heartache. I would not have damaged relationships that I valued, caused my marriage a lot of tension, and my experience as a mom would have been a little easier.

After I had our third son Seth was when my struggle with PPD was at its worst. I felt really tired all the time, overwhelmed with having 3 babies in 3 years. I was very angry and it seemed like it was all the time; I was having unkind thoughts towards myself and others. (Because my children will read this one day I am choosing to not go into detail about this one aspect) but all in all, I found that time very, very difficult. I was a very different person then than I am today.

I felt angry a lot, and Drew took the brunt of it. I just had a baby, why was I not feeling euphoric? I had already sacrificed my body so a human could come to this earth, why was I not feeling the joy that should accompany this gift I had given?
I felt like God hated me, and that I had been forgotten. Women give so much, why was my mind being taken too. I was unable to concentrate or focus, I had anxiety over the smallest of things. I was angry, hostile and felt sad all the time.
And I hated myself.  My body.  I was very unforgiving of my physical appearance (having extra weight) after I gave birth. Before I have the baby I can see my body as a beautiful vessel that is giving life. I loved being pregnant; I felt my most beautiful during my pregnant years. But sadly only days after I give birth the tape recorder that has played for so many years in my head of  "you look awful", "why don't you exercise", and "I can't believe how gross you look" begins and never seems to let up.
I logically know these thoughts are damaging, but you could not have explained that to me then, because I was not me.
I started exercising like a mad woman. I was cutting my calories into a third of what I needed. I slept very little and heartbreakingly the one who suffered the most was my poor baby Seth. My milk dried up and  he had lost weight. It was a friend of mine who noticed how thin he was looking and that he had no tears when he cried. She lovingly told me about her concerns and I rushed to my pediatricians office that day. I remember having guilt and anxiety the entire drive to his office. He lovingly looked Seth over, weighed him and sat down with me. He (the doctor) hugged me and told me Seth had lost a fair amount of weight.
I told him about how I was feeling and what was going on. He told me he thought it sounded like PPD and we spoke very openly and honestly about what he wanted me to do. Because I trusted and loved him, I listened. I did not feel judged or threatened.
He was very kind and gentle to me; he knew me. He made sure Drew was involved and asked me to bring Seth back over the next few days so he could check on him and me.

Sobbing like I had not cried before I contacted a dear friend who helped me with feeding Seth for the next few weeks. She herself was a brand new mom and she answered questions and gave me the support I desperately needed during this time.

Drew found me a vitamin and mineral supplement to start taking that was designed for mental health.

My experience with PPD felt long, although I have no idea how long the ugliness lingered in my head; it felt like forever. My personal journey with PPD did not involve anti depressants (absolutely NO judgment AT ALL concerning them, they just were not what I chose); I chose a different path, and with time I felt like I could breath again. With time the sun returned, and with love and support I returned to the me I remembered.
People who really loved me saw past the situation, the people who mattered tried to understand.

What I wanted to offer this very special woman who wrote me was the experience of myself and others. I don't for one moment believe this is anything to be ashamed of. We all go through some version of this. If you have had a baby, are going to have a baby, are thinking about having a baby... if you have the capability of having a baby you have at some point felt some version of this, or will.
With help, love, kindness and support we can get through this.

I am asking you all, my dear friends and readers to share what worked for you. I am hoping you might share your experience and let this women pick and choose what path she would like to take for her own recovery. There is no need to leave your name if you don't feel comfortable. I just believe there is strength in numbers and no-one is better able to help women than other women.

I appreciate any and all offerings in this situation. I want her to know she is loved, and not alone.

I deeply thank you,



Mel said...

As I read this the wave of emotion the flooded me is overwhelming. I delt with PPD with the birth of my fourth baby. I went deep into depression and even had thoughts of suiside. I cried all day. I tried to keep my baby sleeping on me at all times and would scream at my other children if they woke her up.
(Honestly Joelle, there are details that I do not remember so if this went differently for you, you can add to this)
One day when my baby was maybe a month old, I called Joelle sobbing and she came and took all my kids to her house (including my new baby) She told me to take a day for myself. So I did, but after a few hours I called her back and told her I shouldn't be alone. I spent the day at Joelle's house, telling her how I was feeling. I told her some of the scary thoughts I was having about my children, and myself.
She called my husband and told him to come home from work. And he took me to see the health nurses and my doctor.
It was a very scary very long process. I started surronding myself with other women going through the same situation. I went to a PPD support group.
I learned to be very honest about my feelings so that people knew how support me. I was scared that I would end up on the news, as one of those crazy moms that snaped and killed her whole family and herself. So I felt if I told my friends and my husband the honest truth, they would carry me on my worst days. PPD is not something that can be delt with alone. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength when you put your whole life in someone elses hands.
My struggle with PPD lasted two years and it was full of ups and downs, darks and lights.

The things I learned... It was NOT my fault. I was still a good mom. I needed good people in my life to support me and my family when I wasn't strong enough. Count every single possitive thing that you do every day. (as small as taking a shower or sitting down and singing with your kids.)

You are not alone, and of all people to write for help, Joelle is great! More women go through PPD than we know. It is great that you are looking for help. May you find strength in your journey and find wonderful people to surround you and carry you.

Anonymous said...

You are a good woman J! This woman is lucky to have you in her life :o)

This is definitely a topic that women are reluctant in talking about, especially if they are or have experienced it. One thing that I am happy you said J is that PDD is all shapes and sizes and different for every person...minimal or extreme, it is so important to acknowledge and talk about.

I have never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant with each of my girls. After my first, the transition was easy. My spouse's work was flexible in that he was able to work from home most times and I was back working out when she was 7 weeks old. After my second, I felt I was in a "funk"... I couldn't give it a name. I wasn't sulking at home doing nothing, and I was having fun with my kids, but I wasn't me.

I was angry, but at what I had no idea. All of my frustration was directed to my spouse. He is a good man; he is my "person", but no matter he said or did, it wasn't okay.

There was a day, during a parenting playgroup discussion, when a friend was sharing her story and I saw similarities. Another friend said outright that she thought maybe it was PDD. For me there was an instant lightbulb...I needed to make a change and do it now.

I went to researching immediately and online chat forums and found myself connecting with many, many women. In talking to my partner, he just hugged me and then asked (as he had many times before to no avail), "What are you doing for yourself? You aren't taking care of you." And so began the change back to me.

The next day I was back in the gym, and have continued to workout at least 4 times a week. I purposely joined a mommy work out group, so I knew I would be surrounded by others who were experiencing life similar to me. This has been the best change that I made...and because it makes me feel so good, everything else has improved too.

I know my experience is small in comparison to many woman. But it is so easy to see why many relationships struggle during the baby years, and mine is no exception. What I have found in the recent months is that during my "funk" I was no longer feeling appreciative for what I had (something that is very scary for me to say, even now)...and today, I can wholeheartedly say that I am grateful for my little family and my life that I have been blessed with.

If there is one thing that I can say that would resonate with other women is this - do not keep secrets. Do not make your struggles secrets. When there are secrets there is shame, and shame is awful. Shame takes people to a deep dark place. I am a talker, not to everyone, but to "my people", those I trust and love most in this world. And for a brief dark time (although it seemed like an eternity), I forgot to talk to my people, especially my "person". I am thankful for a moment of clarity where I was able to say, "I need help." And I am thankful that my people, and especially my partner, loved me enough to be kind and be patient.

One thing that women struggle with is being judged. I think it is part of our make up, whether we like it or not. And one amazing thing I have learned in this journey of motherhood is that your people will not judge you, they love you; they may say things you don't like, but that is okay. So, there is no shame. There should never be fear or embarrassment. Just love.

I am glad that Joelle is one of my people...she was many years ago, and I know she still is today.


TheRealSlimKatie said...

I have wanted to share my experiences, but once you say them out loud, or post them for the world to see, they become more real. "Real" is kinda' scary. It means, not only, that I have to admit the things I'd rather ignore, but "Real" means it's off the back burner and IN YOUR FACE!!
J, you have taught me a few things, since I started reading your blog. The one I am most grateful for, is to look for things to be grateful for. (^_^) One, more recent lesson, is to be honest when things aren't right. When you can't find much, besides SLEEPING babies, to be grateful for, things can't be right.
I learned, 3 babies ago, that what I have been feeling, after the euphoria wears off, and reality sets in, is PPD and not normal. I wouldn't say I have been suicidal, but I have found myself wondering, "Would anyone miss me if I were gone?" I have found myself thinking that my kids would be better off without me. I have made plans (in my head) to leave, and run away to Alberta. (I moved away from there when I was 15 and haven't been back since. It's my biggest want, to go back home for a visit.) I have thought "I have no business trying to be a mother to ONE child, let alone FOUR!!"
Now, the rational me knows my kids would miss me terribly and probably never forgive me. The rational me knows I'd be a wreck without them. But when that "Vicious Demon" as J called it, rears its ugly head, things get all turned around. Things I used to look forward to, have become more of an annoyance, just one more thing to add to my busy day. My poor husband can't even joke with me lately... it's annoying to have a grown man turn into a four year old, once all the kids are in bed. And who the heck wants to "go to bed" with a FOUR YEAR OLD??!! Again, the rational me loves his sense of humor. The rational me is turned on by a man that can forget he's a grown-up. Another sign that things aren't right.
I am so thankful to have read that I'm not the only one who has struggled with this. It's sad to hear that so many women experience PPD. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy!! However, it does bring me some hope to know that you have gone through some form of this, an have all come out the other side, yourselves again. I like myself, my normal self. I miss myself.
I am confident that with the support of some really cool women, and some professional help, I will be okay. It won't last forever, and I won't be destroyed by it! I don't have to be afraid of it. I can kick some Postpartum Depression BUTT!! It's exciting. I'm excited. Thank you for sharing, Ladies. ♥ It helps more than you know. ♥

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about writing this since first reading the Women Helping Women post. Depression is such a tough subject. Now, some may wonder how a woman that's never given birth to a baby can have a comment for a PPD post, but it's possible.

I especially liked that you put this in there - "I don't for one moment believe this is anything to be ashamed of. We all go through some version of this. If you have had a baby, are going to have a baby, are thinking about having a baby... if you have the capability of having a baby you have at some point felt some version of this, or will.
With help, love, kindness and support we can get through this."

My entire life as a child I just thought I'd grow up, get married, and be a Mum. I wanted 4 children, 3 girls and a boy, same as my family. I know you don't get to choose that, but a girl can dream, can't she? If anyone asked what I wanted to be, I'd say a teacher, but I never really wanted to be one, other than to my own children. I just always thought I'd be a stay at home Mum.

For various reasons, mostly to do with my husband being in school, we decided not to try for children right after getting married. So after 3 years of being married, we were so excited to quit taking "Gramma prevention" pills! We even went out and bought a child's dresser and crib when we saw a good deal for them. My Mother got all excited and started crocheting baby blankets when she heard we had boughten a crib!

After a year of trying we started seeing doctors and specialists. It didn't take long to find out we would most likely never be able to conceive a child. We could have done some more invasive testing, but chose not to put my body through all that. We were told we had about a million to one chance of every conceiving naturally.

For several reasons, we decided not to try In-vitro or other such methods. Instead, we opted for adoption.

Somewhere during all of this, both of us became depressed in some fashion. I can't say how long it lasted, or how bad it actually was, but I know it was very real. I had horrible thoughts about other women, especially young girls that were pregnant at the time. Strangers on the street could make me angry or sad without doing anything except being pregnant. It was hard to be excited for friends that were expecting. Babies and pregnant people were everywhere!!! I couldn't go shopping without overhearing pregnancy stories, or seeing baby something somewhere. It was a sad time for us.

Eventually we began to feel better. We moved and got more into the adoption process. First we got onto an adoption list through our church. (Believe me that's no joke, it's very thorough and personal and somewhat intrusive into every aspect of your life, your entire life!) We were told the longest anyone on the list at that time had been waiting was 2 years. That's not too bad, we thought. After getting on the list, anytime the phone rang from the agency we hoped they were calling with good news that we had been matched. No such luck. They always just needed more paperwork done.


TheRealSlimKatie said...

I would really like to hear the rest of this story. Where might I find it?!